Our recommended wireless speakers bring you the ultimate in high quality music with absolutely no fuss, clutter or complexity
The wireless in wireless speakers refers to the ability of the speaker to connect to your music device wirelessly. The actual speaker still requires a bit of wire in the form of a power cable. Portable wireless speakers need occasional charging, so expect to have to plug them in, too, or set them on their charging base.
Often advertised as the way to take your music to the beach, portable wireless speakers are also hugely useful around the house. Unless your home is of the stately variety, a couple of portable speakers means that you can take your music with you as you move around your pad. The latest models offer outstanding audio performance and much-improved playback from their rechargeable batteries. Several portable wireless speakers also provide a port to enable you to charge your phone when away from home. Handy.
A smart speaker is a speaker with a voice assistant built-in. Perhaps once seen as a novelty – especially in serious hi-fi circles – the smart speaker has earned its place in these pages. Its ability to form part of a smart home, enabling voice control of connected devices such as blinds, doors, lights, televisions, and thermostats, can transform people's day-to-day lives, particularly those with mobility issues and visual impairments. Smart speakers are also great for younger kids letting them more easily request music. They are also invaluable for setting a timer when you're baking without getting your speaker controls covered in flour and dough. To get the best from your speaker, look for EQ adjustment options on the unit or in the app. You can also experiment with speaker placement – moving it away from the wall, for example, or sitting it at ear height rather than on the floor or on top of the fridge.
Wireless speakers wirelessly connect to your music device via Bluetooth or wi-fi. Bluetooth is more flexible as, if your speaker is portable, it can go with you. However, a home wi-fi connection often offers improved audio quality over Bluetooth.
If you plan on using a voice assistant system, check that your wireless speaker is compatible with your preferred service.
An auxiliary (aux-in) socket is a 3.5mm jack into which you can plug almost any music device. Often the saviour of the older music player, it means you're not relying on Bluetooth or wi-fi to feed music to your wireless speaker. There is a chance that a wired connection between your phone and speaker will sound better than a wireless connection. Hey, it's worth a try, right?
A multi-room speaker system lets you control music playback in several rooms throughout the house. You don't need to cart speakers up and down stairs – so long as a speaker is part of your network, it is under your control. Features such as party mode let you, group speakers together and blast out the same track through your speaker alliance. Probably best that you invite your neighbours when using party mode. Once the preserve of high-end, professional installations – and often fiendishly tricky to operate – multi-room systems are now far more affordable and infinitely more user friendly.
Roon is best known as a high-quality music player app with an elegant interface that integrates Qobuz and TIDAL. It is also a clever way to create a multi-room system comprising different brands – including wireless speaker models – audio gear. If your device is Roon Ready, it can form part of a Roon-managed multi-room system. Think of it as 'AirPlay for audiophiles'.
Apple AirPlay uses wi-fi to stream music from your Apple device to compatible speakers wirelessly. Apple says that AirPlay delivers superior quality over Bluetooth. It's also possible to create an AirPlay-based multi-room system.
The typical range of a Bluetooth speaker's wireless connection is around 10 meters. Stray beyond this distance, and you're risking the break-up of the audio signal. For those looking to extend the wi-fi range, consider using your phone as a wi-fi extender – this way, you can take your wi-fi-capable wireless speaker to the bottom of your very long garden. Lucky thing that you are.
If you anticipate using your speaker near water, check its ingress protection (IP) rating. It's a two-digit code that confirms the device's ability to cope with an attack by the elements. The first digit rates the level of protection from solid objects, such as a finger or dust, and the second digit grades the level of protection against liquids. The closer that second number is to eight, the more protection your speaker affords from the wet stuff.