The best Bluetooth and wireless speakers
If you're looking for the best Bluetooth speaker for indoors (mainly, although many of these are battery-powered, and so can go outside if it's not raining, and you aren't too rough with 'em), then this is the article is for you. We've found the best speakers for phones, tablets, PCs and Macs that money can buy, from budget and tiny to room-filling and luxe.
The great thing about Bluetooth is that it is compatible with just about everything short of your wind-up gramophone, and although the audio may not be lossless, these speakers do deliver very solid sonic performance, as well as portability and versatility, for a reasonable £100-£200. And look, you can even use them while baking. Textbook.
There's also a new, far more serious, breed, with the likes of the Naim Mu-so and Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin adding Bluetooth compatibility to AirPlay, Spotify Connect, DLNA and other wireless musical systems, and really jacking up the audio quality, design appeal and, it must be said, cost, with pricing from £300 to £900.
We've got a real mix of both budget and not-so-budget. It's up to you to decide whether portability and convenience or musical quality are what you're after here. Or go mad, and get one of each type. We've tried to put them in a rough order of preference but obviously comparing a tiddly, £50 speaker with a beast such as the Naim Mu-so is not the most scientific of exercises.
• Want to get more personal? Try the best Bluetooth headphones instead.
• Want a more rugged, waterproof Bluetooth speaker?
Click through to see T3's favourite Bluetooth and wireless speakers.
Naim Mu-so Qb
The smaller bro' of the T3 Award-winning Naim Mu-so is obviously not as good as its £895 sibling. However it is as good 'pound for pound', and easier to fit into your house than the elegantly hulking original.
With support for Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Spotify connect, Naim's own streaming/multi-room app, as well as optical and USB digital inputs, it's just as versatile, and it puts out a fantastically meaty, detailed sound.
Particularly if you're a little shorter of space or cash (though we're not saying it's cheap, as such), this is currently the best wireless speaker you can get. It's kind of over-specced for use solely as a Bluetooth speaker, but with Apt-X and AAC support, it does a decent enough job there, too.
But seriously, please don't buy it and only use it via Bluetooth. That would be nuts.
Price £595 | Buy Naim Mu-so Qb
• We loved the Naim Mu-so Qb so much we gave it a five star review
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
The best wireless speaker Bowers & Wilkins has ever made, the Zep Wireless is actually sold more as an Airplay, DLNA and Spotify Connect speaker (and it's sized and priced like one, too), but it delivers very solid results with Bluetooth as well.
The striking, floating-airship design is the first thing that grabs your attention with Bowers & wilkins' latest speaker, but the audio quality is something else. There's no support for lossless audio, but what it does with the compressed formats it supports is little short of alchemy. There is a tonnes of bass, but it's pointed, purposeful bass, not flabby, wheezing bottom end. Crucially, there's also enough mid and treble strength that they're not overwhelmed, and canny driver placement means there's a reasonable amount of stereo depth as well.
A stunning bit of kit, and a worthy rival to Naim and Sonos, although you do have to be careful with placement because its wireless reception is not quite as reliable as those rivals.
Price: £499 | Buy Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
• Read our B&W Zeppelin Wireless hands on review
Even more so than the B&W Zepellin Wireless below, this is very much a Wi-Fi speaker that also happens to do Bluetooth. In fact splashing out £849 to use it just for Bluetooth would be fairly mad.
It also supports Airplay, Spotify Connect, Tidal and DLNA, with multiroom possible both via Airplay and via Naim's own app. You also get digital and USB inputs, and these offer support for HD audio formats up to 24bit/192kHz.
Sound and build quality are every bit as good as you'd expect at the price, making this a luxury you should consider treating yourself to. It's better in every way than the Mu-so Qb and B&W Zeppelin Wireless. The only reason it's down in third is that it's so much pricier.
Price: £895.00 | Buy Naim Mu-so
• Read our Naim Mu-so review
B&O Beoplay A1
…And at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Naim Mu-so, in terms of size, if not quality, we have the Beoplay A1.
This stylish and portable speaker from Bang & Olufsen’s more affordable sub-brand is a real star. Designed by award-winning Danish designer Cecilie Manz, the domed aluminium speaker really packs a punch. The A1 delivers deep bass and clear mids and highs, with a peak power output of 140W. The built-in 2200mAh battery is good for 24-hours of playtime and includes a microphone for calls. It even comes with a useful leather handle, which does make it look like a soap on a rope...
£199 | Buy it from John Lewis
Riva Turbo X
Riva Audio isn’t exactly a well-known brand, but we’re highly impressed by this speaker, which thankfully sounds FAR better than its bland look would suggest.
The Turbo keeps things fairly neutral and well balanced, but where this Bluetooth speaker really stands out is at louder volumes, there’s no distortion or clipping going on here whatsoever. It’s fairly compact but quite weighty at 1.6 kg.
