10 best multi-room speakers 2017

Get the best sound quality and maximum multi-room over Wi-Fi with AirPlay, Chromecast, Sonos, Spotify, DLNA and other exciting codecs

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Multi-room speakers are quite literally the current big thing in audio, as the best ones are a sizeable cut above Bluetooth in all areas except convenience. That's not to say they're hard to setup but nothing is simpler than Bluetooth.

Here, we're dealing with premium, Wi-Fi-connected speakers, from £200/$200 to over £1,000/$1,000. I've spent the last few years trialling all the big hitters in my gracious home, and happily, have not yet been killed by my neighbours. 

What is the best multi-room speaker?

For pure quality, it's the Naim Mu-so. But wait, that's nearly a grand or '10,000 dimes', as you Americans put it. So my top recommendation is the Sonos 1. This is an outstanding speaker from the multi-room market leader. It has wide – and growing – compatibility with everything from Spotify to Tidal, with Apple AirPlay to come, and it also happens to incorporate Amazon Echo's Alexa to work as your digital PA.

How to buy the best wireless speaker

Decide what type of streaming you want to employ. Apple fans may favour AirPlay. Google lovers may want Chromecast compatibility. 

Obviously if you're a subscriber to Spotify, Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited or one of the myriad other subscription-based streaming services, you'll need compatibility with that – note that in many cases, these can be piggy-backed over Chromecast or AirPlay.

It's worth noting that until AirPlay 2 arrives, Apple's system is only a multi-room one from your computer and not from your mobile (apart from on the Sonos Play 5, Urbanears Baggen and Marshall's range of speakers – a line in and clever tech means they can turn any source into a multi-room one.

I've helpfully indicated what each speaker is compatible with, to help you out, there. Some of them also support Bluetooth, because clearly there is consumer demand for big, expensive speakers that support the format.

You'll also want to consider what size of room you want to use it in. Again, I've noted what size of space I 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). 

All of these also support multi-room audio, but you will, of course, need more than one speaker to achieve that. 

Finally, although these are meant to be wireless, in some houses that's just not going to work, and you may have to revert to powerline AV (or a very long cable) and a speaker with ethernet connectivity.  

The best wireless speakers, in order

1. Sonos One

The best multi-room speaker, now with Alexa

Specifications
Connectivity: Sonos app allows connectivity to Apple Music, Spotify Connect, Amazon, Tidal and a lot more, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Small to medium
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Amazing sound for size and price+Alexa built in+Attractive styling in white or black
Reasons to avoid
-Alexa implementation not perfect-Sonos app is a bit sprawling
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Sonos has long dominated the multi-room market and despite market-leading status immediately making certain critics and consumers hate them, their speakers have always been somewhere between good and excellent.

They have also, perhaps, been a bit over-priced at times but that is not a criticism one can level at the Sonos One, which puts the DEAL into the phrase, "This is the best multi-room speaker you can get, deal with it."

Of course, you can pay more and get something that sounds even better, but pound for pound/dollar for dollar, you are getting a hell of a lot of speaker for your money. The Sonos One genuinely delivers the tedious old speaker marketing claim of "room-filling sound from a small box", but it's not just loud; it serves up genuinely high quality audio. 

The Sonos app is not the greatest thing ever invented, I'll grant you. It offers so many connectivity options that it's naturally quite unwieldy at times. However, a recent update has smoothed off some of the roughest edges, and it does offer support for just about every music service out there. You can do anything from the simple – sending the music on your phone to the speaker – to using all the streaming services you can think of, to pulling tunes from a NAS drive, and playing it on multiple Sonos speakers. You can also construct playlists on the fly that use multiple sources.

Arguably the real clincher in terms of VFM is the inclusion of Amazon's Alexa AI. The old Play 1, which this replaces, was excellent value, and that was slightly less sexy, didn't include Alexa and was the exact same price

Now, to be fair, the Alexa implementation is not perfect. The array of mics in the Sonos One is sometimes not sufficient to actually hear your instructions, even when there isn't music playing. You can only voice control Amazon's own Music services at present, and there are other quirks like the way it cuts off every Sonos in your house to listen, when you speak to the One.

I can't say any of that bothers me greatly, to be honest. You can get Alexa to work, and to control multiple Sonoses ("Sonii"?); it's just you may have to shout at her a bit. 

If you think of the Sonos as a superb speaker that happens to have Alexa built in as an extra – rather than an Amazon Echo with much better sound quality – it's well worth the purchase.

2. Naim Mu-so

The best premium wireless speaker you can get

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, UPnP, Tidal, Bluetooth, USB, optical digital, analogue, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to very large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Monumental sound+Wide connectivity+Looks fantastic
Reasons to avoid
-Nearly a grand-No Chromecast
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If, on the other hand, you have money to burn, you can't do better than the Naim Mu-so. Go multi-room with a few of them (or the smaller Mu-so Qb) and the cost mounts up pretty rapidly, but there's just not a better sounding or looking wireless speaker for (just) under a grand. 

