Wireless speakers are the bomb. Whether you're using a portable Bluetooth speaker at the beach, or listening to music in your home, wireless speakers are the most versatile way to enjoy your music. We've put together a list of the best wireless speakers this year, as well as some useful buying advice. So, whether you're looking for a room-filling monster, a smart speaker, or a quirky little boombox for a camping trip, we've got you covered. For more background information on wireless and Bluetooth speakers, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.
Portable: Yes - 10 Hours Battery, IPX7 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: Siri, Google
What We Like: Terrific speaker for both indoors and outdoors, good volume, great features.
What We Don't: Not a lot of battery life.
The JBL Flip 4 is one of the best wireless speakers available right now, based on the fact that it’s the most versatile one we’ve test. The Flip 4 is compact, lightweight, and designed to take a beating, and manages to get pretty loud without distortion. Our favorite feature, which certainly comes in handy if you're planning on taking this camping, is the IPX7 waterproof casing, which means knocking the Flip 4 into the pool is no problem at all. That waterproof rating is comparable with more expensive speakers, like the UE MEGABLAST, so it’s a huge plus.
The battery is one area we’d like to see improve. It’s rated to last 12 hours of playtime, but we got ten hours at around 70% volume. Not bad for a portable speaker, but a little concerning, considering it takes three-and-a-half hours to fully charge. We also had some issues with the controls, which felt a bit finicky. However, these issues don’t stop the JBL Flip 4 from dominating this list - it’s an excellent wireless speaker, both at home and outdoors. Wireless speakers should be easy-to-use, feature-packed, and powerful, and the JBL Flip 4 ticks all the boxes. By the way, JBL make several other speakers, like the Charge 3 (below) which offer better battery life, at a slightly higher price. For most people, the Flip 4 is easily the best wireless speaker to buy…Read our in-depth review
See the JBL Flip 4
Best Budget Wireless Speaker
Portable: Yes - 12 Hours Battery, IPX5 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Huge volume despite small size, good sound quality.
What We Don't: Slightly flimsy build.
The Cambridge Soundworks Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.) is one of the most surprising success stories in the world of wireless speakers. It came out of nowhere to become a fan favorite, and with good reason. It’s a tiny speaker (weighing less than 9 ounces) that still manages to sound great. It does this even at high volumes, with crisp treble and punchy bass. That’s quite a trick to pull off, especially for under $30. We also love the other features. The Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.) is rated IPX5 for waterproofing, which is more than enough to handle a little rain, and its 100 foot Bluetooth range makes it ideal for taking it out and about. It’s a remarkable little speaker, and an easy choice if you’re on a budget.
Having said that, there are a few things you’ll need to sacrifice for your low price tag. The Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.) isn’t built especially well. The USB connector, in particular, feels flimsy, and we’re not sure we’d want to drop this speaker from a height. It also lacks smart assistant functionality - check out the JBL Flip 4, above, if that’s something you need. The Flip 4 is better overall, but it can’t match the sheer value of the Oontz. It’s also worth noting that Cambridge Soundworks make several other great speakers, including the OontZ Angle 3 Ultra, which we’ve included further down on this list. The Ultra is a little louder, with more battery life, but it also costs significantly more. If you’re on a budget, the Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.) is the one you need to buy.
See the Cambridge Soundworks Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.)
Best High-End Wireless Speaker
Smart Assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
What We Like: Great setup, reasonable price tag.
What We Don't: Sound quality could be a little better.
Sonos have always made brilliant wireless speakers, but the One (Gen 2) is their take on a true smart speaker. It’s easily our pick for the best high-end wireless speaker, besting models like the Apple HomePod without breaking a sweat. We appreciate the easy setup, which Sonos do better than anyone. We also adore the app, and the smart speaker functionality, which is second to none - Sonos has even updated the One to be compatible with Google Assistant. It's also cheaper than the $349 Apple HomePod, and doesn't discriminate whether you’re an Android or iPhone user. While it’s not Sonos’s newest speaker - that would be the Move, featured below - we prefer the One for it’s affordable price and versatility. The Move is quite expensive, at $399, and doesn’t match up to other models on this list.
The only problem we have with the Sonos One is the sound quality. The One is based on the old PLAY:1, which was never the best-sounding speaker in the Sonos range. This model is essentially a PLAY:1 with smart speaker functionality tacked on, and there have been zero improvements to the sound. It's perfectly adequate, but doesn't touch the HomePod or the more lively Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST. That speaker is cheaper, too, and portable. The One is still a great option, however, and its feature set and brilliant design make it an easy winner if you have a little money to spend...Read our in-depth review
See the Sonos One (Gen 2)
Best of the Rest
Smart Assistant: Amazon Alexa
What We Like: A significant improvement on an already decent product.
What We Don't: Needs another speaker to get the best out of it.
The third generation of Amazon’s Echo Dot might be the best smart speaker available. This little hockey puck is significantly louder than its predecessor, and we also think it sounds much better. The Echo Dot was already a fantastic smart speaker, and it really feels like Amazon has upped the ante here. Alexa still has a little way to go in terms of intelligence - Google Assistant is simply better - but if you want a speaker to help out with timers, weather, and simple search queries, the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is the wireless speaker to go for. We also love how well Alexa integrates with other apps through its Skills function, which means the Echo Dot can slip seamlessly into your life.
