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Best AirPlay speakers: the best Apple-friendly wireless speakers in 2020

Image credit: Apple
Image credit: Apple

AirPlay is Apple's wireless streaming standard. That means if you're already bought into the Apple ecosystem with iPhones, iPads or even an Apple HomePod, you're probably using it already. However, to go with AirPlay and the products you already have, you need some speakers. That's why we've collected together our favorite AirPlay-friendly speakers. 

In 2019, AirPlay (and AirPlay speakers) made headlines, with the protocol appearing on more devices, and AirPlay 2 – the next generation of Apple's own cutting-edge proprietary wireless platform – arriving on the scene. 

AirPlay 2 shakes things up a little and turns the Apple streaming standard into a proper multi-room platform - it even adds Siri integration into speakers that never would've had it before too. 

To prepare you for this imminent renaissance of Apple-friendly wireless speakers, here are the best Apple AirPlay speakers available to buy right now. 

The best AirPlay speakers in 2020 at a glance:

  1. Sonos One
  2. Libratone Zipp 2 
  3. Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge
  4. Sonos Beam
  5. Naim Mu-so Qb
  6. Orbitsound Dock E30
  7. Riva Arena
  8. Apple HomePod
  9. Libratone Zipp

The best AirPlay speakers in 2020:

Sonos One

Image Credit: Sonos (Image credit: Sonos)

1. Sonos One

Combines Alexa's smarts with Sonos' sound quality

Full-bodied, rich sound
Combines best of Alexa and Sonos
Plays music while Alexa is muted
AirPlay 2 support
Google Assistant support
No Hi-Res Audio support

Sonos One started a revolution. It's the first smart speaker that doesn't make users choose between smarts and sound quality (it features both). 

Given that this is a Sonos speaker, you won’t be surprised to hear that the Sonos One sounds pretty fantastic. Throw Elegie by Mouse on the Keys at the speaker, and sound has real punch and energy to it. The song’s kickdrum...well...has kick to it, and drives the energy of the song. It’s an impressive amount of power from such a small speaker. 

The speaker even deals admirably with more complicated pieces of music. Silent Earthling by Three Trapped Tigers sounds clear and crisp, despite the multiple layers of instruments circulating throughout the song. 

Of course, much of what’s written above could also have been said of the original Play:1 when it was first released back in 2013. The real story here is about how voice control is integrated – it is simply wonderfully executed. 

If that wasn't enough, the Sonos One got an update earlier this year, which added AirPlay 2 into what was already a winning speaker. Now you can play any sound from an iPhone or iPad, or Mac computer – including YouTube videos and Netflix movies – on the Sonos One. You can also ask any Siri-enabled device to control Apple Music on Sonos speakers.

Read the full review: Sonos One Review

Image Credit: Libratone

Image Credit: Libratone (Image credit: Libratone)

2. Libratone Zipp 2

Scandi-design meets Amazon's Alexa

Built-in battery
Wealth of connectivity options
Full-bodied sound
No support for Google Assistant
App can be buggy

Although some devices may beat the Zipp 2 for overall fidelity and definition, there isn’t the big gulf in performance you might expect. 

Instead, the Zipp 2 manages to get up to an impressively uncomfortable output level at full blast without a hint of distortion, but maybe just lacks a little mid and low range definition to make it the best in its class.

The Danish design philosophy of less is more, doesn’t quite apply to the Zipp 2 with a connectivity list that’ll make most other smart speakers envious. This makes it almost platform-agnostic, allowing it to handily fit into a lot of existing multi-room arrangements (folks using AirPlay 2 enabled Sonos systems or Apple AirPods look most likely to benefit here). 

Take this into consideration, along with the flexibility its battery brings and its all-round satisfying sound, and you have the smartest multi-room speaker currently out there.

Read the full review here: Libratone Zipp 2 review

wireless speaker

Image Credit: Bowers & Wilkins (Image credit: Bowers & Wilkins)

3. Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge

A Wedge to pick up where the Zeppelin left off

Unique looks
Clever engineering
Big, wide soundstage
Eminently listenable sound
Limited connectivity
Could sound more dynamic
A bit expensive

It will divide people with its looks, and it will exclude some people with its price, but the Formation Wedge is Bowers & Wilkins doing what it does best, delivering bold looks and bigger sound.

Sound from the Wedge is spread far and wide, without becoming vague or ill-focused, and there’s enough outright power to fill even large rooms with sound. While it’s apparent where the music originates, there’s a much less pronounced ‘sweet spot’ than some less capable wireless speakers generate and the Wedge is an enjoyable listen, no matter where you are in relation to it.

Bluetooth (proper aptX HD Bluetooth, what’s more) is available, as is Spotify Connect. And, of course, Apple AirPlay 2.

Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge review

Best AirPlay speakers: Sonos Beam

Best AirPlay speakers: Sonos Beam (Image credit: Sonos)

4. Sonos Beam

This is the AirPlay-friendly soundbar we've been waiting for

Great compact design
HDMI ARC compatible
Superb sound
No Dolby Atmos

If you're looking for an AirPlay speaker that can not only stream music but tackle TV audio as well, the Sonos Beam is the best option money can buy.

It's a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem as well as Apple's, and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV, but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set either.

If you're an Apple enthusiast who is also after additional functionality (like Amazon Alexa support and the possibility of multi-room audio via Sonos products), then you can't do any better than this for an AirPlay speaker.

