It might not be like the '80s when people carried boomboxes on their shoulders in the streets, but there's still a place for boomboxes in this modern world. Boomboxes are inexpensive devices on which kids can listen to digital and physical media in their rooms without an extensive stereo setup, and they're also great for outdoor use.
This guide contains the information you'll require to choose the best boombox. Our top choice is JBL's Boombox, a powerful modern update on a classic boombox.
Considerations when choosing boomboxes
If you want a boombox like those from the '80s and '90s, it should be able to play physical music formats -- we're talking CDs and cassettes. Although many people store most of their music digitally or stream music straight from Spotify or Amazon Music, there are still plenty of folks who play CDs and, to a lesser extent, cassettes. Whether you have a CD collection you want to revisit or you're into bands on DIY record labels that still release cassettes, a boombox is an easy-to-use, self-contained device on which to play them.
Sure, it's nice to have a CD player or a tape deck built into your boombox, but we're still living in the 21st century and you might want to play music from your phone or tablet every now and then. If you choose a boombox that's Bluetooth compatible, you can either stream music or play music stored on your phone without the need for any cables.
Some boomboxes are more or less designed for novelty use or occasional use, and as such, don't boast the best audio quality. If you want an inexpensive and cheerful option for a child to play CDs on or to use in the yard every now and then, you might not care too much about speaker quality. On the other hand, if you're looking for a serious boombox that sounds great, there are some excellent options out there -- just be prepared to pay a higher price.
It's fairly common for boomboxes to be able to pick up radio stations. They're usually able to tune into AM and FM stations or FM stations only (AM only is practically unheard of). In some cases, the cassette deck can record from the radio so you can make mixtapes the old-fashioned way.
The whole point of boomboxes is that they're portable, so they either run off standard batteries (usually C or D) or built-in rechargeable batteries. The majority of boomboxes also come with adapters to plug them into power outlets when you're home.
If your boombox has an aux input, you can use an aux cable to attach your smartphone or tablet to play music. This is helpful if your Bluetooth is not working or your boombox isn't Bluetooth compatible.
You can find some basic inexpensive boomboxes for $30 to $50, whereas high-end options cost as much as $300 to $500.
Q. How heavy are boomboxes?
A. Boomboxes vary in size and weight, but most weigh somewhere between five and seven pounds. The largest, bulkiest boomboxes can weigh up to 15 pounds, however. Make sure you choose a model that you find lightweight enough to easily carry.
Q. How does a boombox differ from a portable speaker?
A. The majority of boomboxes feature a built-in CD and/or cassette player; portable speakers can only play music from an external source. That said, there are some modern boomboxes that only stream music and are harder to differentiate from portable speakers. The main difference is that boomboxes are designed to be carried so they usually have a handle, plus they're larger in size than most portable speakers.
Boomboxes we recommend
Our take: A contemporary version of a classic boombox that can blast sound and be carried around but plays music from external sources only.
What we like: Plays music from phones or tablets via Bluetooth or aux cable. Great audio quality with booming bass and bright high end. Battery lasts up to 24 hours.
What we dislike: No CD player or tape deck.
Our take: This inexpensive boombox can tackle CDs and FM radio and play music via Bluetooth.
What we like: Features an aux input in case Bluetooth is unreliable. Easy to use. Great for kids.
What we dislike: Sound quality isn't the best.
Our take: A classic old-school boombox from a respected and reliable manufacturer.
What we like: Plays CDs and cassettes and tunes into AM/FM radio. Quality speakers. Fold-down handle. Features a remote control.
What we dislike: Battery compartment could be sturdier.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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