It looks elegant yet industrial, and that's what its sonic performance is like. It can play nice, and hand over very sweet vocals and instrumental performances, or it can remove the iron fist from the velvet glove and give your kidneys a good old sub-bass punch.

Although the list of steaming services supported isn't as epic as on the Sonos or Denon, realistically the majority of users will be served by what's there – ie: Tidal, Spotify, Bluetooth and AirPlay. It's unfortunate that Chromecast isn't supported, but aparently the slightly older chipset used in the Mu-so (it's been around since 2014) just isn't up to it.

There are also digital, 3.5mm and USB inputs, the latter of which can be turned into a multi-room feed.

With superb sound, very solid multi-room via AirPlay or Naim's own app, plus easy internet radio, again via the Naim app, this is a near-perfect 21st century speaker.

3. Sonos Play 5

The best Sonos multi-room speaker

Specifications
Connectivity: Sonos proprietory. Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Tidal, TuneIn (and many more) via app only, analogue audio, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful, Space Odyssey styling+Wonderful, accurate sound
Reasons to avoid
-Have to do everything through Sonos' app
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Trying to decide which you prefer out of the HEOS 7 and the Sonos Play 5 is a bit like deciding which of your children you love more.

The Sonos has a more 'accurate' and less aggressive sound than the HEOS 7, and looks way better, in my opinions, with a subtly curved, tactile white form that's far more interesting than it might appear at first glance. Although it is also rather hard to keep clean, I've found.

I think I narrowly prefer the more forward sound of the HEOS 7, but the Sonos speaker has so much to recommend it as a standalone or multi-room speaker – it fits seamlessly into Sonos' eco-system, and can be controlled via Alexa if you have a Sonos One or an Echo/Echo Dot with the Sonos skill. See the Sonos One review above for my thoughts on that. 

The Sonos app does a lot, and a recent upgrade has made it less irritating than it used to be, even if it's still not perfect.

4. Denon HEOS 7 HS2

Pointy box, beautiful music: the Sonos rival nearly out-Sonoses Sonos

Specifications
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Pandora, Deezer, Napster, SoundCloud, Tidal, TuneIn, analogue audio, USB, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Huge sound+Vast range of streaming services+Easy multiroom+Excellent value
Reasons to avoid
-Toblerone looks-Slightly fiddly setup
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The Beast to the Sonos Play 5's Beauty, Denon's HEOS 7 is a loud, thumping, pointy-shaped powerhouse.

To be fair, the white version of the 7 looks alright, but the black one that Denon sent us for review is not an attractive thing.

Never mind that though, because this is another exceptional audio box. The performance here 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, and rocks out with its docks out, this is for you.

Admittedly, the lack of AirPlay or Chromecast is an irritant, but for most users, Denon's own mobile app and/or Spotify Connect, 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. 

The only thing the Heos 7 HS2 needs now is a bit of a price cut – the Sonos Play 5 is usually a bit cheaper than it, and has much wider brand recognition.

5. Naim Mu-so Qb

Scaled down Mu-so offers

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, UPnP, Tidal, Bluetooth, USB, optical digital, analogue, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Superb audio across all types of music+Compact, sexy, rock solid build+Wide set of connectivity options
Reasons to avoid
-No Chromecast support-Rather expensive
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No, it's not quite as great as Naim's full-size Mu-so, but the Mu-so Qb is a few hundred bucks less, more conveniently proportioned and sounds almost as good – you naturally lose a bit of presence and volume, but not as much as you might think.

It has the same, very solid set of connectivity options, from Spotify and AirPlay to Bluetooth and Naim's own multi-room app. 

The Qb also supports multi-room, although if having matching speakers throughout your abode is your main goal, we'd recommend a Denon or Sonos over a Mu-so. Multi-room works well over AirPlay here but is a bit fiddly on Naim's own 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 pay this much, only to use the Qb as a Bluetooth speaker. Try one of these instead.

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 boxy, the subtly curved grille at least 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.

Multi-room performance is also excellent, although it is slightly more limited than Sonos or Denon's. You can't multi-room AirPlay via Naim's system or anything attached via the analogue or optical inputs, but you can do so with Tidal, Spotify, internet radio and the USB input. You can, of course, use AirPlay in a multi-room fashion from iTunes on a PC or Mac, although not from your mobile. 

A few minor multi-room vagaries aside, the Mu-so Qb ticks just about every box, is a bit more affordable than its big brother, and gives arguably more bang for your buck. 

