Best Wireless Speakers of 2021
Top-rated models from our labs include options from Como, Edifier, JBL, Sonos, UE, and, yes, Ikea
What’s better than listening to your favorite music? How about kicking back and enjoying those sounds through a great wireless speaker that checks every one of your boxes.
That may mean a versatile multiroom system that fills your home with music from basement to attic. Or perhaps a rugged and waterproof portable you can take to a park. And for many of us, audio nirvana is a wireless speaker that couples benchmark sound quality with a reasonable price.
Best-Sounding Wireless Speaker
Speakers are all about sound. That’s why our testing protocol places more emphasis on sound quality than any other single factor. And two different-but-similar Edifier models sound better than all other wireless speakers in our ratings (available to CR members).
The Edifier S1000MKII, a reasonably priced Bluetooth speaker system that’s sold in a stereo pair, excels sonically. It features smooth trebles that aren’t jarring but still let you hear the delicate shimmer of a cymbal. Its musical low frequencies allow you to differentiate between an acoustic doghouse bass and a Fender Jazz bass cranking through an Ampeg amp. The all-important midrange, where most vocals and solo instruments live, is free of the distortions and colorations that can make lesser speakers tiring to listen to after a while.
And with its classic stereo configuration, the Edifier provides a truly convincing illusion that the musicians are in the room with you. Want to hear for yourself? Listen to Pink Floyd’s epic “Dark Side of the Moon” on the model.
The MKII is a close cousin—and possible successor—to the highly rated S1000DB, which sounds almost identical, according to our testers. The two models are also very similar in size and appearance, but a new and much-improved remote control makes the MKII easier to use and bumps its Overall Score just a bit.
Note that the S1000DB is still available through Edifier and from a few retailers for around the same price as the newer MKII. The older model could be a decent buy if the price drops significantly, but unless you’re getting a discount, make sure you’re buying the newer, higher-rated model with the superior remote.
The Edifiers don’t offer multiroom functionality, unlike models from Sonos and Denon, but they do provide a full array of connections. Most of all, they are likely to impress with stellar sound.
Best Multiroom Speaker
The Sonos Five sounds great, but just as importantly, it plays well with others . . . as long as those others are Sonos-compatible speakers.
Almost identical in sound and functionality to the manufacturer’s venerable Play:5, the Sonos Five is a large stereo speaker in a single enclosure. Its powerful bass, shimmering trebles, and sparkling clear midrange earn it a spot near the very top of our sound quality rankings. If you’re willing to spend $1,000 to pair two Fives in stereo, the sound quality jumps a notch, to our highest ranking, a distinction shared with the Edifier S1000MKII and S1000DB.
That said, the Sonos Five’s impressive flexibility might be its best feature. You can link a Five with any other Sonos-compatible device—from a Sonos sound bar to a portable Move or Roam smart speaker or even an inexpensive Sonos-compatible Ikea Symfonisk—to form a flexible multiroom system.
That allows you to control the tracks and the volume from your smart phone app, which means you can play Lorde in the family room, stream NPR in the kitchen, and pipe Al Green into the bedroom all with the touch of a finger. Note, however, that like the company’s other home models, the Sonos Five is Wi-Fi only, with no Bluetooth streaming.
Best-Sounding Portable Speaker
If you’re looking for a great-sounding speaker that can be moved as needed, including outdoors, but doesn’t have to fit in a backpack, Ultimate Ears’ Hyperboom is likely to serve you well.
Our testers commend its robust bass and clean midrange, and report that it’s plenty loud indoors or out. They also find its large controls to be easy to use, which helps it earn good grades for versatility. The Hyperboom features an optical input, so it can double as a TV sound bar or upgrade the sound of a game console.
The vertically oriented design doesn’t take up much space on a table or shelf, and the subdued styling allows it to blend in better than most portables when you take the speaker indoors. If you’d prefer a model that’s easier to carry around, you might consider the more portable JBL Boombox 2.
