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If you are looking for the best tailgate speaker, this is the place to be. Our article on 10 best tailgate speakers in 2023 is designed to shorten your search and to introduce you to some of the best models on the market. We have tested more than 20 popular models and made a list of 10 speakers offering the best performance. Keep reading our article and find out everything you need to know about tailgate speakers. If you are not in the mood for reading, just scroll down to the list and see our favorites.
You can’t throw a great tailgate party if there is no music. Even if you have all the other ingredients (barbeque, drinks, snacks, and of course, people), without some nice beat, there will be no party. Your car speakers might be a good option but they tend to sound poor, especially at high volumes (unless they are custom-made). Even more important, car speakers are powered by your car battery and you probably don’t want to drain it out. Some large and powerful tailgate speaker is a much better option than your car audio system and you can find some great choices on our list of 10 best tailgate speakers in 2023. But first, let’s see what’s so special about tailgate speakers and what makes them different from other speakers.
Table of Contents
- What Is A Tailgate Speaker?
- 10 Best Tailgate Speakers – Comparison Table
- How Much Money Should You Spend?
- 1. The SOUNDBOKS 2 Black Edition – The Loudest Portable, Battery-Powered, Bluetooth Speaker
- 2. ION Audio Tailgater (iPA77) | Portable Bluetooth PA Speaker with Mic and AM/FM Radio
- 3. ION Audio Block Party Live 50-Watt Portable Bluetooth Speaker System with Party Lights
- 4. QFX PBX-61081BT Portable Bluetooth Party Speaker
- 5. ECOXGEAR ECOBOULDER GDI-EXBM901 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth/AM/FM Wireless Speaker
- 6. Ion Audio Party Rocker Max | Wireless Rechargeable Speaker with Multi-Effect Party Lights
- 7. Ion Explorer Outback Wireless Rechargeable Speaker
- 8. ION Audio Raptor – Ultra-Portable Wireless Water-Resistant Speaker
- 9. Sony GTKXB90 High Power Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- 10. Aiwa Exos-9 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
- Buyer’s Guide – How to Find the Best Tailgate Speaker for Your Needs
- Additional Features – LED Lights, Microphones, Remotes, AM/FM Tuners, USB ports, etc.
What Is A Tailgate Speaker?
Tailgate speakers are basically party speakers. As you probably know, parties require some nice and loud sound system. So, your tailgate speaker is supposed to be loud and it’s supposed to deliver a great amount of bass. Those two things imply that you need something large. All those small super-portable speakers are out of the discussion. Still, your tailgate speaker should fit your vehicle, so you can’t immediately buy the largest one.
Tailgate parties take place in the parking lots which means that you need something that can be used outdoors. So, your tailgate speaker is also supposed to be rugged and preferably waterproof (or at least weather resistant). You also need something portable. Not small, but something with handles or wheels that you can carry out of your car and move around.
Also, it’s highly recommended to go wireless. Wired speakers are simply inconvenient for outdoor use, especially if you are not in your backyard. Where would you find a wall socket to plug in the speaker? And even if there is a wall socket some 100ft away, you are going to need a long extension cord and that’s just messy. Wireless speaker is a much better and more convenient option. But you will need a speaker with a large and long-lasting battery. This is probably the greatest difference between a regular party speaker and a tailgate speaker. If the party takes place indoors, you don’t really need your speaker to be wireless and you can easily find some wall socket nearby but if you are in some parking lot, you really need it to be wireless.
To summarize, this is the list of characteristics you should be looking for in a tailgate speaker:
- It has to be large (but not too large) and loud
- It has to be able to deliver great sound quality and great bass response
- It has to be well-built, rugged, preferably waterproof or weather resistant (any kind of IPX waterproof/dustproof rating is a plus)
- It should be wireless with a decent connection quality and battery life.
These are the most important features but you should also consider some additional features (and additional equipment). Some tailgate speakers have built-in FM tuners, others have USB ports that you can use to play the music from a USB stick or to charge your phone. Some speakers are equipped with a remote, some have entertaining LED lights, and some speakers come with a microphone.
10 Best Tailgate Speakers – Comparison Table
|Best Tailgate Speakers||Rating||Price||Review|
|SOUNDBOKS 2||4.4||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|ION Audio Tailgater||4.3||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|ION Audio Block||4.3||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|QFX PBX-61081BT||4.1||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Ecoxgear Gdi-exbm901||4.1||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|ION Party Rocker||4.1||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|ION Explorer||4.4||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|ION Audio Raptor||4.9||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Sony GTKXB90||4.2||Check Amazon||Read Review|
|Aiwa Exos-9||4.8||Check Amazon||Read Review|
When you click on “Check Price” you will be redirected to Amazon.
How Much Money Should You Spend?
The prices vary a lot (depending on sound and build quality, ruggedness, connection quality, etc.). You can find a decent speaker for less than $100 but, to be honest, if you want a great sound and build quality and if you need something rugged and waterproof with a bunch of additional features, you have to pay a few hundred at least. The price can be even higher (even more than $1000). It all depends on your needs and your budget. We have tried to make a comprehensive list that would include the products from all the price ranges. The cheapest speaker on our list is QFX PBX-61081BT and it can be yours for less than $100. All the other speakers on the list cost more than $100. When it comes to relatively affordable options, our choice is ION Audio Tailgater (iPA77) which can be yours for $150-$200. Our favorite speaker is SOUNDBOKS 2. This one is pretty expensive and it costs almost $900. Most of the speakers from our list of 10 best tailgate speakers in 2023 are within the price range $200-$400.
This is our list of 10 best tailgate speakers in 2023:
1. The SOUNDBOKS 2 Black Edition – The Loudest Portable, Battery-Powered, Bluetooth Speaker
As you already know, the SOUNDBOKS 2 is our favorite speaker on this list and our first choice. It’s made by the Danish company called SOUNDBOKS. We were impressed by the first version of this speaker (SOUNDBOKS 1) but this new upgraded version is better in so many ways. The SOUNDBOKS 2 has a simple but visually appealing design, it’s extremely rugged, it has an incredibly powerful battery, and it delivers clean and loud sound. We were not completely happy with the Bluetooth connection and there are also some minor flaws that we are going to mention but if you need a loud speaker with a great sound quality that can be used outdoors, this is one of the best options.
What’s in the box?
The speaker comes in a large and heavy box so you might need some help to take the speaker out of the box. The presentation is not really premium but the speaker is nicely packed and protected. Along with the SOUNDBOKS 2, you will get 1 removable Li-Ion battery, 2 power cables (North American and European) that you can use to charge the battery, one AUX cable, user manual, and 2-year limited warranty. You should know that there will be no additional equipment. You won’t get a microphone or anything like that. If you want, you can buy an additional battery (BATTERYBOKS 2) for about $150. SOUNDBOKS also makes a backpack that you can use if you want to transport the speaker. You will have to pay an additional $130 for the backpack.
The speaker is quite large and heavy. It weighs 33 pounds (almost 15kg), it is 17 inches wide, 13 inches deep, and 25.6 inches tall.
The speaker features 3 drivers – 2 10-inch woofers (with 2 bass reflex tubes) and 1 soft dome tweeter. They are driven by 3 72W class-D amplifiers. The enclosure is sealed.
Things we like
Unless you like your stuff to look flashy and unusual, you will like the design of this speaker. It’s simple, it’s completely black (black enclosure, black grille, black frame), and it looks quite stylish. The front side is covered with a steel grille with the SB logo in the top left corner. The grille is inflexible and looks very strong. The enclosure is made of Baltic birch plywood and the frame is made of brushed aluminum. So, all the edges are well-protected and the corners are additionally reinforced with aluminum. All in all, the speaker looks really durable and it can definitely take some serious beating. You will find strong handles on the left and right panel so you can transport the speaker (transporting won’t be easy since the speaker is quite heavy but it’s definitely better to have the handles than not to).
