Best Wireless Speakers of 2021
|Price||$500 List||$400 List|
$349.00 at Amazon
|Check Price at Amazon||$300 List|
$248.00 at Amazon
|Pros||Excellent sound quality, great volume, easy multi-speaker management, AirPlay compatable||Excellent Sound, Great volume, relatively compact, many connection options||Great sound quality, great volume, battery powered, easy to connect/control multiple speakers||HiFi streaming compatible, 360 reality audio, great connectivity||Great sound quality, compact, loud, multiple connection options|
|Cons||Expensive, somewhat large, no Bluetooth||Expensive, multi-speaker management leaves a bit to be desired||Expensive, somewhat heavy to move around when used in battery mode||Multiple apps required for full functionality, bass sometimes overpowering||Slightly pricier than some comparable models|
|Bottom Line||This model provides the best-sounding bass and big volume for a multi-speaker system||Our first recommendation for those looking for a single speaker that can flood your main living space with incredible sound||A premium home audio experience that can also be used wirelessly for outdoor listening||If you're looking for a live music experience from the comfort of home, this is the speaker for you||Impressive bass and good overall sound in a compact and versatile package|
|Rating Categories||Sonos Five||Bose Home Speaker 500||Sonos Move||Sony SRS-RA3000 360||Bose Home Speaker 300|
|Sound Quality (40%)|
|User Friendliness (20%)|
|Specs||Sonos Five||Bose Home Speaker 500||Sonos Move||Sony SRS-RA3000 360||Bose Home Speaker 300|
|Smart Home Compatability||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa, Google Home||Alexa, Google Home||Google Home, Alexa||Alexa, Google Home|
|Inputs||WiFi, Ethernet, 3.5mm Aux, AirPlay||Bluetooth, 3.5mm Aux, WiFi, AirPlay||Bluetooth, WiFi, AirPlay||Bluetooth, WiFi, Google Cast, 3.5mm Aux||Bluetooth, Micro-USB, 3.5mm Aux, WiFi, AirPlay|
|Dimensions||14.3" x 8" x 6"||4.3" x 6.7" x 8"||9.4" x 4.9" x 6.2"||5.75" x 9.75" x 6.13"||4" x 5.6" x 6.3"|
Best Standalone Home Wireless Speaker
Bose Home Speaker 500
If you're looking for a single speaker that is stylish, sleek, and at the touch of a button can flood your main living areas with rich sound, the Bose Home Speaker 500 is the best of the bunch. It eschews most Bose speakers' relatively bass-heavy sound profile for exceptional clarity that beautifully renders every single note. At the same time, it retains enough bass heft to anchor that clarity in a soundscape that makes just about every genre of music sound spectacular. Backing that up with the convenience of Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity, along with Alexa built-in, we believe this is a platform that can easily handle all of your musical needs.
Aside from the expensive price tag, our only real gripe with the Home Speaker 500 is that it doesn't nest into a multi-speaker system nearly as easily as the comparable models from Sonos. While this speaker can link up to a lot of Bose's more recent offerings, it won't work with all Bose products you may already have. Be sure to check compatibility if that's important to you. Even if you're lucky enough to have compatible products, we've still found the Bose app isn't anywhere near as intuitive as the Sonos app when managing multiple speakers. The Home Speaker 500 is our top recommendation if you're looking for a single speaker to fill up your main living space, but we'd look to a different model if you're hoping to build a multi-speaker system.
Read review: Bose Home Speaker 500
Best Multi-Speaker System Centerpiece
If you're looking for a beastly behemoth to anchor your multi-speaker system, look no further than the Sonos Five. This recently redesigned speaker offered both the loudest sound and best quality in our testing, earning it top marks in fullness, bass power, and overall clarity. We also love that it nests perfectly within the Sonos ecosystem, which in our opinion, is the best and most convenient platform for building and managing a multi-speaker system.
One downside of Sonos speakers is that they lack Bluetooth connectivity. Although this isn't a big deal in most instances, it won't be useful anywhere there isn't WiFi, or if your WiFi goes down (Apple users can work around this with AirPlay). Also, the top-shelf sound comes at a hefty price. Finally, this new speaker is one of the company's first that is not compatible with its older models. The only non-compatible devices are from the very early days of the company and thus shouldn't affect most customers, but if you do own older Sonos products, make sure to check that they're compatible with the latest version of the Five. Overall, if you are willing to pay a premium for best-in-class sound quality and can make do without a Bluetooth connection, the Five definitely deserves a place in your living room.
