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1 October 2020

Bose vs Sonos: which speakers are best?

We put the two biggest wireless and Bluetooth speaker brands head to head to find out which you should go for
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OT
Oliver Trebilcock

Bose and Sonos have built up a reputation of quality with their speakers. But working out which is best isn’t easy, particularly when browsing online where you can’t hear how they sound. Our expert tests reveal the truth.

Best wireless and Bluetooth speakers – skip to the highest-scoring speaker reviews from our definitive lab tests.

Best cheap Bose and Sonos wireless and Bluetooth speakers

If you want excellent sound quality you might think you need to spend big, but we’ve found this often isn’t the case. While more expensive models will typically offer a higher maximum volume, our expert listening panel has found plenty of Best Buy speakers with superb, crystal clear sound for under £200.

Many of these speakers can also be linked together to form a stereo pair or multi-room setup, so buying a cheaper speaker and then another down the line to link to it can be a good way to spread out the cost.

Unlike Sonos, Bose makes portable speakers that run on batteries. So if you’d like to be able to move your speaker around your home, take it out in the garden or on holiday, a Bose portable Bluetooth speaker could be ideal.

Our testing doesn’t factor in price, so whatever your budget you can find a quality speaker. We’ve found plenty of models that punch above their weight, with test scores matching their more expensive peers despite a lower price. Here we’ve picked out the Bose and Sonos speakers that did best in our tests.

Only logged-in Which? members can view our recommendations in the table below. If you’re not yet a member, you can get instant access by joining Which?.

Cheap Bose and Sonos wireless and Bluetooth speakers

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82%
Best Buy
Great value
£169.00
Reviewed

This wireless speaker offers exceptional quality sound at a great price. It’s nicely compact, well build and easy to use too via its app on your smartphone. A plethora of music-streaming services are supported (may require subscriptions). Our professional listening panel praised its balanced, warm and engaging sound, packed full of detail and depth.

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63%
£149.00
Reviewed

This is a rugged, waterproof portable Bluetooth speaker suited for those who like strong bass. It’s easy to use and has a 14-hour battery life. Find out whether this is the ideal portable speaker for you.

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60%
£209.00
Reviewed

This smaller smart speaker supports Alexa and Google Assistant voice control. It’s easy to set up and sound quality is reasonable, but some rival smart speakers sound considerably better. Nevertheless, it’s a good, affordable option for fans of the brand.

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Pricing and recommendations correct at July 2020.

Best high-end Bose and Sonos wireless and Bluetooth speakers

For £200 to £600 you can get some of the best wireless and Bluetooth speakers these brands have to offer, combining top-spec sound tech, sleek designs and premium build quality.

However, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll be Best Buys. We’ve found plenty of larger speakers with very unbalanced sound, overly powerful bass, or ones that will tire your ears over time. Their big prices mean buying the wrong one would be an expensive mistake.

The music industry professionals who helped with our tests don’t care about price or brand power or a sleek speaker design. All they focus on is the sound quality and whether it’s up to scratch. All brands will claim their speakers sound great – our experts find the truth. Find out which are the top-performing Bose and Sonos speakers below.

High-end Bose and Sonos wireless and Bluetooth speakers

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75%
Best Buy
£399.00
Reviewed

With a super-easy setup and one of the best control apps around, this speaker is a leading light among multi-room options. As clever as this speaker is, it’s sound quality that matters most and we weren’t disappointed. The soundscape is rich and powerful, but subtle enough that you can still pick out individual instruments and melodies. You can adjust the sound too, with the equaliser built into the app.

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67%
£245.60
Reviewed

This portable smart speaker supports Alexa and Google Assistant voice control (with an internet connection), sounds great for a portable speaker and is very well made. It’s also very easy to use. The only real catch is the price – if you’re willing to pay it, this is an excellent option. It only narrowly misses getting a Best Buy.

