There's a lot of competition in the portable Bluetooth speaker segment, with plenty of options to choose from no matter your budget. If you're looking for one under $100, it's hard to find something that checks all the boxes: high-end sound, long-lasting battery life, and rugged, water-resistant design.
Enter the Anker SoundCore 2, an updated speaker for 2017 that claims hit all of those desired specs. Anker sent me one to test out and review, and I did my absolute best to put it through the wringer.
Anker has delivered pretty good value via its line of SoundCore speakers, with the original SoundCore proving itself to be a reliable Bluetooth speaker, albeit with a few nagging design issues. With the SoundCore 2, Anker has offered improvements across the board, including two 6W drivers that pump out some serious jams and a battery that Anker says offers up to 24 hours of music playback — a bold claim. Then again, Anker is best known for its outstanding portable battery packs so it does make sense.
To put this speaker through its paces I've been using it in every conceivable situation around the house, and it holds up quite well. I also challenged that IPX5 water resistance with a stormy weekend of camping, with the SoundCore 2 outlasting the rain and wind without skipping a beat.
At first glance, Anker hasn't seemed to change too much in terms of design from the original SoundCore, but it becomes apparent quite apparent upon closer inspection. The SoundCore 2 is slightly smaller and feels quite dense weighing in at about a pound, with a soft touch finish that feels nice, but also is a magnet for fingerprints and dirt.
You'll either love or hate the basic, black brick design — it's fairly utilitarian with subtle curves. The controls on top are large and accessible with raised buttons that are easy to find even in low-light situations. I even found it to be slim enough to fit in my pocket, which allowed me to play some tunes while biking around the city.
In terms of the IPX5 water resistance, it's perfect to use as a bathroom speaker when taking steamy showers and can also withstand a rainstorm. When the rain started to fall on my camping trip, I decided to put the SoundCore 2 at the edge of our tarp. Things got rather messy, but the SoundCore 2 never faltered and passed the test with flying colors.
You can instantly tell the improvements in sound quality between the SoundCore 2 and it's predecessor. The SoundCore 2 delivers a deeper bass and manages to get way loud without distorting.
I used a Galaxy S8 for the majority of my testing, connected via Bluetooth and went to town listening to Spotify, watching YouTube, and playing games and the SoundCore handled it all perfectly to my ear. No stutters or distortion, it worked exactly the way you'd expect it. It's quick to pair with your phone or computer and I've had no issues with the Bluetooth connectivity unless I walked far away from it.
For those looking for a booming bass, Anker has the SoundCore Boost which packs in twin subwoofers to some extra oomph of room-filling sound. But the Boost falls short on battery life, which is where the SoundCore 2 really shines.
Anker is perhaps best known for its portable chargers and other charging accessories for mobile phones, so I wouldn't be surprised if its designers sat down and tried to build a speaker around a massive lithium-ion battery pack. Anker qualifies its 24-hour battery life claim by saying results will vary based on what you're listening to, the volume, and etc., and while I never tried to just run the battery down for a full day just to see, that's also not a realistic way you'd use a portable speaker.
If you use this speaker to listen to your favorite podcasts throughout the day, you'll be confident knowing it'll still have juice for supplying some post-work tunes on the back patio. But more importantly for me was the camping test. On a fully charged battery, the SoundCore 2 supplied all the music needed from Friday night around the campfire to Sunday afternoon packing up. While obviously, we weren't using the speaker the entire time, it was reliably loud when it needed to compete against a howling wind and survived the rainstorm to provide some tunes at the beach the next day.
Should you buy it?
The Anker SoundCore 2 talks a big game but it backs it all up. The battery life is super impressive and it's rugged enough to withstand a sudden rainstorm. Above all else, the sound is great. Currently available for under $50, this speaker is an absolute steal.