Buying Wireless Speakers? How to Pick the Best System for You
Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Advertisement

You can have all the smart hubs Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? Which Smart Hub for Home Automation Is Best for You? For a while, people thought of the idea as nothing more than a gimmick, but recent product releases have shown that smart home automation is starting to live up to its promises. Read More , fancy kitchen gadgets Create a Futuristic Kitchen With These 7 Smart Devices Create a Futuristic Kitchen With These 7 Smart Devices It's hard to know where to draw the line between useful and gimmick when discussing smart home devices for the kitchen, but these devices are sure to impress! Read More , and 21st-century security systems Everything You Need to Know Before Installing a Smart Lock Everything You Need to Know Before Installing a Smart Lock Smart locks are increasing in popularity, but there are still a lot of valid concerns about their security. These are the facts you need to know before making a purchase! Read More you want. But you can’t claim you truly live in a smart home unless you have a wireless speaker system throughout your abode.

Nothing screams high-tech quite like pressing a button on your smartphone and instantly having five different songs playing in five different rooms. It’s got a “wow factor” that’s sure to impress any guest.

If you’re thinking of making an investment in a wireless speaker system, don’t. Well, at least not until you’ve read this article. There are some important things you need to consider before you part with your cash.

1. Features

Wireless speakers offer an almost endless array of features, a list of which would be far too extensive to cover in this article.

Nonetheless, there are four common features some speakers will offer but that haven’t yet become industry standards. Make sure your purchase provides the ones you want:

  • Voice control — Who wants to use their phone when they need to skip a track? It’s easier just to shout at your speaker!
  • Ability to group speakers into zones — You can have a zone for the kitchen, a zone for the lounge, a zone for the entire downstairs of your home, and so on.
  • Ability to pair two speakers together for stereo output — Most wireless speakers come in packs of one. Can you pair two speakers together for awesome stereo sound?
  • Dual-band Wi-Fi support — if you live in an apartment block, there could be hundreds of nearby devices on the 2.4 GHz spectrum causing interference. Support for the 5 GHz spectrum could fix your problems.

2. Range of Products

If you’re new to the wireless speaker world, you’re probably only planning to buy one or two devices to get started. But what happens further down the line?

You might want to add more components. Perhaps you’d eventually like a sound bar for your TV, some bookshelf speakers for your office, or a waterproof speaker for your bathroom?

bluesound pulse

You don’t want to hit the shops for an upgrade, only to discover the product you want isn’t available in your chosen ecosystem. The difference between the Bose and Sonos product ranges (which both include several speaker sizes, sound bars, subs, and audio-in adaptors) and the Bluesound PULSE range (which only has three different speakers) is vast.

Bluesound - Node N100 Network Music Player Bluesound - Node N100 Network Music Player Winner of a What Hi-Fi? 2014 Product of the Year Award Buy Now At Amazon $299.00

Research all the products your manufacturer offers before you buy anything.

3. Power

How wireless is wireless? Does your speaker still need to be connected to a power source to operate? For Wi-Fi speakers, the answer is probably Yes — and that means you’ll need cables.

Or do you?

Denon HEOS 1 HS2 Wireless Speaker (Black) (New Version) Denon HEOS 1 HS2 Wireless Speaker (Black) (New Version) High resolution audio support (new to this series) Buy Now At Amazon $149.00

One of the most exciting new entries into the wireless speaker market in 2017 is the Denon HEOS 1. For an additional $99, you can purchase the HEOS Go package. It adds battery power, splash-proofing, and even Bluetooth compatibility. If you want a speaker you can carry around while you’re doing the gardening or cooking a barbecue, it’s well-worth considering.

4. Cost

It sounds obvious, but you need to consider your budget. When it comes to wireless speakers, the price point varies wildly, both between manufacturers and between models in the same product range.

A Chromecast audio will only set you back $40 per dongle and the Amazon Dot is a mere $49. For a bit more money, you can pick up mid-range Bluetooth speakers Best Bluetooth Speakers Under $25 and up to $300 in 2016 Best Bluetooth Speakers Under $25 and up to $300 in 2016 You can't beat the convenience of going wire-free. Great audio quality may always need wired speakers, but for music on your phone Bluetooth speakers are a must-have accessory nowadays. Read More for around $100, while the Amazon Echo is $179.

In contrast, the cheapest Sonos and Bose Wi-Fi models cost $199, with the two companies’ top-of-the-range sound bars clocking in at $699.

bose range

Make sure you choose something that not only fits your budget today, but that will continue to be affordable as you look to add larger, more powerful components in the future.

5. Third-Party Services

As the world continues to move towards online music streaming The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation The End of Ownership: Netflix, Spotify, and The Streaming Generation Read More rather than physical media, considering which third-party services your wireless speakers will work with is more important than ever.

