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Wireless speakers let you play music while keeping your smartphone or music player close to hand. We test and review 24 wireless speakers, priced from $179 to $799, most of them with Bluetooth.
Our wireless speaker buying guide describes the features you might want and our how we test section provides a rundown on the CHOICE method for finding the best wireless speakers.
All of the models in our test are small and light enough to comfortably move around the home and operate either on battery or mains power.
Our expert testers take to the sound room to find the speakers that:
Our interactive comparison tool helps you easily find the models that have Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (or both), which speakers are 'ruggedised' for outdoor use, and which speakers come in under a kilo so you can comfortably carry it in a day pack. Our CHOICE Buys will let you see at a glance which models come out on top.
List of brands we tested in this review.
Recommended retail, as of January 2016.
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Bluetooth is a very simple connection in most cases because it's direct from one device to another. While the claimed range is usually limited to around 10m our testers found the figure to be much larger, in straight line tests achieving up to 30m as well as in tests where there were obstructions such as a brick wall or solid core doors where our tester comfortably played music more than 10m from the device.
Wi-Fi connectivity allows you to connect a number of devices over a wireless network. It can also stream an uncompressed audio file which may help deliver better sound quality for some high-end speakers, although the improved quality may not be evident with most wireless speakers.
The big advantage with Wi-Fi (also shown as AirPlay for devices offering support for Apple media devices) over Bluetooth is the range, with Wi-Fi networks often able to project well over 30 metres.
Speakers with this feature allow you to take a call using the speaker to hear the call and an onboard mic to talk to the caller. Once the call is finished, the music will continue to play.
Most of these speakers have much larger batteries than a smartphone so can be very handy when you are caught out and about and need to juice up your mobile. Simply plug the USB cable from the speaker to the phone and you are ready to go.
Some speakers can handle the outdoors better than others, with some models able to comfortably handle rain, dust and the occasional dunking.
3.5mm aux-in port.
Ease of use is important for a wireless speaker, particularly with some of the more fully featured models that can take some time to learn the controls and options available. Our tester looks at initial setup, how the phone deals with an incoming phone call while the music is playing and any physical controls on the speaker.
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Performance tests 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.
We place each speaker in an identical position to assess the point at which musical signal is lost or the audio quality drops. Three measurements are 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.
Excluding power lead, rounded to nearest 100g.
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