Best Speakers Buying Guide: Welcome to TechRadar's round-up of the best wireless, connected speakers and speaker systems in 2018.
Speakers are the conduit to music in the home. Sure, headphones might be handy if you don't want the world to know what you're listening to - but if your goal is to replicate the scene from Risky Business, you're going to need a speaker.
Thankfully, we have a few ideas on where to start.
What goes into creating the best speakers on the market? Advanced audio engineering to create music sound as close to the source as possible, if not a little better. It's done with a technique called Digital Signal Processing that transforms the digital files you own or stream and converts it into audible noise via a DAC.
If that sounds way too complicated, don't get caught up in semantics. Good speakers take audio files and make them sound good, plain and simple.
On top of pristine audio playback, you should be looking for speakers that can connect wirelessly to your devices - trust us, leaving your phone behind at a party because you need it to play music isn't all that fun (or safe).
Find a system that sounds good, works well without wires and packs in a plethora of features like smart assistant support, a built-in battery and Spotify Connect, well, you'll find a speaker that deserves to be called the best speaker on the planet.
You could go through all that work ... or you could just let us do it instead.
To that end, what you'll find below is a list of the 10 best wireless speakers, ranked by their price-to-performance ratio.
1. Best Wireless Speaker: Sonos One
For the time-being, the Sonos One is the king of connected speakers
Weight: 1.85kg (4.08 lbs) | Size: 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 in | Drivers: 1 x tweeters, 1 x woofer | Supported Connectivity: AirPlay, Bluetooth 4.2, Google Cast, Spotify Connect, 3.5mm, RCA | Ethernet: No | Aux-in: Yes | USB: No
If you're in the market for a cleanly designed, exceptional sounding connected speaker, you'll find none better than the Sonos One. Offering the best of both Sonos' multi-room speaker platform and Amazon's smart home prowess, the Sonos One is the pinnacle of connectivity.
Want to hear your favorite song from Spotify? All you need to do is ask! Want every speaker in the upstairs to play the same song? Group them together via the Sonos app and you'll have a house party in minutes.
While there are more powerful (and more expensive) speakers listed down below, for the vast majority of folks, the Sonos One is the best deal in 2018.
Read the full review: Sonos One
2. Runner-up: Sonos Play:5
Another excellent flagship speaker from the multi-room king
Weight: 6.3kg | Size: 204mm x 364mm x 154mm | Drivers: 3 x tweeters, 1 x woofer | Supported Connectivity: AirPlay, Bluetooth 4.2, Google Cast, Spotify Connect, 3.5mm, RCA | Ethernet: No | Aux-in: Yes | USB: No
Sonos was one of the first companies to get into the connected speaker business, and as a result has one of the most seamlessly integrated speaker systems on the market.
The Sonos Play:5 is the company's flagship, and has the
Unlike solutions which rely on Bluetooth or Google Cast, Sonos' speakers are controlled directly from its own app, which has built in integration for a number of streaming services, including Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Deezer, TuneIn a whole range of smaller services.
Since this is a multi-room setup, you can also add additional speakers such as the Sonos Play:3 and Sonos Play:1 to built up a complete surround sound system, but if you want to keep it simple, then you should find the Play:5 to offer more than enough sound.
Read the full review: Sonos Play:5
3. Best Stereo Replacement: Pure Evoke C-F6
The all-in-one audio system of your dreams
Weight: 4.2kg | Size: 380 mm x 145 mm x 223 mm | Drivers: 2 x 3" full range | Supported Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Ethernet: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | USB: No
The Pure Evoke C-F6 isn't a flashy speaker – its modest (but refined) looks let it slip unassumingly into any decor, although it doesn't boast the premium multi-room options of pricier competitors on this list.
But that's also not really the point of the Evoke C-F6 – it's positioning itself to be the one-room, one-shop stop for all your audio playback needs. There's a dazzling array of audio source options on offer here, with the biggest draws being Spotify Connect, DAB, Internet radio, Bluetooth and old faithful CD playback.