Read the full review: Sonos Beam

Best AirPlay speakers: Naim Mu-so Qb

Best AirPlay speakers: Naim Mu-so Qb

5. Naim Mu-so Qb

Big sound and stylish looks in a petite AirPlay-ready package

Stylish looks
Small form factor  
Full and vibrant sound
Setup can be painful

Naim makes some of the most stylish wireless speakers available and the Naim Mu-so Qb, a smaller version of the Mu-so soundbar released in 2014, is no exception. 

In simplest terms, it’s an AirPlay-ready speaker cube that adds style to just about any room. And yes, these are our words, not Naim’s. The fabric grille on its sides is curved and a glass-like acrylic block at its bottom makes the Qb look like it’s floating. (Sort of.)

It also has a striking control wheel up top, and lit touch buttons that control playback away from your phone. 

The Naim Muso Qb sound is lively, with great bass for its size, and good soundstage separation for a wireless speaker. It uses tilted drivers to make dispersal as wide and stereo-like as possible. This isn’t just an AirPlay speaker, either: It has Bluetooth, multi-room using the Naim app, a USB port for direct playback and a digital connector that lets you plug in your TV or AV receiver.  

Performance, portability and versatility? It doesn't get much better than this.

Read the full review: Naim Mu-so Qb

Best AirPlay speakers: Orbitsound Dock E30

Best AirPlay speakers: Orbitsound Dock E30

6. Orbitsound Dock E30

A small speaker that uses Airsound magic to fill larger rooms

Wide sound dispersal 
Lots of lifestyle features 
Good looks 
Airsound feature has issues

The Orbitsound Dock E30 has a lot going for it: This is an AirPlay speaker with quite a few extra features, and while it might not match everyone's home decor, it certainly tries its best to avoid looking like a plain plastic speaker. 

Some highlights of the design are the groove in which you can rest your tablet or phone, and the way you can also wirelessly charge your phone using a Qi panel on the top. Check online to see if your phone supports this standard: if it doesn’t, there’s also a USB port on the front to let you plug-in your charging cable.

The Orbitsound Dock E30 has a different approach to sound too. It uses clever side-firing speakers that separate out the ambient parts of a song’s mix to increase the width of the sound. This occasionally gets confused with some songs, but for the most part the sound is great for a fairly low-profile speaker. 

Read the full review: Orbitsound Dock E30

Best AirPlay speaker: Riva Arena

Best AirPlay speaker: Riva Arena

7. Riva Arena

A flexible AirPlay-capable speaker, but one that makes some big compromises

Excellent sound quality 
More flexible with Android than iOS 
Expensive battery pack

The Riva Arena is about as close as you can get to a Sonos One with AirPlay on-board. To that point, sound quality is the best feature here. 

Like other Riva speakers, the Arena has carefully crafted mids that make vocals sound well-textured and warm. It doesn’t throw out as wide a soundstage as some, but you can pair two Arenas together, like smart bookshelf speakers. 

This is also a speaker that wants to let you connect anything. It has Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi/AirPlay, and Spotify Connect too. A 3.5mm aux input on the back lets other devices get involved. 

There’s no battery in the Arena as standard, but you can buy a battery pack that slots onto the bottom for 20 hours of adapter-free use. It’s not cheap, though. And that’s the issue with the Arena: no part of it screams value. 

It’s more expensive than the Sonos One, which may be less flexible without Apple AirPlay, but makes up for it with voice assistant support. 

Read the full review: Riva Arena

Best AirPlay speaker: Apple HomePod

Best AirPlay speaker: Apple HomePod

8. Apple HomePod

Superb sound. Excellent AirPlay support. So-so smart speaker

Amazing sound quality 
Attractive, understated design
Apple Music subscription required   
No Bluetooth streaming

Apple’s official AirPlay and Siri speaker is the HomePod. 

As you might expect from Apple, it’s one of the most impressively engineered wireless speakers ever. It’s only 142mm in diameter and 170mm tall, but is home to seven tweeters and one 4-inch woofer/bass driver. 

This array delivers not just 360-degree sound but incredibly deep bass for its size, reaching down to the kind of frequencies many wireless speakers don’t touch. It is almost certainly the best-sounding wireless speaker of its size. 

It looks good, too. A seamless fabric grille covers most of its exterior, and there’s a neat little display on the top that animates as you interact with Siri. 

On the debit side, the HomePod doesn’t have Bluetooth and doesn’t work with Android phones. And while it has the voice control most other speakers here lack, it only works with Apple Music, not Spotify. If you don't mind being locked in to Apple's ecosystem for the rest of time, consider the HomePod the best option out there.

Read the full review: Apple HomePod

Best AirPlay speaker: Libratone Zipp

Best AirPlay speaker: Libratone Zipp

9. Libratone Zipp

An excellent-sounding home speaker you can also take on the go

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support 
Balanced and clear sound
Short battery life 
Buggy smartphone software

The Libratone Zipp is one of the few good battery-powered AirPlay speakers, in part because Wi-Fi (which powers AirPlay) sucks more battery than Bluetooth. It lasts for up to 10 hours between charges, making it a decent pick if you're looking to take your AirPlay powered show on the road. 

And the Zipp part isn’t just a cute design gag – unzip the zipper and you can remove the wool cover and replace it with a different one. 

Sound is great for a relatively small, battery powered speaker, too. It has enough bass power to make nearby objects rattle, and goes very loud without tilting the sound toward one end of the audio spectrum or the other. 

You might not initially think you need a portable AirPlay speaker, but being able to move the Zipp from the living room to the kitchen is a big plus. And stops you from having to buy a full multi-room setup. Libratone does offer multi-room control through the less-than-stellar app, if you feel up to the challenge. 

Read the full review: Libratone Zipp