- 1 Top 5 Wireless Speakers Compared
- 2 #1 Pick SONOS Play:5
- 3 #2 Pick Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)
- 4 #3 Pick SONOS One Wireless Speaker
- 5 #4 Pick JBL Charge 4
- 6 #5 Pick Bose SoundTouch 30
- 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
Wireless speakers go further than just Bluetooth, offering connection to a wider variety of devices. Before we get into what is the best wireless speaker for 2019, it’s important to note that there are two types: wireless and Bluetooth speakers. Bluetooth speakers work on the basis of a one-to-one connection; smartphone to speaker. Whereas WiFi speakers, generally speaking, operate over your home’s wireless internet. With that in mind, we went out and purchased the top 20 wireless speakers on the market today and tested them in our homes and office to figure out which one is the best for your ears in creating a superb audio experience.
Once we received the wireless portable speakers, we tested them based on features like sound quality, app availability, connectivity options, ease of use and more. These are the most important features of a wireless speaker, and of all the models we tested, we found that the Sonos Play:5 Speaker offers the best overall experience. With its Trueplay technology, this wireless speaker can adjust its audio levels automatically to provide the best sound for your specific space. Keep reading this buying guide to learn more about the Play:5 and the other speakers that impressed us the most in 2019. One of the best Bluetooth speakers will soon become a priority in your household.
Top 5 Wireless Speakers Compared
#1 Pick SONOS Play:5
Award: Editor’s Choice/Best Wireless Speaker System
This is bar none SONOS’ best wireless speaker to date (and ranks in our top audio reviews). Its spectrum of sound is very wide, clear and works with just about any genre of music you can throw at it. There’s a reason it is the best bluetooth speaker on our list.
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. The speakers connect to your home Wi-Fi for uninterrupted wireless streaming and can play audio from any device connected to your Wi-Fi network without the need to pair. Unfortunately, it does not offer Bluetooth connectivity for use on the go like the SONOS Move that has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth options.
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. This model is also Google Home and Amazon Alexa compatible, which means you can use voice control by combining it with an Alexa device.
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. The studio-quality sound means there’s no distortion even at high volumes, and no need to add a soundbar. 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. The singers in your songs and the music instruments are going to sound amazing. Then when you are ready you can look into the best subwoofers for your set up. If you want to compare this with a less expensive portable Bluetooth speaker, take a look at the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 instead.
#2 Pick Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)
Award: Best Wireless Smart Speaker
Amazon’s Echo most certainly shouldn’t be overlooked. It easily ranks as a top wireless speaker. On top of that, it’s definitely the best and most affordable smart speaker on the market today. And yes, it works over WiFi and Bluetooth allowing playback from a whole variety of music sources. Connectivity over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth means you can play music on the go, even when outside the Wi-Fi network
What’s even better is that it can be controlled purely by voice using Amazon Alexa voice assistant and can even 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. The voice assistant feature will soon become a regular part of your daily routine.
Inside the Echo are dual downward-firing speakers that provide immersive, 360 degree sound when used as a stereo pair, or you can decide to use them as two mono speakers playing the same song. I didn’t believe it, but once you hear the stereo paired speakers, you’ll be a convert. They produce a much better sound than the individual mono speakers. Are they the best speakers? No, but they sound like it. If you prefer to listen to your music independendently, take a look at the Ultimate Ears headphones instead.
#3 Pick SONOS One Wireless Speaker
Award: 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 One 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. This durability makes this one of the best desktop speakers currently available.
Inside each One are two class-D amps, a dedicated tweeter and one mid-woofer. And despite its small size it produces exceptional sound quality. If you’re looking to upgrade this to a different Sonos model, take a look at Sonos Move instead.
Note: The One, if you opt for SONOS Playbar, makes an excellent wireless rear speaker.
#4 Pick JBL Charge 4
Award: Best Waterproof Wireless Speaker
Following the Sonos One is the JBL Charge 4, and interesting and super durable wireless speaker. On its own, it’s a simple bluetooth speaker that you can run with your smart devices. However, you can wirelessly connect up to 100 JBL Charge speakers for an incredible audio experience. It’s just $119.95 on Amazon, and it’s also fully waterproof, making this the most durable speaker on our list.
On top of all these features, the Charge sounds great, too, which is kind of surprising for how small it actually is. It’s got powerful bass due to the dual passive radiators inside and overall sounds like a high-end speaker. And for those looking to mix and match, you can purchase this portable speaker in 10 different colors. This speaker has a solid battery life, with about 20 hours of battery life per charge. If you want to upgrade this to the next model, take a look at the JBL Flip 5. The portability of either of these speakers would make it the perfect pairing with one of the best in wall speakers.
#5 Pick Bose SoundTouch 30
Award: Best Looking Wireless Speaker
The Bose SoundTouch 30 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 SoundTouch, as it offers the classic look you see in other Bose speakers like the Bose SoundLink and others. And not only does this speaker look good, it also sounds amazing.
What also makes the Bose SoundTouch 30 unique is that it works via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and it’s Amazon Alexa compatible, meaning you can control it via the Alexa Voice Assistant. So just about any device can connect to it; PC, Android, or Apple based. And if that isn’t enough, the SoundTouch 30 features 6 unique, “instant listen” buttons that allow you to program presets for your favorite podcasts, radio stations and more. If you’re looking for a less expensive speaker that also has google assistant, take a look at Bose Soundlink Resolve instead.
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. Speakers with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant/Google Home built-in will offer voice control and streaming services. 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.
- Some portable speakers will have a rechargeable battery, so the battery life on a single charge will be something to consider. A 20-hour battery life as is the case with our #4 pick is good playtime.
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.
Read Next: Best Bluetooth Speaker
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- Sonos Play 5 Review (2015)
- Sonos Play:1 Review
- Sonos Play:3 Review
- Sony SA-NS500 Wireless HomeShare Speaker is AirPlay Compatible, Costs $399
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