The Best Smart Speakers

Wireless, or “smart,” speakers connect to your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or other devices to pipe out music and other audio content. While some homeowners employ smart speakers as part of an automated home entertainment system, many use them as standalone items. Smart speakers are relatively easy to move, set up, and connect to whichever audio player serves at the moment.

Wireless Speaker Connection Types

Wireless smart speakers have a variety of connection options. The most common connection types are Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (BLE), but you may find speakers that also work with Near Field Communication (NFC), AirPlay, or Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA).

Bluetooth

Bluetooth speakers are typically battery-powered, which makes them easy to transport. Unfortunately, they have a limited connectivity range. If your connected device goes outside the range, its audio will cut off.

If connected to a smartphone, these speakers will stop playing music when a call comes in, and they may amplify notification sounds. In addition, they often operate best in a 1:1 coupling, that is, one smart device and one speaker.

Wi-Fi

Smart Wi-Fi speakers often offer a longer range than smart BLE speakers, can connect with multiple devices simultaneously, and won’t interrupt a song due to a call or text message. However, they often rely on power from an electrical outlet and can involve a more complicated setup.

You may encounter latency issues depending on how far your Wi-Fi enabled speakers are from your wireless router and how many devices are connected to it. The farther away the speakers are, the choppier the playback can become. The former challenge can be overcome with Wi-Fi extenders; the second can be helped by purchasing more bandwidth from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Near Field Communication

NFC is relatively uncommon as a primary smart device communication tool because it isn’t a stand-alone technology. Instead, it facilitates better connections. For example, NFC powers the “tap to connect” feature found with many Bluetooth devices.

AirPlay

AirPlay is the technology that only iOS uses to stream audio from a device to a speaker by transmitting audio over Wi-Fi.

Digital Living Network Alliance

DLNA is an international certification standard device manufacturers can receive that verifies the devices can communicate with each other. This means that while a smart speaker may use DLNA communication, it will be used alongside Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Benefits of Wireless Speakers

Smart wireless speakers present several advantages, including customization and portability. You can take them outdoors or move them around a room until you achieve the perfect surround-sound effect. You might be able to cut some cords, too, depending on the type of speaker you purchase.

Other potential benefits depend on your reasons for purchasing a smart speaker. For example, if you want a speaker that will play at home and the neighbor’s block party, you should purchase a Bluetooth-enabled one. These speakers are lightweight and generally ready to travel.

If, however, you desire multi-room functionality, a Wi-Fi enabled solution should be investigated. It will integrate multiple speakers and devices in order to play music throughout your home. With some setups, you can even listen to a soundtrack in one room while the kids dance to the latest pop song in another.

Top Smart Wireless Speakers

After much research, we’ve found the ten best smart speakers on the market. To get the most out of your smart speaker, ensure it will be compatible with your devices, operating system, apps, budget, and desired uses. These speakers are listed from most to least expensive, along with pros, cons, and unique features.

  1. 1. Sonos Play:5

  2. Find on Amazon

    $499.00 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Wi-Fi

    Unique Feature: The smart home entertainment solution from Sonos can expand to up to thirty-one rooms. If the Play:5 is outside your budget, you can purchase the less expensive Play:3 or Play:1.

    Pros:

  • Easy to set up and use
  • Plays streaming and local music files

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Requires a hardwired connection or bridge accessory to connect with other smart products
  • 2. Creative iRoar

  • Find on Amazon

    $369.99 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Bluetooth

    Unique Feature: This speaker comes with a Software Developer Kit, which allows you to develop new software and hardware applications.

    Pros:

    • iRoar Dashboard App for iOS and Android
    • Can be used as a speakerphone
    • Customizable audio quality with an in-app equalizer

    Cons:

    • Expensive
    • Ten-hour battery life means you may need to keep this device plugged in
  • 3. Beats Pill+

  • Find on Amazon

    $229.95 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Bluetooth

    Unique Feature: The Beats Pill+ features “DJ the Playlist,” which allows two people to control the playlist from separate Bluetooth-compatible devices simultaneously.

