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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 a classic rock tunes like "Aqualung" or appreciates more esoteric dad rock (Wilco, anyone?), a great wireless speaker is an ideal choice for Father's Day.

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

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

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

1

Marshall Kilburn
Marshall Kilburn

    Marshall Kilburn

    Rock on, Dad. That's the meta-message of the Marshall Killburn, a Bluetooth wireless speaker that channels the company's legendary guitar amps. CR's testing determined that the Killburn sounds really good, but what sets it apart is its bold style statement.

    A beefy old-school toggle switch turns the unit on, and the knurled metal knobs adjust the treble, bass, and volume. (One suggestion for next time—Marshall missed a chance here for "Spinal Tap" homage, leaving the Kilburn's highest settings marked at 10 rather than a Nigel-Tufnel-inspired 11. Which is one louder, as everyone knows.)

    The Marshall Killburn even comes with a coiled AUX cable that resembles a guitar cable, and a red carrying strap that wouldn't look totally out of place on a Les Paul guitar, all the better to help dad get in touch with his inner Jimmy Page. 

    2

    JBL Pulse 3
    JBL Pulse 3

      JBL Pulse 3

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

      But while a lava lamp is a one-trick pony, dad can customize the patterns and colors of his Pulse 3's light show through the JBL app. He can even match the color palette to his favorite polo shirt.

      The Pulse 3 performed admirably in our sound-quality tests, earning a recommendation from our testers with good bass impact and smooth trebles, whether dad is playing "In-A -Gadda-Da-Vida" or something a little less trippy. JBL claims an IPX7 water-resistance rating for the Pulse 3, which means that it should withstand immersion in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. CR doesn't test speakers for water resistance, though.

      3

      Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation)
      Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation)

        Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation)

        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 honestly not saying much. However, the Dot can pull off a trick that makes its own sound-quality irrelevant: It adds smart-speaker skills to any other 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.") It's hard to beat that in a Father's Day gift.

        4

        Denon HEOS 5 HS2
        Denon HEOS 5 HS2

          Denon HEOS 5 HS2

          The HEOS 5, which costs about $300, has exceptional sound on its own, but it can also function as the cornerstone of a flexible multiroom system. This makes it a great gift if you're the type to already start thinking about your next gift-giving occasion. You can always add more speakers to dad's system.

          Follow up with HEOS 7 in the family room for his birthday, or a battery-powered HEOS 1 that's ready for outdoor fun on the deck or patio. They'll all integrate seamlessly with the HEOS 5 HS2 throughout the home.

          That flexibility makes the HEOS family a legitimate rival to Sonos's lineup, which is famous for multiroom audio. But the HEOS 5 adds one bit of flexibility that Sonos models don't. It features Bluetooth pairing—letting you call up a favorite playlist from your phone or a friend's—in addition to a more stable WiFi connection. 

          5

          Google Home Max
          Google Home Max

            Google Home Max

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

            The Home Max is expensive compared with other smart speakers. But 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 more songs 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.