On the left panel, there’s a small control panel with two knobs (OFF/INDOOR/OUTDOOR knob and volume knob with 11 volume levels) and 2 inputs (DC input that you can use for charging and AUX input). You can use the DC input to play the speaker even if the battery is not attached. Right between two knobs, there’s the LED indicator (green for indoor mode, blue for outdoor mode, red if the battery is empty).
On the right panel, you will find the battery slot. Installing the battery is super simple. You just have to insert it, plug it in (there is a DC input inside the slot), lock it, and you can start playing.
On the bottom panel, there’s a tripod mount so you can place the speaker on a stand or tripod and cover a greater area with sound (the bass response is better when the speaker is on some hard surface).
We were not impressed by the connection quality but it’s not entirely bad. The speaker features Bluetooth 3.0. The advertised range is 30-60ft but we couldn’t get more than 20ft. If you stay within 10-15ft range, the connection will be stable and there will be no interference or signal loss. So, basically, our only real complaint is the range. The speaker doesn’t have auto-connection option – it won’t connect automatically to the last paired device and it won’t remember multiple devices. We haven’t experienced compatibility issues – the SOUNDBOKS 2 works with Android phones, iPhones, PCs, laptops, etc. If you don’t want to use Bluetooth or if you want to connect some non-Bluetooth device, you can use the auxiliary cable that comes with SOUNDBOKS 2.
Battery (BATTERYBOKS 2) is, along with the sound quality, one of the best features of this speaker. It has the capacity of 7.8 Ah. It can deliver up 40 hours of music playback at 50% volume. The manufacturer claims that you will get 8 hours of playtime at max volume. We have managed to get almost 5 hours but that kind of loudness is simply too much. To conclude, the battery is great. It’s one of the largest and most durable batteries used in Bluetooth speakers. The battery is also digital and it features an LED battery status indicator. It is also compatible with the previous SOUNDBOKS speaker, SOUNDBOKS 1.
This large unit can deliver an outstanding sound quality. Depending on the mode (indoor or outdoor) you will get a different type of sound. The sound will be more balanced with less bass and it will be slightly quieter in indoor mode. Outdoor mode boosts the bass and increases the loudness. The difference in loudness is not huge but it is still noticeable. We liked more the indoor mode but that’s just the matter of taste. If you are into bass-heavy music, you will be quite happy with the outdoor mode. There is practically no distortion until you get to the ninth volume level. At 10 and 11, the distortion becomes noticeable but the sound is still quite clear. Mids are detailed and dynamic in both modes, and highs are sparkling. The bass will occasionally overpower the mid frequencies at maximum volume, especially in outdoor mode.
Things we don’t like
The speaker doesn’t come with additional equipment and it doesn’t have any additional features. So, if you want a speaker with a bunch of LED lights, or if you want a microphone, or additional inputs, built-in FM tuner, or anything else, this is not the speaker for you. If you want an incredibly loud speaker and great sound quality, this is one of the best options on the market.
The speaker features a large battery but it doesn’t feature a USB charging port so you can’t charge your phone while listening to music.
The Bluetooth range is not impressive and you will have to stay within 15ft range if you want it to work flawlessly.
SOUNDBOKS 2 has an AUX input but not AUX output so you can’t daisy chain multiple speakers together for louder sound. You also can’t pair multiple speakers together in Bluetooth mode. There is a workaround – you can buy some two-channel or multi-channel stereo headphone amp and connect your speakers to it but that’s probably too complicated.
In the end, you should know that SOUNDBOKS 2 is not a cheap speaker. It’s quite pricey actually, maybe even slightly overpriced. The overall performance is great and the only question is – are you willing to spend almost $900 on a Bluetooth speaker.
2. ION Audio Tailgater (iPA77) | Portable Bluetooth PA Speaker with Mic and AM/FM Radio
ION Audio Tailgater iPA77 is probably the most popular tailgate speaker on the market. Compared to the previous speaker on the list (SOUNDBOKS 2), ION iPA77 is inferior in every way but you always have to consider the price. This one can be yours for less than $150, it’s much cheaper than SOUNDBOKS 2, and for that kind of price, it offers a great value. We loved the look of this chunky unit (especially the LED screen and control panel), the build quality is more than decent, Bluetooth connection works like a charm and the range is pretty good. Sound quality is not amazing but compared to other large Bluetooth speakers, it’s not bad at all. The speaker also features a USB charging port, it comes with a microphone, and it has a built-in AM/FM tuner. When it comes to downsides, we didn’t like the fact that there are no EQ settings (you should probably install some EQ app and use it to adjust the sound to your preferences). We also didn’t like the AM/FM feature because of the poor reception.
What’s in the box?
iPA77 comes in a large and colorful box. The speaker is nicely protected and along with the speaker, you will get a microphone with undetachable cable, one auxiliary cable, power/charging cable. user manual, and a warranty card.
ION Audio Tailgater is large but much smaller than SOUNDBOKS 2. It weighs 16.3 pounds (approx. 7.4kg), it’s 9.4 inches wide, 12.5 inches deep, and 12.8 inches tall.
The speaker features one 6-inch woofer and one dispersion tweeter. The peak output power is 50W, and frequency response spans from 77Hz to 20kHz.
Things we like
This is another simple and stylish speaker. What makes it special and more interesting is that LED screen with battery and Bluetooth status. The speaker has that common boxy design. The front side is covered with a strong metal grille that protects woofer and tweeter. The rest of the speaker is made of hard and thick plastic and the edges, as well as corners, are reinforced with a brushed aluminum. iPA77 is not as rugged as SOUNDBOKS 2 and it’s not made of the most premium materials but it can take some beating which is really important if you are going to use it outdoors. Right above the metal grille, there’s a nice control panel where you can find all the inputs and control buttons. There are AUX input, mic input, mic volume knob, Bluetooth button, radio button, two track/tune buttons (you can use them to change the track or to find radio stations), play/pause button, master volume knob, and a USB charging port (powerbank). Above the buttons, there’s the LED screen where you can see which mode is currently active (Bluetooth, Radio, AUX). You will also see the battery status and radio frequency. On top of the speaker, there is the NFC tag (you can use it for quick pairing if you have an Android device), and a radio antenna. On the left and right side, there are two strong handles for transporting the speaker. On the rear panel, you will find the AC input and on/off switch.
Connection quality is more than great. The speaker features Bluetooth 4.0 with an advertised range of up to 100ft. You will get more than 30ft even if there are obstacles (walls, trees). The signal is quite stable and strong. We haven’t experienced any interference or signal loss. iPA77 is compatible with all kinds of Bluetooth-enabled devices and you can also use the AUX input if you want to connect some non-Bluetooth device. The speaker also features NFC, so if you have an Android device, you can simply tap the speaker with your phone and pair them in two seconds. Even if you don’t want to use NFC, pairing is done in 5-10 seconds.
ION Audio Tailgater features strong battery with a rated capacity of 5Ah. The manufacturer claims that you can get up to 50 hours of playtime but doesn’t say at which volume level. Based on our testing, you will get almost 35 hours at 50% volume, and less than 8 hours at maximum volume.
iPA77 is not the best sounding speaker out there but it’s actually pretty good for the price. The bass is nice and punchy but it gets distorted at higher volumes so you might want to keep the volume between 65 and 75%. For a $150 speaker, it gets pretty loud but it’s not even close to SOUNDBOKS 2. Mids and highs are clean and dynamic at moderate volumes, but everything gets muffled at high volumes (80% or higher).
