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Photo of two girls sitting in a dorm room with a computer, listening to a Bluetooth speaker.

WiFi and Bluetooth Speakers That Will Rock a Dorm Room

Head to school in style with these sub-$250 wireless speakers

Back when I was in college, one annual rite of passage I always dreaded was lugging my hi-fi gear and giant tower speakers up the stairs to my dorm room on move-in day. Of course, that was long—I won't say how long—before the advent of wireless speakers.

These days, there are hundreds of WiFi and Bluetooth speakers to pick from, and most are no harder to carry around than a hard copy of "Gray's Anatomy." But which one to choose?

Let's make it easy—just check out the models highlighted below. The price limit for this group is $250, and the speakers all come highly recommended by our testers, who evaluate each model based on sound quality, ease of use, and versatility. There are now 110 wireless speaker models in our wireless speaker ratings. Like all Consumer Reports test samples, we purchased each and every one of them at retail—no freebies or hand-picked models from manufacturers, so every tested model is just like the one you may take home.

Among our picks are brand names that might be familiar, such as Creative, Marshall, and Sonos. There are also a few up-and-comers, such as Edifier and Fluance. All of our selections are wireless models that use either Bluetooth or WiFi, and all can fill a dorm room with satisfying sound. Two models have built-in rechargeable batteries, letting them go wherever you do.

1
Edifier R2000DB

Edifier R2000DB

These sharp-looking Bluetooth wireless speakers from Edifier stand out from a lot of the models we've tested, for two reasons. One, they sound great. The second reason is that, unlike most wireless models, the Edifier R2000DB comes as a pair, which means they can be set up to provide much better stereo separation than single-unit models. Another bonus: At a hair under $250, they're less expensive than many other top-rated models that can deliver the same level of sound quality.




    2
    Sonos Play:1

    Sonos Play:1

    Sonos not only set the bar for wireless speaker sound quality, it helped invent the category along the way. The only problem: Sonos speakers tended to be pricey. With the $200 Sonos Play:1, Sonos sound comes to the more frugal masses. Like the pricier Play:3 and Play:5 models, the Play:1 is a stylish, solidly constructed mono WiFi speaker that can directly access streaming music services, such as Pandora and Spotify. But you can really kick the sound up a notch by pairing it with another Play:1 in a stereo configuration. Graduates finally earning a paycheck can bring the Play:1s along with them, adding an optional subwoofer for more bottom-end thump. Add other Play speakers to create a full-blown 5.1-channel surround-sound system in one room, or a multiroom speaker system throughout a house.




      3
      Fluance Fi50

      Fluance Fi50

      This retro-looking $200 Bluetooth wireless speaker from Fluance can certainly kick out the jams, but be aware that it's bigger and heftier than it probably looks in the picture above. (It weighs more than 13 pounds.) It also requires AC power. But what you lose in portability, you gain in sound quality, because this speaker can really rock a room. The Fluance Fi50 has an LCD display, and touch controls for volume and a built-in equalizer for tailoring the sound. Would-be style mavens can choose from three color options: Black Ash, Natural Walnut (shown), and the most visually striking, Lucky Bamboo, which features a white front plate.




        4
        Creative iRoar Go

        Creative iRoar Go

        So far our picks have been models really meant to be placed, and left, in a room. If you're craving more portability, check out the Creative iRoar Go Bluetooth speaker. Priced at about $200, the iRoar Go delivers satisfying sound, though a notch below the more stationary models. Still, with its smaller size, weatherproof design, and built-in rechargeable battery, the iRoar Go can pretty much go anywhere, from a barbecue to the beach. It includes Creative's "SuperWide" technology, which can expand the sound stage, making the music sound like it's coming from a larger space, with individual instruments more distinct from each other. The speaker also has MicroSD and USB slots for playing audio stored on an external memory device.




          5
          Marshall Kilburn

          Marshall Kilburn

          The portable Marshall Kilburn Bluetooth speaker provides some pretty powerful sound, and packs it into a fairly compact package that clearly takes its design clues from Marshall's classic guitar amps. Admittedly, that look—either black (shown) or cream enclosures, with the iconic Marshall logo splashed across the front—may not appeal to everyone. The Kilburn isn't as small and lightweight as the Creative iRoar Go (it weighs close to 6 1⁄2 pounds), but its built-in battery and carrying strap do make it portable. We found the Kilburn easier to use than most models in our ratings; the guitar-amp-style controls on the top of the speaker are clearly labeled and easy to access. And like all the models listed here, it has an analog audio input so that you can use it with non-Bluetooth devices.




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            James K. Willcox

            I've been a tech journalist for more years than I'm willing to admit. My specialties at CR are TVs, streaming media, audio, and TV and broadband services. In my spare time I build and play guitars and bass, ride motorcycles, and like to sail—hobbies I've not yet figured out how to safely combine.