One of the best-value full-size speakers in years and the best-sounding model to ever go through our expert lab are two highlights from our latest wireless speaker tests. All the heavyweights duke it out, from Sonos to JBL and Bose. Find out which come out on top.
In two extremes, John Lewis launches its new range of ‘rugged’ portable speakers as well as a stereo one, all at rock-bottom prices, and Naim Audio offers a speaker that looks like it’s from the space age – with a sky-high price to boot.
Meanwhile Samsung has finally announced its first ever smart speaker, being the final big audio brand to do so. Launching early this year, the small Samsung Galaxy Home Mini aims to rival the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini, powered by Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant.
Best Buy wireless and Bluetooth speakers – discover the best-sounding speakers on the market.
Latest speakers to go through our lab
John Lewis On-the-go Portable Speaker (Large), £50
John Lewis has confusingly released two wireless speakers with the same name – this is the larger model, still costing well below the big-brand rivals. It may not be a looker, but certainly looks like it would survive being knocked around a garden or campsite. John Lewis claims its ‘rugged’ design will ‘withstand the outdoor elements’, with a hefty 19-hour battery life at moderate volume levels.
But what about the sound quality? Is this speaker a bargain or is there a catch? Find out in our John Lewis On-the-go Portable Speaker (Large) review.
And if this model looks a little large, also check out its £35 smaller sibling in our John Lewis On-the-go Portable Speaker (Small) review.
Naim Audio Mu-so Qb (2nd Gen), £749
This speaker looks like it would be right at home in Prometheus or Alien with its forbidding cube-shaped design that appears to hover with its lighted base. It’s one of the most expensive speakers you’ll find on the high street, with British hi-fi specialists Naim Audio seemingly throwing the kitchen sink at it with a dizzying array of specs.
Whether you’re looking for a cornucopia of wired connections, music streaming support, the latest technologies to search your personal music collection or Chromecast to connect to speakers from other brands, this speaker seems to have it all.
But it matters not if the sound’s not up to scratch – or it’s a right headache to use. See whether this is a novelty for those with money to burn or an audiophile’s Second Coming in our Naim Audio Mu-so Qb (2nd Gen) review.
Sonos Move, £329
This is the first-ever truly portable speaker from the biggest name in multi-room audio, and also its first-ever to support Bluetooth as well as wi-fi. It’s designed to be easy to move from room to room, with a handy charging dock and even water resistance for worry-free use in the kitchen or garden.
There are no compromises either, with all the powerful options you’d expect from Sonos including a huge range of music streaming services to choose from, such as Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music and many more (may require subscriptions). There’s even a choice of Alexa or Google Assistant voice control.
So is the sound quality up to Sonos’ usual standards, and is it worth the premium over Sonos’ cheaper models? Our experts put it to the test in our Sonos Move review.
Bose SoundLink Mini II Special Edition, £139
If the Sonos Move is a little large for your needs, rival Bose offers this conveniently compact portable speaker designed principally for use at home. This is the all-new ‘Special Edition’ version, which Bose claims has 20% better battery life than the standard Mini II, as well as adding a microphone for answering calls from your connected smartphone.
But is there a compromise for choosing such a small speaker, and is it worth the price? We leave no stone unturned in our Bose SoundLink Mini II Special Edition review.
JBL Flip 5, £100
If you’re really looking for something convenient to carry round with you, the compact JBL Flip 5 looks like the perfect choice. It’s fully waterproof and you can link two together for stereo sound. JBL promises a pretty hefty maximum volume as well.
See if this is the dream companion for your harden or campsite in our thorough JBL Flip 5 review.
John Lewis Spectrum Bluetooth Wireless Speaker, £35
Available in a rich range of colours to suit your home, the stereo Spectrum has a simple button controls and a nice large volume knob, and it can even charge portable devices such as your smartphone. There’s a 3.5mm socket to connect devices via a wire as an alternative to Bluetooth, and you can answer calls from your connected smartphone.
This speaker certainly threw up surprises when we sent it to our lab – but were they for the right reasons? Find out in our John Lewis Spectrum Bluetooth Wireless Speaker review.
Sonos One SL, £137
One of the cheapest models in Sonos’ range, the Sonos One SL is the replacement for the popular Sonos Play:1 and looks identical to the Sonos One (2nd Gen), with the SL being cheaper and lacking voice assistant support.
Like most models in Sonos’ range, it is wi-fi only – you control it through the Sonos Controller app on your smartphone, and you can connect it to other speakers in Sonos’ range like the Sonos Move and larger Sonos Play:5. You can also connect two together for stereo sound.
Could this be the ideal speaker for your home? We give it the ultimate verdict in our full Sonos One SL review.
Samsung Galaxy Home Mini smart speaker announced at CES
After a long delay that has seen Samsung absent from the smart speaker race, Bixby is finally ready for the limelight with this tiny home speaker competing against the Amazon Echo Dot, which has been out so long now it’s well into its third generation, as well as the upgraded Google Nest Mini which launched for the festive season last year.
Samsung’s CEO told Bloomberg the speaker will launch in ‘early 2020’ and it aims to be the perfect companion for the tech juggernaut’s huge range of smart home products, from Samsung smart fridge freezers to televisions. Pricing has yet to be announced.
Samsung is also leveraging its audio specialists at luxury brand AKG for the sound quality, hoping to get an edge over its rivals. The Galaxy Home Mini is currently going through public beta testing in Samsung’s home country of South Korea, suggesting it really is now not far from launch. Nevertheless, it will be a tall order for Samsung to carve out a presence in this now well-established market, which even Apple struggled to enter later than planned with the Apple HomePod in 2018.
Wireless charging comes to a Google Assistant smart speaker
Meanwhile those looking for a Google Assistant speaker have yet more options to choose from. The Belkin / Devialet Soundform Elite wireless speaker adds Qi wireless charging to the smart speaker formula, looking a bit like speaker docks from yesteryear. It’s a collaboration between premium audio brand Devialet and Belkin, who are known for their wireless chargers and cables.
Available in black or white, it promises ‘hi-fi’ sound quality, with ‘deep, impactful sound and implosive bass’. The wi-fi and Bluetooth speaker is set for release in February 2020 with a launch price of £280.
Looking for the ideal top-sounding speaker? See our full range of wireless and Bluetooth speaker reviews.