Our biggest criticism is that it still sounds best when used as the smart brain of a bigger wireless speaker. You could, for example, connect it to a JBL Flip 4, below, which would not only increase your sound quality but allow you to direct things with your voice. If you plan on using this as a stand-alone speaker, we'd strongly recommend you buy two. That way, you get the benefit of a stereo spread. All the same, this is a superb little smart speaker, and a really good wireless speaker overall. Be aware: Amazon recently announced a new model, with included clock. It’s not out yet, but will retail for $60. For now, stick with the 3rd Gen Dot - it rocks and costs less...Read our in-depth review
See the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Portable: Yes - 7 Hours Battery, Waterproof Rating Unknown
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Good sound for the price, solid speakerphone to make and receive calls.
What We Don't: Finish picks up dust like you wouldn’t believe.
Bose would prefer you spend hundreds of dollars on their newest wireless speakers, but we believe you don’t have to. The Bose SoundLink Color II may be a little old now, but it is easily among the best wireless speakers the company has ever produced. It’s a compact, portable speaker that is small enough to slip into a bag, and which puts out decent sound quality. Unlike the Sonos One, above, the SoundLink Color II has the ability to make and receive calls, and it’s a feature that works exceptionally well. Although that doesn’t make it a more essential purchase than the Sonos, it does earn it a spot in our top five. And if you find yourself taking calls on the go, the SoundLink Color II is a great option.
There are downsides to this speaker, however. Despite the speaker being waterproof, there’s no IP rating (check out our buying advice below for more details on what this is). This makes it difficult to compare to other speakers in terms of durability, and although it is quite capable of withstanding a little rain, we aren’t sure we’d dunk it in the pool. In addition, despite the wonderful colors available, the finish does tend to attract dust. There’s also no smart assistant functionality, but given the speaker’s age, this is unsurprising. If you want a rugged, portable speaker with added Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, the JBL Flip 4 is the speaker to go for. Bose have newer speakers, like the imaginatively-named Portable Home Speaker, which has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but that costs $350. The $129 SoundLink is more than adequate for most people.
See the Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II
Portable: Yes - 18 Hours Battery, IPX6 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Offers great features at a highly affordable price.
What We Don't: A little distortion at high volumes.
Let’s say you want to spend less than $50, but still want significant battery life and waterproofing. Why not go for the Cambridge Soundworks OontZ Angle 3 Ultra? It’s the bigger brother of the Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.), above, and offers some significant improvements. It’s louder, for one thing, and has around four hours more battery life. It also has better waterproofing. The best part, we think, is that all these extra features cost only $15 more than the $25 Oontz Angle 3. The value for this speaker is just off the charts.
However, we don’t believe that this speaker is a better buy than its smaller sibling. It tends to distort when you push the volume, and given that the speaker is designed to be used outdoors in crowded places, that’s not a good thing. For most people, we think the Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.) is going to be more than sufficient. However, the Ultra is still an excellent wireless speaker in its own right, despite the distortion issues, and we think it belongs on this list.
See the Cambridge Soundworks OontZ Angle 3 Ultra
Portable: Yes - 24 Hours Battery, Waterproof Rating Unknown
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Outstanding battery life, compact build.
What We Don't: Sound can be a little harsh, low volume.
If you’re not a fan of large outdoor gatherings, but still like to listen to music on the go, the Anker SoundCore bluetooth speaker should be on your list. While it doesn’t get very loud, which may be a problem for some people, it’s ideal for taking a bike ride, or relaxing in the park with a little quiet music nearby. The best part is that it will run for ages before needing a recharge. With 24 hours of battery life, it knocks significantly more expensive speakers, like the $129 Bose SoundLink Color II, out of the park. The Bose only has seven hours of battery, which pales in comparison to the Anker. However, both of them have the ability to make and receive calls, which is something other speakers - like the top-ranked Sonos One - don’t have.
The low volume of the Anker SoundCore is definitely worth taking into account before you buy, however, and as much as we enjoy the speaker, we did find the sound could be a little harsh. If you listen to music with a lot of vocals, you may want to steer clear. This also isn’t the most recent version of the speaker – there’s a SoundCore 2 available - but we don’t think it’s worth spending the extra money for a newer model. The SoundCore 2 costs about $40, which is $12 more than this speaker, without offering significant improvements. If you want your speakers to play music all day without even needing to look at a charger, then the Anker SoundCore is a good option.
See the Anker SoundCore
Smart Assistant: Amazon Alexa
What We Like: Excellent sound quality and controls.
What We Don't: Design feels like a step backwards.
The Echo Plus is the best speaker that Amazon make for home audio. If you find yourself relying on Amazon Alexa, or want a good speaker for the home without paying Sonos One prices, we recommend this one. The sound is terrific – far better than we would have expected – and a significant improvement on the first-generation Echo Plus. Alexa can be called up at any moment with a voice command.
The Echo Plus isn’t the newest home audio speaker Amazon have, as they just released the Echo Studio, which is designed to compete with more audiophile offerings like the Apple HomePod. Our take? You can skip it. The Echo Studio sounds good, but it doesn’t offer nearly as much value as the Echo Plus, which remains a stellar option. By the way, if you want a similar setup with portability and waterproofing, we recommend the $160 Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST – you can read more about that speaker below. If you’re interested in convenience only, and don’t want to spend three figures on sound quality, then you can quite happily get away with an Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen), mentioned above.
See the Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)
Portable: Yes - 20 Hours Battery, IPX7 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Fantastic battery life, can charge your other devices.
What We Don't: Sound isn't great for the price.
JBL offer a staggering number of wireless speakers. In our opinion, the Flip 4, above, and the Charge 3 are the best of the lot. While the Flip 4 is better value, giving you a huge amount for the price, the Charge 3 is an excellent option too. For one thing, it has an interesting feature where you can use it as a battery pack to charge other devices – something you won't find on the Flip 4. It also has double that speaker's battery life, at around 20 hours.