When it comes to additional features and accessories, iPA77 is much more fun than SOUNDBOKS 2. There are built-in AM/FM tuner, USB powerbank for phone charging, and a microphone. So, you have many options – you can listen to your favorite radio station in case you don’t want to use your phone or you can throw a karaoke party.
Things we don’t like
The speaker doesn’t feature built-in audio equalizer and EQ presets and it doesn’t have LED lights but considering the price, you are getting more than enough.
The radio antenna is flimsy and it’s not as durable as the rest of the speaker. When AM/FM feature is turned on, there’s a lot of static noise and the reception is quite poor. So, to conclude, the built-in AM/FM tuner is pretty much useless.
The speaker is not waterproof or splash-proof. It’s not IPX certified.
3. ION Audio Block Party Live 50-Watt Portable Bluetooth Speaker System with Party Lights
ION Audio Block Party Live is the first speaker on this list with the LED lighting. We were so happy about the lights we almost forgot about all the other things. This funny additional feature makes everything so much better but it’s not the only good thing about this speaker. We loved the suitcase-like design with a telescoping handle and wheels, the durability is satisfying, connection quality is great, battery life is very good when the lights are off (not so great when you turn on the lights), and sound quality is pretty good for a large Bluetooth speaker.
The current price on Amazon is unreasonably high (more than $1000) and it shouldn’t be like that. If the price remains this high, don’t buy it. The reasonable price would be $200 or less.
What’s in the box?
The speaker comes in a large and colorful cardboard box. It’s nicely protected with a Styrofoam. Along with the speaker, you will get one microphone with undetachable cable and ¼ inch jack, an auxiliary cable, power/charging cable, user manual, and a warranty card.
The speaker is quite large and heavy. It weighs 26.2 pounds (11.9kg), it is 15 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and 20.4 inches tall. It features two drivers – one 8-inch woofer, one 1-inch tweeter, and 2 bass reflex ports on the back panel. Speaker’s frequency response spans from 59Hz to 25kHz.
Things we like
Block Party Live looks simple and minimalistic. Additional details like built-in wheels and extendable handle don’t make it more beautiful but they really make it incredibly portable. The drivers are on the front panel. They are protected with a strong metal grille. On the upper end of the front panel, there’s a nicely designed and user-friendly control panel. You will see a mic input, mic volume knob, AUX input, Bluetooth disconnect button, master volume knob, light mode button (you can use it to choose between 4 lighting modes – auto party mode, music beat mode, app mode, or you can turn the lights off). On the right end of the control panel, there are LED power indicator, LED charge indicator, and battery status indicator. There are strong handles on the left and right panel but you are probably not going to use them since it’s much more convenient to use the telescoping handle and built-in wheels. On the top panel, there’s a lighted dome with a small electromotor inside and a bunch of colorful LED lights. Power input and power switch are on the rear panel.
The speaker is well-built. The manufacturer didn’t use some high-quality materials but the speaker is still sturdy. Edges and corners are reinforced with aluminum.
The connection is one of the great things about the Block Party Live. It features Bluetooth 4.0. The Bluetooth range (under ideal circumstances) is 100ft and you should be able to get 20-30ft even if there are walls between your phone and your speaker. The signal is stable and strong within 20-30ft range and you will probably experience some interference and signal loss if you go further. The speaker is compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled device and can be connected to a non-Bluetooth device thanks to the AUX input.
Block Party Live features strong 7Ah lead-acid battery. The manufacturer claims that you will get up to 75 hours of playtime and you might get that much at 40-50% volume and if all the lights are turned off. When you turn on the lights, the battery life shortens significantly and you will get up to 7 hours at max volume.
Sound quality is pretty good. The bass is deep and punchy but it gets distorted at 75% volume. Mids are sweet and detailed, and highs are clean. The bass tends to overpower the vocals at high volumes. Luckily, this speaker is pretty loud even at 70% volume which more than enough for smaller parties (up to 20 people).
Additional features make Block Party Live much more attractive. The light show is simply awesome and it really improves the overall experience. The mic is also a nice addition and it gives you the option to make a great karaoke party. One more thing we would like to mention is the PARTYROCKER app which you can install and use to control the lighting modes. You can’t use it to control other parameters – there are no EQ settings or anything else. The only thing you get to control is the lighting. Still, it can be quite useful.
Things we don’t like
The speaker doesn’t feature a USB charging port. That would be a nice additional feature. It also doesn’t feature AM/FM tuner.
The microphone is quite entertaining accessory but the one that comes with the speaker is really poor. There’s a lot of static noise when you turn it on.
The PARTYROCKER app is kind of buggy. Everything works flawlessly when you are streaming the music from your internal storage but if you try to stream music from YouTube or some other internet service, you will experience occasional signal loss. We have no explanation for this issue. If you don’t use the PARTYROCKER app while streaming music from YouTube, everything works like a charm.
The speaker is neither waterproof nor splash-proof (no IPX rating).
4. QFX PBX-61081BT Portable Bluetooth Party Speaker
If you are looking for a budget tailgate speaker, you won’t find anything cheaper than this. It’s the only speaker under $100 on this list and depending on the color, the price can go as low as $70. For that kind of money, you shouldn’t expect to be blown away but if you have reasonable expectations, you will be quite happy with the overall performance.
We loved the design and the functionality of this speaker. You have so many options when it comes to music playback – Bluetooth, USB port, micro-SD card slot, mic input, AUX input. The connection quality is pretty good and the battery is great (considering the price). The sound quality is not perfect. The bass is weak and unimpressive. The good thing is that it can be pretty loud. We weren’t impressed by the build quality but that’s what you get for less than $100. Also, there are no buttons on the unit itself but only on the remote which is not good at all. If you want to switch between modes or to search for some radio station, you have to use the remote and you must not lose it.
What’s in the box?
QFX PBX-61081BT comes in a large illustrated box. Along with the speaker, you will get a charging cable, remote, user manual, and 1-year warranty. Aux cable and microphone are not included and you will have to buy them separately (there are aux and mic inputs on the speaker).
The speaker weighs 13 pounds, it is 12.4 inches wide, 12.4 inches deep, and 20.9 inches tall. It features one 8-inch woofer and one 1-inch tweeter.
Things we like
The speaker features a suitcase-like design with built-in wheels and a telescoping handle. It’s not a nice-looking speaker but it’s functional. There are three versions available – red, blue, and white (the enclosure is always black and the only thing that changes is the grille color). On the front panel, you will see the drivers and a small LED screen at the top. The woofer is protected with some kind of soft grille. All the controls and input ports are on the rear panel. You will find there a USB port, micro-SD card slot, radio antenna, AUX input, mic input, power input, power switch, and 5 volume knobs (master volume, bass volume, treble volume, mic volume, echo). There are also three control buttons – play/pause, and two track buttons (next/previous song). The speaker comes with a remote that you can use to adjust the volume, shift between different modes, search for radio stations, change EQ settings (select some EQ preset), etc. Since there are many additional parameters that you can adjust only with a remote, try not to lose it.
QFX PBX-61081BT doesn’t really excel in the durability department. It’s made of hard plastic but it’s not really rugged and it doesn’t look as durable as some previous and more expensive speakers. Still, there were no complaints regarding durability in the past.
Connection quality is decent. We didn’t manage to find any info on the Bluetooth version but you will get a standard 30ft range without obstacles (approx. 10ft with obstacles). It’s compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled devices and you will be able to connect non-Bluetooth devices thanks to the AUX input (the auxiliary cable is not included). There are also two additional options when it comes to music playback – USB port and micro-SD card slot.