With a solid app letting you control the speaker from across a room, and the Evoke C-F6 offering a warm and natural soundstage from its stereo speakers, it'll take pride of place on whichever bedside table or living room shelf you decide to pop it on.
Read the full review: Pure Evoke C-F6
4. Best Bluetooth Speaker: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
An iconically designed speaker for the connected age
Weight: 6.5kg | Size: 188mm x 660mm x 183mm | Drivers: 2 x Tweet , 2 x Mid-range, 1 x Subwoofer | Supported Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth aptX | Ethernet: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | USB: No
It's a tough call between this speaker and the Mu-So Qb for the best looking music player on this list, but the Zeppelin is certainly the most striking.
But as with all these speakers, the proof is in the pudding, and the Zeppelin sounds absolutely stunning no matter what volume you play it at. Its bass is distortion free, and its mid-range is nice and punchy.
It's also backed by a complete swath of connectivity options, so you'll have no problem getting your more obscure apps playing through the speaker.
The only problem is its price: $699 (£499 / AU$999). But while the sticker price ensures that only serious audiophiles will give it some consideration, it's a lot less pricey than the Mu-So Qb, and you get a similar level of sound quality.
Read the full review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
5. Best Hi-Fi Speaker: Mu-So Qb
Stunning looks, but thankfully not just a pretty face
Weight: 5.6kg | Size: 210mm x 218mm x 212mm | Drivers: 1 x Woofer, 2 x Mid-range, 2 x Tweeter, 2 x Passive Radiator | Supported Connectivity: UPnP, AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth aptX | Ethernet: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | USB: Yes
You might not have heard of it before, but Naim audio is a company that produces some of the most stylish connected speakers in the business, and we think the Mu-So Qb is the best they've put out yet.
It comes will a full suite of connectivity options including aptX Bluetooth, Spotify Connect and AirPlay, which means all of your music should be supported at its maximum resolution, no matter what device you're using.
But even if you don't have your phone in hand, the speaker is still controllable using its sleek touch-screen which allows you to access internet radio stations, for example.
It's got a premium price, but if you pluck for the Qb then you won't be disappointed.
Read the full review: Mu-So Qb
6. Best Wireless Speaker for your TV: Samsung HW-MS650
Be afraid, traditional Hi-Fi speakers. Be very afraid.
Weight: 3.6kg | Size: 1060 x 78 x 130mm (W x H x D) | Drivers: 3 x custom units | Supported Connectivity: Single 4K/HDR HDMI loopthrough, one optical audio input, 3.5mm audio port, 2-way Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Ethernet: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | USB: Yes
Not content with dominating the TV world, Samsung now seems to have its sights set on becoming the number one brand for home entertainment audio, too. All this effort has already delivered outstanding results in the shape of both the HW-K850 and, especially, HW-K950 Dolby Atmos soundbars, as well as a range of ground-breaking multi-room wireless speakers.
But, above everything stands the South Korean manufacturer's HW-MS650. No other one-body soundbar has combined so much raw power with so much clarity, scale and, especially, bass, or excelled so consistently with both films and music. It’s the sort of performance that only genuine audio innovation can deliver - and with that in mind, it’s well worth its $450/£599 price tag.
Read the full review: Samsung HW-MS650 Soundbar
7. Best Google Assistant Speaker: Google Home Max
Big sound with a big brain to match
Weight: 3.2kg | Size: 209 x 294 x 166 mm | Drivers: 2x Tweeters, 2x Woofers | Supported Connectivity: DLNA, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, USB, 3.5mm | Ethernet: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | USB: Yes
When it comes to stuffing a small apartment with Google Home devices, is too much of a good thing bad? As the Google Home Max proved to us, the answer is no.
Although absolutely massive, the Home Max makes for a surprisingly versatile addition to a space of any size, thanks to its balanced, awesome sound delivery and Smart Sound function that helps it adjust to any environment you set it in.