So why is it so low on the list, and underneath its sibling? As good as the charging capabilities and battery life are, we don't think it performs significantly better than the cheaper Flip 4. It's also not nearly as useful as other speakers on this list, like the Bose SoundLink Color II. The sound quality is good, but the Bose is much better on that score. Consider this a good alternative to the other speakers on this list, and it's definitely much better than many other Bluetooth speakers out there. Being able to charge your other devices is a unique feature that could be a gamechanger, especially if you need extra battery on the road...Read our in-depth review
See the JBL Charge 3
Portable: Yes - 22 Hours Battery, IPX7 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Superb sound for the price.
What We Don't: Takes too long to charge, relatively heavy.
One of the biggest misconceptions about inexpensive wireless speakers is that they don’t sound good. They absolutely can, and the Tribit XSound Go proves it. The XSound Go is a compact, portable wireless speaker that offers genuinely surprising sound. If you’re interested in great audio quality, but you don’t want to pay the earth for it, then we strongly recommend this particular speaker. It’s got a great feature set, too, with high-level waterproofing and 22 hours of battery – comparable to the excellent Anker SoundCore, at 24 hours.
However, there is so much competition at this price range – not just the Anker SoundCore, but the superb Cambridge Soundworks OontZ Angle 3 (3rd Gen.), and more – that the XSound Go’s flaws really stand out. It’s heavier than a lot of its competitors, and it takes around seven to eight hours to reach a full charge. That’s outrageous, frankly. These issues mean that the XSound Go shouldn’t be your first option, but if you value sound quality above everything, then it’s definitely worth looking at.
See the Tribit XSound Go
Smart Assistant: Google Assistant
What We Like: Great assistant, super easy-to-use.
What We Don't: Not really meant for music.
The Google Home Mini is an easy-to-use, smart assistant-friendly device that is a good, but not great wireless speaker. The functionality of the Google Assistant is far superior to Amazon Alexa and Apple’s Siri. The main selling point of the Home Mini is that it’s the single easiest way to get the best virtual assistant into your home. Google make newer and more fully featured speakers, but we don’t think they beat any of the others on this list, and they don’t offer the value that the Home Mini does. It’s incredibly easy to set up, and given that most people use Google in some form anyway, it can be very helpful to have around.
The only downside to the Google Home Mini is that this speaker isn't sound-focused - meaning you aren't going to use this to appreciate your music. You'll most likely be using it to handle smart assistant tasks, or to control a larger, better speaker. If you want an affordable, small smart speaker that can handle music, we recommend the identically priced Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen).
See the Google Home Mini
Portable: Yes - 15 Hours Battery, IPX7 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: Amazon Alexa
What We Like: Superb sound quality even at top volume, excellent design.
What We Don't: Occasional issues with music services when using Alexa, charging dock costs extra.
The MEGABLAST, from Ultimate Ears, is a fun wireless speaker option. It offers not only a great range of colors – something curiously deficient from many speakers on this list – but some of the best design we’ve seen. The distinctive, oversized +/- controls make you want to pick up and touch the speaker, and the ability to pair up to eight at once make it absolutely ideal for big, noisy gatherings. We also dig the features, which include decent waterproofing and full Amazon Alexa capability.
However, as good as the MEGABLAST is, it’s also quite expensive for a portable wireless speaker. It’s all very well talking about pairing multiple speakers, but that would make the price skyrocket very fast. During our testing, we did notice occasional issues with controlling music services when using Alexa. So if that's the kind of thing you enjoy doing, then you may need to look elsewhere. We also find it a bit cheeky that a separate charging dock will cost you $30 - although, you can charge the speaker as normal using the bundled cord. Ultimately, we prefer the Bose SoundLink Color II ($129). Tt may not have the smart assistant or fun looks, but it performs almost as well in the audio department, and at a cheaper price...Read our in-depth review
See the Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST
Smart Assistant: Amazon Alexa
What We Like: Good display, voice recognition is excellent.
What We Don't: Video and voice calling have problems.
There are plenty of wireless speakers with screens these days. We think of them as tools rather than actual speakers for listening to music, but we did want to include at least one on this list, as they can be incredibly useful. The Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen) is our current favorite. Amazon made significant changes for the new model, including reworking the microphone array, which makes it easier for the Alexa assistant to hear what you're saying. The sound has been improved with Dolby processing for movies; you're not going to beat a home theater system, but the audio quality is alright. The 10.1" screen is also superb, and the fact that Alexa lets you access services like Hulu makes it great for watching series and movies. The best part is that you can set it up in the kitchen while cooking, and use YouTube videos to help you along with the recipe.
However, we did find that the Show had issues with voice and video calling, as the audio quality felt dodgy, and video would occasionally glitch out. It’s also not nearly as good for music as other speakers, including other Amazon speakers. If you want a speaker primarily to listen to music, you may want to look at the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) or Echo Dot (3rd Gen), both of which you’ll find higher in this list. Also, it’s worth noting that Amazon are due to come up with a replacement for this model: the Echo Show 8, which is a speaker with an 8” screen, is due to drop before the end of the year. It may be worth waiting for, as it’s likely to be significantly cheaper.
See the Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)
Portable: Yes - 15 Hours Battery, Waterproof Rating Unknown
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Excellent sound, fantastic handle makes speaker easily portable.
What We Don't: Quite pricey for a speaker with no Wi-Fi.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ is a good, if expensive, wireless speaker with plenty of solid features. Chief among these is sound quality, which is terrific. Bose know how to ring stupendous sound out of a small speaker, and they definitely manage that here. It's comparable in loudness to the MEGABLAST, and is splash-resistant. As long as you're happy just using Bluetooth, it makes for an excellent alternative. We also adore the handle, which makes transporting the speaker a breeze.
