Best wireless speakers for 2023: Sonos, Apple, KEF, and more

Choosing the best wireless speaker from the sea of options out there can be tricky. What defines a “wireless” speaker can mean many things to people: Does it use Bluetooth or your home’s Wi-Fi network (or both) to connect and stream music and podcasts from your phone or other sources? Is it portable (with a battery) or more of an at-home, plug-in kinda speaker that’s part of a bigger multi-room network music system? Yes, yes, and yes.

For this roundup, we’re going to focus more on the plug-in variety with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth wireless capabilities, because we have a whole other roundup of the more portable Bluetooth speaker variety for you to check out, too.

With additional features like battery life, durability, availability of voice assistants, and sound quality to consider, the task of finding the best wireless speaker for your needs is getting tougher, which is a good thing. Right now, we’re pretty keen on Sonos’ newest Era 100 network speaker, and we think it’s the best pound-for-pound wireless speaker you can get for the price. It has taken the baton from the awesome Sonos One and is in line with Sonos’ reputation for excellent sound, features, and ease of use, and you really can’t go wrong with it.

Apple also makes it way back to our list with the recently launched Home Pod 2, which we think is also pretty excellent. There’s also no shortage of other options here as well, from high-end KEF bookshelf speakers to a pretty great all-around versatility pick from Q Acoustics. Hopefully, this helps in your search for wireless bliss.

sonos era 100 review 00001

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sonos Era 100

The best wireless speaker for most people

Pros

  • Big, expansive sound
  • Bluetooth now built-in
  • Optional analog line-in
  • Super-easy room tuning

Cons

  • No Google Assistant option

Out with the old and in with the new, they say, and the Sonos One, the tried-and-true wireless network speaker that has sat at the top of this list for ages, couldn’t have asked for a more worthy successor than the Sonos Era 100. Launched early this year, the Era 100 is everything that the One was (and is, for the time being) and more. A powerful, compact network speaker with unsurprisingly excellent sound (this is Sonos, after all), the Era 100 is many people’s entry into Sonos’ whole-home audio system and is just as at home solo in the kitchen (voice control makes it perfect while cooking) as it is stereo paired with another Era or even as rear surrounds in a home theater Sonos configuration.

A bit taller and more cylindrical than the One, there are a bunch of reasons to go for the Era 100 over the One (while they last), least of which is that it’s just $30 more, so why wouldn’t you? First and foremost is the sound. Newly configured tweeters are angled creating what our reviewer, Simon Cohen, praised as an “impressive sense of openness” and ” expansive soundstage.” A bigger woofer in the Era 100 also gives it a decidedly bigger punch, and if filling a small-to-medium-sized room is your goal, few wireless speakers of this size and budget do it better than this. Add to that Sonos’ fantastic Truplay tuning, adjustable EQ , and AirPlay 2 compatibility and what more could you want?

The Era 100 also benefits from Sonos’ experience with one of the best user-interface apps on the market, giving you access to all of your streaming services — hi-res ones, too, as because it’s a Wi-Fi speaker you can capitalize on all that beautiful lossless sound. But fear not, the Era 100 does Bluetooth, too, allowing you and other users to connect to it without going through the Wi-Fi connection and send Bluetooth-connected music through your Sonos system’s grouped speakers, as well. The Era 100 also has a line-in connector should you want to hook up a turntable or other external source to the speaker (and also send out to the whole system).

The only thing missing from the Era 100 is Google Assistant voice control, thanks to a pesky legal dispute between Sonos and Google. It’s been resolved, but we’ve yet to hear if or when the popular assistant will be added to the Era 100 and the Era 300. For now, users will have to settle for Alexa and Sonos’ own voice assistant, which ain’t bad either. Easy as heck to setup and use, for how the Era 100 sounds and the price, this wireless speaker is hard to beat.

Sonos Era 100

Sonos Era 100

The best wireless speaker for most people

The KEF LXS II speakers, all colors, in a row.

KEF

KEF LSX II

The best premium wireless bookshelf speakers

Pros

  • Big and clear KEF sound
  • Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth connectivity
  • HDMI ARC, USB-C, 3.5mm, TOSLINK inputs
  • Compact design

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Cheaper than the KEF LS50

The first generation of KEF’s superb LSX wireless hi-fi speakers were on this list for some time, and we’ve found no reason to take them off — but we have updated our choice with the improved second generation, the KEF LSX II.