The speaker features a large battery with a rated capacity of 4.5Ah. You will get up to 20 hours at moderate volume (40-50%) and less than 5 hours at max volume. Recharge takes 3-4 hours.
Sound quality is decent for a budget tailgate speaker. The bass is not impressive. Compared to other large Bluetooth speakers with 8-inch woofers, this one can’t really go that low. On the other hand, mids and highs are clean and detailed. The distortion becomes noticeable at 80% volume but the speaker is quite loud even at 70%, so you don’t really have to increase the volume that much. To conclude, the only thing we didn’t like was the bass.
Besides the additional input ports for music playback (USB, micro-SD), this speaker features mic input but the microphone is not included and you have to pay extra for it. The speaker also features a radio antenna and a built-in FM tuner but we were not completely happy with this feature.
Things we don’t like
The FM tuner was quite useless. There is no fine-tuning feature and every station the speaker finds has a certain amount of static noise. The radio antenna is flimsy.
Try not to lose the remote since there are some control buttons that you can’t find on the speaker (EQ presets, mode button, etc.).
The speaker doesn’t have a USB charging port.
QFX PBX-61081BT is neither waterproof nor splash-proof (no IPX rating).
5. ECOXGEAR ECOBOULDER GDI-EXBM901 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth/AM/FM Wireless Speaker
ECOXGEAR is a small startup company from California and it makes incredibly rugged and durable outdoor Bluetooth speakers. Their ECOBOULDER portable Bluetooth speaker is one of our favorites under $200. If you are lucky, you could get a discount and buy it for less than $150 which is a great deal considering the performance and the number of different features you get.
This is an amazing outdoor speaker with many additional features. First of all, we loved the design and the robustness of this unit. It’s incredibly strong and rugged. It’s also IPX67 certified (it’s dust resistant and fully waterproof). It features USB charging ports (that’s a plural – there are two ports), two AUX inputs, it has a built-in AM/FM tuner, mic input, and a small LED screen on the top panel. It can also be linked with another ECOBOULDER for stereo sound (but only in Bluetooth mode). The Bluetooth connection works great and the battery is pretty good for the price. The speaker doesn’t come with a mic (even though, there is a mic input), and it doesn’t have built-in LED lights (no lighting).
What’s in the box?
The speaker comes in a large box. The presentation is not really premium but it’s decent. The speaker is nicely protected. Along with the ECOBOULDER, you’ll get a charging cable, user manual, and 3-year limited warranty (which is quite impressive). Mic and auxiliary cable are not included and you have to buy them separately.
The ECOBOULDER is quite large and heavy. It is 15.5 inches wide, 11.3 inches deep, 19.8 inches tall, and it weighs 27 pounds. Inside the speaker, there is one 8-inch full-range woofer (front panel), one 8-inch passive radiator (rear panel), and one 3-inch tweeter (front panel). Peak output power is rated at 100W.
Things we like
The speaker has that familiar boxy shape like many other speakers on the market but it is still recognizable thanks to some details (handles on each side, retractable handle on top, wheels, great control panel with LED screen and backlit buttons). The drivers on the front panel, as well as the passive radiator on the rear panel, are covered with a strong metal grille. There are handles on the left and right side of the speaker (near the top) but there are also built-in wheels at the bottom and a telescoping handle on the top which make it much more portable and easier to move around. On the right panel, there are two watertight caps. Under the first cap, you will find an AUX input, USB charging port, and mic input. The second cap protects the charging port. On the left side, you will see a watertight compartment where you can leave your phone or some other stuff you don’t want to damage. Inside the compartment, there are AUX input (AUX2) and another USB charging port.
On the top panel, you will see a bunch of control buttons. There are 18 buttons – power, Bluetooth, play/pause, 2 track buttons (play the next/previous song in Bluetooth or AUX mode), source button (use it to shift between Bluetooth, AUX1, AUX2, radio), master volume button, mic volume button, ECOCONNECT button (use it to link two ECOBOULDER speakers in Bluetooth mode), backlight button (use it when you want to see the buttons in the dark), AM/FM button, radio tuning button, and 6 radio preset buttons (the speaker can remember 6 AM and 6 FM radio stations). Right in the middle of the control panel, there’s a small LED screen where you can see all the necessary info (battery status, low battery warning, charging status, currently active mode, and AM/FM frequency). The rest of the top panel is rubberized to improve the grip so you can leave your phone there. There’s also a small wedge for your phone.
The overall build quality is amazing. The ECOBOULDER is incredibly sturdy and it’s definitely made to last. It’s built like a tank and it can survive some serious beating. Thanks to its IP67 dust resistant/waterproof rating it can be used literally everywhere.
The connection quality is quite impressive. The speaker features Bluetooth 4.1 with an advertised range of 100ft. In reality, you will get up to 75ft without obstacles and up to 30ft with obstacles, which is more than satisfying especially when you compare it to other speakers on the list. The signal is stable and strong within the 30ft range. The ECOBOULDER is compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled devices. There are also two AUX inputs so you can connect non-Bluetooth devices to the speaker. We should also mention that you can pair/link two ECOBOULDER speakers by pressing ECOCONNECT button on one and then on the other speaker. Speakers shouldn’t be more than 30ft away from each other. You can use the daisy chaining feature in Bluetooth mode only. There’s no way to use it when the mic is attached, or when using AUX inputs.
The battery has the capacity of 7Ah and it can deliver up to 8 hours of continuous playback at maximum volume (20 hours at moderate volume). Recharge takes around 8 hours. The speaker features not one but two USB powerbank ports so you can charge two devices simultaneously while playing music. You can’t charge the phone if the battery is at 10% or lower. Auto power saving mode activates when the battery is low (lower than 10%). In power saving mode, you can’t use the USB charging ports and you can’t increase the volume above level 15 (there are 30 volume levels).
The sound is not as impressive as the build quality. The bass lacks some serious impact but that’s expected since the enclosure is sealed (it has to be sealed in order to be waterproof). Mids are missing a little bit of detail which is not uncommon when you have some large full-range speaker in charge of low and mid frequencies but they are still sweet and nicely balanced with highs. You won’t find any info on EQ in the user manual but there is a way to change the type of the sound. By pressing the play button for 2 seconds you can choose one of 5 EQ presets and find the type of sound you like. Distortion kicks in at 75% volume (level 22) and it becomes really noticeable at higher volumes, so it’s better not to go above level 23-24. The good thing is that the speaker is quite loud even at 70% volume and it can easily power a small party (20- 25 people) at that volume.
Things we don’t like
AM/FM tuner doesn’t really pick up the signal well and you will have to move the speaker around to get a nice reception.
The ECOCONNECT feature works only in Bluetooth mode. You can’t pair two speakers when using the microphone or AUX input.
There is absolutely no info on those EQ modes in the user manual or on the manufacturer’s website. We don’t even see any info on that small LED screen. All we know is that you will get a different type of sound when you press the play button for two seconds. The first mode boosts the bass response and makes it significantly deeper and the last one boosts the treble. The other three modes are probably made for different music genres.
6. Ion Audio Party Rocker Max | Wireless Rechargeable Speaker with Multi-Effect Party Lights
Party Rocker Max looks like an upgraded version of previously mentioned Block Party Live and it’s better than this one in many ways. First of all, it has that light dome on top but it also features lighted grille so you will get even better light show (which is probably the greatest reason why you should buy this speaker). Second, Party Rocker Max is more powerful (100W peak power). Third, it has more buttons on the control panel which means more control over the playback and over the lighting. It also features two mic inputs so you can throw even crazier karaoke party.
