Wireless Wi-Fi streaming as an alternative to Bluetooth. The ability to control music in a environment is one of Wi-Fi's biggest selling features, but almost all via , Google Assistant and Apple's Siri.for the home is nothing new, but the past few years have brought a proliferation of speakers that use
It's a challenge to find a budget speaker that doesn't have microphones onboard, but they all come with mic switches or you can opt for a "dumb" speaker like the buying guide at the bottom of the page if you have additional questions, and don't miss ., if you have privacy concerns. Keep reading for our breakdown of the best Wi-Fi speakers for your needs -- there's a short
For $100 there's a couple of smart speakers to choose from, such as the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, but if you want an affordable, musical speaker, it's Ikea's Sonos range all the way. The Wi-Fi Symfonisk Bookshelf looks smart and after calibration pulls way ahead of the Echo in terms of sound quality. It's not going to get your party started but this "dumb" speaker is perfect for background music or kids' bedrooms. Read our Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf WiFi Speaker review.
At under $200, and with both Alexa and Google Assistant as well as excellent sound quality, the Sonos One is the smart speaker to get and will please any music fan. Pair it with another Sonos One and you have a flexible, high-quality stereo system which responds to voice commands for less than the price of the Play:5.
The problem with most speakers is they don't fit in with the rest of your decor. They're boxy and they're usually black. The Ikea literally thinks outside the box and delivers a Sonos-compatible lamp that sounds better than most speakers at the price. It's not smart but it will respond to Siri, Google Assistant and Alexa commands. Read our Ikea Symfonisk Table Lamp with WiFi speaker review.
Now $50 off its original $350 price tag, the Apple HomePod is a lot more competitive with other Wi-Fi and multiroom speakers. It's one of the best-sounding all-in-one wireless speakers with plenty of spaciousness and deep bass. Read our Apple HomePod review.
If you want a wireless model that's portable and water resistant, the Sonos Move offers great sound in a very large box. Read our Sonos Move review.
Featuring a compact bar and excellent sound, the Polk MagniFi offers almost everything you need in a streaming TV speaker, including Chromecast built-in. We picked the MagniFi over the Yamaha YAS-209 because it offers a robust multiroom system, but if you want Alexa built-in, the Yamaha is an excellent speaker. Read our Polk MagniFi Mini review.
Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi delivers the same basic convenience as Bluetooth: using your phone to play music over an external speaker or sound system. Just like Bluetooth, it can work with a app such as Spotify (via ) or Apple Music, a like Pandora or TuneIn, or your own music collection. Here are the best reasons to get a streaming Wi-Fi speaker:
- Wi-Fi sounds better than Bluetooth due to its higher bandwidth.
- Wi-Fi has better range.
- Wi-Fi doesn't take over your phone's audio channel -- so you can take a call without interrupting the song, for example.
- It also works great for multiroom audio, allowing playback from multiple speakers all over the house via your Wi-Fi network, all controlled by a single phone app.
What are the major multiroom standards?
When you buy a Wi-Fi speaker, you're also investing in an ecosystem -- a family of products and apps that work together, but usually don't work with other ecosystems. Here's a look at the major Wi-Fi ecosystems out there today.
- Sonos: It's kind of expensive and a little exclusive, but Sonos still offers some of the best hardware available. The company is moving away from the megalithic single app in favor of supporting third-party music services natively (Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2). Considering the exacting sound quality and the bomb-proof build, Sonos is still the premium Wi-Fi system to get. The release of also makes the system more affordable.
- Apple AirPlay/AirPlay 2: The reach of Apple's AirPlay 2 will continue to iPhone ($599 at Apple) users. -- with its most intriguing feature being multiroom -- but there are plenty of speakers out there that still support the original AirPlay. Great for
- Chromecast ($15 at eBay) built-in: For the cost of entry and ease of use and setup, Chromecast built-in is our current favorite Wi-Fi music system. There's no new apps to learn -- just press the Cast button in an existing, compatible app and music will play to the speaker(s) of your choice.
- DTS Play-Fi: The ecosystem may offer the most number of manufacturers, but the number of hardware releases in the past 12 months has been fairly sporadic. Meanwhile, official partners like Polk and Klipsch have opted to release new Chromecast built-in speakers instead. The company will soon expand into TV and smart home with apps for Android TV and others forthcoming.
There's also Amazon's Multi Room Music. The speaker market has been upended by Amazon's family ofthat combine wireless audio with voice control and home automation. MRM has been slow to take off, and the only non-Amazon product that supports it is the .
There are a number of other Wi-fi systems, some open and some specific to the single manufacturer. These include: Yamaha MusicCast, Denon HEOS, Bowers and Wilkins Formation, Bose Music and Bluesound. There are plenty of systems that have largely been abandoned or replaced, whether it's in favor of a newer version or competition from more popular protocols. These include All-Play, LG MusicFlow and Samsung Multi-Room.
If you want to play a song in "house party mode," for example, where it blasts from multiple speakers throughout the house simultaneously, all of those speakers have to share the same ecosystem. For Sonos and other proprietary systems, all of those speakers will have to be Sonos (or connected to a Sonos device). For Chromecast, all of the speakers regardless of brand, will need to be Chromecast-compatible. And so on.
Most products support streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify, but double-check first to be sure. Is your music stored in iTunes, Google Play Music or Amazon Music? You'll still be fine with a Sonos (for instance), but other products may offer less than perfect support.