However, the UE MEGABLAST, above, is clearly superior to the Bose SoundLink Revolve+. It not only costs less, but offers full Wi-Fi capability and a smart assistant. Regardless, the SoundLink Revolve+ is still a great speaker, and while it can't compete with the MEGABLAST, there's plenty to recommend about it. We also recommend buying this model over the original SoundLink Revolve. That speaker loses the handle, has lower battery life, and isn't nearly as powerful. Bose also recently released a new smart wireless speaker, the Home Speaker 500. It's a perfectly capable speaker, but we think it's too pricey right now. For the time being, this one is better.
See the Bose SoundLink Revolve+
Portable: Yes - 10 Hours Battery, IP56 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
What We Like: Cool concept, great sound quality.
What We Don't: Hellishly expensive.
There’s no getting away from it: the Sonos Move is just weird. It’s a home audio Wi-Fi speaker that doubles as a portable Bluetooth speaker – the Move sits on a charging dock, and you can pick it up and take it out with you. It’s something we haven’t seen before, but it does work very well. The switch between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is seamless, and although you can’t use this speaker as part of a Sonos home theater setup – as you can with the less expensive Sonos One – the sound quality makes it worthwhile. Sonos are known for making terrific speakers, and the Move is no exception.
It is, however, ridiculously expensive for a wireless speaker. While we do love the concept and the feature set, we can’t advocate that you buy the Move over models like the Sonos One and JBL Flip 4. It’s true that the Move is more convenient, but they are asking a great cost for that convenience. It’s also quite heavy – at 6.61lbs, it’s almost double the weight of the far less expensive Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST. The Sonos Move is a good wireless speaker, and deserves to be on this list based on the concept and sound quality alone, but the price tag means it won’t be ideal for everyone.
See the Sonos Move
Portable: Yes - 13 Hours Battery, IP67 Waterproof
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Good battery life, punchy and engaging sound.
What We Don't: Can’t take calls, micro-USB charging only.
The second version of the best-selling Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM speaker makes some significant changes. Foremost among these is the battery life, increased from 10 hours to 13. It also comes with an Outdoor Boost feature, designed to pour more power into the bass, so that the speaker can be heard in crowded environments like barbecues and pool parties. And speaking of pool parties, the WONDERBOOM 2 is now IP67 rated, making it perfect for taking a quick dunk in the pool. Its hefty battery life and fun, exciting sound quality means it’s the perfect companion for hanging out with friends.
While we do wish that UE had included USB-C charging instead of the current micro-USB (an older standard, and far less efficient) it’s a minor black mark. What may be trickier is the speaker’s inability to take phone calls, but that depends on how much you value that feature. If you do want to take calls on your speaker, we recommend the Bose SoundLink Color II. That offers slightly better sound quality, too.
See the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 2
Smart Assistant: Siri
What We Like: Stunning sound quality and looks, intuitive and simple to use.
What We Don't: Impossible to use without an iPhone, still seriously expensive.
We had such high hopes for the Apple HomePod, and for a long time, we were wowed by its exquisite sound quality. It delivered much better audio than we would have expected, competing with much more expensive speakers. But the fact that you need an iPhone to use it – seriously, you can’t set it up without one – and its refusal to use any other virtual assistant other than Apple’s Siri, make it a hard sell for some people. While it may be perfect for iPhone users, the rest of the market is left in the dark. The HomePod has undergone a price drop recently, but we don’t think it’s quite enough to make up for the lack of versatility.
Despite its exclusivity, the HomePod deserves to be here. It’s still a solid wireless speaker, and we like the fact that it looks extremely cool, with an orb-like shape and digital touch controls. Although it isn't portable, like the $299 Bose SoundLink Revolve+, it more than makes up for it with its other qualities. And compared to other smart speakers, like the $50 Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen), it performs exceptionally well. Ultimately, its shortcomings and price place it lower on our list. If you want something more affordable and a little more versatile, try the Sonos One...Read our in-depth review
See the Apple HomePod
Portable: Yes - 10 Hours Battery, Waterproof Rating Unknown
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Comes with a travel case, and an option for microSD card.
What We Don't: Struggles to compete with other models, lack of waterproofing
We’ll admit that the DOSS SoundBox Touch isn’t going to be a first choice for anyone. In a world where the less expensive Cambridge Soundworks OontZ Angle 3 (3rd Gen.) and Anker SoundCore speakers exist, it’s a good alternative, rather than a number one pick. It delivers decent overall value, with 10 hours of battery life, but we are concerned about the lack of waterproofing. The sound quality is middling, unlikely to bother the big boys, and it’s quite heavy at 1.65lbs.
However, the DOSS SoundBox Touch does do a couple of things that other speakers don’t – and those things earn it a place on this list. The one thing we loved about this model is that it has a microSD card slot. This is great if you have audio files on hand – it sounds old-fashioned, but it’s not as rare as you might think. We also really like the fact that it comes with a travel case, which may go some way to mitigating the lack of waterproofing. We consider the SoundBox Touch a solid performer with a couple of key features, but that doesn’t quite do enough to make it into the big leagues.
See the DOSS SoundBox Touch
And For When You Win the Lottery
Smart Assistant: None
What We Like: Bass and volume that can destroy worlds.
What We Don't: Only for seriously rich people, no AirPlay 2.0 yet.
