The Best Wireless Speakers
Wireless speakers are everywhere these days, with seemingly every audio company putting out Bluetooth or AirPlay speakers. They come in all shapes and prices, from a portable $100 block to a massive $800 slab, and they can vary wildly in sound quality and features.
AirPlay is Apple’s wireless audio feature that lets iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac users stream their iTunes libraries. It can simultaneously stream music to multiple speakers, and sends track information to display, if that feature is supported on the speaker. It’s a feature-rich wireless audio system for any iOS device or Mac user, but it only works with Apple products. You can’t, say, stream music to an AirPlay speaker from your Android tablet. AirPlay speakers also tend to be more expensive than Bluetooth speakers, and most are significantly bulkier and power-hungry, meaning you’re less likely to find a battery-powered one you can pick up and carry from room to room while listening. Bowers & Wilkins’ speakers offer great sound quality, but they’re both big, heavy, and cost well over half a grand each.
Bluetooth is the longer-established wireless streaming system that doesn’t have quite as many features as AirPlay, but supports many more devices. Bluetooth works by pairing, so a device can stream to a single speaker set at a time. While AirPlay can send other information to devices, like song metadata, the Bluetooth A2DP profile can only send audio streams to a device. The bright side of Bluetooth is that it works with nearly every mobile device and most computers, including iPods, iPads, and iPhones. Bluetooth speakers also tend to be much less expensive than AirPlay speakers, and many can run on rechargeable batteries, making them easier to carry around the house or set up outside, like the Editors’ Choice Logitech UE Mobile Boombox or the Jabra Solemate. In the other direction, Bluetooth can be found in some stationary stereo desktop speakers, like the Edifier Spinnaker, which offers better stereo imaging than most single Bluetooth speakers because they can be placed apart for better separation.
Most wireless speakers are AirPlay-only or Bluetooth-only, but rare exceptions exist. Samsung’s DA-E750 Dual Audio Dock combines Bluetooth and AirPlay into one large, gorgeous, vacuum tube-driven speaker system. However, its overall audio quality, while satisfying, pales in comparison to certain dedicated AirPlay speakers.
Wireless Speakers Included in This Roundup:
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air
%displayPrice% at %seller% With Bowers and Wilkins, you definitely pay for the name and visual design as much as the audio quality. But the excellent-sounding Zeppelin Air iPod dock with wireless streaming via AirPlay does not disappoint. Read the full review ››
Altec Lansing inAir 5000 Wireless AirPlay Speaker
%displayPrice% at %seller% Altec Lansing’s inAir 5000 Wireless AirPlay Speaker offers powerful, distortion-free audio performance, but AirPlay itself still has some issues to work out. Read the full review ››
Bowers & Wilkins A7
%displayPrice% at %seller% The incredibly pricey Bowers & Wilkins A7 is a powerful, well-designed AirPlay speaker with clean, nuanced audio performance, without the oblong flair of the Zeppelin Air. Read the full review ››
Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air
%displayPrice% at %seller% The Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air is a wonderful-sounding wireless AirPlay speaker dock, but it’s on the expensive side of AirPlay options. Read the full review ››
%displayPrice% at %seller% The wireless Libratone Zipp is portable, ultra-stylish, and a solid audio performer at moderate volumes, but its signal processing will be a turn-off for some. Read the full review ››
JBL OnBeat Xtreme
%displayPrice% at %seller% A top performer, the JBL OnBeat Xtreme is a very powerful wireless Bluetooth streaming speaker system with the ability to dock, charge, and sync iPads, iPods, and iPhones. Read the full review ››
Logitech UE Mobile Boombox
%displayPrice% at %seller% You might find louder and sharper Bluetooth speakers than the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox, but you won’t find a better all-around package close to its price. Read the full review ››
%displayPrice% at %seller% The Edifier Spinnaker is a solid-sounding Bluetooth wireless speaker system that offers a true stereo experience thanks to its two-speaker design. Read the full review ››
Jawbone Big Jambox
%displayPrice% at %seller% The Jawbone Big Jambox doesn’t offer the best audio quality among portable Bluetooth speakers, but its long battery life, speakerphone features, and generally solid sound make it worth a listen. Read the full review ››
Combination AirPlay/Bluetooth Speaker
Samsung Wireless Audio Dock (DA-E750)
%displayPrice% at %seller% From vacuum tubes to dual docks to multiple wireless streaming platforms, the Samsung Wireless Audio Dock (DA-E750) is loaded. And it’s one of the best-looking speaker systems we’ve seen—with one of the highest price tags. Read the full review ››
By Will Greenwald, PCMag