Certainly, it’s a bit pricey, especially when considering the quality of its 'design', but if you value audio quality and volume above all else, the Riva Turbo X is a great option.
£299 | Buy it from HiFi Sound
This speaker is actually the work of Marshall Headphones, rather than the legendary amp maker itself, but it does have suitably powerful audio, cleverly processed with a strongly 'analogue' sound. Built as a compact speaker for small to medium rooms, it is nonetheless still battery-powered, and portable via a natty strap.
Pairing is swift and the sound, while coloured so as to sound rocky, is rich and powerful with plenty of bass that can be upped further using the dedicated control dials. Clearly the looks won't be to non-rockers' taste, and the audio is not subtle, but for the price there's nothing to beat it for sheer room-filling oomph. Oh, and there's also a 3.5mm audio input, too.
Price: £190 | Buy Marshall Kilburn
UE Boom 2
There aren't that many Bluetooth speakers of this size (about the shape and dimensions of a large can of Tennant's Super, we'd say) with as much grunt as the UE Boom 2. It's good value and feature rich, with a companion app for Android and iOS that enables you play around with your own equalizer and more, but it's the audio quality that really shines.
Well, actually that's not all that shines: the Boom 2 is also rugged, a great looker and waterproof, with a 15-hour battery life. Boom tings!
Price: £130 | Buy UE BOOM 2
Here representing the entire Sonos range, we have the Play 5. This connects only via Sonos' own PC, Mac, iOS and Android apps, but within those it does offer support for Spotify, web radio and much else.
The plus points of Sonos are superb sound quality for the size of speaker, most notably on this and the smaller Play 3, and very good multi-room, with reliable connectivity and millisecond-perfect syncing.
The down side is that if you want connectivity via Bluetooth, AirPlay or any other means of wireless transmission, you're going to struggle. It is technically possible to plug an AirPlay or Bluetooth receiver into this, but we wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend you do so.
Sonos is a walled garden, but it's a VERY nice one to be locked in.
Price £429 | Buy Sonos
• Here's our Sonos Play 5 review
Beats' latest is its first speaker offering since it joined the Apple stable, and the Apple hallmarks are obvious: there's now a Lightning cable to charge, Beats stickers in the pack and an accompanying app (also available for Android, mind) that enables you to link two Pill+ units together to form a basic multiroom or stereo arrangement.
Battery life is cited at 12 hours and while we didn't quite make that, it is almost as impressive as the high quality sound which, though bassy - well, it is Beats - is punchy very indeed, albeit with all the subtlety of an angry pig let loose in a branch of The White Company.
Cambridge Audio G5
If you can get past its exceedingly boring looks, the G5 is an incredible bargain, even at a price that's on the high side for a Bluetooth speaker this size. This thing may have all the exciting visual flair of a provincial librarian, but the sound it puts out is something else. Take it from us, there is FAR more bottom end than vibrancy than anything this size has any right to put out.
It's also able to pair with another G5 to give you more stereophonic presence, and there's even a 3.55mm ouput, so it can work as a Bluetooth receiver for your existing hi-fi when you're not carrying it from room to room and out into the garden, making the most of its 14-hour quoted battery life. Fab gear, dad.
Price: £230 | Buy Cambridge Audio G5
One for the connoisseurs, the Muo is a solid yet sinuous, metal speaker in a choice of five colours. Able to stand upright or on its base, the Muo offers less bottom-end oomph than similarly priced rivals, but compensates with a more melliflous mid and treble. It's not true to fair that it *lacks* bass as such, so much as it can't really pump it out. Therefore, if you're a lover of more accoustic sounds, classical and spoken word, this is a fine choice. If you want to rock party jams and are big into dub reggae and EDM, maybe not so much.
Interestingly, the Muo is a collaboration with Ross Lovegrove, who previously designed Kef's Muon speakers, which cost £140,000 a chuck. Needless to say, this does not sound like those, but there is a comparable attention to detail and sound quality, within the confines of costing craploads less… Oh, and if you want at least a bit more volume and a fuller stereo field, you can also pair two of the buggers, like so:
Price: £299.95 | Buy Kef Muo
Ruark Audio MR1 Bluetooth
Want some seriously high quality speakers that also happen to be super compact? Then we think you can’t get much better than this pair from British audio brand Ruark.
A full-stereo big brother (or pair of twin brothers, if you prefer) to the classic R1 Mk III (also highly recommended), these feature hand-crafted wooden enclosures, custom designed driver units and aptX Bluetooth for high quality music streaming from your phone, tablet or whatever.
Even though they are on the small side, they sound fantastic – with precise notes, great bass and you can pump up the sound pretty loud too. Three colours are available – brown, white and black and there’s even a rechargeable battery available separately, that ditches the need for it to be plugged in. A fantastic all rounder.
Price: £299.00 | Buy Ruark Audio MR1 Bluetooth