We made the comparison to the popular and premium KEF LS50 Wireless II, which are still among the best-sounding bookshelves you can buy for the money, and their wireless convenience makes them among our favorite speakers we’ve encountered. And KEF’s LSX II still offer much of what’s to like about the KEF LS50 Wireless for less than half the price.

The KEF LSX II stick with their tradition of offering sound that’s big, crystal clear, and expressive, with a wide soundstage that defies what should be capable from speakers so small. But that’s KEF for you.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless connectivity is only the start with the LSX II, with the second gen improving the speakers’ connection stability with its W2 technology. The optical 3.5 mm AUX, subwoofer out, and Ethernet connection options are now joined by USB-C and HDMI ARC in the LSX II. It is also now compatible with a whole bunch of third-party services including Apple AirPlay 2, Google Chromecast, Amazon Music, Qobuz, Tidal, and Spotify Connect. DSD and MQA audio codec support is on tap too, for audiophiles who want to hear the best digital sound possible.

The KEF LSX II benefit from KEF’s proprietary Uni-Q speaker driver tech that sets the tweeter in the middle of an 11-inch woofer for what KEF says is a more natural sound. The LSX II are available in five colors: Carbon Black, Mineral White, Cobalt Blue, Lava Red, and Soundwave.

KEF LSX II Wireless HiFi Speaker System (Carbon Black)

KEF LSX II

The best premium wireless bookshelf speakers

apple homepod 2 review 2023

Zeke Jones/Digital Trends

Apple HomePod (2nd Gen)

Best wireless speaker for Apple fans

Pros

  • Great sound quality
  • Incredible bass performance
  • Dazzling Spatial Audio surround
  • Plug and Play wireless
  • Slick design

Cons

  • Limited connection options
  • No direct Spotify playback

No one really knows why Apple discontinued the first generation of the HomePod, but the point becomes moot when the comeback version of this wireless speaker is so great, especially if you’re a user of Apple products.

While on the surface, the second-gen HomePod doesn’t look much different than its predecessor, things have gotten markedly better on the inside (and my mom always said that’s what counts). Driven by Apple’s advanced S7 processor, the HomePod 2 pulls off a ton of cool “computational audio” features, like automatically sensing the room and its position in it (it knows when it’s in a corner or jammed between books on a shelf), and adjusting its sound accordingly.

This is also great for maximizing sound for Apple’s Spatial Audio, which sounds great in one HomePod, but even better when pairing two HomePods together (they must be the same model and generation) and connecting them to an Apple TV 4K. This setup can be a great solution if you’re also looking to bring better sound to your TV and home theater experience, but don’t worry, if music is your main thing ,the HomePod (single or stereo pair) sounds great and supports Apple Music’s Dolby Atmos and Spatial Audio tracks, too.

Delivering this big sound in such a small package is a big 20mm woofer and five beamforming tweeters, which our own Caleb Denison vouches for in his review, describing the bass as “full-bodied, present, and punchy,” and the midrange as “lush, full-bodied, and clear, if not a bit forward in the mix, especially with vocals.”

Apple fans will love the HomePod for its deep integration with the Apple ecosystem, but others might find that frustrating — Apple Music is the only music service supported natively, and the only voice assistant available is Siri, for example. But the HomePod is dead simple to set up (like most of Apple’s products) and is a competent smart speaker that, with full compatibility with the Matter standard, works seamlessly with HomeKit and other smart home accessories. It even has new built-in temperature and humidity sensors for automating smart thermostats and blinds, for example, and it can listen for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to alert you when you’re out of the house. Not bad for a $300 wireless speaker.

Apple HomePod 2023

Apple HomePod (2nd Gen)

Best wireless speaker for Apple fans

sonos roam portable speaker 1

Sonos

Sonos Roam

The best portable Sonos speaker

Pros

  • Excellent design
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Totally water and dustproof
  • Very good sound for its size
  • Choice of smart speaker assistants
  • Wireless charging

Cons

  • No Bluetooth stereo pairing
  • Doesn’t work as a speakerphone
  • Less battery life than some other speakers

Sonos has arguably done more than any other brand to popularize and normalize wireless, multiroom speakers. But until recently, these Wi-Fi speakers have been confined to use in and around the home. Last year, however, the company set them free, launching the Sonos Move and Roam, two battery-powered portable speakers with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, and wireless charging, that take much of Sonos’ famed features and untethers them.