Ultimate Ears claims an IPX4 water-resistance rating for the Hyperboom, which means that it’s splashproof and spillproof, but it isn’t designed to stand up to a full-fledged dunking.
Best Inexpensive Multiroom Speaker
For $100, this Ikea bookshelf speaker is the cheapest way into the Sonos ecosystem, which makes it a notably good value.
While Ikea designed the long and thin box—which can serve as a light-duty bookshelf when mounted horizontally on a wall—the Symfonisk’s internals are pure Sonos, so it can be integrated seamlessly into a Sonos multiroom system.
In our listening labs, the Symfonisk sounds a lot like its Sonos brethren, with a clear treble that allows cymbals to shimmer, a balanced and detailed midrange that reveals the nuance in Beyoncé’s vocals, and bass that’s musical if not overly deep. The sound-quality ranking fell just a bit below the significantly more expensive Sonos One SL, but the gap is so tiny that most casual listeners won’t notice the difference.
Our testers note that a stereo pair of Symfonisk speakers can yield a wider sound stage and a more realistic reproduction of the room ambience on a recording.
The Symfonisk also functions like a Sonos speaker in the company’s multiroom systems. With the easy-to-use app, it’s simple to integrate the model into a whole-house system, so you can listen to Janelle Monae in the kitchen while the kids blast Taylor Swift in the basement. Keep in mind, however, that like Sonos’ other home speakers, the Symfonisk lacks Bluetooth capability, so it needs WiFi to function.
Most Versatile Wireless Speaker
Remember that thing called a radio? The days when you could listen to the news or sports talk, not to mention your favorite DJ playing tunes destined to become gems? The Como Solo hasn’t forgotten.
This compact, retro-cool Bluetooth speaker sports a very unique feature: an AM/FM tuner. Further boosting its best-in-class versatility score is an impressive array of inputs, including an optical port for connecting a TV, a USB port that allows you to play music on a stick, a headphone jack for personal listening, and a couple of additional auxiliary-in jacks.
The Como, which was designed by Tom DeVesto, who created similarly stylish devices for Tivoli, features a real wood cabinet (available in Walnut, Hickory, Piano White, or Piano Black) and a screen that displays a vintage-style analog clock when it’s not in use. All in all, it’s a handsome companion for a nightstand.
Our testers found that the Solo’s sound isn’t spectacular, but it is easy to live with. The midrange is even with a little less detail than the best speakers available, while both the bass and treble are a bit subdued, which is often better than strident or bass-heavy speakers that impose their own sonic signature on your music.
The Solo is monophonic but can be stereo-paired via an 11-foot wired connection with the company’s Ambiente auxiliary speaker (starting at $110, depending on finish).
Best Inexpensive Portable Wireless Speaker
The JBL Flip 4 is a bargain. It lists for $100, and the street price is often significantly less. But don’t be fooled by the low price—the JBL is a lot of speaker for the money.
The classic cylindrical design takes up relatively little space in a beach bag or on a picnic table. And the Flip 4 comes in six fun colors, all the better to coordinate with your favorite sunglasses.
The company claims a battery life of up to 12 hours, and the Flip 4’s claimed IPX7 water resistance rating means that it can survive being fully submerged, which makes it perfect for the beach or any outdoor setting where a shower—or a dunking—is a distinct possibility.
Compared with the best-sounding speakers we’ve tested, the Flip 4 has a few shortcomings, with bass that’s a bit boomy and trebles that are somewhat subdued. But when played outdoors and in other casual environments where a speaker like this works best, the Flip 4’s largely forgiving sonic signature encourages you to play tunes one right after the other.
What Makes a Great Speaker?
Do you know the difference between good speakers and excellent speakers? On the “Consumer 101” TV show, Consumer Reports expert Elias Arias explains to host Jack Rico the art of identifying high-quality devices.