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Wireless Bluetooth Speaker Reviews
The fourth-generation Amazon Echo speaker combines the sound quality and power of the Echo Plus smart home hub in a new circular design.
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The 2021 Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin speaker delivers amazing high-quality wireless sound in a stunning package with built-in Amazon Alexa support.
The JBL Portable Charge 5 speaker delivers incredibly powerful Bluetooth audio in a compact, waterproof package, making it the perfect travel companion.
The Nest Audio smart speaker offers Google Assistant features and clear, detailed sound in an attractive design at an affordable price.
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The Apple HomePod Mini speaker offers Siri voice assistance and smart home control for $99 in an attractive mini sphere design, but the Amazon Echo offers much more audio power for the same price.
The AudioEngine A1-MR speakers deliver high-quality sound regardless of DSP, with Wi-Fi for lossless audio playback and multi-room playback.
It’s not an invention of the bicycle, but the outdoor JBL Flip 6 is another solid addition to the range of portable Bluetooth speakers.
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The Ikea Symfonisk Picture Frame is an eye-catching home décor item that doubles as a Wi-Fi Sonos speaker for multi-room audio and supports AirPlay 2 streaming.
Since 1982, the company has tested and evaluated thousands of products to help you make better buying decisions (Learn how we test everything we review (opens in a new window.)
Wireless speakers are everywhere these days. Big, small, portable, expensive, cheap, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi… the sheer number of options can be overwhelming. But in our selection, there is sure to be at least one speaker that suits you. But first of all, you need to decide how you want to use your wireless connection.
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Bluetooth is the most common wireless music streaming standard, but not the only one. Bluetooth is a point-to-point wireless system: you connect a transmitter (your phone or computer) to a receiver (your speakers) to play music. It’s simple and (mostly) easy to set up, and thanks to the latest technological advances, it allows you to stream high-quality music.
Bluetooth generally cannot provide multi-room setup on its own, although you can set some speakers to stereo pairs using the app. Others may create a wireless network between multiple speakers for multi-room audio. The result, however, is not as powerful as Wi-Fi high-quality or multi-room audio.
Wi-Fi audio is included with various manufacturers’ Wi-Fi streaming platforms such as Apple AirPlay and Google Chromecast. Wi-Fi can operate with more bandwidth than Bluetooth, so it supports high quality audio. It can also be integrated into your home network so you can easily play audio from any Wi-Fi connected device without pairing anything.
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The trade-off is that Wi-Fi music systems require a Wi-Fi network; You can’t use them with your smartphone as a portable speaker like Bluetooth speakers (many offer Bluetooth pairing as a fallback). Different Wi-Fi standards mean different services may not be available to stream on a given speaker, although this isn’t as much of an issue as it has been in the past with long lists of supported third-party Chromecast and Sonos services.
Most new speakers on the market, whether they’re bike speakers or large soundbars, have some form of wireless support. With a few exceptions, almost any speaker you buy from an electronics store can transmit sound over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Your speaker may even support both wireless methods. Make sure your Wi-Fi speaker is in Bluetooth mode for use on the go.
If you need sound throughout your home, you will need more than one speaker. Bluetooth is a way of building a multi-room audio system, not pairing them together or physically moving speakers from room to room. Fortunately, multi-part audio is more common and easier to use than ever. Multi-part audio is exactly what it sounds like: playing sound in multiple parts. This means that the system can drive multiple speakers at the same time, playing one or more audio sources through one or more speakers at the same time.
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Sonos and Ikea Symphonic speakers (developed in collaboration with Sonos) Tap the Sonos app to access any or all speakers connected to your home network and play music from various streaming sources or local storage.
Apple’s AirPlay platform is a multi-room audio solution compatible with iOS and macOS. Apart from the Apple HomePod and HomePod Mini, there are no native AirPlay speakers, but many other Wi-Fi speakers, including Sonos products, support AirPlay. They make it easy to stream from your iPhone or iPad in better quality than Bluetooth, but if you’re an Android user, you won’t find much use in them.
Chromecast is Google’s answer to AirPlay and works in a similar way. Google Home/Nest devices support Chromecast, as do many Wi-Fi speakers and soundbars. You can integrate any Chromecast speaker into your Google Home setup and create room-based groups in the same app as your Google Assistant speakers and smart home devices (if you use Google Home to do so).
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Amazon Echo speakers and Alexa voice assistant didn’t natively support multi-room audio, but now you can group and control the latest Alexa speakers just like any other multi-room system. Like the Chromecast, the Echo’s multi-room audio is controlled through the same app as your voice assistant and smart home devices, only it’s all Alexa, not Google.
Finally, some Bluetooth speakers support bonding, daisy chaining, and mesh networks that connect multiple speakers together. They are usually not as sophisticated or reliable as multi-room Wi-Fi systems, but provide an easy alternative to using your home network to stream music.
In addition to the type of wireless connection, you should consider what kind of speaker system you want. Smaller, battery-powered speakers (usually Bluetooth) are useful because they can be taken anywhere without getting particularly loud. Larger speakers usually provide fuller sound and richer bass, but may be more expensive and less portable.
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In addition to single speakers, you can find stereo pairs designed for desktop soundbars and home theater speakers. These speakers are anything but portable, but if you want a sound system that will be the centerpiece of your living room or office, they are probably your best bet.
For a speaker to be portable, it must be small and light enough to be carried around and run on a built-in battery. Of course, “small” and “light” are relative; Small speakers with carabiners allow you to clip them into your bag and take them with you on a hike, but very large and heavy speakers may only be designed to be moved from room to room in your home. Most Bluetooth speakers are portable, but this is by no means the rule.
Because Wi-Fi speakers use a separate network for multi-speaker, multi-room audio playback, they are less portable. Best of all, portability doesn’t matter if you need to connect to your home hotspot. There are exceptions, and Wi-Fi speakers can be portable as long as they still have batteries in them, and ideally you can create an ad hoc Wi-Fi network with your phone.
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Not all portable speakers are designed for outdoor or pool use. Durable speakers can withstand splashes, bumps, drops, dirt and running. However, if you experiment with the unreliable speakers on this list, you will find that you have more of a brick than an audio device. Whether you’re going to the beach, the lake, the slopes, or the trail, look for IP-rated speakers with guaranteed water and shock resistance. Our IP rating guide explains what these numbers mean so you can determine if your speaker can take a dip in a pool or just stand up to light.
If portability isn’t high on your priority list, sound quality is paramount. Many speakers don’t offer many features, but they produce high quality sound. Strong bass isn’t for everyone, but unless your speaker is very small, it should be able to reproduce low frequencies well enough without distortion at high volumes. Clarity is more important than power, and a balanced and clear sound should be your goal when buying a speaker. If you want a sound system that will drive the entire party and not just fill a small room, consider speaker size;
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