Bluetooth Speakers to Take Boating


Kicker Bullfrog BF100
Portable stereo options are made for boaters. Courtesy Kicker

Sometimes the best spot on the sandbar isn’t in your boat, and small boats often don’t have audio. So, it is not surprising that boaters tend to bring portable stereo options along on the day cruise. We found five of the top outdoor Bluetooth audio players and took a deeper look into their features and benefits.

Audio Quality

Audio preferences are just that, so our investigation into sound quality is subjective based on listeners’ reactions to identical songs played on different audio boxes. We noted base, treble, and overall sound depth and clarity in a strictly subjective manner.

Maximum Volume

We used a Radio Shack decibel meter on A-weighted, slow response settings to collect readings on maximum volume using a white-noise soundtrack played at full volume. Our volume tests were at lower-than-advertised volume levels, but products ranked comparably with advertised levels.

Kicker Bullfrog BF100
Kicker Bullfrog BF100 Courtesy Kicker

Kicker Bullfrog BF100

$149.99; kicker.com

This late arrival to the test is replacing all of Kicker’s larger Bullfrog series devices for good reason: The sound is big. Its design also means it is not directional like every other device we tested. Its ability to carry phone calls (a feature we found lacking if available on other devices) was pretty good. The handle at the top can be fit with a shoulder strap, and it should fit most cup holders.

Outstanding: Its 360-degree sound output is of equal power and clarity in all directions. Electronically joined via a Bluetooth connection and an app, the music is played in apparent stereo. 

Sound Impressions Indoors: Big, room-filling sound with clear treble and deep base from a single unit. This proved to be our favorite indoor device due to its clarity and omnidirectional sound.

Sound Impressions Outdoors: Sound not quite as big as the rugged-built Turtlebox, but linking two together narrowed the gap at a total of $300.

  • Size: 9-by-3.3-in. diameter
  • Weight: 1.8 lb.
  • Inputs: Bluetooth, auxiliary
  • Accessories: Micro-USB charge cord
  • Tie-Down: Mounts magnetically
  • Portability: Fits cup holders, carabiner lanyard
  • Battery Life: 12 hours
  • Waterproof: IP67
  • Max Volume at 1 Meter: 89 dB
EcoXgear Journey
EcoXgear Journey Courtesy EcoXgear

EcoXgear Journey

$179.99; ecoxgear.com

The floating device opens like a lunchbox, revealing storage inside to contain smartphones (Bluetooth or aux-in connections), wallets, charger cables and a shoulder strap. A woofer and tweeter give well-balanced sound, with a nod to treble but no complaints on bass tones. The sound-to-value proposition can’t be beat at $179.99.

Outstanding: Connecting up to 100 EcoXGear devices with EcoCast is easy and provides surround sound when traveling with friends. It’s watertight lunchbox design floats and safely carries gear.

Sound Impressions Indoors: It’s a tough call between the House of Marley and the
Journey; audiophiles would struggle to complain. The base tone is strong but, as expected, eclipsed by the larger speakers of the JBL. The treble here is clear and comparable to the House of Marley and stronger than the Turtlebox.

Sound Impressions Outdoors: Outdoor sound quality is crisp. It still has slightly less base than the Turtlebox, but is strong for its size.

  • Size: 11-by-9.75-by-6 in.
  • Weight: 7 lb.
  • Inputs: Auxiliary, USB-C charging
  • Outputs: USB charging
  • Accessories: Shoulder strap and USB-C cable
  • Portability: Standard shoulder strap fastens to D-rings
  • Battery Life: 10 hours at max volume, up to 50 hours
  • Waterproof: IP67, floats
  • Smartphone Calls: Incoming and outgoing audio is clear
  • Max Volume at 1 Meter: 95 dB
House of Marley No Bounds
House of Marley No Bounds
Courtesy The House of Marley

House of Marley No Bounds

$149.99; thehouseofmarley.com

We loved the style and use of sustainably sourced materials in this little boombox. For its living-room style, it is surprisingly waterproof and floats. Mud and sand wash off. We found the sound most pleasing indoors, but its compact size offers little resistance to being tucked in a gear bag for transfer from boat to sandbar.