And while the Sonos Move (which is similar in size and form as the above-mentioned Sonos One) could easily be included on this list, as far as portability goes, we’re going to focus on the Roam as it’s rugged (IP67 rated), lightweight (0.95 pounds), and ultra-portable (about the size of a sleeve of cookies), but surprisingly packs a sizeable punch when it comes to sound and soundstage.

Sonos users will love how the Roam easily integrates into their existing Sonos ecosystem over Wi-Fi and can be controlled with the excellent Sonos app. And when you’re ready to hit the road or are out of the range of Wi-Fi, you can easily pair the Roam just like any other Bluetooth speaker and control it through the Sonos app or Spotify, AirPlay and more.

There are a couple of limitations, however. While you can pair multiple Roams together, you cannot stereo pair two Roams over Bluetooth — for that you’ll need to be connected to Wi-Fi. That, and you can’t pair the Roam to any of your existing Sonos speakers, such as using them as surround speakers for a Sonos Beam, Sonos Arc, or the new Sonos Ray.

But that’s neither here nor there, the Sonos Roam is a great-sounding, portable Sonos speaker with Google Assistant, Alexa, and the new Sonos Voice Control assistants, a 10-hour battery, wireless charging, and it’s available in a bunch of cool colors. What else do you want out of a Wi-Fi Bluetooth speaker for under $200?

Sonos Roam

Sonos Roam

The best portable Sonos speaker

q acoustics m20 review a plus desktops versatile audio system powered speakers with on shelf 03

Derek Malcolm/Digital Trends

Q Acoustics M20 HD Powered Wireless Music System

Best mid-range desktop speakers with inputs galore

Pros

  • Clear, refined sound with any music
  • Wide soundstage in any room
  • Versatility of placement
  • Tons of connectivity options
  • aptX HD Bluetooth

Cons

  • A bit big for desktops
  • Better with a subwoofer

As music lovers are mixing and matching technologies and formats spanning analog and digital to create their unique perfect audio solutions, we’re seeing components and speakers that are making old things new and new things play nice with old things, too. One such set of speakers is the Q Acoustics M20 HD Wireless Music System, which is essentially a set of very good-sounding Bluetooth bookshelf speakers that refuses to stay in its lane by offering a ton of connections and audio tech so they can be used, well, almost any way you like.

In my review of the Q Acoustics M20s, I put them everywhere I could — on my office desk, in my dining room on a bookshelf, with my vinyl record collection, with my TV — using its wide range of inputs including RCA, optical TOSLINK, USB, 3.5mm AUX, and aptX HD Bluetooth for high-resolution streaming at 24-bit/48kHz. True to its name, this set of speakers can be a true wireless music system that you can connect to turntables, DVD players, CD players, computers, TVs, smartphones, and more.

Some innovative digital processing also does a great job of adapting the M20s to those setup locations. Whether they’re in a corner, against a wall, or out in the open, there’s a toggle switch on the back that lets you tell the speakers where they are so they can adjust. You can even designate the left and right orientation of the main powered speaker and its connected pair to make for easier access to controls on the back and the location of power outlets.

While they don’t stand toe-to-toe with the premium KEF LSX II on our list, they sound great and are a good value at $600.

M20 HD Wireless Music System

Q Acoustics M20 HD Powered Wireless Music System

Best mid-range desktop speakers with inputs galore

sonos era 300 review 00022

Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Sonos Era 300

Best for Dolby Atmos Music

Pros

  • Dolby Atmos Music-compatible
  • Incredible, immersive sound
  • Easy, fast room tuning
  • Perfect as home theater surrounds
  • Line-in for analog sources
  • Bluetooth, AirPlay 2

Don’t be fooled by the Sonos Era 300’s weird hourglass shape, it’s all part of Sonos’ design to let five of the speakers’ six drivers do what they do best — shoot incredible Dolby Atmos music outwards and upwards for an immersive spatial audio sound experience. The effect, if you’ve yet to explore it on a service such as Amazon Music Unlimited or Apple Music, is, well, I’ll let Simon Cohen explain from his review: “It places you within the music, letting a band tell a subtly different story with their voices and instruments by adjusting how you relate to them beyond a simple left-right presentation.”

The under-appreciated music format is getting its due with the Era 300, to be sure, but that’s not the only reason to go for the Era 300; it’s a Sonos and it sounds fantastic no matter what music you throw at it. And to jump back to surround sound for just a second, if you’re looking to build out a Sonos-based home theater setup, adding a pair of Era 300s as rear surrounds with a Sonos Arc or Beam (2nd gen) is a home theater setup that can easily compete with a full AV receiver-based system.

