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Just a decade ago, the default image of a home speaker was a hefty, block-shaped unit that was at least the size of a breadbox. Nowadays, wireless speakers are becoming the norm.
They’re typically no bigger than a medium-sized shoe, and — as the name implies — there are no wires connecting them and your music player. The technology that powers them is still evolving, which means you can find wireless speakers in a dizzying range of shapes.
Don’t Waste Your Money is focused on helping you make the best purchasing decisions. Our team spends hundreds of hours analyzing, testing and researching products so you don’t have to. Here are our top picks for wireless speakers.
The Cambridge OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Speaker is a versatile speaker for a reasonable price.
The Cambridge OontZ Angle 3 is a low-cost speaker that still puts out quality audio. It pairs easily and quickly with most Bluetooth-capable devices but can also play through an aux cable. The IPX5 water resistance rating lets it stand up to light splashes in the bathroom or pool area.
The Tribit StormBox Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is fully waterproof and loud enough for any party, indoors or out.
The Tribit StormBox Wireless Bluetooth Speaker supplies plenty of boom for your buck thanks to the passive bass radiators. It’s completely waterproof, making it perfect for picnics or pool parties. Sound quality is exceptionally clear whether it’s pushing peak volume or providing background noise.
Solid range and battery capacity are highlights of the TREBLAB Wireless Bluetooth Speaker.
Take your music anywhere with the TREBLAB Wireless Bluetooth Speaker. Besides being waterproof, it’s also shockproof and has a respectable battery capacity. The range is great, and you can even pair two speakers of this type together for vastly improved stereo sound.
The Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker is easy to pair up and use with most devices.
The Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker is a budget unit that delivers big sound for a relatively low price. The 4.2 Bluetooth tech pairs easily and quickly to most smartphones or other audio players, and it stays connected at long range. The impressive battery life means it’s capable of playing music throughout the day.
The Bose Wireless Bluetooth Speaker is a small, water-resistant speaker that offers top-quality sound with a soft-touch silicone exterior that makes it easy to pick up and go. We like that voice prompts talk you through Bluetooth pairing so it’s easier than ever to pair.
What To Know
Knowing a little bit about how they work can help you make a decision about which one is best for you. There are a lot of ways to remotely connect two devices, but the standard for most wireless speakers is Bluetooth. Bluetooth technology uses radio waves, the same type of electromagnetic radiation that’s been bringing us music since the turn of the century.
The main difference between Bluetooth devices is the way they use frequency. When speakers mention their Bluetooth capability, it’s typically followed by a version: 4.0, 4.2, 5.0, for example. Generally speaking, you can expect a better range and a more consistent signal out of your speaker the higher that number gets.
Speakers operating on Bluetooth 4.0 or higher generally use less power than earlier counterparts. The latest version of the technology is Bluetooth 5.0, and it’s a significant leap over the rest. Devices with that capability not only use less power but have four times the range and twice the speed. They can handle data transfers of up to 2 Mbps, meaning the sound quality on compatible players should be better.
You can even pair up audio signals to two devices at the same time (say, two different speakers or a speaker and headphones). It’s worth noting that this benefit only comes from using a speaker and music player that both have Bluetooth 5.0 capability. 5.0-enabled speakers will still work with older versions, but they’ll operate at the output and specs from the lowest version.
Performance can vary even among models with the same version of Bluetooth. And as for the sound? Audiophiles used to turn up their nose at wireless audio because data compression didn’t deliver a “full” listening experience. That’s changing, and the latest wireless speakers can compete with the highest-quality CD audio.
Of course, the biggest advantage of wireless speakers is freedom. Keep in mind that some speakers may not be entirely wireless in that they still stay connected to a power cord. But most Bluetooth units have a rechargeable battery that can keep your playlist going for a few hours on average.
All that makes wireless speakers great for the outdoors. If that’s where you plan to use them, make sure you don’t spoil the fun (and your speaker) by checking to see if it’s waterproof.
Tips and Advice
- As we’ve mentioned, waterproof speakers are nearly a must if you plan to use them outdoors, around the pool or near the shower. Some speakers are so waterproof that you can use them inside the shower. How do you tell what your speaker can take? Check to see if the speaker gives an IPX waterproof rating. The “IP” in that rating stands for “Ingress Protection,” and it’s an industry rating regulated by the International Electrotechnical Commission. The rating for tech products goes from IPX0 up to the highest protection from moisture at IPX8. IPX0 offers no protection against even tiny drops of water, which means you probably won’t see that rating advertised. The middle numbers should be good in light rainfall or some incidental spray. Speakers rated with an IPX7 or 8 should be able to work even after being completely submerged in water.
- How long can you expect the music to last? The last thing you want is for your speaker to run out of juice in the middle of a party. Most wireless speakers have a rechargeable battery, but that battery life can vary. Most will mention a time estimate on the features, but it can vary depending on what you do with them. (Using your speakers for two-way audio can run down the power quicker, for example.)
- Remember, style can be a factor! Wireless speakers aren’t hemmed in by the traditional boxy shape of their wired counterparts. Most are small and cylindrical, but some can look like miniature sculptures or mimic retro devices. Some speakers are even equipped with LED lights that pulse in time to the music.
- Remember, once you get your speaker you’ll have to pair it up with your smartphone or another audio player. That usually only takes a few seconds, after which the two devices should recognize each other once they’re turned on in the same vicinity. Most Bluetooth devices can pick up a signal from within the same average-sized house, but weaker models might need the audio player to remain close by. Check the range before you buy.