Best Home Wireless Speakers of 2018

Whether they stream via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, wireless speakers allow you to easily liberate music from the confines of your phone and spread it throughout your home. After a lot of research we bought 6 of the best home wireless speakers for some side-by-side testing. Our main takeaway: unfortunately you have to pay for great sound, but you can get good sound without paying too much. Regardless of whether you want a powerful speaker that can become the center point of a multi-room speaker system, or just want a convenient way to listen to some pump up music as you get dressed in the morning, our testing results can help you find the perfect musical companion.

Read the full review below ≫

Test Results and Ratings

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Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award       
Price $350 List
$349.00 at Amazon
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$249.00 at Amazon
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$199.00 at Amazon
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$149.00 at Amazon
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$314.00 at Amazon
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Excellent sound, great volume, many connection optionsExcellent sound, easy to connect/control multiple speakersGreat sound for a smaller speaker, reasonably inexpensive, simple Bluetooth connectionGood sound, easy to connect with other speakersGuitar amp design, loud
Cons Expensive, optional app can be problematicExpensive, no simple Bluetooth connectionOptional app can be finickyLack of Bluetooth can be limiting if used as a standalone speakerExpensive considering its sound quality
Bottom Line The best overall speaker we testedA great option if you want to connect multiple speakers togetherGood sound and user friendliness at a relatively low priceGood sound, but lack of Bluetooth makes it not great in a single speaker systemMakes a statement, both in terms of volume and aesthetics, but not the best sounding model in its price range
Ratings by Category SoundTouch 20 PLAY3 SoundTouch 10 PLAY1 Stanmore
Sound Quality - 40%
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User Friendliness - 20%
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Volume - 20%
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Connectivity - 20%
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Specs SoundTouch 20 PLAY3 SoundTouch 10 PLAY1 Stanmore
Smart Home Compatability Alexa (Google Home reportedly on the way) Alexa (Google Home reportedly on the way) Alexa (Google Home reportedly on the way) Alexa (Google Home reportedly on the way) None
Bluetooth Yes No Yes No Yes
Inputs 3.5mm Aux, ethernet Ethernet 3.5mm Aux Ethernet 3.5mm Aux, RCA

Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Tuesday
February 20, 2018

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Best Overall Home Wireless Speaker


Bose SoundTouch 20


Editors' Choice Award

$349.00
at Amazon
See It

Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa | Inputs: Bluetooth, WiFi, 3.5mm aux

Excellent sound
Great volume
Many connection options
Expensive
Optional app can be problematic
If you're looking for one speaker to fill the main living area of your home with rich sound, you can't go wrong with the Bose SoundTouch 20 (if that living area is especially large, you can upgrade to the Soundtouch 30). The SoundTouch 20 was one of the best sounding speakers we tested, producing the deepest and clearest bass. That, combined with a good midrange and crisp treble, creates a well rounded sound that can aptly handle nearly every genre of music. The simplicity of a Bluetooth connection makes swapping between devices easy, and the impressive volume won't leave you wishing for more power.

Read review: Bose SoundTouch 20

Top Pick for Multi-Speaker Systems


Sonos PLAY:3


Top Pick Award

$249.00
at Amazon
See It

Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa | Inputs: WiFi, Ethernet

Excellent sound
Easy to connect/control multiple speakers
Expensive
No simple Bluetooth connection
For those looking to lay the cornerstone of their multi-speaker, multi-room sound system, the Sonos PLAY:3 is the perfect starting point. In our testing it produced the sharpest clarity of all our speakers, and its bass quality was second only to the Bose SoundTouch 20. You can only connect to the speaker through the Sonos app, which might be a bummer for Bluetooth lovers, but it makes creating and managing a multi-speaker system incredibly easy and intuitive. Adding other speakers, like the PLAY:1 or even a Sonos soundbar, to you system is a breeze, and controlling what is being played through each speaker is incredibly simple. In comparison the Bose app crashed on us constantly (an issue corroborated by many user reviews), making managing multiple speakers a huge hassle.

Best on a Budget


Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4


Best Buy Award

$125.00
at Amazon
See It

Smart Home Compatibility: None | Inputs: Bluetooth, 3.5mm aux

Relatively inexpensive (street price)
Can be moved from room to room
Sound not quite as high-caliber as other models
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 is sort of a home speaker/portable speaker hybrid (you can read more about it through a portable speaker lens here). It sports an internal battery that can last 10.5 hours, but it's size and weight (4.6 pounds) make it more suited to in-home use. However, it is easy to move around the house with you, creating a low cost, multi-speaker system of sorts. Sure, it's not quite as flashy as a true multi-speaker system, but a speaker that you can easily move from the living room to the kitchen when it's time to start cooking is nearly as good. Sure, this speaker's sound isn't quite as good as its perpetually plugged-in kin, but we think it's still plenty good enough to please most listeners.

