Wi-Fi, wireless and (often) multi-room speakers are quite literally the current big thing in audio.
Here, we're dealing with premium Wi-Fi speakers, from £200 to about £1,000. I've spent the last year trialling all the big hitters in my gracious home, long-term.
During that time I've formed strong opinions on which has the best sound quality, which can actually stay connected to your router for long enough to justify the word 'wireless', and which I'd give shelf space based on looks. We'll have no minging black plastic boxes here, thanks very much.
You're looking for small, portable, convenient, battery-powered Bluetooth speakers? Well go look at this list of portable Bluetooth speakers, then.
How to buy the best wireless speaker
Decide what type of streaming you want to employ. Apple mans may favour AirPlay. Google fam may want Chromecast compatibility. While Spotify Premium subscribers can probably make do with Spotify Connect.
Perhaps you're one of the seven people who use Tidal? Make sure the speaker is compatible.
We've helpfully indicated what each speaker is compatible with, to help you out, there. Some of them also support Bluetooth, which is insane in our opinion, but clearly there is consumer demand for big, expensive speakers that support a convenient but low-res format, so what do we know?
You'll also want to consider what size of room you want to use it in. Again, we've noted what size of space we think each speaker is able to fill – small (offices, kitchens, bedrooms); medium (larger bedrooms, most front rooms) and large (more palatial or open-plan spaces, combined kitchen/lounge type spaces, Donald Trump's toilet and so forth).
If you want to live the space-age, audiophile bachelor pad dream, you'll want multi-room. Again, we've indicated where this is supported.
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So, what is the best wireless speaker?
We feel the best wireless speaker in terms of bang for your buck is the cuboid sensation that is the Naim Mu-so Qb.
If you've got more money to burn, the full-size Naim Mu-so is even better, but a totally scientific calculation of pleasure derived divided by money spent leaves it lagging behind its smaller, younger brother.
In the slightly cheaper space below those two, we'd recommend the Sonos Play 5 and Play 3, B&W Zeppelin Wireless and the Denon HEOS 7.
Those looking for something a bit different may well fall in love with the walnut-panelled Englishness of the Ruark R2 Mk 3 or the modernist Teutonic splendour of the Raumfeld Stereo M.
But, painful though it is, if we must choose one wireless speaker above all others, we'd pick the Mu-so Qb for its mix of quality, VFM (though we're not saying it's cheap), versatile connectivity, looks and build quality.
The following 12 speakers are all superb, and they're listed in approximate order of superb-ness. Where appropriate, we've noted what we feel each one is best at, too. You're welcome.
Naim Mu-so Qb
The best Wi-Fi speaker you can get
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, UPnP, Tidal, Bluetooth, USB, optical ditgital, analogue | Room size: Medium to large | Multi-room: Yes
No, it's not quite as great as Naim's full-size Mu-so, but the Mu-so Qb is more conveniently proportioned, sounds almost as good - you naturally lose a bit of presence and volume, but not as much as you might think - and has the same, near comprehensive set of connectivity options, from Spotify and AirPlay to Bluetooth and Naim's own multi-room app.
What really sets Naim's wireless speakers apart is that not only do they sound superb - whether turned up and really pumping it out, or serving up more winsome, acoustic, background fare - but they also deliver on the tech front.
Wireless connectivity is impeccably reliable, and there is also the nuclear option of ethernet if your house is one big Wi-Fi black spot. Bluetooth is very solid too, although you'd be nuts to buy
The range of music and streaming options is only missing one obvious big hitter (Chromecast), and the Mu-so Qb also works as an internet radio, as well as being able to stream from your own music servers.
That's via the Naim app, which seems to be widely hated online, but is fine in my book. It's not like you ever need to use said app anyway, if you're on iOS, iTunes, Spotify or Android (thanks to UPnP support).
The build quality is just fantastic, and although the look is decidedly industrial and boxy - it is called Qb (cube, get it?) for a reason - the subtly curved grille softens it a bit, especially if you shell out for a coloured one. You may think it resembles a Borg cube wearing a burqa, but I like it.
The Mu-so Qb ticks just about every box , is a lot more affordable than its big brother, and gives arguably more bang for your buck. That's why it's number one in this list and in our hearts.
Denon HEOS 7
Ugly box, beautiful music: the Sonos rival that out-Sonoses Sonos
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Pandora, Deezer, Napster, SoundCloud, Tidal, TuneIn, analogue audio, USB **Room size:** Medium to large | Multi-room: Yes
The Beast to the Sonos Play:5's Beauty, Denon's HEOS 7 is a loud, thumping pointy-shaped powerhouse.
Actually, to be fair, the white version looks alright, but the black one that Denon sent for review is not an attractive thing.
Audio is full and forceful. It's not like the HEOS 7 is incapable of rendering speech or quieter music - in fact it's very good - but arguably the Sonos Play 5 is a better option if that's your bag.
If, however, you're after something that sounds thrilling and upfront, this is for you.
The HEOS 7 is also usually a fair bit cheaper than its American rival, and also offers a wider set of streaming options (they're listed above).
Admittedly some of these options are a bit niche, and the lack of AirPlay or Chromecast is an irritant, but for most users, Spotify and Denon's own mobile app will be just fine. You can also extract music from USB devices, NAS drives, and via Bluetooth.
Denon has a full range of HEOS speakers that roughly mirrors that of Sonos. Multiroom setup is just a matter of dragging 'rooms' on Denon's app on top of each other, and works very well.
With DAB/internet/FM radio, DLNA streaming, Spotify Connect and aptX Bluetooth, Ruark's retro system is a jack of all trades. It's beautifully made, encased in a hand-crafted wooden cabinet with a crisp OLED front display and robust RotoDial controls. These make operation intuitive, although the blister-button remote is horrible. You can link two R2s in a simple multi-room system, but there's no dedicated app (Ruark is working on it). In action, the R2's tone is warm and weighty but never muddy, while voices sound clear and the sparkling top-end adds finesse. A terrific all-rounder.
The aim of the R7's egg-shaped design is to deliver 360-degree sound, and it really works. Walk around while it plays, and you get punchy bass and clear treble from any angle, thanks to Samsung's Ring Radiator system. It's a stunning look, especially when mounted on the optional tripod. Playback is controlled using a flexible multi-room smartphone/watch app, which lets you stream via DLNA, Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz and more, but it's annoyingly hesitant when browsing large music libraries. Bluetooth and 192kHz/24-bit audio support add more strings to the R7's bow.
B&W Zeppelin Wireless
The latest incarnation of B&W's celebrated Zeppelin speaker streams via AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth, but the lack of DLNA and multi-room is a shame at this price. The minimalist enclosure is achingly stylish and seemingly hewn from granite, with a 3.5mm jack, Ethernet and volume controls adorning the curvy back end. Wi-Fi set-up is as easy as downloading an app and, once connected, the Zeppelin delivers sweet, sweet music. The punchy, balanced and detailed sound will put a smile on faces, displaying the same wonderful musicality as previous Zeppelins.
Looking more like a picture frame than a speaker, the ISX-80 is an interior designer's dream. Heads will turn whether it's mounted on a wall or shelf, but the vertical clock display is an acquired taste. There's substance behind the style, with a comprehensive array of streaming features (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Spotify, AirPlay) and a terrific smartphone app that talks to sources with minimal fuss. Performance-wise, the ISX-80 sounds a little boxed-in – unsurprising, given the narrow speaker layout – but it goes nice and loud for its size, and attacks drums and basslines with gusto.
Liked this? Then check out Best AirPlay speakers: our pick of the top Apple AirPlay speakers you can buy