If sound quality is the only criteria for best Bluetooth and wireless speaker, then the Devialet Gold Phantom would win, hands down. We have never – and we mean never – heard anything like it. It's not just that the sound quality is incredible; it's that it reaches volumes that leave us breathless, even now, long after we reviewed it. The energy and punchiness of the bass is utterly mind-boggling.
The price tag definitely marks it out as a high-end product, and for most people, it will simply be out of reach. It also doesn't have support for AirPlay 2 at the time writing, just AirPlay 1.0, but that functionality is coming in a future update. We've highlighted the 4,500-watt Gold version here, but Devialet make multiple versions, including slightly cheaper ones. It doesn't have any smart functionality, and it certainly isn't portable, but you absolutely do not buy this speaker for those qualities. You buy it to redefine what you think of as music...Read our in-depth review
See the Devialet Gold Phantom
|JBL Flip 4||$90||10Hrs||IPX7||Bluetooth||Siri, Google||16 Watts||1.1lbs|
|CS Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.)||$26||12Hrs||IPX5||Bluetooth||None||5 Watts||8.9oz|
|Sonos One (Gen 2)||$199||N/A||No||Both||Alexa, Google||Unknown||4lbs|
|Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)||$50||N/A||No||Both||Alexa||Unknown||10.6oz|
|Bose SoundLink Color II||$129||7Hrs||Unknown||Bluetooth||None||Unknown||1.19lbs|
|CS OontZ Angle 3 Ultra||$40||18Hrs||IPX6||Bluetooth||None||14 Watts||15oz|
|Anker SoundCore||$28||24Hrs||Unknown||Bluetooth||None||3 Watts||12.6oz|
|Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen)||$150||N/A||No||Both||Alexa||Unknown||1.17lbs|
|JBL Charge 3||$150||20Hrs||IPX7||Bluetooth||None||20 Watts||1.8lbs|
|Tribit XSound Go||$33||22Hrs||IPX7||Bluetooth||None||12 Watts||1.1lbs|
|Google Home Mini||$49||N/A||No||Both||Unknown||6.1oz|
|Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST||$160||15Hrs||IPX7||Both||Alexa||Unknown||3.8lbs|
|Amazon Echo Show (Gen 2)||$230||N/A||No||Both||Alexa||Unknown||3.9lbs|
|Bose SoundLink Revolve+||$299||15Hrs||Unknown||Bluetooth||None||Unknown||2lbs|
|Sonos Move||$399||10Hrs||IP56||Both||Alexa, Google||Unknown||6.6lbs|
|UE WONDERBOOM 2||$100||13Hrs||IP67||Bluetooth||None||Unknown||15oz|
|DOSS SoundBox Touch||$40||10Hrs||Unknown||Bluetooth||None||12 Watts||1.65lbs|
|Devialet Gold Phantom||$2,990||N/A||No||Both||None||4.5K Wts.||28lbs|
*WP = Waterproof
- Sound Quality
- Volume and Wattage
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Water Resistance
- Battery Life
- Smart Speakers Explained
- Wired vs. Wireless Speakers
- Audio Streaming Services
- Multi-Room Wireless Audio
- Using Wireless Speakers with your TV
- Are Wireless Speakers Safe?
- Stepping Up to Bookshelf Speakers
The first thing to think about when buying a wireless speaker is how good it sounds. This kind of statement seems obvious, but there’s actually quite a lot that goes into it. The first thing to understand is that price does not necessarily correlate to good sound. Sure, more expensive speakers will have higher quality components, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they sound ‘better’. For example, take two speakers: the JBL Flip 4 ($90) and the Bose SoundLink Color II ($129). If you were just picking speakers based on price, then you’d assume that the Bose sounds better, but that certainly isn’t true. Additionally, if you ask us, the Flip 4 is a much more fun and versatile speaker that offers better value.
In fact, we are going to say something controversial here. Sound quality is important, but when it comes to wireless speakers, it’s not the only thing you should take into account. You should also look at the various features a speaker offers. Does it have a smart assistant? Can it make and receive calls? If you’re going to be taking your speaker out of the house, how heavy is it? What’s the range of its Bluetooth connection? How big is it, or is it an awkward shape? We aren’t saying that you should disregard sound entirely, and in all our choices in the list above, we’ve been careful to explain whether or not we think the sound of a particular speaker is good or not. But it shouldn’t be the primary consideration when there’s so much else to explore.
One of the most common questions we get about wireless speakers is: how loud are they? How loud will a particular speaker get? It’s not always easy to answer, because ‘volume’ is something that is very subjective. It not only depends on who is listening, but the environment they are listening in. However, there is a fairly useful way of seeing which speakers can get louder than others. It’s called wattage, and to understand it, we need to talk briefly about the difference between loudness and volume.
Volume is subjective – you can, after all, just turn it up and down. Loudness, however, is something that can be measured objectively. Think about loudness in terms of power – the more powerful the speaker, the more loud it will get at a given level of power. Power is measured in watts. The more a speaker has, the louder it will be. The ratings for each of the speakers in our specs table, above, probably aren't as accurate as they should be – the wattage figures manufacturers give are often subject to wildly varying testing standards – but they work as a guideline. If you were to apply the same amount of power to the Cambridge Soundworks OontZ Angle 3 Ultra and the Devialet Gold Phantom, the former would put out 14 watts, and the latter 4,500 watts. The Devialet is definitely the louder, more powerful speaker, but given that it costs nearly $3,000, that's hardly surprising.
One thing to watch out for is that, at higher volume levels, less expensive speakers will often distort the sound. That’s obviously something you don’t want. We always push speakers to the limit when testing, and if we notice distortion, we’ve mentioned it in our list above.
Wireless speakers can get their music either over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Ideally, you want to have both - it’s always good to have options - and there are several speakers on this list that deliver just that. But which is better?
