We review 16 wireless speakers, priced from $199 to $399.
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.
Smartphones now perform the task of music player for many of us and, unlike dedicated iPods and music players, a smartphone usually needs to be in your pocket - or at least within easy reach - for receiving phone calls and emails, taking photos, and keeping up to date on various social networks, so leaving it in a dock or connected to your stereo can be a hassle.
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.
Your wireless choices include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, with different issues in performance and compatibility to consider.
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 network 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.
Please note that several of the models we tested in 2013 include Airplay and Wi-Fi support, but none of the models in the latest test support this technology.
Bluetooth connections use a direct pairing arrangement where the two devices (music player or smartphone and wireless speaker) connect. Generally, connecting via Bluetooth is simple and doesn't require any network support – just pair and go. Critics may suggest that because Bluetooth requires the music files to be compressed (whereas Wi-Fi is able to stream uncompressed music), it may affect audio quality. However, this shouldn't be a significant issue for any of the speakers on this test.
All of the models on this test are Bluetooth wireless speakers.
Brands and models tested
- Beats by Dre Pill 2.0
- Bose Soundlink III
- Bose SoundLink Mini
- Braven 850
- Braven 855S
- Cambridge Audio Minx GO
- Harman Kardon Esquire
- Jabra Solemate Max
- JBL Charge
- JBL Pulse
- Klipsch Gig
- Klipsch KMC1
- Logitech UE Boom
- Marley Get Together
- Soen Transit
- Sony SRS-X5
How we test
Performance scores are based on our listening panel's appraisal of different pieces of music (classical and rock/pop). The speaker is positioned about two metres away from the listener, with the panel assessing overall quality.
Ease of use Our tester, Norbert Suto, 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.
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, an obstructed test through up to three solid doors, and a test through a brick wall. The results are averaged to calculate an overall range score.
Battery testing is carried out with a constant music source connected to the unit through the Auxiliary input. Therefore the times we were able to achieve may be longer than the claimed times but gives an indication of their comparative battery capacity performance.
For more reviews like this, along with information about audio accessories
, please see our Sound