Living room lacking some sound? We've spent weeks listening to and living with the 7 best home wireless speakers of 2020. After scrolling through every genre imaginable and consulting an audio engineer, we found the best sounding speakers in every size and price range. We also evaluated the maximum volume of each model, the ease of wirelessly sending music to each, and how well each could integrate into a multiple speaker system. Whether you want a speaker for every room of your home or a single melodious music machine for your main living area, our testing results can help you find the best use of your budget.
The Best Wireless Speakers of 2020
Best Standalone Home Wireless Speaker
Bose Home Speaker 500
If you're looking for a single speaker that is sleek, stylish, and can flood your main living areas with rich sound at the touch of a button, the Bose Home Speaker 500 is the best on the block. It eschews the relatively bass-heavy sound profile of most Bose speakers for exceptional clarity that beautifully renders every single note. It also still retains enough bass heft to anchor that clarity in a soundscape that makes pretty much every kind of music sound spectacular. Backing that up with the convenience of Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity and Alexa built-in, this is a platform that can easily handle all of your musical needs.
Apart from the high list price, our only real complaint is that the Home Speaker 500 doesn't nest into a multi-speaker system nearly as easily as comparable Sonos models. While this speaker can link to many of the newest offerings form Bose, it's very unlikely it will be able to talk to any Bose products you've purchased outside of the last year. And even if you do have compatible products, we've found the Bose app to be far less intuitive for managing multiple speakers than what Sonos offers. While we wouldn't recommend this speaker if you're looking to build a multi-speaker system, it is our first choice if you're looking for a single speaker to fill up your main living space.
Read review: Bose Home Speaker 500
Best Multi-Speaker System Centerpiece
If you're looking for a beastly, behemoth of a speaker to anchor your multi-speaker system, look no further than the Sonos Play:5. This recently redesigned speaker provided both the best quality and loudest sound in our testing, earning superlative marks in bass power, fullness, and overall clarity. It also nests perfectly within the Sonos ecosystem, which we feel is the best and most convenient platform for building and managing a multi-speaker system.
Like all Sonos speakers, this model lacks a Bluetooth connection. While this isn't a dealbreaker in most instances, it is kind of frustrating that you can't easily and wirelessly hook a laptop up to the speaker when watching Netflix (Apple users can work around this with AirPlay). Also, the top-shelf sound does come at a hefty price. If you're willing to pay a premium for field-leading sound quality, want the option of building a multi-speaker system, and can make do without a Bluetooth connection, the Play:5 definitely deserves a place in your living room.
Read review: Sonos Play:5
Best Bang for the Buck
Sonos One SL
The Sonos One SL boats exceptional clarity, decent bass power given its small size, and direct WiFi streaming from music services, all for a below average price. Plus, as a Sonos product it works as the perfect building block for what is, in our opinion, the best multi-speaker ecosystem currently on the market. That's not to say this speaker isn't great on its own. We found it to be both plenty loud enough for the average apartment or living room, and a great standalone musical companion. This speaker can also work in conjunction with Alexa and Google Home smart devices. If you want a virtual assistant built-in, you can upgrade to the Sonos One for just a bit more, which offers the same acoustics and aesthetics but with an array of microphones to facilitate all of your conversations with Alexa.
The biggest downside to the One SL is the absence of either a Bluetooth connection or a physical line in. This isn't such a big deal if you're an Apple user and can leverage the SL's AirPlay compatibility. However, if you're an Android/Windows user you're pretty much limited to playing music streaming services through the Sonos app (which is fine if that's all you listen to). Also, while we think the SL's bass admirably gets the job done, it may feel just a bit on the weak side if you're one that cranks every bass eq knob you can find to full power. Despite those limitations, we think the SL is one of the most cost effective ways to get high-quality audio into your home.
Best on a Budget
Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4
We would call the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 a cross between a home speaker and a portable Bluetooth speaker. While this hybridization results in a device that isn't the best in either category, it does offer a low-cost option for mimicking the functionality of a multi-room speaker system. The Studio 4's 10.5-hour battery life, carrying handle, and 4.5-pound weight lets you easily move it from room to room with you as you amble about the house, functionally providing you with a speaker in every room. Sure, carrying a speaker around with you isn't as elegant as having a speaker in each room, but it's a fraction of the cost. Plus, it sounds good enough to give your daily routine a pleasant soundtrack.
