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Wireless speakers to avoid

These poor-performing Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers are anything but music to your ears.

wireless speakers to avoid with red cross
Last updated: 03 April 2023

Whether you're at home, at the beach, having a backyard barbecue or travelling away from home, a wireless speaker is a great way to enjoy your music exactly where you want it. 

But while good tunes are essential for a great party, a tinny-sounding speaker can really kill your buzz.

If you love your music, these are the wireless speakers to avoid buying.

How much do wireless speakers cost?

Depending on what you're after, you can opt for: 

  • a portable speaker with a Bluetooth connection directly to your smart device and a battery so you can take it with you
  • a home speaker that has a Wi-Fi wireless connection to your home network so you can stream music over it – but it's powered, so you can't take it to the beach
  • a smart screen with voice assistance and a display, which is perfect in your kitchen for watching cooking or recipe instructions, or in the bedroom for the morning news or a podcast.

The speakers we've tested range from $39 for a small Ikea speaker, through to $1800 for a top-of-the-line Naim Audio speaker. 

But three of the top performers in our test cost less than $200, proving that you don't always need to spend a fortune for good sound. 

How we test wireless speakers

To make sure you get the best bass for your buck, our panel of experts listens to a range of music (jazz, classical, rock and pop) and radio broadcasts to assess the sound quality of each speaker. They also test how easy each speaker is to set up and operate. 

Listening performance contributes to 60% of the CHOICE Expert Rating and ease of use contributes to 40%. 

We also test battery life for speakers that have one, so you know how long the speaker will run when you're out and about.

Read more about how we test wireless speakers

Lowest scoring speakers in our test

ultimate ears megaboom 3

Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3.

1. Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 43%
  • Pop music score: 44%
  • Price: $329

Despite the name, this wireless speaker definitely isn't the ultimate for your ears: it produces decidedly ordinary sound across a range of music genres. It doesn't reproduce speech very well either, scoring just 47% for this test, so forget about using it for podcasts and radio. 

Our expert testers noted a few positive things about it. It has an IP rating (which stands for ingress protection and refers to how dust- and water-resistant a product is) of IP67, so it should be comfortable at the beach or by the river, and it can be used as part of a surround sound system when paired with other Ultimate Ears speakers.

It also has excellent battery life – but with sound this poor, you might not want to listen to it for the 26.8 hours that the battery will last. 

Read the full Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 review

ultimate ears boom 3

Ultimate Ears Boom 3.

2. Ultimate Ears Boom 3

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 45%
  • Pop music score: 50%
  • Price: $229

Yes, another Ultimate Ears product. And in this instance at least, it seems that spending less will actually buy you better performance. 

At least it's consistent, though: it scored 50% on just about every test we put it through, including classic, jazz and pop music, and set-up. 

One of its saving graces was its app, which our experts rated as 'Good', though they noted that it's not great for everyday use. 

The positives? It has excellent battery life, can be used as part of a surround sound system with other Ultimate Ears speakers, has an IP rating of IP67 and supports hands-free phone via Bluetooth. 

But with a poor score like this, even these positives can't outweigh its negatives. 

"If you're happy to put up with just slightly passable sound quality, the Ultimate Ears Boom 3 may be a good option for background music during barbecues, arvo drinks or dinner parties," says CHOICE resident audiophile Peter Zaluzny

"But wait for a sale because this speaker isn't worth the $229 RRP."

Read the full Ultimate Ears Boom 3 review.

ruark audio mrx

Ruark Audio MRx.

3. Ruark Audio MRx

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 47%
  • Pop music score: 34%
  • Price: $899

It may look good, but this Ruark portable speaker is all style and no substance. For about $900 it'll deliver ho-hum sound and not a great deal else. 

Our testers found that it's very easy to set up, but on every other test it scored as 'Poor' or 'Borderline' at best. 

It may look good, but this Ruark portable speaker is all style and no substance

"Speaker style can be very important," says Peter. "There's nothing wrong with seeking out a speaker that matches your home decor or design, but sound quality must always come first. If anything, it's worth making some stylistic sacrifices in the name of superior sound."

One of the top-scoring wireless home speakers in our test costs $100 less but was rated 'Good' or 'Very good' for listening by our experts – you'd be much better spending your money on that one.

Read the full Ruark Audio speaker review

amazon echo show 15

Amazon Echo Show 15.

4. Amazon Echo Show 15

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 47%
  • Pop music score: 7%
  • Price: $399

Yes, you read that right: this speaker scored just 7% for pop music. And it didn't fare any better for other music genres, scoring just 6% for classical music, 7% for jazz and 8% for speech. 

"Smart screens like this aren't really designed for music playback," says Peter. "But even so, those are very poor scores, especially for speech. You'd think something designed to play video would be able to make words sound good."

But our experts did find it very easy to set up and connect to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi. 

However, they found that the app was pretty average overall, as was mains power performance. And with a speech score as low as this, you might find yourself hoping for an actual echo so you can hear what it's trying to tell you. 

Read the full Amazon Echo Show 15 review

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.