Best Bluetooth Speaker under 100
What is the best way to get wireless outdoor music on a tight budget? I recently had my outdoor deck replaced and unfortunately it meant having to rip out the outdoor, JVC speakers which were attached to my basement stereo and mounted to my outdoor deck facia. I neither had the time nor energy to re-wire the speakers to an antiquated, in-door stereo system. By the same token, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money for an expensive Bose, Wireless speaker system. I decided to make it my goal to find the best sounding wireless speaker/s I could find for under $100.00. This actually turned out to be a reasonably easy task. All of the department stores sell various wireless speakers which operate via bluetooth and/or iPhone/iPad docks and have demo buttons so you can listen to them. The secret for me was to find one that delivers the best sound for under $100.
In addition to sound quality, the best solution is the easiest solution. Music already exists in our iTunes libraries and can be played from the computer or home stereo via Apple TV and AirPlay. Why not have a Bluetooth speaker for taking the music outside? Small speakers don’t produce as much sound as larger, more expensive ones, but really, how loudly can you play your music outside and still remain friends with your neighbors. I decided to check-out, reasonably priced, Bluetooth speakers for outdoors. I did some research and narrowed it down to these two choices:
Soundfreaq Sound Kick vs. iHome iBT4 Bluetooth Wireless Speaker
It makes a great deal of sense to compare these two speakers for a couple of reasons: One, they both cost $99.00 each. Two, they both use the same, blue-tooth wireless technology to play music from a remote device like an iPhone, iPad or other blue-tooth device. The Soundfreaq was the first speaker that caught my eye due to the $99 price tag and glowing reviews from actual users. I read the box and played the demo which unfortunately, was limited to drum and rap beats and didn’t really give me a a good idea of how the unit would sound with my own kind of music. I was impressed with the volume, clarity of sound and high rating so I was all set to buy it. Then, just as I was about to walk out of the store, another unit caught my eye.
iHome iBTR Outdoor Boombox
The iHome iBTR looked like the type of equipment that was made for the outdoors. It also looks like some type of shortwave radio you might see from World War II, which actually makes it kind of adds to the ‘cool’ factor. It has a rugged, rubberized exterior with a handle – perfect for taking out by the pool. It also includes an FM radio with antennae which is something the Soundfreaq does not have. When I pushed the demo button, I thought the sounds coming out of the iHome had better bass and fuller, overall sound. Still, I was hesitant to choose it because it didn’t have quite the number of rave reviews as the Soundfreaq. Still, I chose the iHome over the Soundfreaq and took it home.
Performance and Operation of the iHome Wireless Boombox
When I brought the iHome wireless bluetooth boombox home, I was a little confused at first because there were no instructions inside the box. On the other hand, there are only two dials and a button – it can’t be too hard to figure out, right? In fact, nothing could be more intuitive if you’ve ever paired a Bluetooth device before. One dial chooses between radio and Bluetooth playback setting. The other dial is for controlling the volume and the button in the middle is labeled, Pair for connecting to your Bluetooth device. I turned on my iPhone, went to the Bluetooth settings and pressed the Pair button until I was connected. It was as simple as that. I was playing Jack Johnson an instant later and it sounded reasonably well. At least as well as I would expect from a $99.00 speaker. I took the iHome out to the pool and it was plenty loud enough. I liked the handle and the radio antennae. It was very convenient. Yet, something kept telling me I needed try the Soundfreaq since it had such glowing reviews from users. Is it possible that I overlooked how well it sounded in the store?
Performance and Operation of the Soundfreaq Wireless Blue-tooth Speaker
I went back to Target and purchased the $99.o0 Soundfreaq with the intention of comparing it with the iHome and taking the inferior one back in its original packaging the next day. For some reason, I was really rooting for the Soundfreaq to win this contest. Perhaps that is due to the power of suggestion. I brought the Soundfreaq home much to the bewilderment and chagrin of my wife who was perfectly happy with the one we already had. Unlike the iHome, the Soundfreaq has no rubberized, outdoor-like exterior and lacks an FM radio antennae. It is considerably smaller and sleeker. Cosmetically, the two are complete opposites. Another thing that intrigued me is that the Soundfreaq is advertised as a stereo speaker. No where on the box does iHome’s $99.00 product advertise it as having stereo sound. But, beauty is in the ear of the listener. Both my wife and I listened to the two side-by-side and immediately preferred the deeper, fuller sound of the iHome Wireless Speaker. It took all but 45 seconds for me to turn them both off, wrap up the Soundfreaq and package it back inside of its box for a return trip to Target.
Conclusion of Best Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
The iHome iBT4 wins the contest for it’s rubberized, rugged exterior, carrying handle and FM radio output. Neither of these boomboxes are going to give you a great, mid-range, professional, stereo sound, but both of them will satisfy the typical needs for an outdoor, portable music system that works with your Bluetooth devices. I would recommend either of these units, but for my own taste, the iHome iBT4 was the better choice.
Differences Between $99.00 Soundfreaq Sound Kick vs iHome iBT4
Both of these units are under $100 and feature wireless playback from any Bluetooth device. Sound is similar based on your subjective opinion, but here are a few differences that might make or break your opinion.
- The iHome has a carrying handle the Soundfreaq does not
- The Soundfreaq has a sleek, slim design, the iHome is boxy and square (retro)
- The Soundfreaq has a USB port for charging your iPhone or other USB devices – the iHome does not.
- The iHome has an FM Radio with built-in Antenna, the Soundfreaq does not.
- The iHome has both an auxiliary input and output, the Soundfreaq has only an input.
- The Soundfreaq provides 7 hours of battery life compared to 6 hours for the iHome.
In my estimation, the iHome has a much fuller sound and I like the convenience of the FM radio antennae. If you prefer a smaller form-factor and a USB port for charging your devices, you might lean towards the Soundfreaq. Both of these wireless speakers represent good value for the money.