Read review: Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4

select up to 5 products
Score Product Price Our Take
78
$350
Editors' Choice Award
The best choice for those seeking a high quality, single speaker system
70
$300
Top Pick Award
Great starting point for a multi-speaker system, but lack of Bluetooth is limiting if used as a standalone speaker
64
$200
The versatility of a Bluetooth connection and good sound make this a great standalone speaker
62
$200
Great as part of a larger sound system, not so great on its own
60
$350
Great if you like guitar-centric music and cool aesthetics, but otherwise there are better options
56
$450
Best Buy Award
A very cost effective way to get good sound that can easily travel to every room in your home

Analysis and Test Results


The Ubiquity of music streaming services has turned our smartphones into the de facto devices through which we listen to music. This also means we often default to using earbuds or headphones to listen to said music. Home wireless speakers make filling your home with the music being beamed through your phone easy and seamless.

We scored these speakers using four different weighted metrics: overall sound quality, volume, general user friendliness, and how easy they are to connect to the mobile devices through which we consume media. We used each products performance in all of these categories to award them a score between 0 and 100, which you can see in the table above. Below we go into further detail about all of these tests.


A small audio sampling from all of our speakers. Music courtesy of www.bensound.com

Sound Quality


The most important aspect of any speaker is how it sounds, which is why sound quality was our most heavily weighted testing metric. Sound quality is an inherently subjective thing, but after testing audio products we've realized that bass and treble quality, dynamic range (the volume difference between loud and soft notes), and overall clarity are the things that most people really respond to when assessing if something sounds good. Our testing thus focuses on listening to a wide range of music on our speakers, one right after another, and judging those four qualities. In the end all of the speakers sounded good, and we think most people would be pleased with even the lowest scoring model. However, if you're willing to pay a bit extra for one of the top scoring models, you can get exceptional sound.


Bose vs. Sonos


Most of you probably aren't surprised to see the top models from Bose and Sonos (the SoundTouch 20 and the PLAY:3, respectively) at the top of our sound quality scoresheet. In fact many of you probably came to this review specifically trying to decide between Bose and Sonos. In terms of sound quality we think both brands sound exceptional, but have slightly different profiles. The Bose SoundTouch 20 has incredibly rich and clear bass. That low end lends a very full sound, especially when backed up with Bose's great overall clarity. The Sonos PLAY:3 is able to produce even greater clarity than its Bose counterpart, with exceptional feeling like the only fitting adjective. Its bass, while still great, is not quite as powerful and just a bit less clear than that of the Bose.

When looking at these high-end offerings, the Bose SoundTouch 20 feels a bit more versatile. As most music has at least some low end, the incredible bass quality tends to make most music sound a bit better overall. However, lyrics and staccato notes almost always sound better with the field leading clarity of the Sonos PLAY:3, and acoustic music definitely sounds better when played on the Sonos.

The Bose SoundLink 20 had the best quality bass of all our speakers  making most music sound better on it than on the competing Sonos speakers.
The Bose SoundLink 20 had the best quality bass of all our speakers, making most music sound better on it than on the competing Sonos speakers.

When you step down to the smaller offerings from these companies, the Bose SoundTouch 10 and the Sonos PLAY:1, we feel that the Sonos has the clear edge. Both of these speakers are significantly less melodious than their larger siblings, but the reduction in size leads to a huge decline in bass quality in the Bose. The Sonos PLAY:1 actually has a slightly more powerful low end than the Bose SoundTouch 10, and has noticeably better clarity. If you're looking to get a smaller speaker, or possibly multiple smaller speakers to pepper around your home, the Sonos PLAY:1 is definitely the way to go.

The smaller Sonos PLAY:1 sounds slightly better overall than the comparable Bose SoundTouch 10.
The smaller Sonos PLAY:1 sounds slightly better overall than the comparable Bose SoundTouch 10.

