Best Wireless Speakers for Father's Day

These models offer useful features, solid value, and great sound

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Whether your father plays air guitar to classic rock tunes like "Aqualung" or savors more esoteric dad rock (Fountains of Wayne, anyone?), a great wireless speaker is an ideal choice for Father's Day on June 21.

The best of today's models pair easily with a phone or WiFi network, stream without hiccups, and offer unique styling options.

Even a compact model can provide sound quality that will make your father think fondly of you every time he loads his Prince playlist.

CR's selection of wireless speakers runs the gamut from sleek and stylish portables to system speakers that can fill a house with music. The list below even offers some options for adding smart speaker functionality to dad's life.

All of the models were tested by the experts in our labs for sound quality, ease of use, and versatility. And, as always, the test samples were purchased through normal retail channels, so we receive and evaluate the same device as you.

Rock on, Dad. That's the meta-message of this Bluetooth speaker, which channels the classic good looks of Marshall's legendary guitar amps.

The model we tested provides built-in support for Amazon's Alexa-powered voice commands, but there's a Google Assistant version, too. Like a vintage guitar amp, the unit has three beefy knobs on top for controlling the volume, bass, and treble. They're nicely knurled and turn with a silky feel that dad is sure to love.

With somewhat boomy bass and a midrange that’s slightly congested, the sound quality is less refined than that of the very best-sounding smart speakers (see the Google Home Max below). But the model does provide enough volume to fill a large room, even if it doesn't quite reach 11, like the Marshall that Nigel Tufnel used in "This Is Spinal Tap."

What looks a little like a lava lamp and plays music really well? Meet the JBL Pulse 3. This Bluetooth speaker channels the aura of those groovy 1960s relics but uses LEDs under a plastic dome—instead of heated waxy blobs—for its visual effects.

While a lava lamp is a one-trick pony, your dad can customize the patterns and colors of the Pulse 3's light show using the compatible JBL app. He can even match the color palette to his favorite polo shirt, if he absolutely insists.

The Pulse 3 performed admirably in our sound-quality tests, earning a recommendation from our testers for good bass impact and smooth trebles.

CR doesn't test speakers for water resistance, but JBL claims the unit has an IPX7 rating, which means it should withstand immersion in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

For $50 or less, the newest version of the Amazon Dot is a smart speaker at a budget price. While the third-generation Dot sounds better than its predecessors, that's not saying much. But the Dot can pull off a trick that makes its own sound quality irrelevant: It adds smart-speaker skills to any other great-sounding Bluetooth wireless speaker dad already owns.

Paired to another speaker or not, the Dot can pull off all the same tricks as an Amazon Echo, meaning it's a speaker that can actually tell dad jokes to dad. ("I used to work in an orange juice factory. But I quit because I couldn't concentrate.") That's hard to beat in a Father's Day gift.

The HEOS 5 has exceptional sound on its own, but it can also function as the cornerstone of a flexible multiroom system. That makes it a great gift if you're inclined to think ahead to the next gift-giving occasion. Why not add more speakers to dad's arsenal?

You can follow up with the larger and even-better-sounding HEOS 7 HS2 or a battery-powered HEOS 1 HS that's ready for outdoor fun.

That flexibility makes the HEOS family a legitimate rival to the Sonos lineup, which is famous for multiroom audio. But the HEOS 5 adds one extra bit of versatility. Unlike most Sonos models, it offers Bluetooth pairing (in addition to the more stable WiFi connection)—letting you quickly stream a favorite playlist from your phone or that of a friend.

The Google Home Max is the best-sounding smart speaker we've tested.

It's a bit expensive compared with other smart speakers, but it offers powerful, extended bass, crystalline high notes, and unusually good stereo imaging from a single enclosure, all while pumping out enough volume to fill a large room. (It doesn't, however, quite match the sound of the very best non-smart wireless speakers.)

In addition to providing high-quality sound, our testers found the Home Max, which incorporates Google Assistant, to be plenty smart. So whether dad wants to hear the score of last night's Detroit Tigers game or listen to tunes like "Eye of the Tiger," the Home Max delivers.

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.