Read review: Sonos Five
Best Bang for Your Buck
Bose Home Speaker 300
In general, when you start to minimize a speaker's size and/or price, the first thing you lose is the bass power. The Bose Home Speaker 300 manages to buck that trend, boasting a compact stature and a relatively benign price tag yet still pumping out a powerful and rotund low-end. This speaker's volume also belies its size — it had no trouble filling large spaces with thumping sound in our testing. To top it all off, you can play music via Bluetooth, over WiFi, through the auxiliary audio jack, or via AirPlay.
In the broader world of smart speakers, the Bose Home Speaker 300 is on the cheaper end of things, but it's still relatively more expensive than some of its more bass-impaired budget brethren. Additionally, you can only pair the Home Speaker 300 with other members of Bose's pricier smart speaker lineup, not Bose's budget-friendly older products. However, these are minor downsides for those looking to get powerful bass without breaking the bank.
Best for Indoor/Outdoor Use
Once you become accustomed to the harmonious tones of a high-end home speaker, it can be a sobering disappointment that said speaker can't accompany you into the backyard during nice weather. The Sonos Move solves that problem with its internal battery that provides up to 10 hours of wireless listening enjoyment. It sounds great and looks handsome when sitting on its charging dock in your living room, and then can easily be moved into the backyard to provide a dulcet soundtrack for volleyball games and barbeques. It even sports IP56 water/dust resistance, meaning it can shed pool splashes and rain showers without harm. If your WiFi doesn't quite reach into your backyard, this is the only Sonos speaker that offers Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to beam music directly from your phone to the speaker sans WiFi network. Plus, it has built-in Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Sonos Move's price is the speaker's clear drawback — you'll have to pay more for that portable versatility. The battery also makes it both significantly larger than comparable hard-wired speakers and relatively heavy, tipping the scales at 6.6 pounds. Therefore, though it easily makes the trip to the backyard, it probably won't be accompanying you on any beach trips or picnics. For those that demand great sound in a speaker that can follow them outside, we think the Sonos Move is the best option on the market.
Read review: Sonos Move
Best for Live Recordings
Sony SRS-RA3000 360
With great sound quality, at a greatly reduced price, the Sony SRS-RA3000 packs a punch with innovative 360 Reality Audio and HiFi streaming capabilities. Plus, this speaker offers a wide array of connectivity options, with the best by far being the device's built-in Google Chromecast capabilities, which we found to work seamlessly and be the best way to play HiFi tracks. In conjunction, the Sony SRS-RA3000 utilizes 360 Reality Audio, a style of playing that projects sound throughout the room, a process that impressively mimics the experience of listening to live musical performances. This speaker technology, paired with the HiFi tracks, allows the Sony SRS-RA3000 to produce a listening experience that truly feels next-gen. Important to note, this is not HiFi in the traditional speaker lingo. Rather, these tracks are audio files with lossless compression, providing a fuller and richer sound.
Despite its wide array of positives, the Sony SRS-RA3000 did have some downsides, the most glaring being its convoluted app system for controlling the speaker. The primary app, Sony Music Center, only controls basic speaker settings. Much of the Sony SRS-RA3000's other functions are only accessible via multiple third-party apps, each requiring separate apps. Furthermore, despite boasting an incredible audio experience, there were several instances when we noted the bass dominated the output overpowering some of the music's softer elements. Lastly, while the speaker filled the room excellently, our testing indicated that the sound had difficulty carrying over long distances. However, should you be looking for a speaker to fill a living room with a high-quality auditory field, the Sony SRS-RA3000 offers a fantastic experience.
Read review: Sony SRS-RA3000
Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II
If you want a speaker to be brought throughout your house and on the go while still maximizing sound quality, the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II is the ideal. The lightest speaker we tested, we were consistently impressed by its excellent sound design, which was never sacrificed at the altar of portability. In the event that you feel the need to push this speaker beyond its singular capabilities, our testing found that the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II's appropriately titled "party mode" allowed seamless pairing with other Bose SoundLink speakers. It can also link with the Bose Home series speakers via Bose SimpleSync. Furthermore, this speaker has an incredible battery life, a testament to this speaker's tremendous portability both within the home and on excursions out.
Although this small speaker is powerful enough to compete in this category, the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II lacks some features. Unlike much of the competition, this speaker does not come enabled with many of the capabilities such as Alexa or Google Home, instead, it operates only with programs such as Google Assistant. Its range of connectivity is also not as diverse, with Bluetooth functioning as the only option to play music wirelessly on the device. This model lacks the ability to connect to streaming services via WiFi. Despite the limitations of the form, the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II still provides a solid audio experience, whether at home or on the go.