For example, Sonos integrates with more than 50 third-party providers. Obviously, all the mainstream services such as Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music are covered, but so are a whole host of niche apps. Want old-time radio shows? Install RUSC. Enjoy Indian music? Add Gaana. Need some ambient background music? Hearts of Space is your friend. The list goes on.

sonos services

Contrast that diversity with some of Sonos’ competitors Sonos vs. Chromecast Audio: Which Is Best For You? Sonos vs. Chromecast Audio: Which Is Best For You? A lot of people seem to think Sonos and Chromecast Audio are the same thing, but they wold be mistaken. While their core purpose might be the same, the differences between them are vast... Read More . The Chromecast Audio can play audio output from any app 10 Must-Have Chromecast Apps for Listening to Music 10 Must-Have Chromecast Apps for Listening to Music Chromecasts are about more than just video content; they can also stream music. In this article we list 10 must-have Chromecast apps to help you get started listening to music. Read More  if you’ve got an Android device, but if you’re on iOS, your options are limited to the biggest names in the industry.

And what if there’s no mobile app for your service? Yes, you can cast directly from your desktop, but it means your computer will need to be running and you can’t control the music from anywhere in your home.

6. Integration With Other Devices

Can you use your wireless speakers in conjunction with existing devices in your home? If you’re hoping to have a genuine “whole house” experience, you need to consider this carefully.

To again use Sonos as an example, the company offers a sound bar that can hook into your TV, which is ideal for enjoying 4k movies on your TV. On the flipside, users often complain that the product doesn’t have a way to natively play audio directly from your computer. If you were hoping to stream gaming soundtracks How to Find the Perfect Music to Listen to While Gaming How to Find the Perfect Music to Listen to While Gaming Video games are now considered an artform, and their soundtracks are an important element. However, sometimes you need to listen to something else while gaming, which is where Spotify comes into its own. Read More throughout your home, you’ll be out of luck.

Sonos PLAYBAR TV Soundbar/ Wireless Streaming TV and Music Speaker. Works with Alexa. Sonos PLAYBAR TV Soundbar/ Wireless Streaming TV and Music Speaker. Works with Alexa. Complements HD television screens with crisp and powerful sound from nine amplified speaker drivers. Wirelessly streams all your favorite music services too. Buy Now At Amazon $699.00

Meanwhile, Chromecasts can turn all your old “dumb” speakers into smart speakers, but you won’t be able to cast your TV’s audio throughout your home.

And what about Apple Airplay? There are loads of Airplay-enabled speakers on the market, but if you don’t already have some, are you prepared to buy adaptors for every speaker 4 AirPlay Receivers That Are Cheaper Than Apple TV 4 AirPlay Receivers That Are Cheaper Than Apple TV Built as a veritable entertainment box, the Apple TV isn't cheap. It's tempting to look for alternatives - AirPlay receivers that are cheaper than the Apple TV. We've laid out four options. Read More in your home?

Perhaps the best “all-round” system is the Bose SoundTouch. It offers both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi streaming, giving you the best of both worlds.

[Apple Airplay Certified]GGMM M4 Wireless Speaker for Music Streaming,Wi-Fi Bluetooth Indoor Outdoor Speaker, Built-in Battery,10-Hour Playtime,Powerful 40W Audio Driver,Enhanced Bass,Multi Room Play [Apple Airplay Certified]GGMM M4 Wireless Speaker for Music Streaming,Wi-Fi Bluetooth Indoor Outdoor Speaker, Built-in Battery,10-Hour Playtime,Powerful 40W Audio Driver,Enhanced Bass,Multi Room Play ✓[Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/Aux]: Connect directly to your Wi-Fi network for Internet radio, your music library and favorite online streaming music services like Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartradio. Connect via Bluetooth, direct Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi router, or AUX. Easily switch among separate audio sources and add up to 16 devices without disconnecting.Wi-Fi working over 160 feet. Buy Now At Amazon $169.99

7. Supporting Apps

You need to think about how well your system will work with a) its own proprietary app, and b) apps from music streaming services.

Sonos has its own proprietary app, but the company has also started opening its API to music streaming services 6 Online Music Streaming Services With NO Restrictions 6 Online Music Streaming Services With NO Restrictions Finding a completely unlimited music listening experience can be a challenge. So, if you want complete control over your listening experience, check out these six completely free options... Read More . It’s now possible to cast audio from the Spotify or Google Play apps directly to the speakers. Given how widely the native Sonos app has been criticized, it’s a welcome update.

bose soundtouch

Like Sonos, Bose offers its own app as part of the SoundTouch range, and it can also stream music from directly within third-party apps.

At the other end of the scale, the Chromecast doesn’t have an app — you need to install each streaming services’ apps individually. If you only use one music service, it might not be a problem. However, if you like to pull your audio from multiple sources, all the chopping and changing between apps can quickly become annoying.