This is a decent but not great speaker. What makes it really special and fun are all the lights. The build quality is not impressive but it’s satisfying considering the price (you can find it for less than $200). Battery life is impressive when the lights are off but it becomes much shorter when the lights are on. Connection quality is ok but there are some issues with Bluetooth. We were not impressed by the sound quality. We have definitely expected more bass from this unit. And not just that, we have expected it to be cleaner (you can read about all the issues in the last section of this review).
What’s in the box?
The speaker comes in a large cardboard box. Along with the speaker, you will get one microphone (there are two mic inputs but there’s only one mic in the box), AUX cable, charging cable, user manual, and warranty card.
Rocker Max is not too large but it’s heavy. It’s 11 inches wide, 15 inches deep, 17.25 inches tall, and it weighs 24.6 pounds. It features one 8-inch full-range woofer and 3-inch tweeter. They are both located on the front side. The frequency response spans from 65Hz to 20kHz.
Things we like
The design is simple and boxy but very much recognizable because of all the lights. You will most definitely know this is the ION speaker when you see it. There are two versions – the one with grille lights and the other without grille lights.
The drivers on the front side are protected with a strong metal grille. Just above the grille, there’s the control panel where you can find the master volume knob, mic volume knob, echo knob, AUX input, 2 mic inputs, Bluetooth button, lights on/off button, party light mode button (use it to choose the light dome lighting mode – beat sync, auto, single color, freeze, off), speaker light mode button (use it to choose one of 16 lighting modes for grille lights), and 6 dedicated buttons that you can use to turn on/off certain color (red, green, blue, white, pink, orange).
There are carrying handles on both sides (left and right) but there’s also a retractable handle at the back and built-in wheels at the bottom, so you can transport the speaker with ease.
Lightshow is what really makes this speaker incredibly fun. There are two separate light shows – light dome on the top panel and lighted grille on the front panel.
On the rear panel, you will find the on/off switch and charging port.
When it comes to durability, we can say we were quite happy with this speaker. It’s made of hard plastic; the edges and corners are reinforced with brushed aluminum. It looks quite rugged and strong but you can feel the difference between this one and previously mentioned ECOXGEAR ECOBOULDER. The difference in build quality becomes even greater when you compare it to SOUNDBOKS 2. To conclude, the build quality is pretty good for the price but could be much better.
Connection quality is satisfying. The speaker features Bluetooth 4.0 with the 100ft range. In reality, you will usually get 50ft (outdoors) and 20-30 (indoors). Pairing is quick and simple. The connection is stable, but the signal gets weaker when the battery is low and we have no explanation for that. Party Rocker max is compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled and non-Bluetooth devices.
The speaker features one large lead-acid battery. The capacity is rated at 9Ah. The battery can deliver up to 75 hours of playtime if the lights are off but only 6-7 hours when all the lights are on. Recharge takes 10 hours.
Sound quality is not impressive. The bass is nice and punchy at moderate volume but it gets distorted at 70%, and at 90% it’s completely out of control. Mids and highs are nicely balanced but they tend to lack clarity at high volumes (bass simply overpowers everything). At 50% volume, the speaker sounds really nice and when you turn on the lights, the overall experience becomes much better.
Things we don’t like
The mic that comes with the speaker is really poor. There’s a lot of static and it looks really flimsy. You should buy some better mic if you want to throw a karaoke party.
The speaker is neither waterproof nor splash-proof (it’s not IPX certified).
All those lights are really great but it would be even better if there was an AM/FM tuner. Considering the battery capacity, we have expected to see at least one USB charging port but there is none.
Lights on top of the speaker are extremely bright, almost blinding.
Many ION speakers use lead-acid batteries. Some of them, like this one, have incredibly strong and durable batteries but the truth is that lead-acid batteries are much worse choice than lithium-ion batteries. Lead-acid batteries are bigger and heavier, they are less resilient, and have a shorter lifecycle. The only reason why ION uses lead-acid batteries instead of lithium-ion batteries is the price. Lead-acid batteries are much cheaper.
7. Ion Explorer Outback Wireless Rechargeable Speaker
ION Explorer Outback is another ION’s speaker on our list of 10 best tailgate speakers in 2023. This one is more rugged and more suitable for outdoor use than those two ION party speakers with lights. Explorer Outback has a pretty large battery and it features 2 USB charging ports. It’s compatible with Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth devices (AUX input). It can be linked with another Explorer Outback through the AUX output (LINK) port. The Bluetooth connection works flawlessly. It also features FM tuner and nice-looking multi-color bar (it’s not equally fun as the lighted grille or light dome on other ION party speakers but it’s better than nothing). The sound is pretty decent for the price and size but it’s far from perfect. Our in-depth review follows.
What’s in the box?
Inside a large cardboard box, you will find you Explorer Outback speaker, one microphone with undetachable cable, short AUX cable, user manual, and a warranty card.
The speaker is quite bulky. It weighs 29.3 pounds, it’s 18 inches wide, 11 inches deep, and 18 inches tall. It features two drivers – one 8-inch full-range woofer and one 3-inch tweeter. The enclosure is sealed, so don’t expect mind-blowing bass.
Things we like
There is nothing new about the design. Many ION speakers on this list look alike. They are simple and boxy. The drivers are protected with a metal grille. The grille is strong and inflexible. Right above the grille, there’s a multi-color bar, and above the bar, you’ll see the control panel. There are two large volume knobs on the left and right side of the panel (mic volume and master volume). Between those two volume knobs, there are 13 buttons – power, Bluetooth, light button, radio button, 2 radio tuning/track buttons, play/pause button, and 6 radio preset buttons. Right in the middle of the control panel, there’s a small LED screen where you can see all the important info (battery status, Bluetooth status, current mode, radio frequency). Above the mic volume knob, there’s a rubber flap protecting AUX input, mic input, and AUX output (LINK). Above the master volume knob, there’s another rubber flap protecting two USB charging ports (you can charge two devices simultaneously while playing music). The top panel is rubberized. The speaker has carrying handles on the left and right side but it also has a telescoping handle at the back and built-in wheels so you can transport it easily. On the rear panel, you will find a small pouch (attached to the speaker) where you can put all the cables and microphone. Right above the pouch, there’s a rubber flap protecting charging port.
Explorer Outback is more rugged than those ION party speakers. The edges and corners are reinforced with rubber and aluminum. All the ports are covered with rubber flaps. Our general impression is that you can take this speaker outside and throw a great party. The speaker is IPX4 certified which means that it can survive some light rain or a few splashes of water (but cannot be immersed in water).
The Bluetooth connection works flawlessly. The speaker features Bluetooth 4.0 with up to 100ft range (more like 60ft without obstacles and up to 30ft with obstacles). Pairing is quick and simple and it can be even quicker if you are using an Android phone thanks to NFC feature. The speaker is compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled and non-Bluetooth devices (thanks to AUX input). There’s also an AUX output jack and you can use it to link two Explorer speakers if you want louder sound.
Battery life is pretty good. The speaker features a lead-acid battery with a rated capacity of 7Ah. The manufacturer claims that you can get up to 100 hours of playtime. That’s maybe possible if you set the volume at 25%. You will get much shorter playtime at higher volumes (approx. 8 hours at max volume) and even less if the multi-color bar is turned on. The speaker features 2 USB powerbank ports that you can use to charge two devices simultaneously while playing music.
Sound quality is pretty good. There is some bass but it’s not impactful. The mids are sweat but lack some detail, and highs are quite clean and crisp. At high volumes (above 75%), the bass gets distorted and above 90% volume, the bass tends to overpower the vocals and everything sounds muddy. Explorer is pretty loud even at 50% volume, so you don’t really have to increase it to 70% or higher.
When it comes to additional features and equipment, you should know that the speaker comes with a built-in AM/FM tuner. The radio feature is useful but doesn’t work flawlessly.