Sound aside, the Era 300 enjoys all the spoils of Sonos — it’s easy to set up and use with the well-designed Sonos app that give you access to every streaming service that matters. And because it’s a Wi-Fi speaker, you get to tap into all that hi-res lossless audio that Bluetooth just can’t handle yet. But if Bluetooth is a big deal to you, the Era 300 and its smaller sibling the Era 100 are the first home-based Sonos speakers to offer Bluetooth connectivity as well. And you can use them in tandem — if a friend wants to connect over Bluetooth to the Sonos system and share their best Spotify playlist, they can do so and send it to any speaker in the system.

Newly designed touch controls on the top of the Era 300 are intuitive and fun to use, letting you slide a finger across a grooved slider to adjust volume. Pause/play, track skip, and mic mute function are there, too, and there’s even a physical mic kill switch on the back of the speaker. Also on the back is the Era 300’s USB-C line-in port that, with the addition of a Sonos line-in adapter, lets you connect an external sound source like a turntable if you want to share your vinyl through your system.

The Era 300 is also a smart speaker, with access to Alexa and its own Sonos Voice Control (SVC), but currently, due to a patent dispute with Google, there is no access to Google Assistant. Hopefully this will change in the future, but for now, no GA for Era 300 or 100. But that shouldn’t be a deal breaker, as the Era 300 is easily the best speaker the company has ever made.

Sonos Era 300

Sonos Era 300

Best for Dolby Atmos Music

Frequently Asked Questions

How do we test wireless speakers?

We test wireless speakers the same way you would use a wireless speaker. No fancy measuring equipment, no anechoic chambers, just our ears, the speakers, and some of our favorite music sources. If the speaker is designed to go outside, we take it outside. If it’s waterproof, we throw it in a pool or the ocean. If it’s a smart speaker, we see how well it responds to our voice commands.

Despite its casual nature, this process is highly comprehensive and includes checking out things you might not have thought about, like range, connection stability, and performance in areas with a lot of radio frequency interference (i.e., the Digital Trends offices).

Finally, we compare each speaker to some of our go-to models, both in their class and price point, as well as a level or two above, to find out if they can punch above their weight.

What are some common wireless speaker terms?

NFC: Shorthand for Near Field Communication, this oft-touted feature is actually quite limited when it comes to Bluetooth speakers, allowing select phones to pair with a speaker with a quick touch. Since pairing is often as simple as pressing a button, and speakers will be remembered by your device once paired, it’s not seen as a must-have feature.

AptX: Another feature limited to phones and devices outside of Apple’s periphery, aptX is a codec (or group of codecs) that allows Bluetooth streaming at “near CD quality” resolution. Apple products do not use aptX, but Android users may find it improves performance when paired with high-quality tracks and high-performance speakers.

Passive radiator: A passive radiator is a type of driver used to enhance bass in a speaker. In a sealed speaker enclosure (no portholes) a passive radiator responds to fluctuations in air pressure within the enclosure, creating sound. Since a passive radiator doesn’t have to be powered by an amp, it has no magnet or voice coil, and is, therefore, lighter and smaller than a traditional driver. This saves space and cost while increasing the speaker’s performance.

Pairing (or Bluetooth pairing): In the case of Bluetooth speakers, pairing is the act of making a wireless connection from a speaker to your wireless device via Bluetooth.

Stereo pairing: The ability to treat two individual wireless speakers as the left and right speakers of a stereo pair. This is usually accomplished using an app, and the speakers need to be compatible with the stereo pairing function.

Hi-res music: These are audio tracks that have been created from master recordings at much higher levels of detail and range than typical MP3 files. They contain up to four times as much information per song, and when played back through high-quality speakers that support them, they deliver more detail, less overlap between instruments and frequencies, and generally better sound when played at higher volumes. Hi-res music files require Wi-Fi, Bluetooth aptX HD, Sony’s proprietary LDAC wireless codec, or a wired connection from the source to the speaker, so not all wireless speakers are compatible.

Multiroom audio: The ability for a wireless speaker to become part of a centrally controlled, multispeaker whole-home sound system. In these systems, each speaker can play a different source, all speakers can play the same source in perfect sync, or you can combine the two. A good example of a wireless, multiroom audio system would be Sonos.

WiSA: An acronym for “Wireless Sound and Audio,” this standard for wireless audio eliminates excess audio cables for multiroom setups with up to eight speakers. Over 60 popular audio brands, including Klipsch, Bang & Olufsen, and Harman Kardon, offer WiSA products.

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