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The 7 Best Wireless Speakers for Home Listening

By Rachel Klein of Popular Mechanics | Slide 1 of 8: While it’s generally true that wireless speakers cost more than the wired variety, the price gap isn’t as wide as it once was. These days, you can get a fantastic speaker for around $200, and unless you’re a serious audiophile, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference in sound quality. Plus, plenty of models are multitaskers and combine an excellent sound system with smart capabilities. But with all the extra features that wireless speakers include—in addition to the already-complex lineup of speaker specs—finding one that fits your listening requirements and budget is no easy task, even for those with a working vocabulary of tweeters, mid-range drivers, and woofers. The basics of how sound is produced is fairly straightforward; the details of how speakers produce sound is not—and it doesn’t help that companies like to slap confusing branding on every element of their sound systems. While it’s true that speakers with more components (aka woofers and tweeters) pump out a broader range of sound for a more immersive listening experience, having fewer doesn’t have to mean mediocre sound.The good news is that whether you’re looking for something that’s perfect for beach vacations or a sound bar to boost your TV-watching experience, read on for our recommendations on the best wireless speakers, plus the most important things to consider while you shop. What to ConsiderWhen shopping for a wireless speaker, you’ll need to weigh your listening preferences and setup against budget to find a model that’s affordable and futureproof. You’ll also want to make a list of must-have features and what you’re okay doing without relative to price range. Below, we’ve outlined the most important points to help inform your decision. TypeFirst up is figuring out which type of wireless speaker to buy. If you want a relatively inexpensive option for listening to music in multiple rooms, your best bet is a lightweight, portable wireless speaker, and most feature Bluetooth and built-in voice assistants. Wireless bookshelf speakers are a great option for medium-size rooms if you care more about power and nuanced sound than portability and smart features. There are also single-unit stereo wireless speakers that are smart and deliver top-notch sound, designed for solo use or to pair with other components for multi-room listening or to build a comprehensive home audio system. Sound In general, sound quality increases as the price does, and speakers with more sophisticated technology offer a more immersive, room-filling listening experience. If you want to dive deeper, drivers are components that turn electrical energy into sound waves. And speakers have three main drivers: woofers, the largest, which produce low-frequency sound and add bass; mid-range, which are mid-size drivers that cover the in-between frequencies, like vocals and instrumentals; and tweeters, the smallest drivers, which produce sound in the highest range of the frequency spectrum and add treble. Amplifiers give power to speakers, so more means higher volume. But the number of amps doesn’t affect the sound quality. But beyond a certain point, “good” sound is based on personal preference. It’s also influenced by various factors, including music genre and room acoustics. The best way to judge speaker sound quality is to play a range of your favorite songs in the spaces you’re likely to be listening.ConnectivityIf you already have an audio system from Sonos or Bose, for instance, you’ll likely want a wireless speaker from the same brand to work seamlessly within your setup. Keep in mind that “Bluetooth” and “wireless” aren’t synonymous, and there are wireless speakers that don’t feature Bluetooth capability. The difference between the two is that wireless speakers connect to your home network, whereas Bluetooth speakers pair directly with individual devices, like a smartphone. Of course, there are plenty of speakers equipped with both. How We SelectedWe relied on our contextual knowledge from testing and evaluating a wide range of speakers and our expertise on what to look for—and avoid—when shopping. We also consulted with senior technology editor Stefan Vazharov and took into account reviews from other expert sources, such as Techradar and Consumer Reports. Our selection includes speakers from top brands such as Sonos, Bose, KEF, and Sony. And we judged models based on overall design, sound quality and clarity, and connectivity, as well as value-added features like voice assistant and pairing for multi-room audio. Looking for more speaker recommendations? Check out our stories on the best smart speakers, the best tower speakers, and the best bookshelf speakers.

While it’s generally true that wireless speakers cost more than the wired variety, the price gap isn’t as wide as it once was. These days, you can get a fantastic speaker for around $200, and unless you’re a serious audiophile, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference in sound quality. Plus, plenty of models are multitaskers and combine an excellent sound system with smart capabilities.

But with all the extra features that wireless speakers include—in addition to the already-complex lineup of speaker specs—finding one that fits your listening requirements and budget is no easy task, even for those with a working vocabulary of tweeters, mid-range drivers, and woofers.

The basics of how sound is produced is fairly straightforward; the details of how speakers produce sound is not—and it doesn’t help that companies like to slap confusing branding on every element of their sound systems. While it’s true that speakers with more components (aka woofers and tweeters) pump out a broader range of sound for a more immersive listening experience, having fewer doesn’t have to mean mediocre sound.

The good news is that whether you’re looking for something that’s perfect for beach vacations or a sound bar to boost your TV-watching experience, read on for our recommendations on the best wireless speakers, plus the most important things to consider while you shop.

What to Consider

When shopping for a wireless speaker, you’ll need to weigh your listening preferences and setup against budget to find a model that’s affordable and futureproof. You’ll also want to make a list of must-have features and what you’re okay doing without relative to price range. Below, we’ve outlined the most important points to help inform your decision.

Type

First up is figuring out which type of wireless speaker to buy. If you want a relatively inexpensive option for listening to music in multiple rooms, your best bet is a lightweight, portable wireless speaker, and most feature Bluetooth and built-in voice assistants. Wireless bookshelf speakers are a great option for medium-size rooms if you care more about power and nuanced sound than portability and smart features. There are also single-unit stereo wireless speakers that are smart and deliver top-notch sound, designed for solo use or to pair with other components for multi-room listening or to build a comprehensive home audio system.

Sound

In general, sound quality increases as the price does, and speakers with more sophisticated technology offer a more immersive, room-filling listening experience. If you want to dive deeper, drivers are components that turn electrical energy into sound waves. And speakers have three main drivers: woofers, the largest, which produce low-frequency sound and add bass; mid-range, which are mid-size drivers that cover the in-between frequencies, like vocals and instrumentals; and tweeters, the smallest drivers, which produce sound in the highest range of the frequency spectrum and add treble. Amplifiers give power to speakers, so more means higher volume. But the number of amps doesn’t affect the sound quality.

But beyond a certain point, “good” sound is based on personal preference. It’s also influenced by various factors, including music genre and room acoustics. The best way to judge speaker sound quality is to play a range of your favorite songs in the spaces you’re likely to be listening.

Connectivity

If you already have an audio system from Sonos or Bose, for instance, you’ll likely want a wireless speaker from the same brand to work seamlessly within your setup. Keep in mind that “Bluetooth” and “wireless” aren’t synonymous, and there are wireless speakers that don’t feature Bluetooth capability. The difference between the two is that wireless speakers connect to your home network, whereas Bluetooth speakers pair directly with individual devices, like a smartphone. Of course, there are plenty of speakers equipped with both.

How We Selected

We relied on our contextual knowledge from testing and evaluating a wide range of speakers and our expertise on what to look for—and avoid—when shopping. We also consulted with senior technology editor Stefan Vazharov and took into account reviews from other expert sources, such as Techradar and Consumer Reports. Our selection includes speakers from top brands such as Sonos, Bose, KEF, and Sony. And we judged models based on overall design, sound quality and clarity, and connectivity, as well as value-added features like voice assistant and pairing for multi-room audio.

Looking for more speaker recommendations? Check out our stories on the best smart speakers, the best tower speakers, and the best bookshelf speakers.

© Popular Mechanics; Courtesy Sonos
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