For a cashed-up audiophile, a $200 portable Bluetooth speaker isn't always going to cut it. And in response in recent years, the "high-end" wireless speaker category has blossomed.
These speakers have taken inspiration from the likes of Sonos and the original Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin, and can cost anywhere from a grand to over half a million. They feature either Bluetooth streaming or Wi-Fi and sometimes both.
We look at some of the best, and also some of the most bizarre, high-end wireless speakers available today. All prices are in USD.
At $10,000 or so, the Sonus Faber SF 16 is definitely in the upper stratosphere when it comes to wireless speakers. But what makes it truly special is a unique pair of retractable arms which house the mid-range drivers and tweeters .
A wireless speaker made of concrete? Now we've heard everything. Master & Dynamic's $1,600 speaker features both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity and was dreamed up by the designer of the National Museum of African History in Culture.
The Devialet Gold Phantom is a high-end wireless speaker with a somewhat-crazy 4,500 watts of power. True to its name, it features 22-carat rose-gold flourishes and costs a cool $3K, £1,690, or about AU$3,050. Based on a brief demo in the CNET office, it sounded better than the previous Phantoms we had heard, including...
This Devialet Silver Phantom, which will set you back a cool $2,350. Like the Gold Phantom and the "vanilla" Phantom, the Silver features a pressurized design that the makers liken to a bomb. It features a quirky setup routine -- "gently touch the Phantom" -- and streams Spotify Connect, and over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
The original Naim mu-so is a $1,500 tabletop radio which features a drop-dead gorgeous design and high-end performance. While it could act as a sound bar for your TV, you wouldn't want to put anything on top of it due to that distinctive weighted volume-knob-cum-control-panel.
Where the first Zeppelin was an iPod dock, this $700 Zeppelin Wireless has dispensed with proprietary connectors entirely in favor of a more egalitarian option. This high-end speaker comes with Bluetooth, AirPlay and Spotify Connect, and it sounds decent to boot.
One of the original credenza-style wireless speakers, the Polk Audio Woodbourne debuted in 2013 for $600. While its Bluetooth-only design means it's a little behind compared to more advanced Wi-Fi models, it's now available for a pretty (or at least more) reasonable $300.
When one thinks of a "wireless speaker" it usually brings to mind a small box you put in the corner and pipe your phone too. The Raumfeld Stereo L defies this expectation completely with two huge floorstander speakers that can uniquely run in both "wireless" mode or "passive" mode by hooking them up to a receiver or amplifier. The Stereo Ls are very talented and capable of some of the deepest bass we've ever heard.
The OneClassic2 is a self-contained, fully wireless speaker. It's a stereo speaker pair that features an acrylic construction. While the company suggests the speakers are quite rugged and portable, at $3,680 we'd be content leaving these on our kitchen bench.
At $1,600 the wireless Dynaudio Xeo 2 isn't the craziest speaker here, but it's the performance rather than the price or design that makes the Xeo 2 stand out. CNET's Audiophiliac reckons they're "the sort of speaker a seasoned audiophile could love."
The Peachtree Deepblue is what some audiophiles consider to be the best-sounding Bluetooth speaker on the market. Pity that its drab styling leaves it behind the usual high standard of other Peachtree devices.
While not as "fancy" as some of the other speakers here, the latest Sonos Play:5 brings with it the heritage that inspired many high-end wireless speakers. It lacks bits of gold, and it doesn't even have Bluetooth -- but what it does have is excellent performance and amazing ease-of-use.
Another entrant in the $1,000 compact hi-fi speaker category, the McIntosh RS100 is based on DTS' Play-Fi standard. This standard offers increased compatibility with other manufacturers such as Polk, Definitive Technology and even Rotel.
The McIntosh doesn't look like any other wireless speaker we've seen, as it features a typically macho VU meter and silver knobs.
Looking more like a can crusher than a wireless speaker, the $4,600 HiVi MS-2 is truly one of the weirdest speaker designs we've come across. It's a 2.1-channel system, somehow, and includes both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
A wireless version of the well-received KEF LS50, these $2,200 speakers add onboard amplification in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These speakers are part of a new breed of speaker which essentially replaces a stereo receiver, speaker and streamer setup.
The Bluesound family of products is brought to us from the minds behind NAD and PSB and has a number of features Sonos doesn't. First is support for hi-res music; second is a dedicated CD-ripper/server called the Vault 2. Look out for a review of the Bluesound Pulse Flex soon.
No high-end wireless speaker roundup would be complete without this tower of ridiculousness: the AeroDream One from Jarre Technologies. This gleaming iPhone dock and aptX-Bluetooth speaker -- last valued at $560,000 -- requires a ladder to reach the top. This particular one comes complete with its own (electronic musician and designer) Jean Michel Jarre .
Caption byTy Pendlebury
/ Photo by Thomas Deron/Jarre Technologies