8. Connection Type

You can break down wireless speaker connections into two broad categories: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It’s important to make the right decision; the kind of connection your system uses affects its both range and audio quality.

Wi-Fi

If you live in a large house and want to cover every room with audio, you almost certainly need a Wi-Fi system. The range of a single router can be as much as 150 feet in perfect conditions, and potentially even more if you get a new smart router 5 Things That Make Smart Wi-Fi Routers Worth Buying 5 Things That Make Smart Wi-Fi Routers Worth Buying Today, you can buy a new class of "smart routers", specifically designed to cope with the demands of running a smart home. Here are five things that make smart Wi-Fi routers worth buying. Read More .

And even if your home has dead spots, you don’t need to worry. More and more manufacturers are introducing technology that allows the speakers to create their own mesh network Are Mesh Nets The Future of The Internet? Are Mesh Nets The Future of The Internet? Mesh nets are powerful decentralized networks that may change the way we use the internet. Here's how they work. Read More . SonosNet is one example: each individual speaker becomes a node, thus creating a large continuous network.

sonosnet

Wi-Fi also benefits from using a lossless codec: no audio fidelity will be lost when transmitting data. If you’re an audiophile Are You an Audiophile? These 10 Questions Will Reveal the Truth Are You an Audiophile? These 10 Questions Will Reveal the Truth You might think you are an audiophile, but in reality very few music lovers tick all of the necessary boxes. Are you really an audiophile? Or are you just a great pretender? Read More , it’s the only option.

Bluetooth

The biggest drawback of a Bluetooth system is its range. Manufacturers might advertise 30 or even 50 feet, but with interference from other devices and interior walls, you’ll be lucky to get half that amount.

You also need to ensure the Bluetooth device you’re streaming from supports A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile). It’s the only type of Bluetooth connection that supports audio in stereo.

On the positive side, most portable devices offer Bluetooth connectivity, so your system’s compatibility should increase.

9. Sound Quality

I’ve just told you how using Wi-Fi can give you better sound than using Bluetooth, but you also need to research the sound quality of your speaker. It doesn’t matter how flashy your speaker is if it doesn’t have the sound quality you need!

For example, critics have praised the Amazon Echo for being the first in a new generation of smart speakers thanks to its Alexa integration. While that may be true Let's Face It: Amazon Echo's Alexa Is Stupid Let's Face It: Amazon Echo's Alexa Is Stupid There's no doubt voice-controlled assistants are the future, but is Alexa the solution? Perhaps not. In this article, I'm going to argue Alexa is actually rather stupid. Read More , the quality of the sound doesn’t come close to a Bose SoundTouch or LG Music Flow. Amazon itself realized the problem: it’s the primary reason it chose to let the Echo Dot work with any speaker or audio system in your home.

lg musicflow

And, of course, if you’re planning to use the speakers with your TV a lot, you need to be sure they support 5.1-channel surround sound Dolby Digital, DTS, THX: Surround Sound Standards Explained Dolby Digital, DTS, THX: Surround Sound Standards Explained Although there are only three main players in the surround sound industry, each has their own subsets of technology as it relates to surround. Read More . If they don’t, you won’t get that famous movie theater experience.

Amazon Echo - Black (1st Generation) Amazon Echo - Black (1st Generation) Plays all your music from Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and more using just your voice Buy Now At Amazon

Are You Going to Invest?

I hope this article has opened your eyes to some of the aspects you need to consider before you invest in a wireless speaker system for your home.

Have you considered all the pros and cons of a wireless speaker system? What features are most important to you? Which brand will you buy? Why?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Joel
    May 17, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Dan - thanks. I see you are struggling with the same questions that I am. I am looking for something that integrates with my existing audio system (receiver, amp, wired speakers), but allows me to extend those audio sources throughout the house.

    Future expansion and compatibility is important as I don't want to lock into a technology that might be dropped in after just a few years.

    So far, I haven't found anything that meets the basic requirements at any price.

  2. Raphael
    May 17, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    When I decided I was tired of lugging my large Bluetooth speaker from room to room just to get music where I wanted it, I started looking until Wi-Fi speaker systems. Sonos and Bose were completely out of my budget. I just couldn't see the point of spending that kind of money for one speaker. At the time, I had an LG G4 smartphone and I loved it. When I realized LG had recently entered the wireless/Wi-Fi market I decided to start with their smallest offering, the portable H4. I was so blown away by the sound that I now have 9 music flow speakers of varying models throughout my home. The sound is awesome and super loud. The app is decidedly NOT awesome. The music flow app killed this promising line-up. Terrible experiences led to terrible reviews. The good news is, Chromecast is now enabled with Music Flow and it is far far more stable and enjoyable to use. Plus, the prices are now roughly 80% lower than retail price at launch.