We’ve been having fun testing a wide range of portable Bluetooth speakers at Practical Motorhome, and we’ve been surprised at the price differences. You could spend as little as a tenner for the Vibe Mushroom from Halfords, or as much as £129.99 for the Edifier Prisma Encore (reviewed here). And there are many speakers hovering around the £40 mark, such as the Creative MUVO Mini at £39.99, the Edifier MP211 at £39.99 and the Creative Woof 3 at £39.99. Upping the budget a little gets you the Speedlink Portajoy at £64.99, the Denyon Envaya Mini DSB-100, the Edifier Bric Connect at £79.99 and the Pure Voca at £79.95. So what’s the difference between them, and what do you get for your money?

You can read a selection of our other portable Bluetooth speaker reviews here

First of all, though, why might you need to buy Bluetooth speakers? In a word, ‘downloads’. Most of us have moved on from CDs, mini disks and audio tape cassettes as our main source of stored music. We’ve added digital downloads to the mix, stored on smartphones, tablets and laptops. With so many potential storage systems for music, we need speakers that are compatible with both old and new technologies. 

Using the same Bluetooth technology that allows hands-free wireless phone calls, the latest wireless speakers punch well above their weight. Some have inbuilt microphones and their own control buttons, so that if someone rings you they will interrupt the music and allow you to speak to your caller, even if you’re away from your phone.

Their main job, however, is to improve the sound quality of all our music devices. Whether we’re watching films on a tablet or playing ambient music during a relaxing meal, these speakers allow us to unplug our headphones and share the music with our partners, spouses, children and friends.

The best of them have auxiliary leads, so that we can plug in an MP3-player, as well as an SD card slot, so that we can play music straight from the card, without going through a device that requires power. With an eye to the future, some speakers are also NFC-compatible. NFC, or Near Field Communication, is the newly launched alternative to Bluetooth and allows you to move the speaker up to 10m away from your laptop, phone or tablet. This is great if you want to use more than one speaker in your motorhome, or use the speaker outside the ‘van, while leaving the music-player inside. 

Not all speakers are equal, of course. One of the differences is the length of time you get between charges, and the method of charging, whether it needs a mains socket or a USB port. If it can only be charged via a USB lead, this means that you’ll need to keep your laptop fully charged in order to pass the charge along to the speakers. 

As a bonus, some speakers are shower-proof, so you can set them up with the portable dining table outside then pop back into the ‘van to do the cooking without worrying about the state of the clouds. 

The Edifier Prisma Encore is the most expensive Bluetooth speaker we’ve tested, costing £129.99. In the box you’ll find three curiously shaped pieces. The subwoofer of this grouping is hard-wired to the separate left and right speakers and the lot only runs on mains power. This is far removed from the portable ethos of Bluetooth speakers.

Trust us, though: once you’ve heard it, you’ll forgive it. Not only can this bring hi-fi sound to your van, but it is the kind of sound that almost makes you believe your favourite band is playing live in the motorhome with you. Even turned right down, the fullness and clarity has to be heard to be believed. However, the high price and lack of hands-free phone features still make premium compact systems worthy alternatives.