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66%
£389.00
Reviewed

This is a portable smart speaker with Alexa and Google Assistant voice control. It’s feature-packed, but the asking price will look extortionate to many. The sound quality is good, but we’ve heard better from similar-sized speakers. Plus it’s not as portable as you might think. Unless you’re a fan of the brand, there are plenty of speakers that outclass it and cost far less.

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Bose and Sonos wireless and Bluetooth speakers to avoid

Speakers with good specifications aren’t guaranteed to have the precise, balanced sound quality that’ll make the most of your music. And if you’re looking for a portable speaker, beware that many lack bass and superb sound quality – we’ve found the few that do.

Our expert lab tests prove that no speaker brand has a perfect record – not even Bose and Sonos. We’ve found speakers costing £400 or more that are Don’t Buys, and speakers costing more than £600 that aren’t even close to being a match for speakers a fraction of their price.

Save yourself from sub-par sound by steering clear of the disappointing big-brand speakers below.

Bose and Sonos wireless and Bluetooth speakers to avoid

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58%
£119.00
Reviewed

This is a lot of money for such a speaker – and it’s not worth the price. The bass consists of a one-dimensional low note that makes the overall sound flat and dull. You’d be much better off choosing rival Bluetooth speakers – we’ve found ones that sound far better than this one, and cost a great deal less too.

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57%
£329.00
Reviewed

This speaker promises room-filling sound, but in our tests we found this wasn’t the case – so you’ll hear the sound change as you move about the room. The sound quality isn’t anything to shout about, offering sibilant vocals that are tiring on the ears and aggressively heavy, growling bass. It’s a shock considering the price. Buying this speaker would be an expensive mistake.

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56%
£89.97
Reviewed

Portable speakers are a real minefield if you’re looking for excellent sound quality, and this model is disappointing considering its price and the brand behind it. Music lacks drive and is thin on bass. We’ve found Best Buy portable speakers for a fraction of the price. Our Best Buys page reveals all the best-performing models.

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Bose vs Sonos wireless and Bluetooth speakers: average test scores

Bose and Sonos both make high quality speakers and are very close competitors. One brand has the highest-scoring model and has a higher average score for its speakers overall, but the other avoids having the lowest-scoring model of the two. It’s particularly important to consider the brand’s whole speaker range if you plan to set up a multi-room sound system with multiple speakers, as you can’t combine speakers of different brands with Bose and Sonos speakers - if you want to do that, consider Chromecast-supporting speakers instead. Compare how the two brands have performed in our tests in the graphic below.

Which? members can see which brand has the best, worst and higher average scores below.

 

 

Scores correct at July 2020.

Sonos feature updates

Sonos speakers are usually wi-fi only, and controlled through the Sonos Controller app on your smartphone. If you’re using an old smartphone, you’ll need to check if the Sonos Controller app is compatible, and be aware that eventually support will be discontinued for older devices and require you to upgrade to continue using your Sonos system.

Similarly, Sonos is one of the best wireless speaker manufacturers at upgrading the software and providing new features to its speakers even when they are several years old. However, Sonos announced it would stop adding new features to some of its oldest products in May 2020, including some models sold up to 2015, due to insufficient ‘memory and processing power’. It also committed to updating these older products with bug fixes and security patches ‘for as long as possible’.

Since there is no Bluetooth or wired option on most Sonos speakers, this means you need to be aware that unlike a traditional wired home audio setup, bear in mind that a Sonos system may only have a finite period of update support. That means you shouldn't expect it to last as long as a traditional, non-smart hi-fi system.

Are other wireless and Bluetooth speaker brands worth considering as well?

Bose and Sonos aren’t the only top wireless and Bluetooth speaker brands in our testing. Home multi-room speaker rivals include Samsung, Sony and B&O, while there are also the popular portable Bluetooth speaker brands Ultimate Ears and JBL.

To see all of our speaker recommendations from all the top brands, see our expert multi-room speaker and top portable speaker guides.

View all Wireless, smart and Bluetooth speakers