Things we don’t like
The speaker doesn’t have a built-in radio antenna, so the radio reception is quite poor. The reception can be improved significantly if you connect some USB cable to one of those USB charging ports (you don’t have to charge your phone, just plug in the cable).
Every ION speaker comes with the same ION microphone. The microphone looks and feels cheap (because it is cheap) and it performs poorly.
This speaker features a lead-acid battery. Unfortunately, lead-acid batteries are much worse choice than lithium-ion batteries. Lead-acid batteries are bigger and heavier, they are less resilient, and have a shorter lifecycle. The only reason why ION uses lead-acid batteries instead of lithium-ion batteries is the price.
8. ION Audio Raptor – Ultra-Portable Wireless Water-Resistant Speaker
ION Raptor looks a lot like previously reviewed Explorer but it’s even more rugged and has an interesting rubbery wrapping which makes it more beautiful and probably shockproof. The control panel looks exactly the same as the one on Explorer and most of the features you can find on Explorer are present here, too. The speaker features a built-in AM/FM tuner, two AUX inputs, mic input, LINK port (for daisy chaining), and two USB charging ports. It also has a powerful lead-acid battery. Bluetooth connection works like a charm and sound quality is decent but if your only concern is the sound, you can definitely find a better-sounding unit for the same price. In that case, we highly recommend buying Aiwa Exos-9 which is also on our list of 10 best tailgate speaker. Unfortunately, Exos-9 is not nearly as rugged as ION Raptor and it’s not IPX certified.
What’s in the box?
Inside the ION box, you will find your Raptor speaker, one microphone with undetachable cable, an AUX cable, 2 charging cables (one with 12V cigarette lighter adapter so you can power the unit from your vehicle and the other regular charging cable with a wall plug), user manual, quick-start guide, and a warranty card.
The unit is 18 inches wide, 11 inches deep, 18.5 inches tall, and it weighs 26.2 pounds. Inside the speaker, there’s one 8-inch full-range woofer and one 3-inch tweeter. Peak output power is 100W.
Things we like
As we have already said, the speaker has that familiar design. It looks like previously reviewed ION Explorer but it’s more attractive (at least in our opinion). The speaker is completely wrapped in rubber (except for the front panel). The rubber has a really interesting truck tire pattern and looks really cool.
The front panel is covered with a protective aluminum grille with the FORD logo on it (the speaker is officially licensed by FORD). Above the grille, there’s the control panel and right between the grille and control panel, you will see a multicolor light bar. The control panel looks exactly the same as the control panel on ION Explorer. There’s the LED screen in the middle where you can see the battery status, mode (Bluetooth, AUX, mic, AM/FM), and radio frequency. On the right side of the panel, there’s the master volume knob, and on the left side the mic volume knob. Around the LED screen, there are 13 buttons (power, Bluetooth, light bar on/off, radio, 2 tuning/track buttons, play/pause button, and six preset buttons). Just like ION Explorer, Raptor features two rubber flaps right above the mic volume and master volume knobs. The flap on the left side protects AUX input, mic input, and LINK port, while the flap on the right side covers 2 USB charging ports (you can charge two phones while streaming music). On the rear panel, there is another rubber flap protecting 12V DC input (use it to power the unit from your vehicle) and a regular IEC power cable input.
On the left and right side, you will see two strong carrying handles. Just like many ION speakers, this one also features a telescoping handle and built-in wheels so you can transport it easily.
The top panel is rubberized and has two cup holders in the middle. It’s an interesting but not really useful detail. You shouldn’t put your drinks on the speaker.
The speaker is made of hard plastic and then completely wrapped in thick rubber. It looks and feels very rugged and durable and it is also IPX4 certified (splash-proof). The speaker can survive a few splashes of water and it won’t be damaged by light rain but anything more than that could cause some serious damage.
ION Raptor features Bluetooth 4.0 with an advertised range of 100ft. In reality, you will get up to 70ft without obstacles and 30ft with obstacles, which is more than satisfying. The pairing is quick and simple, and it can be even quicker if you are using an Android phone thanks to NFC feature (the NFC logo is on the top panel). The speaker is compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled devices and you can connect non-Bluetooth devices to the speaker through AUX port. You can also daisy chain two speakers for louder sound through LINK port.
The lead-acid battery inside the speaker has the capacity of 7Ah. The manufacturer claims that you can get up to 75 hours of continuous music playback which is quite impressive but it’s not really true. You will maybe get 75 hours at 20-30% volume but you can get up to 8 hours at max volume. The speaker also features 2 USB powerbank ports so you can charge two phones simultaneously.
The sound is pretty good but not amazing. The bass is nice and punchy at moderate volumes but it gets distorted at 75%. The distortion becomes really noticeable and distracting at 90%. Mids and highs are nicely balanced. Highs are really clean and crisp. The speaker is quite loud even at 50% volume.
We have already mentioned all the additional features and accessories but it doesn’t hurt to list them again, So, you will get a microphone and a power cable with a 12V cigarette lighter adapter. The speaker also features mic input, LINK port (for daisy chaining), 2 USB charging port, 12V DC input, AM/FM tuner, and a multicolor light bar which is probably the most entertaining feature.
Things we don’t like
The microphone that comes with the speaker is awful and there’s a lot of static noise. If you want to throw a karaoke party, you might need something better.
AM/FM tuner has poor reception since there is no radio antenna. You can improve the reception by attaching some USB cable to one of those USB powerbank ports (it can be any cable with a standard USB connector and you don’t have to charge any device – the cable simply acts as an antenna).
ION Raptor has a lead-acid battery. Lead-acid batteries are actually much worse than lithium-ion batteries. They are bigger and heavier, less resilient, and have a shorter lifecycle. The only reason why ION uses lead-acid batteries instead of lithium-ion batteries is the price (they are cheaper).
9. Sony GTKXB90 High Power Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If you want a premium-looking tailgate party speaker with nice lighting, SONY GTK XB90 might be the best option. This unit looks so much better than all the previous speakers but it’s definitely not the best when it comes to sound or build-quality. It all comes to your preferences and budget. XB90 can be yours for about $350.
This one looks really good, it’s nicely built but not rugged so you will have to be careful if you are going to use it outdoors. The Bluetooth connection works flawlessly, battery is pretty good (but it’s not the most durable battery on the list), the speaker features mic input as well as RCA inputs and outputs (for wired daisy chaining), USB port (you can use it to play the music from a USB stick or to charge your phone). It also features the bass boost button (EXTRA BASS), and a speakerphone feature. The speaker can be linked wirelessly with another SONY speaker from XB series (not only XB90 but also XB60, XB40, XB30) for stereo sound (or just louder sound depending on the mode you choose). The sound is not impressive especially when compared to SOUNDBOKS 2 (more expensive than XB90) or Aiwa Exos-9 (cheaper than XB90) but if you are going to use it mainly for parties, this might be a really good choice.
What’s in the box?
XB90 comes in a large box. Along with the speaker, you will get a charging/power cable, user manual, and a warranty card. Microphone and audio cables are not included and you have to buy them separately.
Just like all the other speakers on our list, XB90 is a bit chunky. It weighs 30 pounds (14kg), it’s 13.25 inches wide, 13.25 inches deep, and 26.5 inches tall. It can be set up in two ways – you can place it horizontally or vertically. Speaker features 5 drivers – two 7.4-inch woofers and three 2.4-inch tweeters (2 out of three tweeters are active depending on the orientation of the speaker).
