Looking for the best wireless speakers of 2016? Take a look at our top picks and find out just what’s so impressive about the best speakers on the market.
A quick word on wireless vs. Bluetooth: Throwing terms like wireless and Bluetooth around can prove tricky, because a lot of people wonder, “Aren’t these the same thing?” No, they aren’t. A Bluetooth speaker focuses almost exclusively on Bluetooth connections, or shorter-range pairings with individual devices, like a smartphone or computer. Wireless speakers, on the other hand, are designed to connect to Wi-Fi networks instead of forming an individual link with a device. Both have their pros and cons, but know that you will need a nearby wireless network to use wireless speakers, unless of course they offer both Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, such as Amazon’s Echo.
Sonos Play:5 – $500
The Play:5 is an excellent example of another important difference between wireless and Bluetooth speakers. While Bluetooth speakers focus more on size and portability, wireless speakers are free to grow larger and dive down into truly amazing bass as well as crystal clear high ranges. This speaker includes six different synchronized drivers with dedicated amplifiers for some of the best sound you’ve ever heard from an individual unit (there’s also a 3.5mm port for hooking up headphones).
To help the sound even more, there’s software called Trueplay which detects features in both the room and the music being played so that it can adjust the sound to give the best results. Everything is controlled through the Sonos app, which can handle pretty much every music service. Whether you want whisper-perfect fidelity or like to crank it up, this speaker is unparalleled.
Of course, there are some quirks to mention. You will need to use a power cord for this model, which limits placement. Also, $500 is a lot to spend on a single speaker. You get your money’s worth, but it’s still a significant payment to make for the average consumer.
Amazon Echo – $180
Not only is the Echo one of the most affordable units in our best wireless speaker lists, but it’s also one of the most versatile. Alexa, the voice command function of the device, is more useful around the house than you may expect from the average voice assistance. You can ask her to set timers when cooking, tell her to play certain music, or ask her a question about nearing anything. It also works with scores of other smart devices, including smart lights, thermostats, and security devices. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity are both included, so you don’t have to use voice commands if you don’t want to.
Smart features aside, the Echo may not have the best fidelity and range, but it probably functions better than you think with its 360-degree sound output. However, the real draw here is having a voice assistant that essentially lets you talk to your house. It’s for tech fans and those who already use plenty of smart devices. If that doesn’t describe you, then you may not be able to take advantage of the full functionality of the Echo.
Sonos Play:1 – $200
If our first Sonos model was too pricey for you, here’s a far less expensive model in the same line. It only has two drivers to work with, but many of the other benefits remain in place. That includes Trueplay for automatically adjusting sound on the fly, the Sonos app for controlling music platforms, and even humidity resistance – a.k.a., the ability to use the speaker in your bathroom without worrying about moisture damage. Basically, if you want a smaller version of the Play:5, here’s where to start. Note that you can link these Sonos speakers together if you ever want to build out your collection in the future.