WiFi technology uses radio frequencies to send signals from one device to another. Unlike a walkie talkie or cellphone, however, these radio frequencies are measured in gigahertz (GHz). These signals are then transmitted over a short distance—from the living room to the office or bedroom and so on—to provide you and your household with wireless internet. By connecting to a WiFi “hot spot,” users can connect to the internet wherever they are, such as in a coffee shop or at an airport.
Other devices that may connect to WiFi include tablets, e-readers, and a variety of smart home devices, including wireless speakers. While it’s true that WiFi speakers offer your living space a certain level of high-tech coolness and a variety of tunes, WiFi speakers aren’t just for parties. These nifty gadgets can help make mundane tasks, like ordering groceries and creating a to-do list, easier than ever.
Finding the best WiFi speakers for your living space will depend on a few things, including the desired sound effect, your budget, and the quality of the speakers. Ahead, learn which factors are essential to consider when shopping for WiFi speakers and find out these models are worthy of a spot on the list of top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Amazon Echo Studio Hi-fidelity smart speaker Alexa
- BEST UPGRADE: Sonos Move – Battery-powered Smart Speaker
- BEST SURROUND SOUND: VIZIO SB3651-f6 5.1 Channel Home Theatre
- BEST OUTDOOR: Sony SRS-XB402G Bluetooth Waterproof Party Speaker
What to Consider When Choosing the Best WiFi Speakers
While WiFi speakers connect wirelessly with a home’s network, buyers may initially be disappointed to find that most of them still require access to electrical outlets. The wireless aspect indicates the speaker’s ability to communicate, via an app on a smartphone or other digital device, not its ability to stay powered on. Wireless speakers require a power source and will either need to be plugged into an electrical outlet or supplied with batteries.
WiFi speakers come in a range of styles, from mini models that are a few inches wide (known as bookshelf speakers) to narrow tower speakers that can measure up to 4 feet tall. Usually, larger speakers emit louder sounds, though this isn’t always true. As you browse, remember to refrain from purchasing a speaker based on its size alone. Select a speaker, or multiple speakers, that not only suit the room’s space but also offer a high-quality sound.
WiFi Wireless Standards
For convenience, most WiFi speakers will connect with the router you already have at home. With that being said, an older router may not support a newer type of WiFi speaker. Be sure to check the speaker’s compatibility before making a final purchase. To do this, check the product description for the following terms and then compare them to your router.
- Single-band: A single-band router, also known as a 2.4 GHz router, will not support a WiFi speaker that requires a newer and faster 5 GHz router connection. If you have a single-band router, look for a speaker that accommodates a 2.4 GHz wireless connection. A single band router will typically support wireless transfer speeds of up to 300 megabytes per second (Mbps).
- Dual-band: Many newer routers support both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connections. These are known as dual-band routers. Dual-band routers emit stronger signals that can support wireless speeds up to about 2 gigabytes per second (Gbps).
Check the specifications of each WiFi speaker you’re considering to ensure it will sync with your router. In most cases, a label on the back of the router will indicate its speed.
HiFi vs. Home Theater
High-fidelity sound (“HiFi” or “hi-fi”) indicates superior sound reproduction with a minimal amount of background noise or distortion. Since the mid-1900s, audio manufacturers have been steadily improving the quality of sound reproduction to give those who listen to home stereo systems the experience of being at a live concert. As technology progresses, so does the sound quality of HiFi speakers.
By arranging multiple speakers in different areas of the room, the sound seems to be coming from everywhere, rather than one specific direction. This is known as a home theater effect or a surround-sound effect, which is an ideal arrangement for listeners who want to feel like they’re a part of the music or movie effects. In a WiFi home theater arrangement, three or more speakers connect through the home’s router, and the user can configure each speaker from an app, either on a PC, smartphone, or tablet.
WiFi speakers must be near enough to a home’s router to communicate effectively. While this depends largely on the quality of the router, a WiFi signal should reach approximately 150 feet inside a home. Factors that can affect a router’s signal include the signal passing through metal or brick walls or radio-wave interference from microwave ovens. By choosing a central location for the router, more rooms in the home will have a strong WiFi signal.
Wireless speakers sync with various digital platforms and allow the user to control the speakers remotely via a mobile device, such as a smartphone or a tablet.
- AirPlay: WiFi speakers compatible with AirPlay are considered part of the Apple family of technology and have the ability to stream audio from an iOS device, such as an iPad, iPod, or iPhone.
- Bluetooth: Both WiFi and Bluetooth connect wirelessly, but Bluetooth does not use a home network to connect. Instead, a Bluetooth speaker connects to a single digital device, such as a smartphone or a tablet with Bluetooth capability. No home network is necessary.
- DLNA: Speakers with Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) can connect to other devices on a home’s WiFi network and share audio files. For example, a DLNA WiFi speaker can be used to listen to a DLNA-compatible TV.
- HEOS: Short for Home Entertainment Operating System, HEOS is a wireless platform developed by Denon. This popular platform features a downloadable app from which users can control audio from all compatible devices.
- DTS Play-Fi: Rather than connecting devices that are all of a single platform, such as Apple devices, DTS Play-Fi syncs with speakers and devices across a range of platforms and has the ability to control devices in multiple rooms of the home. By downloading the Play-Fi app, users can control speakers from a single smartphone or tablet.
