Being able to listen to music without any wires between your speakers and your audio source is not only hugely convenient, but it can dramatically change how (and where) you listen to music. We’ve reviewed tons of wireless speakers, and in our opinion, theis the best wireless speaker you can buy. It offers all of the conveniences of wireless technology, including the ability to play back all major streaming services, and can be a perfect building block in a larger multiroom system.
With a collective 50 years of consumer and pro audio experience, our team has reviewed hundreds of speakers over the years, including both the wired and wireless variety, so we know a good speaker sound when we hear it. We’re confident most people will be delighted with the Sonos One, but if you’re looking for something else, we’ve chosen four alternatives that are serious standouts in their respective subcategories. From highly portable to high-fidelity, there’s something here for everyone.
At a glance
|Sonos One||Best wireless speaker overall||4.5 out of 5|
|Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3||Best portable wireless speaker||4.5 out of 5|
|JBL Flip 4||Best rugged wireless speaker||4 out of 5|
|Riva Concert||Best smart wireless speaker||4.5 out of 5|
|KEF LS50||Best audiophile wireless speaker||4.5 out of 5|
Why you should buy this: It has a tiny footprint, room-filling sound, Alexa (and soon Google Assistant) support, plus one of the best control apps in the business. You’ll never go wrong with Sonos.
Who it’s for: Those who want a wireless smart speaker that has fantastic sound quality, and can become a key ingredient in a wide-ranging multiroom sound system.
Why we picked the Sonos One:
Sonos’ reputation as one of the best home audio companies is well-deserved. Its speakers not only sound amazing, they’re amazingly easy to use, which is something you shouldn’t underappreciate. The Sonos One brings the best parts of the existing Sonos ecosystem, namely bulletproof Wi-Fi performance, super-easy setup, and wide compatibility with almost every music service on the planet. It then ups the ante by adding Alexa support and Apple’s AirPlay 2. When Sonos adds Google Assistant compatibility — as it has promised it will do in 2019 — the Sonos One will become the first and only smart speaker to give you a choice over which voice assistant to use. Granted, like all Sonos speakers, the Sonos One lacks Bluetooth and hi-res music support, but one listening session with it and we think you’ll forget all about these omissions.
Even if we were purely judging the Sonos One on its sound, voice support, and music service compatibility, it would be worth the price of admission. But when you consider the Sonos app’s best-in-class user interface and universal search feature, we think you’ll agree: This is the best wireless speaker right now.
UE Megaboom 3
The best portable wireless speaker
Why you should buy this: With 20 hours of battery life, the ability to withstand both dust and water, and sound quality that makes you forget it’s a Bluetooth speaker, the UE Megaboom 3 is an ideal portable companion.
Who it’s for: Those who need a portable speaker that can withstand the elements, yet still pump out tons of high-quality sound.
Why we picked the UE Megaboom 3:
The Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 lacks a lot of features you might find in some other Bluetooth speakers, like the ability to take phone calls, plug in an external music source, or charge up your phone. So why would we pick it? Simple: The UE Megaboom 3 sounds better than any portable Bluetooth speaker we’ve tested — so good in fact, that we’d happily give up those extra features to get this kind of sound. Then there’s the weekend’s worth of battery life, and the Megaboom 3’s beach-proof construction. Add on its attractive design and clever multifunction button, and you’ve got a Bluetooth speaker that will make any setting feel like your own private listening lounge.
JBL Flip 4
The best rugged wireless speaker
Why you should buy this: It’s compact, it’s rugged as rocks, and it sound even better outside than inside.
Who it’s for: Those who want a portable wireless speaker that can withstand virtually anything you throw at it (or throw it at) while still producing decent sound.
Why we picked the JBL Flip 4:
The JBL Flip 4 is the latest in a string of solid Bluetooth speakers designed for the great outdoors. With heavily rubberized endcaps and an IPX7 water rating, few Bluetooth speakers will put up with the kind of abuse you can throw at the Flip 4. It’s durable all right, but amazingly, it pumps out decent sound too. It gets surprisingly loud for a speaker with its small dimensions, and though far from audiophile quality, it nonetheless satisfies, especially when there’s lots of background noise to compete with.
Throw in 12-hours of battery life, speakerphone capability, and both Siri and Google Now compatibility, and you’ve got yourself a remarkably capable wireless speaker that can be picked up for well under $150.
The best smart wireless speaker
Why you should buy this: With superb sound, multiple connections, built-in Alexa support, and an optional battery pack, the Riva Concert has everything you want in a smart wireless speaker.
Who it’s for: Anyone who wants the convenience of a smart speaker, without sacrificing sound quality — or an entire paycheck.
Why we picked the Riva Concert:
Sonos’ products are among the very best wireless speakers you can get and, frankly, we don’t see that changing anytime soon. And yet, when we fired up Riva’s Concert for the first time, we had to admit: Sonos had nearly met its match. The Sonos One is a superb wireless speaker, but it’s not perfect. It lacks Bluetooth, an auxiliary-in jack, a USB port for reading music from an external drive, and even a threaded mounting hole. Sonos would argue that these are all intentional choices, designed to keep the Sonos One as simple as possible. Be that as it may, the Riva Concert corrects all of these omissions and adds true stereo sound to the mix, all at the same price. Combine that with all of the functionality that comes with Amazon Alexa built-in, and naming this our favorite smart speaker was an easy decision.
