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5 wireless speaker systems that won't break your budget

Enjoy your Fourth of July jams free of tangled wires for $200 or less

Published: June 20, 2014 08:00 AM
Sonos Play:1

Wireless speakers—especially Bluetooth models—provide greater flexibility for those of you who want to enjoy music anywhere, including the backyard or park where you're hosting your Fourth of July barbecue. The connectivity features let you stream music from the convenience of a smart phone or tablet over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, liberating you from the clutches of the 3.5mm jack. And streaming music services such as Spotify and Pandora guarantee you’ll be able to entertain yourself and your guests, no matter their musical tastes.

As with their tethered counterparts, wireless speakers run a wide gamut of audio quality—and price. Here are five budget speakers that did well in our tests:

Sonos Play:1, $200

The least expensive of the Sonos wireless speaker line, the Sonos Play:1 (pictured above) still packs a punch, outclassing similarly priced speaker systems from other manufacturers. The Sonos Play: 1 is noted for its impressive sound and ease of use, but the real treat is its expandability through other Sonos Play speakers, allowing listeners to build their surround sound system, one speaker at a time.

The Sonos Play:1 comes with an Ethernet cable to connect with your router, but you may also link it through Wi-Fi either to another Sonos device or an optional additional Sonos Bridge component ($50). Setting up is easy through the Sonos iTunes and Android app, which also lets your smart phone be used as a remote control.

TDK Life On Record Wireless Weatherproof Speaker (A33), $145

If unpredictable summer rains prevent you from bringing your speakers outside, consider the TDK Life On Record, which claims to resist water and dust thanks to its weatherized chassis. The TDK Life On Record produces good sound, is easy to use, and can be powered by batteries (TDK claims a 6-hour battery life) or plugging it into the wall.

Connectivity is achieved via Bluetooth, a USB port allows you to charge mobile devices, and the speaker doubles as a speakerphone when paired with a cell phone.

If you're looking to buy wireless speakers, check out our buying guide.

 

iHome iBT44, $165

Bringing the boombox back to life, the iHome iBT44 is an ideal companion for impromptu dance-offs, picnics in the park, and establishing street cred. The rubberized speaker system of the iHome iBT44 has good sound quality, and pairing it over Bluetooth is simple.

Remaining true to its retro brethren, the iBT44 can be powered by six D batteries or plugged in when used at home. Additional features include an FM radio tuner, an Aux line input, and a remote control.

 

Edifier iF335BT Bric Bluetooth Connect, $100

Coming from the lower end of our budget wireless speaker systems, the Edifier iF335BT represents a good compromise between quality and price. The sound quality is good, and the speaker is powerful enough to achieve decent volume in small to medium-size rooms.

This wireless speaker works over Bluetooth, but also includes an analog input for connectivity with non-Bluetooth devices. Thanks to its built-in microphone, the iF335BT doubles as a speakerphone when paired with a phone.

 

JBL Charge, $100

The most portable of the budget speaker systems, the JBL Charge’s cylindrical shape allows it to be used both vertically and horizontally. The sound quality is good, and the JBL Charge connects with media devices through Bluetooth or the analog audio input.

The Charge can be powered by either batteries or plugging it in and, true to its name, includes a USB port that charges your mobile devices. The JBL Charge does not include a remote, but does allow portable Bluetooth devices (such as phones) to be used as such.

—Karim Lahlou

   

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