Read review: Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II
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 led 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 wireless speakers for your home before selecting the most compelling to be brought into our testing lab. To ensure unbiased reviews, 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 over WiFi, via Bluetooth, and through audio cables to identify any user-friendliness issues. And for the speakers that support syncing within a multi-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 environments.
Related: How We Tested Wireless Speakers
Analysis and Test Results
The ubiquity of music streaming services has turned our smartphones into the main device where folks access their music. Many use earbuds or headphones, but home wireless speakers now make it easy and seamless to fill your home with music beamed through your phone.
We scored these speakers according to four different weighted metrics: overall sound quality, volume, general user-friendliness, and how simple they are to connect to the mobile devices through which many people consume media.
For those willing to shell out a little more cash for premium sound, we think the Bose Home Speaker 500 and the Sonos Five offer the best performance for use as single and multi-speaker systems, respectively. If you're looking for something a bit more wallet-friendly, we think the Bose Home Speaker 300 or the Amazon Echo Studio, especially if you're a frequent Amazon user, offer great values for those seeking bass power and exceptional clarity, respectively, on a budget.
The most important aspect of any speaker is how it sounds, which is why the sound quality is the most heavily weighted metric in our scores. Sound quality is inherently subjective, but after testing numerous 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 most people respond to when evaluating whether something sounds good. Thus, our testing focuses on listening to a wide range of music on our speakers, one right after another, and judging those four qualities. All told, we found all of these speakers to sound good, and we honestly think most people would be pleased with even the lowest-scoring model. However, if you're willing to pay a little extra for one of the high-scoring models, you can get exceptional sound.
If you want premium sound and don't mind digging a little deeper into your pockets, you can't go wrong with either the Bose Home 500 or the Sonos Five. Both earn top scores in our sound quality metric. These speakers deliver superb clarity and deep, rumbling bass. The Five is larger and pricier than the Bose 500 and, in our opinion, produces a bit more bass power and a slightly fuller sound. Still, neither model will have any trouble filling your main living area with exceptional sounding tunes.
For those looking for an exceptional product, but less pricy, both the Amazon Echo Studio and the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II are very easy to recommend. With slightly better sound quality, and a more affordable price, the Amazon Echo Studio really blew us away with its innovative 3D Audio and excellent sound design. The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II, although pricier, sacrifices a very minor drop in sound quality for the incredible ease and convenience of portability which the Amazon Echo Studio very much does not possess.
Coming in only slightly lower, the Sony SRS-RA3000 offers the finest audio experience in the rapidly growing field of HiFi music, offering an enviable sound quality markedly cheaper than its top-shelf competition. Coupled with the ability to play lossless HiFi audio tracks, audiophiles should check out the dynamic sound experience the Sony SRS-RA3000 has to offer.
We find Sonos and Bose to offer some of the most accessible top-tier sound quality on the market. Still, that's not to say there aren't other brands in this space that are worth listening to. For example, while the Marshall Stanmore II lacks the 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. Moreover, the Amazon Echo Studio and the Sony SRS-RA3000 both offered top-quality sound, each with their own audio innovations, 3D Audio, and ambient room-filling sound respectively.
While home wireless speakers are overall simple devices, certain features can make them more user-friendly than others. This is particularly true if you want to link multiple speakers together. Having a separate remote control can also help you 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 your favorite jam starts playing. We tested user-friendliness by using, tinkering, adjusting, and playing with all of our speakers side-by-side while 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 input can generally be connected to a smart home device, though you may have to wake the speaker up periodically to make sure it's still on when you talk to your smart home device.
All Bose and Sonos speakers in this review (excepting the Bose Revolve+ II, which only offers Siri and Google assistants) offer Alexa and Google Home compatibility to work seamlessly with any associated smart devices. Additionally, the Bose Home series, the Sonos Move, and the Sony SRS-RA3000 feature Alexa and Google Home capabilities built right in.
The Marshall Stanmore II has Alexa built-in. You can also plug an Alexa-enabled device into the original Marshall Stanmore to turn it into a smart speaker. For the premium Alexa experience, however, the Amazon Echo Studio has been engineered from the ground up for that purpose, with several Alexa-related tactile inputs and full control through the Alexa app. For the more private music listener, the Amazon Echo Studio also comes equipped with an option to disable ambient listening, without disabling the device.
