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 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.
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 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.
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.
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