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Wireless speaker tests reveal one Best Buy and two to avoid

Our testing finds models with ‘headachy’ sound quality that narrowly miss being Don't Buys

Our January wireless speaker testing included some true heavyweights, including new high-end speakers from B&O and JBL – the Beoplay M3 and Link 10 and 20, respectively.

It also included a Denon and the all-new game-changing Amazon Echo Show with its 7-inch touchscreen and unusually positioned speakers. Can such a design deliver better sound than its cylindrical rivals?

What’s more, four of these are smart speakers with voice assistants built in, with one becoming only the second such speaker to be named a Best Buy.

Best Buy speakers – skip straight to our full range of top recommendations.

Beware that two of these models also teeter dangerously close to being Don’t Buys so, if you’re spending hundreds of pounds on your wireless speaker, we can help you make sure you avoid disappointment.

Premium looks or brand reputation won’t get a speaker past the sound engineer, cellist and other music industry professionals on our diverse listening panel, so by choosing one of recommendations you can be sure your money is well spent.

See whether you’ll get the sound quality you deserve by clicking on the links below.

Amazon Echo Show, £200

Arguably the biggest ever revolution in wireless speakers, building on the groundwork laid by the original Echo in 2016, the Amazon Echo Show is an exceptionally powerful and flexible device.

A 7-inch touchscreen adds powerful control options to your listening, with the ability to view lyrics, musical scores, album artwork and music videos as your music plays. You could even have the book on the screen as you play an audiobook.

It is also the first Echo to have stereo sound, with two small front-facing speakers below the touchscreen. But can such a design really compete with large traditional-looking rivals for sound?

And there is far more to the Echo Show, too. Its built-in smart home hub means you can control your smart home devices directly through the Echo Show, allowing it to become the central control unit of your smart home. Dim the lights in your child’s room without going upstairs, or take a peek at your smart security camera feed when someone knocks on the door. The possibilities are endless. And this can all be controlled through voice using Alexa, or through the unit’s touchscreen.

Placing the Echo Show in your kitchen could also let you view cooking recipes and you can use it as a handy timer for when a dish is ready – all hands-free. The possibilities of the device are vast and ever-growing as more and more ‘skills’ are added, and the wave of copycat devices racing behind it to market shows its potential.

But this all means nothing for music lovers if the small speakers below the screen fail to deliver top-quality sound. Could this really be the powerful dynamic speaker you’ve been waiting for, with a dizzying array of other features besides? We experience what potential is in store in our full comprehensive Amazon Echo Show review.

B&O Beoplay M3, £269

This speaker has great pedigree to surpass following on from the B&O Beoplay M5, and comes with the premium Scandinavian styling you’d expect from B&O, with a choice of interchangeable covers including grey blended lamb’s wool or black ‘pearl-blasted, anodised aluminium’.

Upgrading from the B&O Beoplay M5, the M3 has the Alexa voice assistant built in, as well as multi-room and Google Chromecast functionality so you can connect up the speaker to a wide suite of additional B&O or other speakers. You can also adjust the sound profile to your particular tastes using the Beoplay app on your smartphone.

However, at £270, you would expect something exceptional. See whether the B&O Beoplay is the next powerful contender in the B&O wireless speaker line-up in our extensive B&O Beoplay M3 review.

JBL Link 10, £149

One of the first wireless speakers to have Alexa rival Google Assistant built in, this allows you to play music, radio or podcasts hands-free from the sofa, including through streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora or Google Play Music.

This Bluetooth and wi-fi portable cylindrical speaker is also highly durable, with an IPX7 rating for waterproofing, meaning it can be completely submerged in a metre of water for 30 minutes – so it should survive if you accidentally leave it out in the rain.

But does it have incredible sound to match this convenience? We put it through its paces in our JBL Link 10 review.

JBL Link 20, £179

The bigger, taller brother to the JBL Link 10, the JBL Link 20 has the same Google Assistant functionality, but with two bigger 10W drivers (versus two 8W ones on the JBL Link 10) and a higher maximum value, so it can fill a bigger space with sound.

More importantly, if you want to take your speaker into the garden or out on a trip, battery life has been doubled from five hours to ten hours per charge.

So have the more powerful speakers and better battery catapulted the JBL Link 20 into an impressive standout package? We give our verdict in our JBL Link 20 review.

Denon Envaya Mini (DSB-150BT), £80

For those looking for a lower-budget option, the Denon Envaya Mini is a portable small speaker designed with smaller rooms in mind, or private listening. Denon claims it has taken care to go the extra mile to deliver ‘CD-like sound quality’.

It is also hardy, with not only waterproofing but dustproofing too, with a IP67 rating, so it can be dropped in a metre of water for 30 minutes – perfect for worry-free listening while taking a bath, or in the kitchen.

Plus, it uniquely supports Siri voice assistant and Siri Play when paired with Apple devices, and can also be paired with another Denon Envaya speaker to create stereo sound, making it adaptable for filling larger spaces if need be.

It can handle calls, and there’s a line-in if you want to play music from other devices via a wired connection.

Denon has had some success in our audio testing, so could this be the dark horse that steals the show? Find out what this model has to offer in our expert Denon Envaya review.

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