When considering which wireless speaker to buy, there are many factors you need to consider including how you will use it, the different features available, the size of the speaker, and the different price points. This quick guide will help you make your choice by walking you through the decision-making process for purchasing the best wireless speaker or wireless speaker set for you.
Wireless Speaker Buying Guide Quick Reference Handout
Table of Contents
What is a wireless speaker?
A wireless speaker is an audio device that plays audio content without needing a physical cable or wire to connect it to its audio source. Instead of having a wired connection to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, this type of speaker receives its streaming signal via Wi-Fi or another platform like AirPlay. Wireless speakers are powered by rechargeable batteries or they plug into an outlet on your wall.
Wireless speakers come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, and are some of the most popular speakers due to how easy they are to use and the convenience of not having to deal with excess wires.
Wireless speakers vs portable Bluetooth speakers
You may have heard the term ‘wireless speaker’ and ‘portable Bluetooth speaker’ used interchangeably. They are both speakers that stream audio over the air, but portable Bluetooth speakers are actually a subset of wireless speakers and they have unique features.
1. A wireless speaker uses Wi-Fi or platform like AirPlay to stream audio. A portable Bluetooth speaker streams audio via Bluetooth technology.
2. Bluetooth speakers are lightweight and portable. Most types of portable Bluetooth speakers have rechargeable batteries so you can easily take them with you when on the go. Wireless speakers can also be portable, but most need a power outlet and Wi-Fi signal to work.
You can read more about portable Bluetooth speakers in the portable Bluetooth speaker buying guide.
Questions to consider when purchasing wireless speakers
Before choosing a wireless speaker or a set of wireless speakers, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
1. Why do I need wireless speakers?
The first thing you should do when shopping for a wireless speaker is to identify how you plan to use it. There are many reasons why someone might want to have wireless speakers, so understanding your specific use will help you pick wshich one you’d like.
If you primarily listen to music at home or watch movies at home and you know your speaker will remain in the same spot, you may wish to have a pair of high-quality wireless speakers to pair with your receiver. If you’re looking for a wireless speaker to place in your kitchen or bedroom for use as a voice assistant or to play music, you may want to purchase a wireless smart speaker.
2. What size of wireless speaker do you need?
There are a lot of wireless speakers to choose from. To start your search you’ll need to first narrow down your options from the range of sizes. From small and portable wireless speakers to massive and high-powered types, there are quite a few kinds to choose from. Once you narrow down your size you’ll want to look at other features including brand, water resistance, whether it has multiroom capability, and whether the speaker can stream via Airplay, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi.
Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – which is better in a wireless speaker?
Determining whether you’d like a wireless speaker that connects via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi is mostly a matter of personal opinion, but you should keep in mind they have a few key differences.
1. Bluetooth wireless speakers
Bluetooth is a feature that’s included in everything from cell phones to laptops. It’s easy to connect via Bluetooth. You’ll turn on your wireless speaker, look for it in your Bluetooth menu, and tap on your phone to connect to it.
Bluetooth has a limited range of 33 to 50 feet. If you keep your phone close by, Bluetooth range won’t be a major issue. Having a Bluetooth speaker is great when you want to stream while away from power and your Wi-Fi network.
2. Wi-Fi portable speakers
If you plan on using wireless speakers in your home, you’ll want to choose a pair with Wi-Fi built-in. Wi-Fi streaming requires your home network to work, but it offers steadier streaming quality and high-fidelity playback when compared to Bluetooth. You can also connect different audio sources to it including your receiver.
The downside to a Wi-Fi wireless speaker is that you are limited to using it when you are within your local network. Wi-Fi speakers may also be more expensive and can be a bit more challenging to set up, but the trade-off is premium sound playback for everything you listen to.
Features on wireless speakers
To make your choice of wireless speaker a bit easier, here’s a look at a few of the features you can find on wireless speakers.
1. Battery operated or plugged into a power
Power source requirements are among the first features you’ll look at when choosing a wireless speaker. You’ll find both wall-outlet and battery-powered wireless speakers, although there are more wall-outlet types. Powered wireless speakers use a power plug, but they are still considered wireless because you don’t need to connect them to your phone or receiver via wire.
Wireless speakers with a battery are rechargeable and the average battery life for these speakers is about 8 to 10 hours. You’ll want to keep in mind that your battery life will vary depending on what type of speaker you have. For example, if your speaker has built-in lights for use at parties, your battery may drain faster.
2. Multi-source playback
Some wireless speakers allow for multiple connections at one time. That means you won’t have to disconnect your phone so someone else can pair it with the speaker. There are also wireless speakers that have multi-source inputs including USB and a 3.5mm jack if you’d like to plug it into your record player.
3. Multiroom Speaker Technology
When you choose a wireless speaker with multiroom speaker technology, you can place your speakers in different rooms in your home, sync them, and control them together from a single source like your smartphone or receiver. This type of technology is often used in home entertainment systems so you can create a true surround sound experience.
3. Weather resistance on wireless speakers
You can choose weather-resistant wireless speakers that are designed to stand up to rain, wind, dust, and sun. These speakers usually have a protective outer shell and you can tell how weather resistant they are by their IPX rating. Some types are waterproof, while others are only rated to stand up to the occasional splash.
4. NFC wireless speakers
An NFC wireless speaker uses near field communication (NFC) technology to connect to your device. To use a speaker with NFC, all you have to do is touch your smartphone or another device to the speaker. It’s a great feature because it virtually eliminates the need for manual pairing
Apple Airplay is a technology that lets you connect your iPhone or iPad to the speaker via a Wi-Fi connection. It’s only for use with Apple devices, but it offers a quick and seamless way to stream music.
DLNA on wireless speakers stands for Digital Living Network Alliance. It’s a type of technology that lets you stream over your home’s Wi-Fi network. DLNA-certified wireless speakers can easily connect to other DLNA-enabled devices like your smartphone or DNLA-certified receiver.
8. Smart home integration
Some wireless speakers can pair with your smart home assistant for voice control. Others have a voice assistant built-in, and you can use them as a type of command center for your smart home.
Some wireless speakers can double as a way to take hands-free calls. You can connect your smartphone to your speaker and it will ring when a call is coming in and you’ll hear and speak via the speaker.
10. Wireless speakers with lights
Some types of wireless speakers are labelled as party speakers. These speakers stream music without wires, and they also have features designed to create a party atmosphere. Some party speakers have RGB lights to set the mood while others have a port for your microphone to plug in if you’d like to do a bit of karaoke.
Take the next step
When you have a wireless speaker or set of wireless speakers you’ll enjoy amazing sound quality without the need for a wired connection to your phone or receiver. Take the next step by choosing the best wireless speaker for you at Best Buy.