Well, ‘better’ can mean a lot of things. We've always been of the opinion that Wi-Fi is better for sound quality. This is because, simply put, you can send more data over a wireless signal then you can over a Bluetooth one. More data equals more detail, which equals better sound. We've encountered this with several speakers, most notably the Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST. This speaker has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and the latter is a little more crisp. The problem is, if you have a lot of devices on your home network, adding in one or more wireless speakers can bring things to a crushing, grinding halt. It doesn't matter how data-rich the audio stream is; if it's having to share space with Netflix, gaming, and web browsing, then it's going to slow down.
Bluetooth doesn't have that problem. A Bluetooth connection is directly between devices and doesn't use already-existing networks. The biggest problem with Bluetooth, up until recently, is that the codecs – the software protocols used to encode and transmit audio – have been good but not brilliant. Fortunately, that is changing pretty quickly. Bluetooth audio is rapidly becoming the equal of Wi-Fi. Software like aptX, which allow the transmission of higher amounts of data over a much more robust signal, are fast closing the gap, and new standards like Bluetooth 5.0 are doing the same.
If we had to pick – and we're going to, because we don't want to leave you hanging – we'd still go for Wi-Fi. In our mind, it's more stable, and we still think it sounds better. For now, the difference is small enough that you can make a decision based on your needs rather than audio quality. If you have a network already stacked with wireless devices, and if music on the go is more important to you than music at home, Bluetooth may be your best option.
Given that you’ll be taking these speakers outdoors, it’s worth talking about how water resistant they are. Unlike sound quality or loudness, there’s an easy way to objectively measure just how much punishment a speaker can take. It’s called the IP Rating, which stands for Ingress Protection. With each IP rating, there are two numbers you need to worry about. The first indicates the speaker’s protection from dust and dirt, and the second number indicates the protection from water. The higher the number, the more protection is available (you can see an easy breakdown of the level of protection each number provides here).
Let’s take the Sonos Move, for example, which has an IP56 rating. This means that it is almost completely resistant to dust, and can withstand a powerful jet of water. It will quite comfortably deal with a downpour if you’re in the park, or at the beach. If you know you’re going to be taking your speaker outdoors, then a higher IP rating is always preferred. By the way, you’ll sometimes see IP ratings listed with an X in place of the first number – as in, IPX7. All this means is that the speaker in question is not rated for dust protection. As long as you don’t bury it in sand, you should be fine.
Several of the speakers on our list are fully portable, meaning that they run off a battery and don't require you to connect them to a power outlet except to charge. Very obviously, this is super convenient, and allows you to get great sound in just about any situation. But because these run off a battery, you need to think carefully about how much you need. Remember: more battery life equals more money down!
You should also never – and we mean never – trust what the manufacturer tells you about battery life. The louder you play a speaker, the more power it uses, which drains the battery faster. Manufacturers obviously want to present the best possible numbers for their speakers, and so they don't usually reveal the volume levels at which their stated battery hours were achieved. While we certainly aren't accusing any specific manufacturer of cheating, we also want you to approach battery numbers with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Let's take our top budget wireless speaker, the $26 Cambridge Soundworks Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.) The Cambridge website clearly states that you'll get "up to" 14 hours of battery life, and they further state in a footnote that this figure was achieved by playing at two-thirds volume. When we tested it, we found that we only got to 12 hours of battery. This doesn’t mean Cambridge was lying – we may have inadvertently played it at a slightly higher volume than they did, or the battery in our test model had degraded slightly, or any number of things - but it’s always good to take estimates with a grain of salt. Whenever possible, we try to give real-world numbers for battery life, and in fairness to speaker companies, most of them are pretty good.
Smart speakers are wireless speakers which contain a voice-activated virtual assistant. They allow you to do a staggering number of things with voice commands, from playing music to setting timers, to controlling the lighting in your house. Virtual assistants – sometimes called smart assistants – activated with a specific wake word, which varies depending on the assistant. They are tremendously versatile, and they all have their own positives and negatives. There are three main ones we are going to talk about here - Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. While there are others, like Samsung Bixby and Microsoft Cortana, they are not as widely available, and definitely not as good. For the time being, the following assistants are the ones you need to be looking at.
Amazon's virtual assistant is, by far, the most common, appearing on seven of the 20 speakers on our list. In our opinion, it's definitely not the smartest one available. We have several Alexa devices, both at home and in our office, and while the assistant does a good job for the most part, we found ourselves continually running into problems. The biggest issue we had was with smart home integration, where Amazon Echo devices repeatedly refused to recognize our SmartThings switches and bulbs – even though the Alexa app (iOS/Android) worked just fine. We also found it easy to trip Alexa up, and it had real problems with follow-up questions.
Alexa does have several advantages over other assistants, however. It has the ability to recognize different voices, and you can use voice commands to play third-party music services like Spotify and Amazon Music. So you can, for example, say “Alexa, play Tupac on Spotify.” Assuming your speaker is compatible, you can also make calls, but you can only receive calls from other Echo speakers and someone using the Echo app on a smartphone. You can also add third-party 'skills' to Alexa via the app, which means that the assistant is continually evolving and getting more useful. And unlike Apple, Amazon is quite happy playing nice with other manufacturers. They not only make several speakers of their own, but also let companies like Polk and Bose use their assistant. The best Alexa speaker, in our opinion, is the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) (full review here). It also happens to be extremely easy on the wallet, costing only $50.