- Sonos: One of today’s popular home audio manufacturers, Sonos offers a comprehensive line of smart and wireless products. These include speakers that can be located in multiple rooms and configured through WiFi.
WiFi speakers come with various options to enhance the listening experience. Here are a few features to keep in mind while browsing.
- Speaker docking stations: Some wireless speakers double as docking stations that allow the user to connect a smartphone or other smart device, such as an Echo Dot, directly to the speaker to play music. These docks often serve as charging stations for phones and tablets as well.
- Remote control: In addition to controlling WiFi speakers from a smart device or PC, some speakers come with remote controls for turning the speakers on or off or adjusting the audio’s sound.
- Voice recognition: Smart home systems, such as Alexa or Google Home, allow residents in the home to turn on music by verbal commands, such as “Alexa. Play instrumental Mozart.” The music then plays from the wireless speakers.
- Hands-free speakerphone: Some WiFi speakers come with the ability to sync a smartphone to answer calls and make calls, through verbal commands, without touching the phone. This feature is well suited to crafters, woodworkers, chefs, and others who may find it inconvenient to talk on the phone while working on projects or cooking.
- Streaming services: Many of today’s WiFi speakers can sync with paid subscription streaming services, such as Pandora, Spotify, and Amazon Music. Users can then access music through a media streaming device, such as a smart home system or a smartphone.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as one of the top picks, the WiFi speaker must produce clear audio and be relatively simple to use and operate. The best WiFi speakers will vary depending on individual listening preferences, but any one of the following choices should produce an enjoyable audio experience.
For an optimal listening experience, the Amazon Echo Studio speaker features high-fidelity sound and connects with other Alexa products to create a whole-home integrated system. The speaker features five individual speakers installed within a compact cylinder that measures 8.1 inches high by 6.9 inches in diameter. The Echo Studio speaker can be used as an intercom to chat with family members in other rooms, and it streams music from Amazon-related devices as well as Android and iOS devices.
Users can configure the speaker to stream audio from subscription services, such as Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple music. It comes with automatic room adaptation that analyzes the room’s background noise and adjusts the audio output for optimal sound. It also functions as a hub for controlling Zigbee-compatible devices, if desired. The Echo Studio speaker plugs into a standard household outlet and is compatible with a single-band or dual-band home WiFi network.
With its built-in Alexa capability, the Sonos Move WiFi Speaker lets users listen to music, check the local news and weather, or ask questions that Alexa answers by scanning internet information sites. The dual-band Sonos plugs into a USB-C port for charging and comes with a built-in battery that will power the speaker for up to 11 hours on a single charge. It measures 9.44 inches high by 6.29 inches wide by 4.96 inches deep.
The Sonos speaker emits top-of-the-line deep, rich bass sound and features Trueplay tuning that continually adjusts the audio output to suit ambient noise, making it well suited for parties. With a water- and impact-resistant case, this speaker is just as functional outdoors and can withstand being accidentally knocked over or an occasional spray of water. In addition to Alexa, the speaker is compatible with Apple Airplay and comes with Bluetooth capability.
Create a convincing home theater listening experience with the dual-band VIZIO WiFi Home Theater System that comes with a soundbar, a wireless subwoofer, and two wireless satellite speakers that work together to create a sound that encompasses the listener from all angles. The system is designed to enhance television watching, but users can also stream music over a home network. It syncs with Google Assistant and Bluetooth devices.
Lyrics and movie voices are crystal clear on the VIZIO surround sound home theater system, and the subwoofer emits a strong, rich bass. For the best listening experience, position the soundbar below the television, place the two satellite speakers at the rear of the room, and tuck the subwoofer along a sidewall.
Take the party outdoors with the Sony Party Speaker that features enhanced low-end tones that create a dynamic, three-dimensional sound experience with a powerful under beat, similar to a concert or nightclub experience. The Sony speaker is dustproof and waterproof—it can even survive being dropped in water—making it a top pick for pool get-togethers. As if that’s not enough, this fun Sony WiFi speaker features built-in lights that sync to the music’s beat.
The speaker is compatible with Google Assistant, allowing the user to issue verbal commands to select favorite playlists, adjust the volume, and even change the light patterns. If the party is out of range of a home WiFi network, it also syncs with Bluetooth-enabled devices. Its rechargeable battery will run up to 12 hours on a single charge, and it features dual-band technology.
FAQs About WiFi Speakers
WiFi capable speakers allow the user to stream audio over a home WiFi network and, depending on the speaker, may also serve as an intercom or connect with other smart home devices. For shoppers new to WiFi technology, some questions are expected.
Q. What’s the difference between Bluetooth and WiFi speakers?
WiFi requires an installed home network to operate. Bluetooth only requires that the speaker and the streaming device, such as a smartphone, be Bluetooth enabled.
Q. Can I use my own stereo speakers in a wireless system?
Maybe. Many smart televisions and stereo systems connect to both wired and wireless speakers.
Q. Can I play my vinyl records through WiFi speakers?
Some newer record players can connect to a router; if so, WiFi speakers can be used to stream the music.