We bought and tested 7 of the best home wireless speakers of 2019 to find the optimal way to free your music from the confines of your phone or computer. We all walk around with a brick full of music in our pockets and having a high-quality way to disseminate that music throughout a home can really improve the day-to-day lives of music lovers. 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.
Best Home Wireless Speakers of 2019
$497.93 at Amazon
$399.00 at Amazon
$349.00 at Amazon
$229.97 at Amazon
$349.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Excellent sound quality, great volume, easy multi-speaker management, AirPlay compatable||Excellent Sound, Great volume, relatively compact, many connection options||Excellent sound, great volume, many connection options||Great bass (with subwoofer), good overall sound, seamless Alexa capabilities, built-in smarthub||Makes guitars sound great, Alexa built-in, loud|
|Cons||Expensive, somewhat large, no Bluetooth||Expensive, multi-speaker management leaves a bit to be desired||Expensive, optional app can be problematic||Speaker alone has relatively weak bass||Expensive, not the best in its price range|
|Bottom Line||Provides the best-sounding base for a multi-speaker system||The best sounding speaker we've tested, but asks a high price||A great choice for a single-speaker system||Comparable sound quality to offerings from Sonos and Bose||A good speaker with classic styling, but quite expensive given it sound quality|
|Rating Categories||Sonos PLAY:5||Bose Home Speaker...||Bose SoundTouch 20||Amazon Echo Sub...||Marshall Stanmore II|
|Sound Quality (40%)|
|User Friendliness (20%)|
|Specs||Sonos PLAY:5||Bose Home Speaker...||Bose SoundTouch 20||Amazon Echo Sub...||Marshall Stanmore II|
|Smart Home Compatability||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa||Alexa||Alexa|
|Inputs||Ethernet, 3.5mm Aux||3.5mm Aux||3.5mm Aux, ethernet||None||3.5mm Aux|
|Dimensions||14.3" x 8" x 6"||4.3" x 6.7" x 8"||7.4" x 12.4" x 4.1"||5.8" x 3.9" x 3.9" (Plus) 8.0" x 8.3" (Sub)||11.7" x 17.2" x 10.9"|
|Weight (lb)||14||1.8||7||2.7 (Plus) 9.3 (Sub)||13.8|
|Warranty||1 year limited||1 year limited||1 year limited||1 year limited||1 year limited|
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. 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 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
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.
Bose vs. Sonos
Most of you probably aren't surprised that the top models from Bose and Sonos (the Home Speaker 500 and the PLAY:5, respectively) do well in our analysis. In fact, many of you probably came to this review specifically trying to decide between Bose and Sonos. The bottom line is that both of these flagship models sound great, combining punchy bass and exceptional clarity into a well-rounded and engrossing listening experiences. If we're really splitting hairs the larger body of the Sonos PLAY:5 does allow for it to produce slightly deeper and more defined bass, and to get louder without sacrificing any clarity. However, those differences are minimal enough that our overall recommendation is to get the Bose Home SPeaker 500 if you want a single speaker system, and the Sonos PLAY:5 if you're looking to build a multi-speaker system.
Falling just behind the flagship models in our sound quality testing, the Bose SoundTouch 20 still offers a great listening experience, but sacrifices a bit of treble clarity when compared to the top models.
The Sonos PLAY:1 falls slightly behind the Bose Home Speaker 500 when it comes to both clarity and bass, but offers better clarity than the Bose SoundTouch 20. The price point of this speaker also more easily allows for buying multiple, which can add a lot to the home listening experience.
Bose's main small-speaker offering, the SoundTouch 10, is just slightly less sonorous than the similarly sized Sonos PLAY:1. While this speaker can still produce impressive sound given its size, it lacks just a bit of the clarity of the PLAY:1, and has a slightly stunted dynamic range in comparison.
The Best of the Rest
Outside of the high-end Bose and Sonos models we tested, the Amazon Echo Sub Bundle (which includes 2 Echo Plus' and an Echo Sub woofer) was the best sounding speaker system we tested. The subwoofer provides very powerful yet well-defined bass, and the new Echo Plus provides relatively crisp and clear treble. In our opinion, this new line of Amazon speakers have elevated the Echo line into a legitimate contender in the home audio market.
The Marshall Stanmore and Marshall Stanmore II with Alexa inside both sound quite good, but couldn't match the top performers. We scored these speakers even with the Bose SoundTouch 10, but they have very different sound profiles. The Marshall models, true to their heritage, have 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.
Bringing up the rear of the pack in our sound quality testing, the Harmon Kardon Onyx Studio 4's sound quality falls just a bit short of refined. It can still produce some reasonable bass power, and its clarity is actually quite good, but it can't quite offer as full-bodied a listening experience as the top scorers. We still think it sounds quite good and would certainly be enjoyed by most, but it will disappoint if you're looking for the best sound quality possible.
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. The only speaker we tested without a physical line in is the Sonos PLAY:1.
All Sonos and Bose speakers offer Alexa skills that allow them to work seamlessly with Alexa devices. Sonos's software also allows you to control the speakers with a Google Home device. Additionally, the Sonos ONE and the Bose Home Speaker 500 now have both Amazon Alexa and Google Home built-in, you just have to choose which assistant you prefer in the device's settings.
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.
As one would expect, all of the Amazon Echo line has Alexa built-in.
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.
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 connect a soundbar to speakers in order 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. On the other hand, we found Bose' app to be a bit clunky when it came to managing multiple speakers. Also, Bose has multiple families of speakers, which generally can only connect to other speakers within that family (for example, you can't link the Home Theater 500 and the SoundTouch 20 together). This means you have to be careful about which speakers you buy when expanding your system, and likely means the latest and greatest product won't be compatible.
The Amazon Echo Line as a Multi-Speaker System
Being what most would consider the original smart speaker, Amazon Echo devices are incredibly intuitive to control with just your voice. You can tell one Echo to play something on a different Echo, and depending on your plan you can even stream different music on different Echos at the same time. Bluetooth connectivity expands the usefulness, allowing you to easily use an Echo as a speaker for your tablet while you watch a movie. Just remember you lose quite a bit of bass power without the Echo Sub, so if you're using Echo's in multiple rooms you'll lose some sound quality unless you put a subwoofer in each room as well.
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.
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 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.
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 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 and the Marshall Stanmore II scored comparably in our volume testing. Both 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 either of these speakers will leave anyone wanting for volume.
The Amazon Echo Sub Bundle, the Bose SoundTouch 20, and the original Marshall Stanmore all shared the second step of our sound quality podium. Here again, we think all of these models will be plenty loud enough for anyone that wants to throw a big dance party, but they lack some of the over-the-top volume of the top scorers.
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 noticeable amount of the sound will be absorbed. This problem is largely rectified of you have 2 PLAY:1s.
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 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.
The Amazon Echo Plus can connect to your WiFi, via Bluetooth, and has a 3.5mm aux in/out. The Echo Sub doesn't have any specific input and must be paired with an Echo Plus over your WiFi network. And of course, you can control your setting through the well designed Alexa App.
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, though the larger PLAY:5 does have a 3.5mm auxiliary port that allows you to physically connect a device.
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. The Marshall Stanmore II adds built-in Alexa capability into the equation.
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 and Steven Tata