With an optional battery pack and splash-resistance, the Concert can transform into the perfect patio speaker or come along for the ride. It also supports lossless hi-res music files up to 24-bit/192 kHz, two capabilities the Sonos One also lacks. But perhaps the biggest point in the Riva Concert’s favor is the easiest to appreciate: It simply sounds better. Better, in fact, than any other speaker of this size that we’ve tested.
With so many things going for it, you might be asking yourselves why we didn’t pick this as our favorite wireless speaker overall. The answer, unfortunately, is that the Riva Concert currently lacks multiroom listening support — though the company says it will be adding it in August 2019 via an update. Until then, we’ve got to hand it to the Sonos One, which can serve as both a stand-alone speaker or as part of a larger soundsystem.
The best audiophile wireless speakers
Why you should buy this: Shockingly good sound combined with all the convenience of a wireless audio system make these the best wireless speakers at any price.
Who it’s for: Those who want it all — audiophile sound quality, gorgeous good looks, and all the benefits of both a wired and wireless sound system.
Why we picked the KEF LS50:
Unlike every other speaker on this list, the KEF LS50 is, first and foremost, a high-end set of audiophile speakers that have been adapted to bring wireless convenience to the equation. As such, they not only deliver crystalline sound and impeccable balance, but they also offer every conceivable option for extending and customizing that sound to fit your taste and room setup. Though the LS50 offer both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connections, they’re also loaded with wired options like optical input, analog input, a USB connection for PC audio, and a subwoofer output, alongside intuitive touch controls, a standard remote, and a comprehensive app.
The KEF app offers support for network-based hi-res, lossless audio files at up to 24-bit/192 kHz, as well as the ability to use Spotify Connect, Tidal, and more. The price is, as you’d expect, not for everyone, but for those with the cash, the KEF LS50 are undeniably an absolutely indulgent pair of wireless speakers.
How we test
We test wireless speakers the same way you would use a wireless speaker. No fancy measuring equipment, no anechoic chambers, just our ears, the speakers, and some of our favorite music sources. If the speaker is designed to go outside, we take it outside. If it’s waterproof, we throw it in a pool, or the ocean. If it’s a smart speaker, we see how well it responds to our voice commands. Despite its casual nature, this process is highly comprehensive, and includes checking out things you might not have thought about, like range, connection stability, and interference in areas with a lot of radio frequency interference (i.e., the Digital Trends offices).
Finally, we compare each speaker to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above to find out if they can punch above their weight.
How to decipher wireless speaker terms
NFC — Shorthand for Near Field Communication, this oft-touted feature is actually quite limited when it comes to Bluetooth speakers, allowing select phones (i.e., those not made by Apple) to pair with a speaker with a quick touch. Since pairing is often as simple as pressing a button, and speakers will be remembered by your device once paired, it’s not seen as a must-have feature.
AptX — Another feature limited to phones and devices outside of Apple’s periphery, AptX is a codec (or group of codecs) that allows Bluetooth streaming at “near CD quality” resolution. Apple products do not use AptX, but Android users may find it improves performance when paired with high-quality tracks and high-performance speakers. AptX HD is the latest and greatest version of this codec, but both source device and Bluetooth speaker must support it for you to get any benefit.
Passive radiator — A passive radiator is a type of driver used to enhance bass in a speaker. In a sealed speaker enclosure (no portholes) a passive radiator responds to fluctuations in air pressure within the enclosure, creating sound. Since a passive radiator doesn’t have to be powered by an amp, it has no magnet or voice coil, and is therefore lighter and smaller than a traditional driver. This saves space and cost while increasing the speaker’s performance.
Pairing (or Bluetooth pairing) — In the case of Bluetooth speakers, pairing is the act of making a wireless connection from a speaker to your wireless device via Bluetooth.
Stereo pairing — The ability to take two individual wireless speakers and treat them as the left and right speakers of a stereo pair. This is usually done within an app, and the speakers must be compatible with the stereo pairing function. Generally speaking, only identical speakers can be set up as stereo pairs.
Hi-res music — These are audio tracks that have been created from master recordings at much higher levels of detail and range than typical MP3 files. They contain up to four times as much information per song, and when played back through high-quality speakers that support them, they deliver more detail, less overlap between instruments and frequencies, and generally better sound when played at higher volumes. Not all wireless speakers are compatible with hi-res music files, which require one of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth aptX HD, Sony’s proprietary LDAC wireless codec, or a wired connection from the source to the speaker.
Multiroom audio — The ability for a wireless speaker to become part of a centrally controlled multispeaker whole-home sound system, where each speaker can play a different source, all speakers can play the same source in perfect sync, or any combination of the two. Sonos is an example of a wireless, multiroom audio system.