Google’s big speaker is more elegant than it has any right to be, what with clever touches like the moveable resting pad and orientation-friendly touch functions. It’s also appreciated that its looks stand out if you choose to notice it, but blend into the scene during everyday use.
The only problem? It's just available in the US for now.
Read the full review: Google Home Max
8. Best Bookshelf Speakers: KEF LS50 Wireless
If you came for bookshelf speakers, leave with these
Weight: 6.12kg | Size: 420 x 198 x 192 mm | Drivers: 2x Mid-to-high range, 1x Woofer | Supported Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth aptX, USB, Toslink/3.5mm | Ethernet: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | USB: Yes
If you're looking for a pair of bookshelf speakers that handle wireless audio as well as having the traditional connections for your vinyl player, check out the KEF LS50 Wireless. While KEF's flagship speakers don't support every wireless standard on the market, they do support Tidal or Spotify, plus standard Bluetooth 4.0.
In terms of sound quality, they are staggeringly detailed and their stand-out sonic feature is their holographic imaging and instrumental layering: We could hear exactly where each instrument was coming from and each instrument sounded distinct and never blurry. Soundstage was expansive with good space to the side and above the listener. Resolution is excellent as the speaker can dig for the micro-details that get lost in lesser audio systems.
If you're an audiophile who wants the convenience of wireless audio - whether that’s directly from internet streaming services like Tidal or Spotify or from a home server - the KEF LS50 Wireless should be at the top of your list.
Read the full review: KEF LS50 Wireless
9. Most Stylish Wireless Speaker: Marshall Stanmore
A hyper-connected stylish speaker
Weight: 4.70kg | Size: 350 x 185 x 185 mm | Drivers: 2x Mid-to-high range, 1x Woofer | Supported Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth aptX, USB, Toslink/3.5mm | Ethernet: Yes | Aux-in: Yes | USB: Yes
Of its trio of new multi-room speakers, the Marshall Stanmore is the middle child. However, that doesn't mean it's the unloved sibling.
While the larger Woburn is just a little too big for most rooms, and the smaller Acton has a number of connectivity issues, the Stanmore strikes a nice balance between the two with a sound that's big and punchy, without straying too far into 'overkill' territory (although mark our words, it will if you want it to).
It features its own app for controlling it, but we were fans of how nicely it integrates with a host of other services including AirPlay, Google Cast and Spotify Connect, meaning you can stick to the apps you're familiar with while still controlling your new toy.
But it's the on-board controls that impressed us the most. You're able to set presets from a number of different services, meaning you can happily switch between pre-defined Spotify playlists and internet radio stations with a twist of a vintage Marshall-styled brass knob.
It's not got the most refined sound out of the speakers on this list, but the Marshall Stanmore is intelligently designed and simple to use.
Read the full review: Marshall Stanmore
10. Best Wireless Speaker for iOS lovers: Apple HomePod
Superb sound, so-so smart speaker
Weight: 5.5 lbs (2.5kg) | Size: 6.8 x 5.6 inches (172 x 142mm) | Drivers: 7 x tweeters, 1x Woofer | Supported Connectivity: AirPlay | Ethernet: No | Aux-in: No | USB: No
If we only rated the Apple HomePod on the merits of sound performance, the HomePod would likely hold the top spot on this list. But, as a connected speaker, it has a long way to go.
Overall, it delivers rich, clear sound that will impress anyone who listens to it, and every facet of the way it’s designed and delivers audio has been well thought through. But there are still a few little bumps in there that remove some of the gloss – Siri not being able to search the web, a lack of Bluetooth streaming, or being able to control your Apple TV or iPhone directly from the speaker are omissions that many would like to have.
Once it builds out these features, we'll definitely revisit it and possibly award it a higher spot on this list. Until then, however, it's a speaker that only serves a niche audience - and even then not very well.
Read the full review: Apple HomePod