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Best Wireless Speakers Under $200

Consumer Reports logo Consumer Reports 6/13/2019 Allen St. John
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Wireless speakers are one of the quiet triumphs in modern electronics. They offer a convenient way to listen to music, news, sports, and more. And unlike many other electronic gadgets, they aren't likely to become outdated in a year or two. 

But which wireless speaker to choose? If you're thinking about using it away from home, say, at a park or beach, look for a Bluetooth model that's rugged and water-resistant. If the speaker will spend life indoors, opt for a WiFi model to get greater signal range so you won't need to have your smartphone, laptop, or tablet nearby to keep the music playing.

Above all, you want to find a model that's easy to use and has good sound for the money. You can check off both of those boxes with the following speakers, which are recommended by Consumer Reports.

To learn more about selecting the right wireless speaker, check out our wireless speakers buying guide and ratings.

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If you want a speaker that matches your décor, or even your mood, this midpriced Bluetooth speaker from Bose comes in a choice of five colors—black, blue, mint, red, and white. Bose claims it's rugged and water-resistant—Consumer Reports doesn't test speakers for impact resistance or waterproofness—so it should be well-suited to the park or your patio.

Don't be fooled by the model's petite size; the sound quality is surprisingly powerful for such a small box. Our testers were also impressed with the speaker's intuitive controls and how easy the SoundLink Color II was to pair with varied source devices. 

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Sure, the faux-wood finish and retro design may remind you of grandpa's Vista Cruiser station wagon from the 1970s. But performance-wise, the Fluance Fi50 is very much a creature of the 21st century.

 

The enclosure of this hefty 13-pound speaker is actually made of MDF, or medium-density fiberboard, which is often used in kitchen cabinets and speaker cabinets of high-end models. The manufacturer claims that the material damps resonances and allows the twin 5-inch speakers to perform at their best.

 

Our testers report that the Fi50 delivers very good sound quality and is very easy to use. It features analog audio inputs along with Bluetooth, an LCD display, and a remote. The Fi50 operates on AC power and is designed for indoor use. 

Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 5

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Some portable speakers allow you to take them along because of their rechargeable batteries. Others, like the Harmon Kardon Onyx Studio 5, all but demand that you pick them up and go.

 

The built-in handle helps, of course. But for all of its visual impact, this Bluetooth speaker delivers sonically as well. Our testers like the way it reproduces bass and drums. The boomy bass, however, can overwhelm male voices and certain instruments just a bit.

 

It's also worth noting that, unlike many similar speakers, the Onyx Studio 5 provides purely mono sound, even when you pair it with another speaker.

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Ever wonder what a speaker sounds like underwater? JBL says this model can be submerged without damage, which, at a minimum, means it should stand up to a rainstorm or a spilled water bottle. (Consumer Reports hasn't tested the claim.)

Water resistance aside, this cylindrical Bluetooth speaker from JBL earns a Best Buy designation from CR for its attractive combination of good performance and low price. It's available in six colors and a number of patterns, including camouflage.

Our testers found the sound quality to be good. Two units can be used in stereo—buy a pair, and you can better fill a room with sound while still paying less than you would for many mono speakers. The test team also liked the Flip's ease of use, including its fuss-free pairing. 

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This stylish, solidly constructed Sonos speaker delivers Very Good sound quality all on its own. And if you pair it with another Play:1 in a stereo configuration, you get even better sound.

And you can easily add more Sonos wireless speakers to create a multiroom sound system capable of playing different selections in different parts of your home. How about some Miles Davis in the dining room for the grown-ups and Jay-Z in the family room for the kids? Nice. (The Play:1 operates on WiFi and AC power.)

Sonos also boasts an Alexa-powered smart speaker, the updated Sonos One, $200, that features superb sound. The Sonos One can integrate with the Play:1 in a Sonos multiroom system, but you need two identical speakers—either two Ones or two Play:1s—to make a stereo pair.

Sony XB41

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If you want a Bluetooth speaker capable of putting on a show of its own, check out the Sony XB41. It makes a visual statement with a series of LED lights that sync to the music and can be customized via a smarthphone app. The XB41 can augment your music, too. Bang on it in the right place and you can hear a series of fun sound effects. 

None of those features would mean much if the XB41 didn't deliver decent sound quality as well. This Sony doesn't disappoint. The XB stands for extra bass, and the model features a solid low end. "Boom Boom Pow" from the Black Eyed Peas lives up to its billing, at least in a medium-sized room.

Our testers also found the XB41 to be easy to use, noting that pairing two units in stereo improved the sound. 

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2019, Consumer Reports, Inc.

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