Before we get into what is the best wireless speaker for 2019, it’s important to note that there are two types: Bluetooth and WiFi based wireless speakers. Bluetooth speakers work on the basis of a one-to-one connection; smartphone to speaker. Where as WiFi speakers, generally speaking, operate over your home’s wireless internet. This article is about the latter.
Expect to pay any where from $100-500 for a decent wireless speaker, and upwards of almost $3000 depending on just how opulent you want to go, though at that latter price there are many excellent top speaker choices.
- 1 Top 5 Wireless Speakers Compared
- 2 #1 Pick SONOS Play:5 (2015/Gen 2) – Editor’s Choice/Best Wireless Speaker System
- 3 #2 Pick Amazon Echo Wireless Speaker – Best Affordable Wireless Speaker
- 4 #3 Pick SONOS Play:1 Wireless Speaker – Best Wireless Speaker Under $200
- 5 #4 Pick Polk Audio Omni S2 Wireless Speaker – Best Wireless Speaker Under $100
- 6 #5 Pick BeoPlay A6 Wireless Speaker – Best Looking Wireless Speaker
- 7 Key Factors To A Good Wireless Speaker
- 8 How Wireless Speakers Work
- 9 Wireless Speaker Features to Understand and Look For
- 10 Which Wireless Speaker is Right For You
Top 5 Wireless Speakers Compared
|SONOS Play:5||Amazon Echo||SONOS Play:1||Polk Audio S2||B&O Play A6|
|Rank||#1 - Editor’s Choice/Best Wireless Speaker System||#2 - Best Affordable Wireless Speaker||#3 - Best Wireless Speaker Under $200||#4 - Best Wireless Speaker Under $100||#5 - Best Looking Wireless Speaker|
|Full Review||Sonos Play 5 Review||Amazon Echo Review||Sonos Play 1 Review||Coming Soon||Coming Soon|
|Wireless Connectivity||WiFI||Bluetooth + WiFi||WiFi||WiFi||Bluetooth + Air Play + DLNA|
#1 Pick SONOS Play:5 (2015/Gen 2) – Editor’s Choice/Best Wireless Speaker System
Drawing from years of experience, SONOS took the opportunity in 2015 to relaunch the Play:5 speaker, offering unparalleled sound quality not seen in any of their speakers. With that, they minimized the form factor, improved the manufacturing quality and enhanced the bass output.
6 drivers and 6 amps power the Sonos Play:5, enabling it to produce exceptional lows at even reduced volumes. SONOS also introduced their Trueplay technology with the launch of this speaker, which uses your smartphone’s mic to measure the room and automatically tune the speaker. Great if you plan on placing the Play:5 behind a plant, TV or in a location that is less than ideal for a speaker.
The Play:5 is SONOS’ most expensive speaker, but again, it’s the best sounding wireless speaker from both the brand and in the category. If you’re looking to dip your toe in the wireless speaker market, you could start with their Play:1 or Play:3, which are more affordable options.
#2 Pick Amazon Echo Wireless Speaker – Best Affordable Wireless Speaker
Amazon’s Echo most certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. It easily ranks as a top wireless speaker. And yes, it works over WiFi and Bluetooth allowing playback from a whole variety of music sources.
What’s even better is that it can be controlled purely by voice and even can tie into your home’s smart products (SmartThings, WeMo and more) allowing lights to be turned off just by yelling the command. If you’re out of range, just grab an Amazon remote and things will get “cleared up” in a jiffy.
Inside the Echo are dual downward-firing speakers that provide immersive, 360 degree sound. I didn’t believe it, but once you hear it you’ll be a convert.
#3 Pick SONOS Play:1 Wireless Speaker – Best Wireless Speaker Under $200
This is SONOS’ most affordable speaker at $199. And while that might not sound cheap compared to some other wireless speakers on the market, it’s actually a great way to jump into wireless music in your home.
The Sonos Play:1 has been specifically designed to be placed almost any where. It’s even good or the kitchen or bathroom as it was built to be resistant to moisture. So a little steam won’t hurt.
Inside each Play:1 is are two class-D amps, a dedicated tweeter and one mid-woofer. And despite its small size it produces exceptional sound quality.
Note: The Play:1, if you opt for SONOS Playbar, make an excellent wireless rear speaker.
#4 Pick Polk Audio Omni S2 Wireless Speaker – Best Wireless Speaker Under $100
Following the Play:1 is the Polk Audio Omni S2 Wireless Speaker. It’s just $99.95 on Amazon, and while it doesn’t work within the SONOS eco system, it is compatible with all Play-Fi speakers. Meaning you can add more as time goes on. And did we mention that it’s fairly cheap for a full on WiFi speaker?
Inside the Omni S2 are two 2″ full-range drivers powered by a two-channel amplifier (this means no external amp is needed), as well as bass ports for more oomph. And for those looking to mix and match, included are two grill colors; black or white.
#5 Pick BeoPlay A6 Wireless Speaker – Best Looking Wireless Speaker
The BeoPlay A6 is unlike any other speaker on our list. Not only because it’s probably one of the more pricey wireless speakers, but because it’s exceptionally good looking for, well, a speaker. Attention to detail probably best describes the A6, as it offers a specially manufactured wool cover (swappable if you desire another color), a touch like volume switch and the ability to wall mount it.