5. Master & Dynamic MA770

Best ultra-premium wireless speaker

Specifications
Connectivity: Google Chromecast (enables Spotify, Tidal etc), Bluetooth, 3.5mm analogue, optical digital, Wi-Fi
Room size: Medium to very large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Incredible sound+Incredible look
Reasons to avoid
-High price-No AirPlay, USB or RCA connection
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Expensive, made of concrete, and ready to rock, the MA770 is a piece of modern art that also happens to be the best sounding wireless speaker you can get for under £2,000/$2,000.

Its 1.5-inch titanium tweeter and brace of 4-inch Kevlar woofers are amplified by a 100W Class D amp with a discrete channel for each speaker, but the headline spec doesn't really give much indication of how impressive this is.

In short, this thing sounds fantastic. The unique, acoustic concrete construction allows remarkable weight (and volume, when required) with absolutely minimal vibration or distortion. At low volume it's very pleasing; at high volume, it crushes any other wireless speaker. And if you drop this monster on your foot, it'll crush that, too.

With rock, hip-hop and electronica, it can be truly epic, but the way it deals with stripped-back, voice-and-guitar or voice-and-piano tunes can send a shiver down the spine. 

The only other wireless speaker I can compare Master & Dynamic's MA770 to is Phantom's Devialet Gold, but this is 'cheap' compared to that. 

Connectivity is a tad stingy, considering the price. The MA770's main connection option is Google's Chromecast, making set up easy via the Google Home app. The only problem is that your only other options are Bluetooth or an optical digital or 3.5mm analogue input. 

Given the price and the fact this was designed by award-winning  architect David Adjaye, this seems tailor-made for the wealthier iPhone owner. So, it seems little short of incredible that M&D hasn't included AirPlay support – or, indeed, a proper phono input for an expensive turntable… But it hasn't, so Apple users will just have to use Spotify or Tidal via Google Home, or plug an Apple TV or AirPlay DAC into the optical digital input. And owners of expensive turntables will need a pre-amp and a dual phono to 3.5mm adaptor. 

I did find that disappointing but evidently not all that much, because i actually bought one of these, with my own money. And take it from me, that doesn't happen often. The MA770 is a unique slab of contemporary audio art. 

6. Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless

Audio airship with AirPlay sounds as good as it looks

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth, analogue, Wi-Fi, ethernet
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Via AirPlay on PC/Mac
Reasons to buy
+Great sound+Really quite beautiful
Reasons to avoid
-A bit pricey
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The first truly wireless Bowers & Wilkins speaker (the others were docks) is great, sound-wise, and looks fantastic. It used to be plagued by connectivity issues, but a series of firmware updates seem to have fixed this, at least for me.

The fact that the Zeppelin Wireless only supports AirPlay and Spotify Connect obviously reduces the potential user base, but the styling and price do rather scream, "I am for Apple lovers". There's also Apt-X/AAC Bluetooth for more universal connectivity.

As you'd expect from long-standing British speaker wizards B&W, the sonic performance of this beautiful-looking speaker is hugely impressive, and personally, I could just sit and look at the white version of this all day. The black one is pretty fly, too.

7. Marshall Stanmore Multi Room

Best multi-room speaker for rockers

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Google Chromecast, Bluetooth, 2x phono, 3.5mm audio, Wi-Fi
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Big, powerful sound+Brilliant multi-room system
Reasons to avoid
-Not exactly subtle in terms of sound or styling
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Marshall's mid-size Stanmore speaker (there's also the smaller Acton, which is quite neat and the larger Woburn, which is rather an imposing thing) is very similar indeed to the Urbanears Baggen on the inside (they come from the same factories), but very different on the outside.

If Baggen is multi-room for hipsters, Stanmore is multi-room for rockers, with Marshall deploying its usual bag of stylistic tricks (ie: it's black and looks like a miniaturised guitar amp), and meaty audio.

As such, the Stanmore sounds a lot better than the Baggen – it's comparable to Denon's similarly forceful Heos 7 – and looks a lot grungier. 

What it has in common with its cooler, Scandinavian cousin is support for all four of the main wireless connection options (AirPlay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Apt-X Bluetooth, and there's also excellent internet radio access), and a brilliant multi-room system. This lets you play anything across multiple Marshall speakers by either pressing a button or using the app – this includes anything introduced via the 3.5mm line in or 'proper' dual RCA input.

A knob toggles between the connections, and also includes 6 presets, which can be set to web radio stations or Spotify playlists. 

The sound here is not as good as on the Naim, Sonos, Denon or Bowers & Wilkins speakers, but there's still a lot to like. I can see them cropping up in boutique hotels, fashion shoots and the homes of ageing rockers. Nowt wrong with that. 