Google offer several smart speakers of their own, some of which, including the $49 Google Home Mini appear on our list. The company has what we consider to be the superior voice assistant, in terms of intelligence. Google Assistant may not have a catchy name, and is simply activated by saying "Hey, Google", but it works. In our tests, it dealt capably with follow-up questions, very rarely tripped up, and almost always gave us accurate information.
Like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant has voice training, allowing it to separate your voice from others, and you can control music streaming services like Spotify with voice commands. You can also make calls – although as of yet, you cannot receive them, something which Alexa can do given the right circumstances. Alexa is more versatile, with its growing library of skills, but it hasn't managed to catch up to Google Assistant in terms of smarts. If the AI revolution ever happens, Google Assistant will be leading the charge.
If you're an iPhone user, you'll already be familiar with Siri - we won't call it Apple Siri, as that just sounds odd. Apple's virtual assistant is a little more versatile and intelligent than Amazon Alexa, but doesn't quite measure up to the standards of Google Assistant. It does, however, have a few distinct advantages. Integrating with a smart home is easy, thanks to Apple's closed HomeKit ecosystem, and a recent update allows you to make and receive calls, which is fantastic.
Unfortunately, there are some major downsides. Chief among these is that voice commands will only work for Apple Music. You can still listen to things like Spotify, but you'll have to control them manually using your smartphone. You won't find Siri on any other smart speaker except for the Apple HomePod, which costs $299. It is one of the best smart speakers available for music, with terrific sound quality. However, it does require you to be happy using Siri, and those without an iPhone won't be able to use the speaker at all.
There's a very simple way of looking at this: wired speakers are less convenient but offer better sound, and wireless speakers are more convenient, but have sound that isn't quite as good. Of course, that's a very broad statement. The lines are getting awfully blurry these days, and it's a little hard to say which one of these types of speaker is definitively 'better'.
Objectively, wires are better at transmitting sound than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, but the quality of the speakers on our list has gotten so good that there's absolutely no reason why you should shy away from them. Frankly - and if you’ll allow us to get high-end on you for a second - we'd put something like the Devialet Gold Phantom (full review here) up against just about any wired speaker under around $5,000.
Perhaps it’s worth noting that it's very rare to find a wireless speaker over $5,000 – even the 4,500-watt Devialet doesn't get there – so we can say that wired speakers are still winning the high-end battle. However, there's no question that they can’t beat wireless audio for convenience and price - $26 for the Cambridge Soundworks Oontz Angle 3 (3rd Gen.), anyone? After all, wireless speakers have only one essential connection - a power cord - and portable ones don't even need that. You plug them in, and with light fiddling, they will not only connect to each other but to your smartphone as well. You can choose to play one piece of audio throughout the house, or different tunes in different places. Ultimately, it comes down to convenience. Audiophiles will always go for wires over wireless, but for the majority of people, wireless models are not just acceptable, but highly preferable.
Transmitting audio between a source (like your phone) and a playback device (like a wireless speaker) is actually quite a complicated process. Either the source and the device need to be linked over Bluetooth, or they need to be on the same Wi-Fi network. Even when that happens, you'll still need to tell your source to discover the device and transmit to it, and this can sometimes be a bit frustrating.
As we said before, if a speaker has Bluetooth, it will be able to play any service as long the source device has Bluetooth too. If your phone has Bluetooth, as it almost certainly will, you can connect with any wireless speaker. But if you don’t want to use Bluetooth, there exist several different pieces of software that come bundled with wireless speakers, and are designed to make the act of getting audio to them as simple as possible. There are three main options you'll encounter: Apple AirPlay 2, Sonos, and Chromecast. In practice, the differences between them are actually quite minimal, but you'll almost certainly encounter one or more of them when you buy a wireless speaker. So, it's worth breaking down what they are.
Before we do, there are a few things you need to know. Firstly, the differences in sound quality between these three software programs are minimal, and the one you choose largely has to do with the type of phone or tablet you have, as well as the type of speaker. What complicates things slightly, for all three of these methods, is that it's perfectly possible to get by without them. If you have, for example, a JBL Charge 3 that is connected to your phone via Bluetooth, and you happen to be listening on Spotify, you can select it directly from the Spotify app as an output device. That way, it's just Spotify streaming music to the speaker, without the intervention of Google, Apple, or Sonos.
Secondly, most phones and wireless speakers can be connected via Bluetooth. As long as your speaker has Bluetooth, you'll be able to play music. But when playing over Wi-Fi, some speakers may not support certain services. The Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST, for example, will need to be connected to Bluetooth for you to listen over Spotify, but if you listen to Amazon Music, it's directly accessible over Wi-Fi while using the app.
This is the software you'll encounter if you buy the $198 Sonos One (Gen 2), or any other Sonos speakers. It uses a dedicated app, available on both Android and iOS devices, to connect to your Sonos speakers. You can send music to one or all of them, get them to play different tunes, and even calibrate themselves so they are tuned to your room. In this way, it's very similar to Apple AirPlay 2.
The biggest draw here is the fantastic Sonos app, which lets you access services like Spotify directly. The design is brilliant and very easy-to-use. While it doesn't apply if you're using speakers that aren't made by Sonos, it remains one of the best options available for streaming music wirelessly. With the release of the Sonos Move, a Bluetooth wireless speaker, it can even work outside your home.
As you might expect, AirPlay 2 is the way Apple devices send audio and video to each other. It's automatically enabled on every iPhone or iPad, and is how you get sound from those devices over to the Apple HomePod (full review here) speaker – currently, the only speaker the company produces. The process relies on a Wi-Fi network, and allows you to send audio to more than one device, meaning you can potentially play music throughout your entire house.