What also makes the A6 unique is that it works via Airplay, DLNA and Bluetooth. So just about any device can connect to it; PC, Android, or Apple based. And if that isn’t enough, the A6 can pair with other B&O speakers, allowing you to simultaneously play music in every room, or have different music playing from each speaker. You just need their handy mobile app.
Key Factors To A Good Wireless Speaker
Easy to Setup: You’ve likely chosen a wireless speaker for its convenience; sans speaker wires. So with that, the wireless speaker you choose should setup without much pain. It should pair to your home’s WiFi with ease and ideally, like SONOS, have an app that walks you through the process.
Pairs Over WiFi: A real wireless speaker operates over your home’s WiFi, not Bluetooth. This means that you should be able to walk out of range of your wireless speaker, or even turn off your phone and music will still be playing back. In the instance of Airplay, Apple’s wireless beaming tech, you’ll need to be connected to your home’s WiFi, and you shouldn’t need to be concerned with your range to the speaker, as it will continue to play because it’s over WiFi (note: powering down your phone during Apple Airplay playback will discontinue the music).
An Easy to Use App: Oddly enough SONOS’ app isn’t all that easy to use, but it still makes it a top contender. Setup is pretty painless, plus it works with a wide variety of music services. Moreover, you might want to look for the ability to setup alarms, adjust EQ and add new speakers with ease, which can be done with SONOS.
Works with All Services: Again, SONOS is so great because it works with just about any music service out there. Heck, it even plays audio back from what’s stored from your phone without any additional setup. So look for this if you’re considering a wireless speaker.
How Wireless Speakers Work
Bluetooth vs Airplay vs Play-Fi vs SONOS
- Bluetooth – works on a one-to-one connection. For example, your smartphone connects directly with a speaker. That means your smartphone does all the heavy lifting, uses its wireless connection and app to process the music playing. It also means that your phone’s battery will be reduced at a quicker rate. Some Bluetooth speakers and phones support aptX, a codec that is designed to enhance the wireless transmission’s audio quality. aptX was developed by Qualcomm. It’s important to note that both the transmitter (the phone or tablet) and the speaker both need to have aptX.
- Airplay – This is Apple’s propriety wireless tech that allows you to stream audio (and video or photos) wirelessly to a device. It’s only available on the iPhone, Apple computers and iPads. Which is to say it can’t be found on an Android or PC device. It works by finding compatible Airplay devices (speakers and licensed devices) on the same WiFi network. Like Bluetooth your phone will do the heavy lifting by sending the stream (video or audio) over WiFi.
- SONOS – SONOS is unlike the other streaming technologies above as it doesn’t require a device to playback music or audio. In fact, all SONOS speakers are probably best described as their own music service. Which is to say your phone or tablet is simply a remote; you choose the music you want to listen to, but the speaker does the playing back. So if you leave the confines of your home the music plays on. Moreover, battery isn’t used to playback audio, which gives it another advantage. While SONOS’ tech leverage the 802.11n spectrum, it’s a variant of it that. Because of that your SONOS speakers can be converted into a “mesh network”.
- Play-Fi – created as a standard by DTS, Play-Fi hasn’t taken off in the same capacity that SONOS has. The company, DTS, has licensed the technology out to speaker makers, allowing for a SONOS like experience, though Play-Fi allows you to mix and match speaker brands as long as it has the Play-Fi tech onboard. Like SONOS, Play-Fi leverages WiFi.
Wireless Speaker Features to Understand and Look For
- Usually anything wireless and you’re looking at reduced quality. Or are you? At this point, it’s hard to distinguish between music played back wireless vs not. Though, your music or audio is only as good as the source. Moreover, your home’s bandwidth could dictate this. Of note, SONOS’ app lets you reduce compress the audio, which in turn reduces the audio quality but should allow the stream go uninterrupted if your WiFi isn’t fast enough.
- Don’t overlook this small factor. Sure, sound quality is a much bigger deal, but you’ll want an app that ties in a variety of music services and provides easy access to them. That said, the apps are always free, and if it isn’t move on to the next speaker.
- Most WiFi speakers will require that you plug them in to the wall. It’s the caveat of WiFi. This is where a Bluetooth speakers has one advantage over or wireless speaker in this case. So don’t be surprised if you have to plug the speakers in.
Which Wireless Speaker is Right For You
Wireless speakers have been around for a number of year and I’ve written a number of top wireless speaker reviews. However, with smart devices becoming ubiquitous and affordable, along with in home Wifi with decent broadband speeds, only in recent years has the best wireless speaker segment grown in popularity. That said, the category is largely owned by SONOS, which made 2 of our 5 top picks – no mystery why.
But they’re one of the most pricey.
So it comes down what you’re willing to spend versus convenience.
Which is to say with SONOS you probably get the most scalable experience, offering the ability to add speakers in every room in your home. Conversely, the Amazon Echo is great for a studio apartment or a home with not more than 2-3 rooms. Where as Polk’s offering is cheap and can be scaled, which arguably makes it the best choice, especially since you’re not locked into one brand of speaker. In any case, you’re likely going to pay a premium, and the question should be: what other top electronic reviews can I peruse before I plunk down this cash.
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