The major thing you sacrifice with the Studio 4 when compared to a wired speaker is sound quality. While the Studio 4 sounds quite good, it just can't match the clarity or bass power of the Bose and Sonos offerings. So if you're looking for a more refined listening experience, the Studio 4 probably isn't for you.
Read review: Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4
Premium Sound in a Mobile Package
If you like the idea of a large, battery-powered speaker that you can move from room to room throughout the day, but want said speaker to boast premium sound, the Sonos Move is for you. It is both one of the best and loudest sounding models we've tested, and can be used untethered from an outlet for up to 10 hours at a time. This makes it perfect for audiophiles that want to have great audio with them wherever they are in their home, but don't want to invest in a separate speaker for each room. You can even bring that listening experience out to your yard as the speaker is IP56 dust and water resistant, making it a great solution for Sonos aficionados that wish their system could reach outside for a backyard barbeque. In fact, this is the first Sonos speaker to ever offer a Bluetooth connection, so you can play tunes from your phone even if you wander outside the range of your WiFi router.
The biggest catch with the Move is that its premium sound does come at a premium price. Yes, it is likely to be significantly less expensive than buying a wired speaker for every room of your house, but the price tag can be a bit shocking. Also, at 6.6 pounds it can be a bit cumbersome to move around. We had no complaints carrying it around the house thanks to the recessed handle, but we certainly wouldn't want to tote it much farther than the backyard. Overall, the Move offers top-shelf sound in a more versatile package than anything else we've seen to date.
Read review: Sonos Move
Why You Should Trust Us
We consulted with audio recordist Palmer Taylor in designing the sound quality testing procedure for this review. Palmer has completed numerous audio recording projects, with most focusing on location audio. Since 2005 he has worked with a long list of impressive clientele, including Google, National Geographic, and Animal Planet, just to name a few. Serving as authors and testers for this review, Steven Tata and Max Mutter have been leading TechGearLab's audio reviews since early 2016. As a result, they've used and tested nearly 200 of the most compelling consumer audio products on the market.
We researched more than 50 home wireless speakers before buying the most compelling to be brought into our testing lab. As always we bought all of our speakers at retail price, as we never accept free samples from any manufacturers. We then put them through exhaustive, side-by-side sound quality tests. Once we'd found the most (and least) sonorous, we played music through each from every possible source, including via Bluetooth, over Wi-Fi, and through audio cables, in search of any user-friendliness issues. To the same end, for all of the speakers that support syncing within a multiple-speaker system, we used them as such in multiple configurations. We also used each speaker in numerous homes and various rooms to get a sense of how well the sound carries in different situations.
Related: How We Tested Home Wireless Speakers
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.
For those that don't mind paying a premium for high-end sound, we think the Bose Home Speaker 500 and the Sonos Play:5 offer the best performance for use as single and multi-speaker systems, respectively. If you're looking for a more wallet-friendly approach, we think the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 can work quite well in a home context, as it provides good sound for a relatively low price, and can easily be moved from room to room as needed.
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.
If you're willing to spend extra for premium sound, you can't wrong with either the Bose Home 500 or the Sonos Play:5, both of which earned top scores in our sound quality metric. Both of these speakers deliver superb clarity and deep, rumbling bass. The Play:5 is a bit bigger (and more expensive) than the Bose 500 and in our opinion produces a bit more bass power and a slightly fuller sound, but neither of these models will have any trouble filling your main living area with exceptional sounding tunes.
Two speakers fell just behind the top scorers in this metric. Both the Sonos Move and the Bose Home 300 sacrifice a bit of the top-end bass power of the larger models but maintain great clarity and good separation. This level of quality is particularly notable from the Move, as its battery allows it to be easily taken outside, and also notable form the Bose Home 300 as it is far less expensive than all of the other models that earned such a high score in this metric.
Even lower on the cost spectrum than the Bose Home 300, the Sonos One SL impressed us by clearly conveying all the subtle nuances of acoustic arrangements. It also has enough bass to satisfyingly round out most songs, but if you like particularly deep bass you may find it a bit weak.
Sonos and Bose, in our opinion, offer some of the most accessible top-tier sound quality on the market, but that's not to say there aren't other brands in the space that are worth listening to. For example, while the Marshall Stanmore II lacks that near perfect balance of bass and clarity that the top models possess, its guitar amp pedigree grants a certain brashness that particularly flatters classic rock.