Things we like
There’s absolutely nothing we would like to change regarding the design. XB90 is a beautiful speaker. It’s really stylish and looks better than any other on the list. And it has all those party lights. The build quality is not on par with the design. The speaker is not poorly built but it’s not as rugged as some other speakers on the list (many ION speakers, as well as SOUNDBOKS 2 and ECOXGEAR ECOBOULDER, are more rugged) and it seems more suitable for indoor use. XB90 can be used outdoors since it’s portable (it features battery and built-in carrying handles) but you will have to be careful since the enclosure is not reinforced and the speaker is not IPX certified (it’s not waterproof or dustproof). To be completely honest, we are not really sure that XB90 could survive a fall from a 5ft height without any damage.
On the front panel, there’s a protective aluminum mesh. Carrying handles are located at the top and bottom. The control panel is on the top. There are 9 buttons on the panel – power, play/pause/call button, STAMINA button (press it to activate power saving mode), FUNCTION button (use it to change mode – Bluetooth, USB, AUDIO IN), ADD button (wired party chain), and wireless party chain button, EXTRA BASS button (press it to boost the bass response), and 2 volume buttons. NFC logo is located right above the control panel and if you have an Android device, you can tap the logo and pair your phone with the speaker in a second.
On the rear panel, you will see the AC input (charging port), party chain button, mic input and mic volume knob, USB port, and RCA input and output ports.
XB90 features Bluetooth 4.2 with 33ft range. The Bluetooth works flawlessly within the advertised range. We haven’t experienced any issue regarding the connection. The speaker is compatible with all the Bluetooth-enabled devices (iPhones, Android devices, PC, etc.). There’s no 3.5mm AUX input, but there are two RCA input and two output ports. You can use these ports to link XB90 with other speakers for stereo sound. You can also link up to 10 compatible party speakers (XB60, XB40, XB30, XB20) wirelessly.
The speaker features a 2,500mAh Li-Ion battery. The battery will deliver up to 16 hours of playtime at a moderate volume but only 3.5 hours at max volume (only 3 hours at max volume if the lights are on). If your battery is low, you can activate stamina mode (which is basically the power saving mode). Stamina mode prolongs the playtime by limiting the maximum volume and you will get up to 5 hours of playback in this mode (at max volume). The speaker also features one USB port. You can use this port to charge your device but you can also play the music from your phone or directly from a USB stick (only MP3 and WMA formats are supported).
Sound quality is far from amazing. The bass is prioritized and the rest of the spectrum is not perfectly clear. There’s a lot of bass even without EXTRA BASS but it is not accurate and punchy enough. XB90 really lacks clarity and depth in the bass department. The mids sound pretty sweat at moderate volumes but become muddy at high volumes because they are overpowered by the bass. We have also expected slightly cleaner highs from a speaker with 3 tweeters. XB90 is definitely not an audiophile material but after all, XB90 is not intended to be an audiophile speaker. It’s a party speaker and it does a good job as a party speaker. It can get pretty loud but you will probably need at least 2 for larger parties.
Another great thing about XB90 is that you can download and install an app if you want to control the lighting and adjust the EQ settings. In fact, there are two apps – SONY Music Center app and Fiestable app. You can use any of those two apps to choose the lighting mode or some EQ preset, or you can make custom EQ adjustments. The Fiestable app has one really cool additional feature – you can use it if you want to play with some DJ sound effects. It’s not something you are going to use at home but it’s pretty great for parties.
The speaker also features a speakerphone. It works well but it’s kind of redundant feature (for a party speaker).
Things we don’t like
XB90 is not IPX certified and doesn’t look rugged enough. The exterior is entirely made of thick plastic.
The only way to control the lighting and EQ settings is to install one of the apps (Music Center app or Fieastable app).
Speaker grille is made of aluminum but it’s not that sturdy and it should’ve been stronger (thicker).
Wireless linking (daisy chaining) XB90 with some other speaker from XB series (XB60, XB40, XB30) doesn’t really work. They do pair with each other but there’s a noticeable sound delay and it’s really annoying. Wired linking works well but if you want to link two speakers wirelessly, you will need another XB90.
10. Aiwa Exos-9 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
If you are looking for a great sound quality at a reasonable price, Aiwa Exos-9 is one of the best choices. It’s definitely not cheap but compared to other portable Bluetooth speakers within this price range, the sound quality is amazing. It’s perfectly clean with almost no distortion, there’s a slight emphasis on the bass but you can change that by adjusting the EQ settings. The price varies from $300 to $500 depending on the seller but you can probably find it for less than $350.
The sound is the greatest feature but there are more good things about Aiwa Exos-9. The battery is decent (there are a few speakers on our list with better battery life), Bluetooth connection works great. The speaker also features an AUX input, USB charging port, and micro-USB port for firmware updates. There are four EQ presets and you can also play with different frequency bands and adjust the EQ to your liking. When it comes to downsides, you should be aware that Exos-9 is not rugged at all and it’s not IPX certified (not waterproof). That’s probably the biggest limitation regarding outdoor use (you have to be really careful with the speaker because of that plastic exterior). Also, we are not completely happy with the design of the control panel.
What’s in the box?
Exos-9 comes in an illustrated AIWA box. Along with the speaker, you will get one charging cable, one auxiliary audio cable, removable Li-Ion battery, user manual, and 1-year warranty. There’s a remote but it doesn’t come with the speaker – you have to buy it separately. The same goes for the carrying case.
The speaker is quite large but it’s actually lighter than all the previous speakers. It weighs 13 pounds, it’s 19.4 inches wide, 7.5 inches deep, and 11.4 inches tall.
Inside the speaker, there’s one 6.5-inch subwoofer, one bass reflex port at the back, two neodymium 3-inch midrange drivers, two 1-inch silk dome tweeter, and they are all powered by class-D amplifiers. Speaker’s frequency response spans from 40Hz to 20kHz, continuous output power is rated at 200W, and maximum SPL (loudness) is 100dB.
Things we like
The unit has nice and sleek design and the only available color is black. It’s shaped like an old-school boombox and if you are into that kind of look, you will love this speaker. The only problem is that it’s entirely made of plastic. That’s not a big issue if you are going to use it indoors but it is an important downside when it comes to outdoor use. Exos-9 can be used outdoors since it’s portable and battery-powered but you have to handle it with care since it’s not rugged and it’s not waterproof.
On the front panel, you will see the aluminum grille that protects the drivers. Right above the grille, there’s a small LED screen (it displays battery status, mode, and EQ settings) and a volume knob. The control panel is located on the top. There are 7 touch-sensitive buttons on the panel – play/pause, EQ button with 4 arrows for navigation, and LINK button (for linking two Exos-9 speakers). On the rear panel, there are carrying handle (at the top), battery slot (at the bottom), and bass reflex port. In the bottom right corner, you will find the AC input, power switch, USB charging port, and micro-USB port for firmware updates.
The Bluetooth connection works flawlessly. There’s no info on the Bluetooth module and Bluetooth version but the manufacturer claims that you will get 50ft range which is true if there are no obstacles but if there are obstacles (walls, trees) the range shortens to 20ft max. The pairing process is quick and simple and it can be even quicker if you are using an Android device thanks to NFC pairing. You just have to tap the NFC logo (next to control panel). Exos-9 can remember up to 8 previously paired devices and it will automatically pair with them when they are in range. You can also daisy chain two Exos-9 speakers by pressing the LINK button. The speakers should be no more than 20ft away from each other and you can choose one of two playback options – dual stereo (both speakers play the same audio track) or stereo separated (one speaker acts as the left and the other as the right channel). Exos-9 is compatible with all Bluetooth-enabled devices but it can also be connected to non-Bluetooth devices via AUX cable.
Compared to other speakers on the list, Exos-9 features less powerful battery. It has the capacity of 2,600mAh. The battery can offer up to 9 hours of music playback at moderate volume but only 3 hours at maximum volume. There’s an extended battery for Exos-9 and you can buy it for about $90. This extended battery has the capacity of 4,400mAh and it will double the playtime. The speaker features one USB charging port so you can charge your phone while listening to music.
