Whether you’re feeling homesick in a strange hotel room, have hours to kill on the road or are throwing an impromptu beach party, a decent pair of travel speakers can keep you sane and entertained away from home.
We asked the Rough Guides crew for their pick of the latest audio gizmos. Here are the gadgets that have helped them share their impeccable taste in Goan trance, garage rock and sea shanties, among other things.
1. UE gotta roll with it
Californian company Ultimate Ears (UE) have cornered the market in cool-looking near-indestructible speakers. At just 40mm thick and a featherlight 330g, their dinky, disc-shaped UE Roll 2 has a lot to love about it.
As well as being shockproof and waterproof (up to 1m for 30min), it connects to devices up to 30m away and comes with a bungy cord to attach it to hammocks, surfboards, trees… you name it. Sound quality is excellent and the range of designs will suit the pickiest traveller.
2. Bamboo beats: the loudbasstard and speakaboo
The smartphone may have put an end to travelling with a pair of bongos for entertainment, but recently bamboo speakers have brought a dose of hippie chic back to the road. Pick of the crop is the cheekily named loudbasstard mini.
Made of 100% bamboo, this hand-carved tube amplifies sound from your phone and adds a touch of natural woody vibration. Though it’s about as hi-tech as a Pringles can, it is a fun (and cheap) addition to your backpack. For more eco-friendly bamboo soundscapes try the even more rustic looking Speakaboo.
3. Message in a bottle: the Libratone TOO
“Great sound bottled” goes the marketing pitch, and it’s true the Libratone TOO will fit pretty much anywhere a large water bottle would. More refreshing, though, is the impressive 360-degree sound, which rivals that of speakers double the price.
A truly handsome piece of Scandi design – with its loop handle it seems designed for carefree walks along moody beaches to the sound of Sigur Rós – it comes in some seriously bold colours as well as classic black or grey.
4. Great balls of sound: the Betron
Looking like something Batman might unhook from his utility belt, the Betron travel speaker is super light, tennis-ball sized, and seriously good value considering the volume you get out of it.
Charged by USB, the battery lasts a good 5–6 hours and connects to Bluetooth devices up to 10 metres away. The best feature, though, is the clever pop-up “accordion” design that extends the bass. Throw one in your backpack now!
5. Precious things: the Beoplay A1
The Beoplay A1 is a luxuriously sleek aluminium portable which, like most Bang and Olufsen products, looks most at home in a candle-strewn Copenhagen apartment rather than, say, a tuk tuk in Thailand.
Weighing in at 600g it’s not the lightest piece of kit, but its room (or forest) filling sound quality more than makes up for it. You can also bash it about it a bit thanks to its splash- and dust-proof properties.
Lasting a stonking 24 hours on a single charge, it will handle the most ambitious Spotify playlist and comes in four tasteful colours inspired by Nordic nature.
6. Ace of Base: the Sony SRS-XB2
Having invented music on the move with the Walkman in the late 1970s, you’d expect Sony to have their toe dipped firmly in the travel speaker market and the SRS-XB2 Extra Bass is one of the finest in the mid-priced bracket.
A simple lozenge shaped design conceals a seriously punchy speaker tailor-made for dance music (hit the ‘extra bass’ button for a boost of deep stomach-rumbling power) and being water-resistant (read the small print though!) makes it perfect for al fresco beats.
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