The best Bluetooth speakers in 2011

Another year, and another range of speakers released by a host of manufacturers. But there’s a difference this year: namely, the extensive lineup of bluetooth speakers. While true audiophiles will probably scream in horror at the mere mention of wireless speakers (after all, wires offer better performance, even if you can’t spot them), for most consumers, these wireless speakers, particularly bluetooth speakers, are more than enough to replace the cumbersome old wired lot. Add to that the ubiquity of the iPhone and iPod Touch, and you can see the appeal of bluetooth speakers: they’re easy to use, affordable, compact, and offer decent overall performance without any of the nasty parts (read: cables, heavy power bricks, etc.).

So what are the best Bluetooth speakers for 2011?

If I had to choose a set of speakers that stands out for its versatility, I’d probably go for the Creative D100 and its bigger brother, the D200. These two speakers do everything right for me: they perform well, they’re not too expensive (I say this after spending thousands of dollars on various sets of speakers), and they look good. But for the sake of this article, I’ll list the four best Bluetooth speakers in 2011:

1. Creative D100 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

As I mentioned above, this set of speakers does a lot of things right: it looks good (it comes in five different colors, though I prefer the default black), it offers more than adequate performance, it’s small and easy to transport, it runs on AA batteries, and it won’t burn a hole in your wallet.

But it’s not a perfect speaker. Not by much (for that, he’d probably look to Klipsch or Bose). The low end lacks a bit of punch, and if you turn up the volume, there is distortion. However, I’m assuming you won’t be using the Creative D100 to power your next house party. For all other purposes this is an excellent and reliable speaker.

Pros: compact design, affordable, aesthetically pleasing, solid overall performance.

Cons: Bass sounds a bit weak; high volume distortions

2. Monster Clarity HD Precision Micro Bluetooth Speaker

With this speaker, it was love at first sight. How can you not fall in love with this little package packed with features and power? It’s no bigger than an iPhone in length, and yet it can set the house on fire with its sound. I’ve seen speakers that weigh 10 pounds that don’t perform as well.

Despite the compact design, the Monster ClarityHD is a well-rounded speaker that works seamlessly with any Bluetooth device. Your iPhone or iPod Touch will instantly recognize it and stream all music through it. The audio quality is amazing for such a small speaker: clear and strong midrange and high tones, little distortion, even at high volumes. If you mainly listen to music through your smartphone (Android/iPhone/Blackberry) or iPod Touch, this speaker is the perfect choice.

Pros: Extremely compact design, loud and clear reproduction, decent range.

Cons: Like all small speakers, it lacks strong bass tones. The output volume is somewhat low.

3. Altec Lansing inMotion Soundblade Bluetooth Speaker

Finally, a speaker that dispels the myth that Bluetooth speakers are only good for casual users. It costs a pretty penny, but turn it on and you get crystal-clear sound with incredible bass (thanks to SRS TruBass technology) that will blow your mind. It looks sleek, is only an inch thick, and even includes a built-in microphone to act as a speakerphone.

As a modern Bluetooth device, the Altec Lansing inMotion is very easy to set up. You can go from opening the package to streaming music through your iPhone in as little as 60 seconds. The acting is, frankly, mind-blowing. It offers sound that can compete with a $400 Bose system, and for all practical purposes, it’s more than adequate for heavy use, both at home and on the go.

The only drawback I can think of (which has made me rank it #3 here) is the price. At $199.99, it costs as much as a new Netbook computer. But if you care about quality, you’ll love the Altec Lansing Soundblade.

Pros: excellent audio quality, aesthetically pleasing, only an inch thick, strong bass and clear high tones. Probably the best Bluetooth speaker out there.

Cons: Expensive

4. Disco SuperTooth Bluetooth Speaker

It looks like a brick, is nearly a foot long, and doesn’t have the pedigree of an Altec Lansing behind it. But turn it on, and the SuperTooth Disco can give even a $300 Klipsch speaker a run for its money. Audio is surprisingly clear with a strong volume output. Pairing it with a Bluetooth device takes a matter of seconds, and it has great Bluetooth range to boot.

On the downside, the large size makes it a bit difficult to transport. While the Monster ClarityHD can be slipped into a carry-on bag, the SuperTooth Disco lacks teeth in the portability department. But if you want to use it mainly indoors, you’ll be very happy with the performance.

Pros: Great performance, good Bluetooth range

Cons: Large, unwieldy design

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