If you’re looking for a speaker system that streams your treasured tunes from a smartphone, PC or NAS drive, why settle for second best? By splashing the cash on a premium wireless speaker, you can squeeze the last drop of quality from your digital music and get closer to what its creators intended.
Not only do these speakers boast Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Spotify; they also use high-end audio tech to deliver an authentic hi-fi experience – something you just won’t find at the budget end of the market. And if you fancy a bit of Bublé in the bedroom and Kelis in the kitchen, no problem – most of them offer multi-room support, too.
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Bose Soundtouch 30 series III
This is a bulky beast, but its patterned side panels and black cloth grille look stylish enough. An OLED display spells out track names and inputs clearly, while a panel of top controls offers quick access to six customisable presets for songs, albums or stations. Streaming options include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Spotify, Deezer and internet radio, orchestrated by Bose’s polished multi-room app. The Series III musters a room-filling sound with hearty bass and no distortion at loud volumes, although it does over-emphasise treble a touch.
Cambridge Audio Air 200 V2
The successor to the Minx Air 200 adds Spotify Connect to its feature list, alongside AirPlay, DLNA/ uPnP and aptX Bluetooth. It’s large but the curvy design oozes luxury. The Air app is easier to use than the remote, but there’s no multi-room and you’ll need a third-party app for DLNA playback. The browser-based Wi-Fi set-up is long-winded, too, but it’s worth persisting as the Air 200 sounds fabulous. Two Balanced Mode Radiator drivers and a subwoofer flood the room with music, sounding dynamic, detailed and composed at loud volumes.
Ruark R2 Mk3
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.
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