Unlike other products that Apple produces, the company allows other speaker manufacturers to use AirPlay 2 - Sonos speakers, for example, can now utilize it. But you can only do so if you have an iPhone or iPad. The Sonos app, meanwhile, works on any type of mobile device, but only allows you to stream to Sonos speakers. Yes, we wish it was less confusing, too. Essentially: AirPlay 2 is the first choice for anybody who owns an iPhone, as it’s the simplest way to play music wirelessly.
This is Google's answer to AirPlay 2 and Sonos. It doesn't have a bespoke app, and of the three pieces of software, it's arguably the least restrictive. It lets you send audio or video from any device, no matter what manufacturer, to a Chromecast-enabled speaker, like the $49 Google Home Mini.
In fairness, this is more likely used to send audio from a browser than a music app. In the world of wireless music, it's actually quite rare to see it. However, it's very convenient to have if you want to watch a video on your phone while listening to the audio on a wireless speaker.
Ready to step up and do something really interesting with your wireless speaker? How about dotting a few of them throughout your home so that you can listen to music everywhere? It's entirely possible, and given that many of the speakers on this list are inexpensive, it often doesn't have to cost very much money. There are plenty of advantages to multi-room audio: your partner could be listening to one playlist in the lounge, while you shower to another. You can have the same music playing in every room for a party. And usually, you can control everything, including what is playing where, with a single app.
The easiest way to do this is to pick up a Sonos One (Gen 2) (full review here). Sonos are known for delivering great, simple multiroom audio that is a total breeze to set up. The app walks you through every step, including automatically calibrating the speakers for each room. However, given that a Sonos One costs $199, this can get expensive quickly. If you'd like a significantly cheaper option – like half the price – the $90 JBL Flip 4, our top-ranked speaker, has a feature called JBL Connect that let's you link up to 100 JBL speakers. You may not want to buy quite that many, but it's a great and affordable way to get multiroom audio.
Most external TV speakers need to be connected directly to your screen, or to existing home theater equipment. But as we know, wires are a pain in the backside, so it’s worth investigating whether or not you can use wireless audio with your TV. The answer is yes, mostly.
The easiest way to do this is simply to connect to your speakers via Bluetooth. Many leading TVs allow you to send Bluetooth audio out, and as long as you’ve got some speakers that can accept it – which just about every wireless speaker on the market should be able to – you’re in business. You could buy a pair of Anker SoundCore speakers ($56 total) and use them to create stereo audio for your TV. However, Bluetooth transmission has a couple of disadvantages that are worth taking into account. The first is that you will need to regularly charge the speakers or keep them connected. The second is that Bluetooth audio can sometimes suffer from a bit of lag. That’s not a problem if you’re listening to music, but if you’re trying to sync a soundtrack with a TV picture, even a small delay can cause problems.
Transmitting over a Wi-Fi network may be a better option, but it comes with its own set of complications. You need to attach a wireless transmitter, and to be honest, this just isn’t worth it. Getting your TV to talk to the wireless transmitter, which then has to talk to any number of brands of speakers, is simply not worth the trouble. Yes, there are little software programs like PlayFi and WiSA, but they are all relatively expensive and often require the purchase of equipment like sound bars. If this is a route you want to pursue, by all means do so, but we think it’s overly complicated. There are better ways to improve your sound.
One of those ways is to invest in a dedicated set of speakers for wireless TV audio. Sonos, for example, make the Sonos 5.1 Surround Set, which consists of a Sonos Beam sound bar, a Sonos Subwoofer, and two Sonos One smart speakers. Once you’ve connected the Beam bar to your TV, the other speakers will link to it wirelessly. You’ll find similar systems from Yamaha (called MusicCast) and Denon (called HEOS). They all work exceptionally well, but there are three key disadvantages to them. Firstly, they are closed systems – you can’t use Sonos with other speaker brands, for example. Secondly, each speaker will need to be connected to a power outlet, meaning you could have up to five or more wall connections required. And finally, they are expensive. The Sonos 5.1 Surround Set is a mere $1,399.
Essentially, what we are saying is this: it’s perfectly possible to get wireless audio with your TV, but don’t be fooled by thinking it will be super convenient, or cost-effective.
Yes. They are not going to give you cancer. They are not going to give you vertigo, or make your hair fall out, or cause stomach ulcers. Bluetooth devices put out minuscule amounts of radiation, and to cause any damage, you more or less have to swallow one and then keep it playing constantly for the rest of your life (while somehow making sure it doesn’t get melted by your stomach acid, but that’s a separate problem). Wireless speakers are entirely safe to use. As long as you make sure that all connections are firmly inserted – this is especially true for connection to direct power – and you don’t play them loud enough to damage your hearing, you’ll be fine.
The wireless speakers in our list above are all great, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to delve a little deeper into the world of audio, and perhaps spend a little more to get a more advanced setup, there are a few things you can do. The first is to upgrade to a stereo set of speakers – as in one left, one right. A stereo field offers much more convincing sound quality, with better positioning of the individual instruments in a track. The easiest way to do this is simply to buy two speakers you like and connect them to a device that is capable of transmitting Bluetooth to two places at once. Most modern smartphones can handle this just fine.
The other way – and we think it’s much more fun – is to upgrade to a set of wireless speakers that are deliberately designed to act as a stereo pair. These are known as bookshelf speakers. Wireless bookshelf speakers are regular hi-fi speakers that have been given the wireless treatment, and in general, they can sound a lot better than a single wireless speaker. They operate in exactly the same way, paired over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and they frequently deliver fantastic sound quality. In the link above, you’ll find several examples of great wireless bookshelf speakers, as well as more traditional wired models which will require an amplifier to use.