8. Riva Arena

Compact, stereo box with the option of battery power

Specifications
Connectivity: AirPlay, Google Chromecast (enables Spotify, Tidal etc), Bluetooth, 3.5mm analogue, DLNA
Room size: Medium
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Excellent audio+Actual stereo sound+Wide connectivity options
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly ropey finish-Poor battery life
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The Wi-Fi connected Riva Arena is a worthy successor to the brand's established line of Bluetooth speakers. It has a similar mix of slightly disappointing, anonymous design (particularly in the black finish) and really excellent sound quality for the price.

Most notably, whereas most of the speakers here – and all of the smaller ones – are in fact mono, this packs in drivers front, left and right to serve up a pretty compelling stereo soundfield. You can also buy and pair two for a more traditional approach to dual-channel audio.

As with the MA770, you set this up as a wireless speaker via the Google Home app, and then Chromecast to it, or use Chrome-compatible apps such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube (albeit with variable results as YouTube often refuses to send audio only). There's also Bluetooth, an analogue line in, USB for charging and playback from drives, and compatibility with AirPlay, so that is pretty damn comprehensive, connections-wise.

Audio is comparable to the Sonos One, but in genuine stereo. Unlike the Sonos it's water resistant and there's the option of a £100 battery pack, so you can take it to the bathroom, or the beach ( but don't actually immerse it in water, or you may die; it certainly will).

The battery is a bit odd. Yes, it provides 15-20 consecutive hours of music, but if you stop using it and leave it turned on, it'll be dead within a day or two. So remember to remove the battery pack when not in use, would be my advice.

The Riva Wand app is a bit 'quirky', by which I mean 'bordering on crap', but you don't really need to use it, thanks to Google Home, and the wealth of compatibility with other peoples' apps, so that's alright.

In short, if Riva could put this in a more attractive casing, for a comparable price, the Arena would be an absolutely killer option. 

9. Urbanears Baggen

AirPlay, Spotify and Chromecast-powered Sonos for hipsters

Specifications
Connectivity: Spotify, AirPlay, Chromecast, Bluetooth, 3.5mm analogue, Wi-Fi
Room size: Medium to large
Multi-room: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Very clever, one-button multi-room+Clever, cool design+Handy radio and playlist presets
Reasons to avoid
-Pretty pricey-Audio not from top drawer
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Although the audio on this is very good for something that has the word 'Urban' in it, you couldn't say Baggen is out of the very top drawer, sonically.

However, this is a very fresh take on the wireless speaker, and I'm a big fan. The same tech, incidentally, is used in the Marshall range of multi-room speakers. 

Firstly, the Baggen is unashamedly aimed at a cool, design-focussed market, with a minimalist "fabric-coated cube with knobs on" shape that is wittily undercut with some achingly stylish colour choices (and 'vinyl black', because some people are boring.)

It's a big cube, so if you lack space you might consider its baby brother, the 50s Braun radio-resembling Stammen, pictured in the front row here.

What's really clever about the Urbanears speakers is that they can be chained together with just a click of the volume knob on each. 

Not only does this involve minimal hassle, it also means you can get multi-room audio from AirPlay, Chromecast and Spotify on your mobile; something that's normally limited to laptop/PC streaming.

A second knob lets you choose to instead use the 3.5mm line in, Bluetooth or access one of five internet radio presets, easily changeable via the Urbanears app.

The Baggen is more about volume and mass than subtlety or sweetness, but it has plenty of raucous charm. Get DOWN with the kids, I say.

10. Ruark R2 Mk 3

Best retro radio with streaming support

Specifications
Connectivity: Spotify Connect, DLNA, Bluetooth, analogue audio, FM/DAB radio, internet radio
Room size: Medium
Multi-room: Two can be paired
Reasons to buy
+Timelessly sexy design+Great sound+DAB/FM/internet Radio 
Reasons to avoid
-Only Spotify Connect and DLNA supported, Wi-Fi-wise-Crappy remote and no app
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Ruark's retro system is a jack of all trades and a master of several. 

You should think of it more as a really-great-sounding radio with streaming bolted on, rather than a Wi-Fi speaker like the others here. 

It's beautifully made, encased in a hand-crafted wooden cabinet with a crisp OLED front display and robust 'RotoDial' controls on top. These are intuitive for the radio, not so great for network audio. There is also a blister-button remote, but it is… not good. 

Still, it's easy enough to use Spotify Connect (or DLNA from your phone or PC), and braver users can even link two R2s together in the world's smallest multi-room system.

The main selling point of the R2 is its sound, which, like its look, has a retro – or, more accurately, timeless – quality. 

It's almost the diametric opposite of the Raumfeld, being competent in all areas but much happier with lighter sounds and – no surprise given Ruark's radio heritage – the human voice, both speaking and singing gaily. Tra-la!