The Best of the Rest


Outside of the Bose and Sonos models we tested, the Marshall Stanmore was the best sounding speaker. We scored it even with the Bose SoundTouch 10, but the two speakers have very different sound profiles. The Marshall, true to its heritage, has treble and bass characteristics that are ideal for listening to guitar heavy music. If you'd mostly like to listen to Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix this is a great speaker. However, the Bose SoundTouch 10's sound is a bit more well rounded, and does justice to a wider range of musical styles.

The Marshall Stanmore makes guitars sound great  but lacks some definition when compared to other speakers.
The Marshall Stanmore makes guitars sound great, but lacks some definition when compared to other speakers.

The Lowest scoring speaker in our testing was the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4. This speaker did not sound bad by any means, we think most listeners would be satisfied with its quality. However, when compared side-by-side with the other speakers we tested, it does have some clear downsides. Its bass is on the weak side, and its clarity is the worst of any of our speakers. We would not call its sound muffled or muddled, but the other speakers are noticeably more crisp.

On speaker controls  seen here on the Bose SoundTouch 20  can make connecting devices a bit easier.
On speaker controls, seen here on the Bose SoundTouch 20, can make connecting devices a bit easier.

User Friendliness


While home wireless speakers are generally simple devices, certain touches can make some easier to use than others. This is particularly true if you want to link multiple speakers together. Having a seperate remote control can also be helpful if you want to connect the speaker to a smart device like Alexa or Google home. That way you don't have to yell, "Alexa, volume up," twelve times when you're favorite jam starts playing. We tested user friendliness by using, adjusting, tinkering, and playing with all of our speakers side-by-side, paying close attention to how easy it was to complete both basic and more advanced tasks.


Smart Home Compatibility


Any speaker with a physical line in can generally be connected to a smart home device, though you may have to wake the speaker up periodically to make sure it actually makes noise when you talk to your smart home device. The only speakers we tested without physical line ins are the two Sonos Speakers.

Sonos and Bose both offer Alexa skills that allow them to work seamlessly with Alexa devices. The new Sonos One aslo has alexa built-in.

Both Sonos and Bose also claim to be in the process of creating Google Home friendly software, but neither company has given a firm date on that release.

Both Bose and Sonos have released Alexa skills  making both their speakers work seamlessly with Alexa deice like the Echo Dot.
Both Bose and Sonos have released Alexa skills, making both their speakers work seamlessly with Alexa deice like the Echo Dot.

Multi-Speaker Systems: Bose vs. Sonos


Bose and Sonos differentiate themselves from other speakers by allowing networking, so you can connect multiple speakers to create true surround sound, or put a speaker in each room of your home and control all of them from a central hub.

If you want to create a multi-speaker system, we think Sonos is the clear way to go. The Sonos app makes managing multiple speakers, playing different music in different rooms, and even connecting speakers to a Sonos soundbar to create 5.1 surround sound, very intuitive. In contrast, the Bose app is fairly well designed, but tends to crash frequently (according to hundreds of online user reviews, we're not the only ones who have experienced this). It was fine for connecting two speakers to play the same thing, but doing anything more complex often involved a frustrating app crash.

Sonos offers a much more streamlined ecosystem for connecting multiple speakers together.
Sonos offers a much more streamlined ecosystem for connecting multiple speakers together.

Single-Speaker Systems


Viewed through the lens of single-speaker systems, we give Bose the user friendliness edge. Only using a single speaker means you don't have to deal with the Bose app. You also get a remote control with all of Bose's speakers. This is great for quickly adjusting volume, switching inputs, and even giving Pandora a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The simple Bluetooth connection also makes it easy to switch between different devices, and to let your guests take over the DJ responsibilities.

The Marshall Stanmore includes on speaker bass and treble adjustments  a rarity for these types of speakers.
The Marshall Stanmore includes on speaker bass and treble adjustments, a rarity for these types of speakers.

For single-speaker use Sonos is a small step below Bose in terms of user friendliness. It's main disadvantage is the lack of Bluetooth, which forces you to connect only through the Sonos app. As we stated before we really like this app, especially for managing a multi-speaker system, but not having Bluetooth still feels a bit limiting. You can't just quickly connect any device without first downloading the app and logging into various accounts (Pandora, Spotify, etc). This also makes it very difficult to make a Sonos speaker the main audio output for your device (ie. even with the Sonos app on your computer, YouTube and Netflix won't be played through the speaker). There are some third party software hacks to get around this, but most are quite finicky. The only real way around it is to get a more expensive speaker, like the PLAY:5 or the Playbar, which have physical input ports, and actually plug into them (what is this 1998?).