    Pros:

    • Water resistant
    • Lightning and USB charge ports
    • Can be plugged in or use a lithium-ion battery

    Cons:

    • Thirty-foot range
    • Heavy, at 1.6 pounds
  •  4. UE BOOM 2

  • Find on Amazon

    $199.99 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Bluetooth and NFC

    Unique Features: The UE BOOM 2 is waterproof (IPX7 rated), which means you don’t have to worry about someone spilling their drink on it or accidentally knocking it into the pool.

    Pros:

    • Lightweight
    • Fifteen hours of battery life
    • UE BOOM 2 app often provides new features

    Cons:

    • 100-foot wireless range
    • Waterproof only for thirty minutes and up to one meter in depth
  • 5. Bose SoundTouch 10

  • Find on Amazon

    $199.95 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

    Unique Feature: The SoundTouch 10 comes with dedicated remotes that can be used in addition to a smartphone or tablet.

    Pros:

    • Small, discreet speaker
    • Connect to your devices over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth
    • App provides access to thousands of radio stations on the Internet

    Cons:

    • Only comes in black and white
    • No battery means that it is less portable and may be difficult to use outside
  • 6. Amazon Echo

  • Find on Amazon

    $179.99 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Wi-Fi

    Unique Feature: Amazon Echo is the intelligent speaker for the connected home. The voice-activated speaker can turn off lights, set a timer, schedule a ride from Uber, or find a recipe for dinner.

    Pros:

    • Simple setup
    • Integrates with Amazon Prime Music and Audible
    • Easily connects with IoT home devices

    Cons:

    • May not work well with Microsoft devices
    • Some functions come at an additional cost
  • 7. Fugoo Style

  • Find on Amazon

    $179.99 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Bluetooth

    Unique Feature: The Fugoo model comes close to being indestructible—it is waterproof, sand- and snow-proof, and shock resistant. It also features three “jackets,” which essentially act as skins for the speaker’s core. You can dress the speaker as stylish, sporty, or tough.

    Pros:

    • Up to forty hours of battery life
    • Designed for outdoor use
    • 360-degree sound

    Cons:

    • Quiet sound system
    • Manual firmware upgrades
  • 8. Polk Omni S2

  • Find on Amazon

    $179.95 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Wi-Fi and DTS Play-Fi

    Unique Feature: The Polk Omni S2 integrates with any speaker that uses the open-source DTS Play-Fi technology.

    Pros:

    • Affordable
    • Easy to set up and use
    • Designed for multi-room systems

    Cons:

    • Occasional latency issues
    • App can be difficult to connect with and manage
  • 9. Eton Rugged Rukus

  • Find on Amazon

    $129.99 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Bluetooth

    Unique Feature: The Rugged Rukus is powered by solar energy. When it is dark outside, the internal lithium-ion battery keeps the speaker playing up to eight hours more.

    Pros:

    • USB port
    • IPX4 rated for outdoor use
    • Optional AC power

    Cons:

    • Water resistant, not waterproof
  • 10. JBL Charge 2+

  • JBL

    Find on Amazon

    $99.95 (MSRP)

    Wireless Technology: Bluetooth

    Unique Feature: The JBL Charge 2+ can charge your phone and other smart devices with its built-in USB port.

    Pros:

    • Choose between horizontal or vertical orientation
    • Twelve hours of battery life

    Cons:

    • Splash-proof, not waterproof

    *SafeWise has conducted impartial research to recommend products. This is not a guarantee. Each individual’s unique needs should be considered when deciding on chosen products.

     

    Interested in more smart products for your home? Check out our complete Home Automation Guide.

    Written by Emily Long

    Emily Long is a safety expert for SafeWise.com. She is passionate about promoting safe and healthy habits for day-to-day living. When she isn’t writing about safety and well-being, she can be found teaching yoga, road tripping, or hiking in the mountains. Learn more

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