Multi-Speaker Systems: Bose vs. Sonos
While a few different manufacturers offer speakers that can be synced together into a single system, Bose and Sonos both offer more multi-speaker options than most. In our opinion, these brands have been the most successful at creating pleasant user experiences.
For those that want to build a multi-speaker system, or at least want the option to, we think Sonos is the easiest 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, most of Sonos' speakers are compatible with one another, so you rarely run the risk of getting a new speaker and realizing it won't play nice with your current speakers.
Bose has definitely stepped up their app game recently. However, even with these improvements, we still find it considerably easier to manage multiple-speaker systems on the Sonos app. Additionally, Bose has multiple families of speakers, and generally, speakers from one family can only work in conjunction with other speakers from that same family. For example, many speakers we tested a few years ago don't work with the newest family of speakers that have come out. That being said, all of the Bose products in this review are compatible with Bose Simplesync, which allows seamless pairing and multi-device audio play. However, older Bose speakers, even those from only a few years ago, may not have these capabilities.
New Sonos Compatibility Restrictions
In May of 2020, Sonos released new speakers that are not compatible with some of its oldest products. These newer speakers (including the Five) can only run with the new and improved S2 app, and some of the company's older products don't have enough processing power to keep up with the said app. These older products generally were not the most popular, so this change hopefully won't affect too many customers. If you do own one of these products, Sonos is offering a trade-in program where you can send in your older products and get a 30% discount on their upgraded versions. Additionally, all products made from here on out will only work with the S2 app and thus will not connect with the oldest, non-S2 compatible products. Bottom line, if you own one of these older products, you'll either have to upgrade or not use any of the company's newest products (or create two separate Sonos systems in your home, but having two groups of speakers that can't talk to one another kind of negates a lot of what makes Sonos great).
Viewed through the lens of single-speaker systems, we give Bose the edge in user-friendliness. This is mainly because of the simplicity and versatility of all Bose speakers' Bluetooth connections. This capability is somewhat of a glaring absence in most Sonos speakers. Additionally, most Bose speakers offer remote controls, which can be super useful for quick volume adjustments. The vast majority of their functionality can be accessed without making an account or downloading an app.
Controlling everything through the app means you're always streaming music over your WiFi network by default, which does offer some distinct advantages over using a direct speaker-to-phone Bluetooth connection. For instance, your music will never be interrupted when your phone dings with an alert, and WiFi is generally going to provide a slightly higher quality stream than Bluetooth would. Sonos does not include remote controls for any of its speakers, again requiring you to rely on the app.
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 might start to 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 how much sound quality deteriorated at higher volumes and how loud each model made our 600 square foot testing room feel.
The Sonos Five 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. Clustered below, the Bose Home Speaker 500, the Sonos Move, and the Marshall Stanmore II all received comparable scores 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.
Not to be outdone by their relatively short statures, we found both the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II and the Bose Home 300 to be quite loud, despite being smaller in size. Bose does not disappoint in volume, as even both of these models seem to be more than loud enough to keep an apartment or living room full of guests entertained.
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 input 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 also allows for more customization of settings.
The Bose Home speakers we tested provide the most options for connections. They offer a standard Bluetooth connection, and the Bose Music apps let you stream music over your WiFi network. This app, however, is quite finicky. Unless you're trying to manage a multi-speaker system, we 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, or Amazon Music directly to the speakers through a WiFi or ethernet connection. Those with Apple devices can also beam music or other audio directly to the speaker. Sonos speakers, however, lack a Bluetooth connection, so Android and Windows users will have trouble doing things like watching Netflix while sending the audio to their Sonos system. The Move is one notable exception and is the first Sonos speaker with Bluetooth capability.
There were two dark horses in our connectivity metric, neither of which were prefixed with the name Sonos or Bose. The Sony SRS-RA3000 and the Marshall Stanmore II both received the highest marks for their connectivity prowess, vastly outperforming the lesser scorers in the metric. The Sony SRS-RA3000 especially, with its ability to seamlessly play HiFi tracks via Google Chromecast definitely makes it a speaker not to be easily discounted.
A great home speaker, or better yet, a group of great home speakers, can add ambiance and entertainment to your main living space, imbue friendly gatherings with joy and frivolity, and make getting ready for work in the morning just a bit more bearable. We hope our testing results have helped you find the perfect speaker for your needs and budget, so you can let the music seep into your soul.
— Max Mutter, Michelle Powell, Steven Tata, and Conrad Salonites