What makes a good tailgating speaker?

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief

Generally speaking, a good tailgating speaker is durable, loud and portable. In the past, portability was difficult to achieve. But with the growing availability of wireless bluetooth technology, now almost anyone can become the life of the party.

Since my stint as a writer for the consumer electronics industry, I learned the absolute truth that not all speakers are created equally. For instance, even though a speaker is loud maybe it's too bass or treble heavy. Maybe it sounds like you're listening in a hallway or underwater at certain levels. These problems persist in speaker realms from headphones to sound bars, to desktop speakers, etc.

And it may certainly extend to the realm of outdoor bluetooth speakers, which is the matter at hand. An issue with a tailgating speaker is battery life. Battery life could be too short for a day of tailgating.

However, I don't claim expertise in the matter. But some people actually test speakers for a living. Meet Brent Butterworth, a speaker tech writer, musician, and friend. At one time the speaker writer for about.com, most recently Butterworth spends time writing for The Wirecutter.

"As it turns out I have tested a lot of [tailgating speakers]," Butterworth said. "Probably volume and waterproofness are two key attributes. That make sense? Rain, spill-a-beer, condensation from the cooler--you know anything can happen when tailgating."

Butterworth notes that there are a lot of bluetooth speakers out there, and a lot that don't sound too good. But many of them do.

If cost is not an issue, he recommends the Braven BRV-XXL. It retails between $300-$400. It's waterproof to a degree. It is also dust and sand-proof, which would translate to a good beach speaker as well. It weighs about 20 pounds.

"It's heavy, but boy is it loud," Butterworth said. "Indoors it doesn't sound as smooth and delightful as others."

As for power, Butterworth notes that outdoor speakers generally run off rechargeable batteries. He adds that the bigger ones won't plug into USB, but they will run for at least a few hours.

If the Braven is out of question, and it may be because it's rather large and expensive, Butterworth also suggests looking into the Altec Lansing Boom Jacket II. This one costs between $150-$200. He said it is not as loud, but it does have a feature that makes the sound "kind of bounce all over the place."

The neat thing about the Boom Jacket is that the battery life is 50 hours, so it'll go all day. It is also waterproof and sand-proof.

"The UE Boom and Megaboom are also very popular for rugged, outdoor use. But the Megaboom's a little expensive and the Boom doesn't have much bass," stated Butterworth in an email. "That Altec Lansing Boom Jacket 2 is probably the sweet spot for the average tailgater."

Check out more of Butterworth's reviews at SoundStage!, JazzTimes, The Wirecutter and BrentButterworth.com. Lastly, please tailgate responsibly.