Sound quality is, without any doubt, the best feature of this speaker. The bass is slightly emphasized but it’s not overwhelming. Mids are nice and detailed and highs are clean. The balance between lows, mids, and highs is really nice. There’s a barely noticeable amount of distortion at high volumes. If you want more or less bass or if you want to change the balance between different frequency bands, you can use those EQ buttons on the control panel. There are 4 EQ presets (rock, hip-hop and dance, jazz, classic) but you can also customize the EQ settings and control the gain for 5 different frequency bands. This speaker is not among the loudest on this list but it’s good enough for small parties (up to 25 people).
Things we don’t like
The enclosure is entirely made of plastic and it’s not the best choice for outdoor use. It’s not rugged at all, it’s not waterproof or dustproof.
The control panel is poorly designed. The control buttons are on the top panel and the LED screen is on the front panel. So, you have to move back and forth to see if you are pressing the right button. Placing the LED screen right next to the control buttons would be a much better option.
This was our list of 10 best tailgate speakers in 2023. We have tried (and hopefully succeeded) to offer something for everyone. We are more than happy if this list was helpful to you.
In case you want to keep searching, we’ve made a short buyer’s guide where you can find some useful pieces of advice oh how to find the best tailgate speaker.
Buyer’s Guide – How to Find the Best Tailgate Speaker for Your Needs
The technology constantly evolves and new and improved speakers are introduced every day. The market is flooded with all kinds of party speakers and finding the best speaker for your tailgate party is not an easy task. So, what are the things you should consider when buying a tailgate speaker and what kind of criteria you should establish?
Defining your budget is the first and hardest thing to do especially if you are obsessed with audio equipment like we are. We don’t always have thousands of dollars we can spend on cool speakers and setting the limits is really important. If you want a decent overall performance, you can’t really go lower than $100. There’s only one speaker under $100 on our list and maybe a few more decent tailgate (party) speakers on the market and that’s pretty much it. The number of possible choices is huge if your limit is $500 but if you want the best possible quality, you have to set your limits even higher ($1000 or more). Our favorite speaker on the list of 10 best tailgate speakers in 2023 is SOUNDBOKS 2. This impressive speaker can be yours for about $900. If you are prepared to spend more, you should check out one of the greatest wireless party speakers on the market called DiamondBoxx.XL.
Build quality – Ruggedness, Waterproofness
Since the speaker is going to be used outdoors (tailgate parties are, by default, outdoor events), you need something with a great build quality. Sturdy and durable materials, metal frames, aluminum reinforcements, strong grilles are highly desirable. Any kind of IPX rating (starting from IPX4) is a plus. It would be great if the speaker is dustproof, too. You don’t want your speaker to get damaged by some light rain or sand.
Loudness – Wattage and Sensitivity
Party speakers need to be loud, so you are going to pay attention to how loud a tailgate speaker can be. The combination of two characteristics (wattage and sensitivity) will tell you what is the maximum loudness of your speaker. In short, if you want a great loudness, you should be looking for high wattage and high sensitivity (above 90). You have a detailed explanation on how to calculate maximum loudness (max SPL) of a speaker in our article on 10 Loudest Bluetooth Speakers.
Sound quality (especially bass quality)
Loudness doesn’t mean anything if the overall sound quality is awful. You need a nice balance between lows, mids, and highs (with maybe subtle emphasis on bass frequencies), nice separation and wide soundstage. Your speaker should also be able to deliver clean sound without too much distortion at high volumes (THD should be less than 1%).
Portability – Size, Wireless Connection, Handles, Wheels
When we say portable, we don’t mean small. It should be large but not too large. You have to consider the size of your vehicle and buy something that could fit your vehicle. And not only that. Since you are throwing a tailgate party, you need to leave some space for food, drinks, snacks, etc. If you can’t see the speaker in person, read the specs carefully and pay attention to the dimensions of the speaker and check if it can fit your vehicle.
As we have already discussed, the wireless connection is much more convenient if you are going to use the speaker outdoors. Additional connectivity options (like AUX inputs, USB ports, micro-SD card slots) are a plus.
Handles and wheels are not mandatory but they make those large Bluetooth speakers more portable and easier to carry around. So, if a speaker has handles/wheels, that’s a great advantage.
You need a strong and durable battery – that’s a must. Anything that could offer 5 hours at maximum volume can be considered great. Pay attention to this info and be careful. The maximum playtime in the specs list usually refers to playtime at moderate volume (50-60%) which means that you will get much shorter playtime at maximum volume. Some speakers offer much more than 5 hours at max volume. For example, SOUNDBOKS 2 (which is the loudest speaker on the list) offers 40 hours of playtime at moderate volume (and more than 8 hours at max volume, even if you are streaming some bass heavy music).
Recommended Reading :
- 15 Best Bluetooth Light Bulb Speakers
- 15 Best Waterproof Bluetooth Shower Speakers
- 18 Best Wireless Surround Sound Systems
Connection quality – Bluetooth Version, Range, Pairing, Compatibility
When it comes to wireless speakers, connection quality is essential. There are a few things you should pay attention to. Bluetooth version is the first one. If you have the opportunity to choose, pick out the speaker with newer Bluetooth version (4.0, 4.1, or 4.2). Newer Bluetooth version should guarantee better connection quality, greater range, and lower power consumption. You will usually get the range of 33ft (if there are no obstacles) and 10-15ft if there are walls, trees, and other obstacles. Some speakers (usually more expensive ones) have a larger range (60 or even 100ft). Pairing should be easy and quick. If it takes too long, don’t buy the speaker. Some more expensive speakers have NFC feature which allows you to pair your phone and your speaker by tapping the NFC logo on the speaker. Most of the Bluetooth speakers are compatible with all the Bluetooth-enabled devices (Bluetooth is a universal technology) but you will occasionally come across some speaker that can’t be paired with, let’s say, your MacBook but works just fine with your iPhone, iPad, and other devices.
Also Read: SVS Prime Elevation Speaker Review
Additional Features – LED Lights, Microphones, Remotes, AM/FM Tuners, USB ports, etc.
Additional features and equipment are always desirable. Some speakers have those entertaining built-in LED lights. This is one of the best additional features that you can get, especially when it comes to party speakers.
Microphones are the next best thing. If you want to spice things up, you can always switch to karaoke mode and have a good laugh.
Remotes and apps are nice additional features. They are not really that important but they definitely give you more control and freedom.
Ability to play the music from various sources is always a plus. If you don’t want to play the music from your phone, it’s nice to have another option (like built-in AM/FM tuner, USB port, micro-SD card slot, AUX input, etc.).
Hello, my name is James Longman.
I’m a writer and editor at AudioReputation. I disassembled my first portable AM/FM radio when I was only 8. At the age of 11, I burned the circuit board on my old boombox cassette player. I’m not going to explain how but it was reckless and stupid.
Since then, I have become much more careful around radios, boomboxes, and other audio devices (at least, I like to think so) but I have never lost the passion for audio equipment. Throughout 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been working for various audio equipment manufacturers and even started building speakers on my own in my little workshop.
I love the work we do here at AudioReputation. Testing, comparing, and evaluating all kinds of audio devices (speakers, soundbars, headphones, home theater systems, etc.) is something I truly enjoy. I try to be unbiased and give you my honest opinion on every piece of equipment I test. Still, you should take my reviews with a pinch of salt and always be just a little bit skeptical. The fact that I liked some speaker or soundbar doesn’t mean that you are going to love it. If you have the opportunity, you should test it/hear it before buying it.