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Wireless speakers reviews

Wireless speakers let you play music while keeping your smartphone or music player close to hand.
 
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01.Introduction

wireless-speakers-lead4

We review 16 wireless speakers, priced from $199 to $799.

Through our rigorous testing, we reveal which speakers:

  • have the best sound quality
  • are the easiest to use
  • have the best wireless range

On this page, you'll find:

In this test we look at wireless speakers, which allow you to listen to your music without a physical connection between your smartphone or music and the speaker. 

Do I need a wireless speaker?

Speaker docks allow an iPod or other music player to be physically connected to the speaker and have been a very popular option for music lovers for several years.

However, smartphones now perform the task of music player for many of us and, unlike dedicated iPods and music players, a smartphone needs to be in your pocket - or at least within easy reach - for phone calls, collecting emails and keeping up to date on various social networks.

A wireless speaker can be placed anywhere in your home within reach of a power point - or if it has a rechargeable battery you can enjoy your music anywhere.

Wireless options


Your wireless choices include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with different issues in performance and compatibility to consider.

Wi-Fi

Apple’s Airplay feature uses Wi-Fi to stream audio throughout your home network; so as long as your speaker is within the Wi-Fi network, you can enjoy your music from your PC or Mac and online, as well as from your iPhone or iPod (as long as it is also within the Wi-Fi area). Models that use Airplay in a home wireless networking environment require a router for listening to music and an internet connection if you want to enjoy online music. Models that use Wi-Fi direct to make a connection between the music player and the speaker create their own network and don’t require a home wireless network.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth connections use a "pairing" arrangement where the two devices (music player and wireless speaker) connect. Generally, connecting via Bluetooth is simple and doesn't require any network support. Bluetooth requires the music files to be compressed (whereas Wi-Fi is able to stream uncompressed music), which may affect audio quality when listening to expensive high-end speakers. However, this shouldn't be a significant issue for any of the speakers on this test.

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Video: Acoustic iPhone speakers

For fun, we tried out various acoustic speakers for the iPhone - but for serious amplification, see our test results.

Brands and models tested

  • Bowers & Wilkins A5
  • Bose SoundDock 10
  • Bose SoundLink II
  • Creative Zii Sound D5
  • Geneva Model XS
  • Jabra Solemate
  • Jawbone Big Jambox
  • JBL JBL SoundFly
  • Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air 
  • Libratone Zipp
  • Logitech UE Boombox
  • Philips Shoqbox
  • Pioneer XM-SMA3-K
  • Sonos Play:3   
  • Sony SA-NS410
  • TDK A73

How we test

Performance scores are based on our listening panel's appraisal of four pieces of music (classical, rock/pop and electronic). The speaker is positioned about two metres away from the listener, with the panel assessing overall quality.

Ease of use Our tester, James Thomson, appraises the clarity and accuracy of the manuals supplied, ease of setting up the speaker itself as well as connecting it to a wireless source and sending music to the speaker. He also assesses the remote control if supplied.

Range Our tester places each speaker in an identical position to assess the point at which music a signal is lost or the audio quality drops. Three measurements were taken including an unobstructed straight line test, obstructed test with up to three solid doors and a test through a brick wall. The results are averaged to calculate an overall range score.

Standby energy is measured with the product in standby and/or sleep mode.

We included the Sonos Bridge with the calculation for the Sonos Play 3 because this is the only way to have it work as a wireless speaker.

For more reviews like this, along with information about audio accessories, please see our Sound section.

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