We bought and tested 9 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
$299.00 at Amazon
$499.00 at Amazon
$399 at Amazon
$199.00 at Amazon
$199.00 at Amazon
|Pros||Excellent Sound, Great volume, relatively compact, many connection options||Excellent sound quality, great volume, easy multi-speaker management, AirPlay compatable||Great sound quality, great volume, battery powered, easy to connect/control multiple speakers||Great sound quality, compact, loud, multiple connection options||Excellent sound, great volume, many connection options|
|Cons||Expensive, multi-speaker management leaves a bit to be desired||Expensive, somewhat large, no Bluetooth||Expensive, somewhat heavy to move around when used in battery mode||Slightly pricier than some comparable models||Expensive, optional app can be problematic|
|Bottom Line||The best sounding speaker we've tested, but asks a high price||Provides the best-sounding base for a multi-speaker system||If you’ve ever wanted to bring one of your Sonos speakers outside with you, this is what you’ve been waiting for||Impressive bass and good overall sound in a compact and versatile package||A great choice for a single-speaker system|
|Rating Categories||Bose Home Speaker...||Sonos PLAY:5||Sonos Move||Bose Home Speaker...||Bose SoundTouch 20|
|Sound Quality (40%)|
|User Friendliness (20%)|
|Specs||Bose Home Speaker...||Sonos PLAY:5||Sonos Move||Bose Home Speaker...||Bose SoundTouch 20|
|Smart Home Compatability||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa|
|Inputs||Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux, WiFi, AirPlay||WiFi, Ethernet, 3.5mm Aux, AirPlay||Bluetooth, WiFi, AirPlay||Bluetooth, Micro-USB, 3.5mm Aux, WiFi, AirPlay||Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux, ethernet, WiFi|
|Dimensions||4.3" x 6.7" x 8"||14.3" x 8" x 6"||9.4" x 4.9" x 6.2"||4" x 5.6" x 6.3"||7.4" x 12.4" x 4.1"|
|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 (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 big 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 of 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.
Bose and Sonos were the clear frontrunners in our sound quality testing, but that's not to say there aren't other dulcet speakers on the market. While the Marshall Stanmore II is a clear step down when it comes to clarity and bass power, the dash of brashness that comes from its guitar amp pedigree certainly makes classic rock songs sound warm and expressive.
Low on our sound quality list but not to be forgotten, the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio 4 is able to create a reasonably well-balanced soundscape that flatters most types of music. Sure, the sound is much less refined and nuanced than that of the other models on this list, but it largely makes up for that with a low street price and the portability offered by its internal battery.
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 allow 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
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.
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 (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 next latest and greatest product won't be compatible.
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.
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.
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, 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 it's slightly mall 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 apratment 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.
At the bottom of our volume scoresheet was the Bose SoundTouch 10. This speaker can again fill a large room, but put 5-10 people in that room and a noticeable amount of the sound will be absorbed.
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 and Bose Music apps 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 Bose Home series also supports Apple AirPlay.
Most of Sonos connectivity is based off of 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
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