Outstanding: Commitment to sustainable manufacturing is evident in sourcing renewable woods like bamboo and tracing them from origin to the finished product. Fabrics like organic cotton, hemp and PET are recycled. Recycled silicone and plastics, as well as organically sourced cork are used for the housing.

Sound Impressions Indoors: The base and treble are well-balanced, with an approving nod to treble for clear notes and clearer voice distinction. The base isn’t as deep and full as the Turtlebox, but surprisingly room-filling for its size.

Sound Impressions Outdoors: Tones are true and well-balanced. Base sounds are better outside, and treble remains clear. Its smaller size seems to bring smaller sound outdoors, and cranking up the volume is required more with this one than with the other test entries.

  • Size: 3.25-by-4.5-by-10.25 in.
  • Weight: 4.4 lb.
  • Inputs: Bluetooth, auxiliary
  • Outputs: USB charging
  • Accessories: Charging cable
  • Portability: Carabiner and leather strap are standard
  • Battery Life: 16 hours at moderate sound
  • Waterproof: IP67, floats
  • Smartphone Calls: Incoming audio is clear; outgoing transmission is somewhat muffled
  • Max Volume at 1 Meter: 85 dB
Turtlebox Gen2
Turtlebox Gen2
Courtesy Turtlebox

Turtlebox Gen2

$399; turtleboxaudio.com

The box is rugged with a sturdy, rubberized, soft lunchbox handle. The auxiliary input, mic input and USB-C phone-charging port are all protected beneath a waterproof hatch on top. Lighted switches, the battery-level indicator and volume controls are easily visible. Connect to a second Turtlebox for a stereo effect.

Outstanding: Nonskid rubber feet on the bottom and back add stability. Rugged, military styling and outstanding base tones carry well outdoors.

Sound Impressions Indoors: Its deep, rich base tones are similar to the EcoXGear. Treble tones are subdued compared to the other models, making voice tones a little less distinct. Overall sound quality is pleasing and enjoyable. We were not able to test the stereo connection to a similar device.

Sound Impressions Outdoors: This device shines brightest outdoors, really carrying the fullest bass tone. On big sound, its deep base seems bigger outdoors. It tops the EcoXGear Journey for base, but falls behind slightly in treble and clarity. Oddly, in spite of subjective analysis, it measures slightly lower in maximum volume than the Journey.

  • Size: 12-by-8.75-by-7 in.
  • Weight: 10 lb.
  • Inputs: Auxiliary and mic inputs
  • Outputs: USB-C charging
  • Accessories: Shoulder strap is optional
  • Tie-Down: Has tie-down mounts for optional straps
  • Portability: Handle on top 
  • Battery Life: 25 hours at easy listening, 6 hours at full volume
  • Waterproof: IP67, floats
  • Smartphone Calls: Not enabled with this product
  • Max Volume at 1 Meter: 96 dB
Scosche Boom Bottle
Scosche Boom Bottle
Courtesy Scosche

Scosche Boom Bottle

$119; scosche.com

The cylindrical shape fits most cup holders, and the dual 45 mm speakers and passive subwoofer can be secured in a boat or car. A “magic ring” design allows smartphones to secure to the slanted easel top for clear viewing. The handle at the top doubles as a beer-bottle opener.

Outstanding: Slanted top is magnetic and holds a smartphone. The bottom is also magnetic, offering another way to mount it on the included metal plate.

Sound Impressions Indoors: The indoor sound is comparable to the familiar Amazon Alexis devices and, in fact, we discontinued ours after testing this.

Sound Impressions Outdoors: Its compact, easy-to-carry size means somewhat less dominant sound in open spaces.

  • Size: 7.3-by-2.8 in.
  • Weight: 1.2 lb.
  • Inputs: Bluetooth 4.2
  • Accessories: Adhesive magnetic plate for phone and bottle
  • Tie-Down: Mounts magnetically, 1/4-by-20 threaded for suction or clamp mounts
  • Portability: Fits cup holders, carabiner lanyard
  • Battery Life: 12 hours
  • Waterproof: IP67, floats
  • Max Volume at 1 Meter: 84 dB

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