These are the best Wi-Fi speakers for streaming music.
There are wireless speakers for everywhere these days, both those for inside the home and portable speakers for outside, and they make a great addition to your entertainment setup. Some of these Wi-Fi speakers can cost a pretty penny, but you don't need to go broke to get a great one. Some of the best streaming speakers provide you with great sound quality and connect over your available Wi-Fi, but there are many Bluetooth speakers out there as well. To help you figure out which will be the perfect fit for your home's audio setup, we made a list of the best Wi-Fi speakers we've tested in the CNET labs.
Wi-Fi streaming lets you control music in a multiroom environment, and most Wi-Fi speakers also offer voice control (for instance, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple's Siri). That means you can ask your speaker for a specific song, and it'll play it back for you. For more on this, don't miss CNET's guide to the best smart speakers.
For the streaming speakers that do offer voice control, if you don't want that you can just turn it off. Either way, you don't need to spend very much -- for instance, a fantastic "dumb" multiroom speaker like the Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf starts at $140. To make sense of it all, keep reading for the best Wi-Fi speakers for your needs.
Also consider: Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2023
At $249, the Sonos Era 100 is the smart speaker to please any music fan. The compact device makes a number of improvements on the award-winning One, including stereo playback and even better sound quality. With Bluetooth, Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility the Era 100 is a more flexible streaming speaker than ever before.
For $140 there's a number of excellent smart speakers to choose from, including the Amazon Echo, Nest Audio and HomePod Mini, but the Symfonisk is bigger than all of them. Bigger cabinets usually mean bigger sound. While this speaker is best as part of a Sonos surround sound system, it also makes a great kids' room or garage speaker.
Google may offer a lot of speakers, including the Nest Audio, but the one that was truly great with music -- the Home Max -- has been discontinued. It's surprising then that the list of affordable-yet-good-sounding Chromecast built-in speakers can be counted on the fingers on one hand. And of those, the JBL Playlist is the best I've tested, with a generously sized speaker and enough volume to fill a typical room. It also has Bluetooth and an auxiliary input to expand its flexibility. It may not be "smart", but if you want a system that can be controlled via an existing Google Assistant speaker, this is the one to get.
The Echo Studio comes from the house of Amazon – the creator of Alexa. It is easy to set up and is loud enough to fill a room with sound. With thumping bass, clear sound and good highs, this is easily the best Amazon Echo. You can use Alexa to stream songs from Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Tidal and more.
The HomePod Mini may be outgunned by the new HomePod in terms of output power, but it is also a third of the price. For its size, the HomePod Mini has a laundry list of useful features -- Siri voice assistant, temperature and humidity controls -- and it sounds really good, too. If you're deep in the Apple ecosystem, especially if you use Siri a lot, then the Apple HomePod Mini should make a seamless addition to your home.
The Sonos Roam is a portable Bluetooth speaker on steroids -- it can be used out-and-about or it can be used as part of a Sonos multiroom system. It's affordable (for Sonos, that is) and it sounds better than other products of its type. It also comes with a choice of voice assistant to make choosing a song even simpler.
Not a speaker as such, but a great option for people who don't want to buy a whole new one. Say you've got a stereo system -- or even an old Bluetooth speaker like the Fluance F170 -- and you wanted to be able to add Wi-Fi streaming to it. The WiiM Pro offers the best sound and streaming support of any other dongle I can think of -- and it's only $149. The app makes it easy to setup and use, and it will integrate with many multi-room systems too.
CNET follows a rigorous, unbiased evaluation process for all of our audio testing. We test Wi-Fi speakers ranging from simple bedside speakers all the way through to high-end systems. Our audio lab includes a Roon server running on a Synology NAS, Google Nest and Amazon Echo speakers, plus both iOS and Android devices. Similar speakers are compared side by side in a living room environment with different styles of music and utilizing multiple streaming platforms when required. We grade the sound quality of each by evaluating clarity, dynamics, bass response and stereo imaging (if applicable). If the speaker comes with a proprietary app we will compare that to other competitive controllers.
Both of them can be termed as wireless speaker systems. Wi-Fi delivers the same basic convenience as Bluetooth: using your phone's Wi-Fi connection to play music over an external speaker or sound system. Just like speakers that use Bluetooth connectivity, it can work with a subscription music service app such as Spotify (via Spotify Connect) or Apple Music, a radio service like Pandora or TuneIn, or your own music collection. Here are the best reasons to get a streaming Wi-Fi speaker:
Mutliroom enables users to play from one or multiple speakers anywhere in the house at once, with most systems able to support up to a dozen or more different zones. 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 speakers come with a dedicated companion app for iOS and Android which is used for both setting up and controlling your system. It goes without saying that you'll need an internet connection to use a Wi-Fi speaker, and most speakers support at least 2.4GHz connections or even 5Ghz. Check your documentation for the name of the app you need and make sure you also have your Wi-Fi password handy. Most apps use a simple step-by-step process, so you should be listening to music in a matter of minutes.
When you buy a Wi-Fi speaker, you're also investing in an ecosystem -- a family of products and apps that work together, but don't always work with other ecosystems. Here's a look at the major Wi-Fi systems out there today.
Most Wi-Fi speaker 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 support as many platforms.