Best Wireless Multiroom Speakers of 2021

Top-rated models from Amazon, Apple, Denon, Sonos, and even Ikea let you play music throughout your home

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speakers Photos: Apple, Sonos

It wasn’t that long ago that a multiroom audio system could easily cost thousands of dollars to buy and install. Purchasing the speakers, amps, keypads, and switching devices was just the beginning—then you had to hire a technician to snake wires through the walls, make the connections, and adjust the settings to get all the components to play together nicely.

Today you can buy a wireless multiroom speaker system with great performance and unprecedented flexibility for surprisingly little money and set it up yourself in a manner of minutes, right from your smartphone.

Sonos has led the way when it comes to multiroom systems, but other companies have joined in, giving music lovers a variety of choices for modestly priced wireless speakers. And if you own a smart speaker from one of the major brands—Amazon Echo, Google Nest, or Apple HomePod—you can add other speakers to form a multiroom system that can deliver voice-controlled music throughout your home.

Our top-rated multiroom speakers offer not only solid sound but also impressive flexibility. If your aim is to execute an epic Rickroll and play "Never Gonna Give You Up" perfectly synced through 16 speakers on four different levels of your house, go right ahead. If your goals are more modest—streaming NPR quietly in the kitchen while the kids crank "Frozen 2" in the family room, all controlled by your smartphone—that’s also an option.

The following are some of the top multiroom speakers in CR’s ratings. Like everything we rate, from printers to pickup trucks, CR buys speakers anonymously through regular retail channels and puts each model through a battery of lab tests for ease of use, versatility, and especially sound quality.

The Amazon Echo led the way as the original smart speaker, but despite all that innovation, it had one problem: It didn’t sound great. But Amazon has improved the sonics across its speaker line in recent years, and the Amazon Echo Studio is now the best-sounding option of the bunch.

Featuring a deep and powerful bass, a clean midrange, and smooth trebles, the Studio is in fact one of the very best-sounding smart speakers we’ve had in our lab. CR’s testers report that when playing Dolby Atmos and 3D audio content, the Studio provides a spacious "soundfield" that can fill a room. But the "Stereo Spatial Enhancement" setting adds a bit of an echo, so we recommend switching it off.

The Studio can be integrated with other Amazon Echo speakers in a multiroom system. But our testers experienced somewhat glitchy performance when pairing two Studios. A few problems arose when we changed the volume, and there were minor sync issues between the left and right speakers.

The original HomePod, which was Apple’s first smart speaker, has been discontinued in favor of the smaller, less-expensive HomePod Mini, which doesn’t sound nearly as good, according to our testers.

They find the $99 Mini to be congested in a way that’s similar to the $50 Amazon Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini, albeit with a fuller bass. That means the Mini is okay for podcasts or background music in a small room but hardly great for playing your favorite tunes.

The HomePod Mini works best if you’re deeply immersed in Apple’s ecosystem, because it offers easy integration with the Apple Music streaming service, including full voice control and multiroom capability. The Mini can also control Apple HomeKit smart home products. It also allows voice control of other music services, including Pandora and iHeart Radio, and can even integrate with Apple CarPlay in your vehicle. For instance, you could ask the speaker for driving directions while making coffee in the morning, then have it send your chosen route to your car before you leave.

If you’re not much of an Apple fan, note that other multiroom smart speakers like the Amazon Studio (above) and the Sonos One (below) performed significantly better in our sound quality testing. Though Apple has discontinued the original HomePod, if you can find one on closeout or on the used market, it would be a good-sounding (and fully compatible) addition to a system comprised of HomePod Minis.

The Denon Home 150 takes over where the company’s Heos line of multiroom speakers left off. Not only does it feature more traditional styling than its predecessor—some models in the Heos line resembled a high-end handbag—but it also provides satisfying sound and commendable versatility.

Sonically, the 150 delivers bass that is impactful but a little boomy, an even midrange, and extended high frequencies. Our testers find that pairing two 150s improves the illusion that the musicians are right there in the room with you, though adding the second speaker does make the bass a bit boomier.