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 also falls short of the top performers in regards to sound quality, but can still hold its own in everything from bass-heavy numbers to acoustic ballads. This good sound quality combined with a relatively low street price and the easy, move from room to room convenience offered by the internal battery make this a compelling speaker.
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 separate 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.
All Sonos and Bose speakers offer Alexa and Google Home compatibility that allows them to work seamlessly with any associated smart devices. Additionally, the Bose Home series and the Sonos Move feature Alexa and Google Home abilities built right in. There is also an Alexa/Google Home version of the Sonos One SL available, the Sonos One.
The Marshall Stanmore II also has Alexa built-in. You can also plug an Alexa enabled device into the original Marshall Stanmore to turn it into a smart speaker.
Multi-Speaker Systems: Bose vs. Sonos
While a few different manufacturers offer speakers that can be synced together into a single system, Bose and Sonosboth offer more multi-speaker options than most, and (in our opinion) have been the most successful in creating pleasant user experiences.
For those that want to build a multi-speaker system, or at least want the option too, we think Sonos is the clear way to go. The Sonos app offers an intuitive and streamlined way to manage multiple speakers and to do more advanced things like connecting a soundbar to speakers to create a true, 5.1 surround sound system. Additionally, all of Sonos' speakers are compatible with one another, so you never run the risk of getting a new speaker and realizing it won't play nice with your current speakers.
Though Bose has recently made great improvements to its app, we still think it's less convenient to link Bose speakers into a multi-speaker system than it is with Sonos. This is because Bose has multiple families of speakers, which generally can only connect to other speakers within that family. This means you have to be careful about which speakers you buy when expanding your system, and likely means the next latest and greatest product won't be compatible.
Viewed through the lens of single-speaker systems, we give Bose the user-friendliness edge. This is mostly due to the simplicity and versatility of the Bluetooth connection offered by all Bose speakers, with this ability being a somewhat glaring absence in most Sonos speakers. Additionally, most Bose speakers offer remote controls, which can be nice for quick volume adjustments, and the vast majority of their functionality can be accessed without having to make an account and download an app.
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.
The Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 is fairly bare-bones, using simple Bluetooth connections and forgoing any apps. This makes it quite easy to use, but also limits the functionality when compared to more featured speakers. The Onyx Studio 4 also has the added functionality 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.
In most instances, maximum volume probably won't be a serious consideration for the majority of speaker shoppers. Unless you live in a palatial mansion, all of the models we tested will easily be able to fill any single room in your home with sound. However, if you're throwing a party in your house and filling that space with a lot of sound-absorbing humans, you may notice a difference between the relative maximum volumes of different models. Our volume testing involved objectively measuring each speaker's maximum volume with a decibel meter, and subjectively evaluating both how much sound quality deteriorated at higher volumes and how loud each model made our 600 square foot testing room feel.
The Sonos Play:5 is the loudest of the speakers we tested. Its large size and powerful drivers allowed it to get uncomfortably loud in our testing room without sacrificing any sound quality.
The Bose Home Speaker 500, the Sonos Move and the Marshall Stanmore II all scored comparably in our volume testing. All of these speakers easily filled our large testing room with sound, even when there were a lot of sound-absorbing bodies hanging out. We highly doubt any of these speakers will leave anyone wanting for volume.
We also found the Bose Home 300 to be quite loud despite its relatively small stature. The Sonos One SL is just a bit quieter, but not by much. Both of these models feel plenty loud enough to keep an apartment or living room full of people entertained.
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.
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. They offer a standard Bluetooth connection, and the Bose Music apps let 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. The Bose Home series also supports Apple AirPlay.
Most of Sonos connectivity is based on the Sonos app, which acts as a remote control for streaming music from the likes of Pandora, Spotify, and Amazon Music directly to the speakers via WiFi or an ethernet connection. Those with Apple devices can also beam music or other audio directly to the speaker. However, Sonos speakers lack a Bluetooth connection (with the Move being a notable exception), so Android and Windows users will have trouble doing things like watching Netflix and sending the audio to their Sonos system.
The Harman Kardon Studio Onyx 3 has only a Bluetooth connection and 3.5mm input jack. The Marshall Stanmore II adds built-in Alexa capability into the equation along with WiFi streaming.
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.
— Max Mutter, Michelle Powell, and Steven Tata