Wired sound is so 20th century. With the rampant explosion of available choices that have invaded the audio industry in the last few years, you can bid adieu to plugging in, and say hello to a myriad of ways to play with no strings attached. Whether you’re looking for a sonic companion that fits in your pocket, or a multi-component whole home audio solution, our highly curated list has the knowledge you need to leave the wires behind.
Bowers & Wilkins T7 ($350)
While Bowers & Wilkins has been making premium wireless speakers for years, its first try at the uber-portable Bluetooth speaker genre is a home run. We’d expected nothing less from the folks at B&W – including the price. Still, king’s ransom notwithstanding, the T7 is a top performer in all categories. The speaker is crafted using high grade audio components layered in a proprietary honeycomb cabinet to prevent unwanted resonance or distortion, and the payoff is powerful, well-rounded sound that is as balanced and detailed as anything in its weight class.
In addition, this looker of a speaker adds aptX technology to offer up to CD-quality resolution from compatible devices (read: not iOS), as well as a rechargeable battery with a massive 18 hours of playback time per charge, which makes it the Bluetooth version of an Everlast car battery: Start after start, the T7 just keeps turning over. If you want the ultimate in wireless convenience with a dash of class, and high-octane sound to boot, the T7 is your choice.
Best Hi-Res: Sony SRS-X9 ($700)
The SRS-X9 is proof Sony is still a force to be reckoned with. The device boasts a clean, intuitive design that’s just as attractive as its smooth bass and superior clarity. It also cuts stark separation between instruments with ease, regardless of the genre, and brilliantly handles vocals. The drawbacks? Bright sound signatures and a steep price to match the premium build.
Best Bass Bumper: JBL Authentic L8 ($720)
The Authentic L8 has a knack for balance. It seamlessly blends vintage and modern nuances, while producing warm, expansive sound that’s guaranteed to fill the room. It excels in the subtleties — i.e. clean reverb, crisp highs — with a welcome lack of distortion at higher volumes. The midrange may be dark at times, but the powerful bass belies any complaint you might have.
Best Bang: UE Mini Boom ($100)
Ultimate Ear’s Mini Boom is small, affordable, and better than you’d ever expect. The boxy design is available in a bevvy of colors, from bright-orange to purple, and provides a thick midrange and swift top end that’s only second to the speaker’s resounding grasp on percussion. Other innovations, such as NFC pairing and assorted EQ settings, add to its appeal.
Best Tailgater: TDK Trek Max A34 ($250)
Featuring a weatherproof enclosure and robust sound, the Max A34 is poised to become the pre-game accessory. It’s balanced, with an admirable midrange and good definition when it comes to strings and vocals, though its chassis does run on the heavier side despite its portability. The built-in features are also solid, just in case you need more than just sheer sound output.
Coolest Design: HK Onyx Studio ($400)
Truth be told, you can often find Harman Kardon’s Onyx Studio for less than half the MSRP price. The quirky speaker basks in a pod-like design that resembles a satellite dish, yet still manages to exhibit stunning bass and an accurate upper register within its striking design. Surprisingly, it also bellows sound and performs well across genres, even if it lacks some midrange flare.
Best waterproof: Braven BRV-X ($200)
There’s a reason the water-resistant BRV-X is an Editor’s Choice. It offers top notch performance that’s founded in the vividness of its sound, whether its issuing punchy bass or spouting crystal-clear treble, while providing more than 12 hours of playback with its rugged package. You can even pair two Braven devices together, adjust the EQ, or charge your smartphone while you jam.
Best Multi-room: Sonos Play:1 ($200)
Simply put, the Sonos Play:1 showcases more finesse than any multi-room speaker on the market. The short tower touts great detail and dynamic expression, along with a commendable wireless signal and a dead-simple setup process. You can even string multiple speakers together, or access your entire music library when you’re not streaming via the legion of bundled apps.
Best Portable: Braven 600 ($150)
The Braven 600 cannot be beat for its size. The aircraft-grade aluminum build is stylish and compact enough to tote anywhere, and moreover, the two integrated speakers help produce clear upper midrange and immaculate top end. It lacks bass due to its underwhelming size, but still shines with speakerphone capabilities, class-leading battery power, and an integrated USB port for charging devices.
Best BBQ Bud: Rukus XL Solar ($250)
The metallic Ruckus XL Solar may not look “hip,” but it’s still a showstopper given its heavyweight design and solar-powered endurance. It unleashes ample sound via its equipped eight-pack of drivers, allowing it to deliver a balanced sound signature in even the most rowdy of atmospheres. The rubberized buttons and short-leashed Bluetooth still aren’t the most enticing, though.
Available at: Amazon
Best Shelf Speakers: Aperion Allaire ($400)
The Aperion Allaire are the classiest and most versatile shelf speakers around. They cull the best elements of Hi-Fi and wireless audio worlds, creating an expansive stereo image that’s teeming with percussive resonance and well-defined sound. The pint-sized towers also boast a host of connections for swapping between analog, optical, and Bluetooth components.
Available at: Aperion Audio