The Studio Onyx 4 has an internal battery that makes it easy to move from room to room.
The Studio Onyx 4 has an internal battery that makes it easy to move from room to room.

Having to connect via the app means you're always streaming over WiFi, which does have some advantages. The music won't stop if your phone rings, and if you subscribe to HD music streaming services the feed over WiFi will likely be higher quality than over BlueTooth. Sonos also does not provide a remote control with any of its speakers, again relying solely on the app.

Both the Marshall Stanmore and the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 are fairly bare bones, using simple Bluetooth connections and forgoing any apps. This makes them quite easy to use, but also limits their functionality when compared to more featured speakers. The Onyx Studio 4 has the added funtionality of an internal battery that lasted 10.5 hours in our testing. This means you can easily move the speaker from room to room, or even into the backyard, very easily.

The Marshall Stanmore was one of the loudest speakers we tested.
The Marshall Stanmore was one of the loudest speakers we tested.

Volume


Chances are that you'll want whatever speaker you choose to be able to fill at least an entire room of your home with sound. Spoiler alert: unless you live in a palatial mansion, all of the speakers we tested will be able to do that. However, Some are certainly louder than others. We measured all of our speakers with a decibel meter, but we've found that decibel readings don't really convey how much good sound a speaker can produce. Thus most of our volume was based on the more subjective test of cranking the speakers up as loud as we could get them without degrading the sound quality, and judging how well they could fill up our 600 square foot testing room with sound.


The Bose SoundTouch 20 and the Marshall Stanmore were the two loudest speakers we tested. They easily filled our testing room with sound, even when we had a lot of bodies in the room to absorb it. Both of these speakers would have no problem powering a large house party.

The Sonos PLAY:3 was just a step below the top performers in our volume testing. It is still loud enough for a house party, but lacks just a bit of the oomph of the top scorers.

Our sound quality testing involved lots of side-by-side listening.
Our sound quality testing involved lots of side-by-side listening.

Next up was the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4. This speaker again filled our testing room with sound, but may get a bit dampened if you were to fill that room with people. Still, it could power a house party, and with its battery you can even take it outside for a barbeque.

At the bottom of our volume scoresheet were the Bose SoundTouch 10 and the Sonos PLAY:1. Both of these speakers can again fill a large room, but put 5-10 people in that room and a good amount of the sound will be absorbed.

Connectivity


The more ways you can connect to a speaker, the more versatile it is. Obviously, for wireless speakers a Bluetooth or WiFi connection is paramount. However, it can often be nice to have a physical line in for smart home devices whose software may not play nice with the speaker, or for those days when mysterious atmospheric conditions mess with your wireless networks. Having an app that can communicate with your speaker often allows for more customization of settings.


The Bose Speakers we tested have the most avenues for connections. It offers a standard Bluetooth connection, and the SoundTouch app lets you stream music over your wifi network. However, this app is quite finicky, so unless you're trying to manage a multi-speaker system we would suggest just defaulting to the Bluetooth connection. All of Bose's home wireless speakers have a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and the larger SoundTouch 20 also has an ethernet input. This allows you to stream music directly to the speaker, using the app as a remote control.

An auxiliary audio jack  like this one on the Marshall Stanmore  is nice to have as a backup in case wireless connections are being finicky.
An auxiliary audio jack, like this one on the Marshall Stanmore, is nice to have as a backup in case wireless connections are being finicky.

The Sonos speakers use the company's very reliable app to stream music over WiFi. All of their speakers also have an ethernet port, so you can rely on a wired connection if your WiFi is a bit spotty. However, you can only play things that are compatible with the Sonos app. This includes basically any music streaming services, but notable exceptions are video services like YouTube and Netflix. Sonos speakers do not have Bluetooth capability, and the models we tested do not have any audio input ports. If you upgrade the the PLAY:5 there is a 3.5mm auxiliary input.

The Marshall Stanmore has no app. You connect either via Bluetooth, or with the 3.5mm and RCA inputs. The Harman Kardon Studio Onyx 3 has only a Bluetooth connection and 3.5mm input jack.

Conclusion


All of the speakers we tested are capable of providing your home with music. However, some offer more features, greater expandability, and better overall sound than others. We hope our testing results have led you to the perfect speaker for your needs and budget. If you're still not sure, take a look at our buying advice article. It lays out some of the finer points of wireless speaker selection, and can hopefully clear up any confusion you might have.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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Still not sure? Take a look at our buying advice article for more info.

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