The Home 150 provides enough volume for a midsized room, but if you need to fill a bigger space, you might consider Denon’s larger Home 250 and Home 350 models. Our testers find a strong family resemblance among all three speakers, but the larger models supply more bass and volume, albeit for more money. All three models can integrate seemlessly in a multiroom system.

Like speakers in the HEOS line, the Home 150 differs from most models from rival Sonos in that it offers both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to quickly move a playlist or podcast from your smartphone to the speaker (although our testers noted that selecting Bluetooth input had to be done from Denon’s otherwise intuitive smartphone app). For most of your listening, however, you’ll want to use the more robust WiFi connection.

The Sonos One smart speaker has two features that make it a great choice for a wireless multiroom system: its small size and relatively low price. The model fits unobtrusively on a shelf. And though it doesn’t offer the sheer bass response of larger speakers, it does offer impressively detailed sound on vocals and instrumentals.

The second-generation version has more memory and a better processor than the original, but our testers report that it sounds and performs identically. It also costs less than some rivals, so you can start your system with a couple of Ones—say, one in the kitchen and the other in a bedroom—and expand to other rooms (or to stereo pairs with better sound) as your budget permits.

The Sonos One can integrate with the company’s wireless speakers, adding smart speaker functionality to an existing Sonos system. You can even add the inexpensive Ikea Symfonisk speaker to your Sonos system. Note that like other Sonos home speakers, the One doesn’t have Bluetooth capability. It streams through WiFi, and you control it with the company’s smartphone app.

The One is also platform-agnostic; it has built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. And if you’re into Apple, you can also stream music to it using an iPad or iPhone with Apple’s AirPlay 2. If you don’t need or want smart speaker functionality, the similar-sounding Sonos One SL is essentially a Sonos One without the smarts.

If sound quality is your top priority in a multiroom system—and that’s usually a great place to start—then you should put the Sonos Five on your shopping list.

It’s the highest-rated and best-sounding multiroom speaker we’ve tested, delivering solid bass and crystalline trebles that let you hear every detail of your favorite recordings. And though a single Five offers up fine sound, two Fives paired in stereo receive our rarely bestowed top rating for sound quality.

While the speaker delivers truly special sound quality, it’s somewhat limited in functionality. It’s not a smart speaker, and like other home models from the company, it’s WiFi only, with no Bluetooth connectivity.

But because the Five integrates smoothly and seamlessly in a whole-house system with other Sonos products, those features can be added by including a Sonos One (for smart speaker chops, including voice command) or a Sonos Move or Roam wireless portable speaker (for Bluetooth streaming) to your Sonos system.

Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf

It’s a little surprising that Ikea has made a foray into the world of audio. What’s even more surprising is that its Sonos-powered speakers are top performers at a low price.

Our testers report that the Symfonisk Bookshelf speaker sounds a lot like its Sonos brethren, with clear trebles, a balanced and detailed midrange, and bass that’s tuneful although not especially deep. The sound-quality ranking falls just a bit below those of the Sonos One and Sonos One SL, but the gap is small enough that most casual listeners won’t notice the difference. Our testers also note that a stereo pair of Symfonisk speakers sounds much better than a single unit, especially when it comes to capturing that you-are-there factor on a really good recording.

Ikea markets the Symfonisk as a bookshelf speaker. Literally. It can be mounted horizontally on a wall and used as a shelf, but its limited capacity makes it better suited to light volumes of poetry rather than Russian novels. (The Symfonisk line also includes Sonos-powered lamp and picture frame speakers.)

Like other Sonos home speakers, the Symfonisk models lack Bluetooth capability; they need WiFi to function.


Allen St. John

I believe that technology has the power to change our lives—for better or for worse. That's why I’ve spent my life reporting and writing about it for outlets of all sorts, from newspapers (such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times) to magazines (Popular Mechanics and Rolling Stone) and even my own books ("Newton’s Football" and "Clapton’s Guitar"). For me, there's no better way to spend a day than talking to a bunch of experts about an important subject and then writing a story that'll help others be smarter and better informed.