Music makes a house a home.
Whether you’re entertaining friends or just looking for a distraction as you do the dishes, a room full of sound—streamed from your smartphone or your TV—always makes it better. But with so many wireless speakers on the market, it can be a baffling choice.
Prices can range from just a few dollars (almost always resulting in a thin, tiny sound) to multiple thousands of dollars (which are usually great, but leave significantly less room in the budget for entertaining). There are, however, several great speakers in the middle of that spectrum that will blow your socks off with their range and flexibility.
Here are a few to consider:
Sonos laid the groundwork for the wireless home audio market, and it’s still the 500-pound gorilla in the metaphorical room. The company offers a trio of speakers, each with its own merits. The $199 Play 1 is notably cheaper, but isn’t battery powered. Play 3, which runs $299, offers a significantly improved sound quality and has a moderate footprint.
If you’re looking for pure sound performance, the $499 Play 5 is the way to go. Updated last year, it has a larger cabinet, meaning better bass sounds, and three tweeters and mid-range woofers, resulting in phenomenal sound quality. It’s also the only Sonos with a 3.5mm input, meaning you can listen offline.
All three devices let you stream music from major services like Spotify and Tidal, as well as cloud-based music storage sites like Amazon (amzn). Those are all controlled via the Sonos app. The best model for you will likely depend on if you’re interested in a whole-home audio setup or a single room, but each of the various Play models has something to offer.
Launched by music industry legend Rikki Farr—who has produced a staggering number of concerts and record albums for The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Rolling Stones—Riva came out swinging with this $159 wireless bluetooth speaker. It has earned universal critical praise for its rich, balanced sound, and flexibility. Bluetooth lets you stream from your smartphone or cable/satellite box (making it a terrific home theater add-on). It offers a 3.5mm input for direct streaming from everything from a Blu-ray player to a turntable. And it has a phenomenal battery life: up to 26 hours. The sound quality is the real star, though. The Turbo X can play as loud as 100 decibels without distortion. You likely won’t take advantage of that too often, but it’s nice to know you can.
Bose has one of the best known names in the speaker world, but its early efforts in the wireless space didn’t win over a lot of fans. The SoundTouch 30, which runs $500, changed that, though. It has a larger footprint that most wireless speakers, but it offers the characteristic warm sound for which Bose is known. It offers users the choice of streaming from their phone or tablet via Bluetooth or can hook directly into the home Wi-Fi system. It’s also one of the few wireless home audio systems with a remote control—and onboard preset buttons let you instantly launch your favorite playlists, both local or via a streaming service. It’s more a speaker for a dinner party than a blowout party, but it will still fill the room with sound. (Got a smaller place? Consider the $350 SoundTouch 20.)
Denon took a lot of cues from Sonos when developing its wireless system. The HEOS line is made of four separate systems: the portable HEOS 1 (a $199 speaker which looks almost identical to Sonos); the $299 compact HEOS 3; the higher-end, bass-intense $399 HEOS 5; and the top of the line HEOS 7, which runs $599. All of the systems can stream via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and support High Resolution Audio. And each also has a 3.5mm port for direct streaming. But as you might expect, the more you spend, the greater the sound quality. The HEOS 7 has a booming bass that might be too much for audiophiles, but others will love. It also has the added trick of being able to share a USB stick loaded with music with other HEOS speakers around the house.
It’s pretty easy to confuse the Radiant360 line with Amazon’s Echo at first glance due to their cylindrical shape. But once Samsung’s line begins playing music, the differences become clear. There are four different types of multi-room speakers in the lineup: the $160 R1, the $200 R3, the $300 R5, and the $380 R7. The R1, R3 and R5 all are tube-like in appearance with a flared top, while the R7 is more egg-shaped. But all of them push sound out in every direction, and none has an especially large footprint. Theoretically, that means you get the same audio quality no matter where you’re standing in relation to the speaker.
All of the speakers support high resolution audio as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming. And they can be paired together for a multi-room system. The R7 is the best in terms of sound quality, with the R5 close behind. Expect some slight distortion with the R1 at high volumes—though if that’s used as a satellite speaker, that likely won’t be a problem. And it’s still a very solid standalone wireless speaker for people on a budget.
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