So, you’re looking to jam out to your favorite tunes, but trying to haul around a bunch of cords to plug in your speaker isn’t convenient. If you’re going on a road trip or you need something small enough to slip into your bag, a wireless speaker will be your best option.
Even with a lot of choices on the market, we’ve reviewed a lot of different speakers and narrowed our list of recommendations down.
At a glance
|Sonos One||Best wireless speaker|
|Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3||Best portable wireless speaker|
|JBL Flip 5||Best rugged wireless speaker|
|Riva Concert||Best sounding wireless speaker|
|KEF LSX||Best wireless bookshelf speakers|
|Klipsch Wireless Reference Speakers||Best wireless speakers for your home theater|
Why you should buy this: It has a tiny footprint, room-filling sound, Alexa and Google Assistant support, and 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, but they are also amazingly easy to use, which is something that shouldn’t be under-appreciated. 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. With the addition of Google Assistant to go alongside Alexa, the Sonos One is the only smart speaker that gives you a choice of voice assistants. 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 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 5
The best rugged wireless speaker
Why you should buy this: It’s compact, it’s rugged as rocks, and it sounds 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 solid sound.
Why we picked the JBL Flip 5:
The JBL Flip 5 is the latest in a string of solid Bluetooth speakers from JBL designed for the great outdoors. With heavily rubberized end caps and an IPX7 water rating, few Bluetooth speakers will put up with the kind of abuse you can throw at the Flip 5. It’s durable all right, but amazingly, it pumps out good sound too, with the latest iteration as the best sounding speaker in the Flip line yet.
This speaker gets surprisingly loud for a speaker with such small dimensions, and though far from audiophile quality, it nonetheless satisfies, especially when there’s lots of background noise to compete with. We love each iteration of this speaker, as more features are usually the benefit of the latest model. That said, the Flip 5 sheds one key feature of the Flip 4: A headphone input. That said, this is a Bluetooth speaker first and foremost, so most folks shouldn’t take much umbrage there.
Throw in 12 hours of battery life and the PartyBoost feature to connect multiple JBL speakers together, and you’ve got yourself a remarkably capable wireless speaker. While the Flip 4 is still a great deal if you can find it, the Flip 5 is another great choice in JBL’s rugged portable lineup.
The best sounding 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 yourself 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 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 sound system.
The best wireless bookshelf speakers
Why you should buy this: Incredible sound quality mixed with wireless convenience for shockingly good value.
Who it’s for: Those who want it all — audiophile sound quality, gorgeous design, and all the benefits of a wireless system, without the insane price point.
Why we picked the KEF LSX:
KEF’s LS50 Wireless are among the best sounding bookshelves you can buy for the money, and their wireless convenience makes them among our favorite speakers we’ve encountered. But what we love about KEF’s LSX is that they give you almost everything you’ll get with the KEF LS50 Wireless, for less than half the price. While the LSX don’t sound as big in either soundstage or velocity (the LS50 are among the loudest speakers we’ve tested that never incurred distortion), they offer the same incredible detail, dynamic expression, depth, and clarity we’ve come to expect from KEF’s best in a smaller and more minimalist package.
Like the LS50, the LSX not only deliver crystalline sound and impeccable balance, but they also offer nearly every conceivable option for extending and customizing that sound to fit your taste and room setup through a dedicated app. And with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connection, they’re also loaded with wired options like optical input, analog input, a USB connection for PC audio, and a subwoofer output.
That last option is a great way to raise their cinematic game, too. While the LSX offer impressive bass for their size thanks largely to KEF’s Uni-Q concentric tweeter design, they can’t get quite as low with authority as their larger siblings. In addition, they trade the gorgeous piano gloss cabinets of the LS50 for less opulent fabric jackets.
That said, the LSX offer something the LS50 don’t — fully wireless connection, without the need of a connecting wire between the stereo speakers. With nearly all the other benefits of the LS50 Wireless, the LSX are an incredible value and a great compromise for those looking to keep their budget right around the $1,000 line.
Klipsch Wireless Reference Speakers
The best wireless speakers for your home theater
Why you should buy this: You want premium surround sound for your home theater without the hassle of speaker wires.
Who it’s for: Those with a dedicated media room who value both simplicity and sound quality.
Why we picked the Klipsch Wireless Reference Speakers:
The Klipsch Wireless Reference Speakers look like the company’s much-revered line of traditional Reference home theater speakers and that’s by design. These speakers can be arranged in any configuration from the simplest 2.0 setup to a full 7.1 or 5.1.2 surround layout, but because they’re built on the WiSA wireless audio platform, all you need is power for each speaker. No speaker cables, and no A/V receiver needed.
Adding a WiSA-compatible LG TV, lets you get up and running in minutes. You can then use your TV’s remote to control your entire home theater system. If you own an Xbox One, you can connect the Axiim Link to that device instead., which you plug into any
Other than the incredible simplicity that WiSA allows, the biggest benefit is its ultra-low latency and high bandwidth. Wireless speakers that rely on Bluetooth can sometimes suffer from synchronization issues. Sometimes this exhibits itself as audio lag from the source (creating dialogue that doesn’t match what people on-screen are doing). But more commonly, it creates sync issues between multiple speakers, causing nasty echo and other unwanted distortions.
WiSA is effectively lag-free and keeps perfect sync across every speaker in the room. It can also deliver uncompressed, hi-res audio to each channel — another thing that Bluetooth can’t do.
WiSA-based home theater systems are relatively new to the marketplace, but we think the Klipsch Wireless Reference Speakers are so far the best-sounding option. That said, they’re not exactly cheap. The front left and right (and surround) speakers sell for $799 a pair, while the center channel costs $574 and the subwoofer is $689.
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 performance 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 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 the 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.
WiSA: This relatively new acronym stands for “Wireless Sound and Audio.” It’s a wireless audio standard that eliminates excess audio cables in multiroom setups with up to eight speakers. WiSA products are offered by more than 60 popular audio brands, including Klipsh, Bang & Olufsen, and Harman Kardon.
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