Hi-fi quality music was once only the preserve of audiophiles and those with expensive sound systems. But the rise of wireless speakers has brought high sound quality in reach of the masses – provided you know which speakers to buy. Our tests reveal the top products on the market.
Our expert lab and professional listening panel prove it no longer costs the earth to get superior sound. We’ve found remarkable Best Buy portable speakers for well under £50, and even exquisite-sounding multi-room speakers for less than £100. So whatever your budget, our experts give you the insider knowledge so you don’t have to compromise.
And for those looking to invest long-term in a multi-room audio setup, when even a single speaker can stretch into the hundreds of pounds, it’s even more important to make sure you’re spending your money the most wisely.Below we reveal the best speakers from our tests – whatever type or price you’re looking for.
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Portable Bluetooth speakers come in all shapes and sizes, from ones that will fit in the palm of your hand, to larger varieties intended for use at home. Their built-in batteries let you move them around easily without needing to be in range of a plug socket.
We’ve selected excellent Bluetooth speakers of different sizes to best suit your needs below.
Pricing and recommendations correct as of August 2022.
Portable speakers pros and cons
All portable wireless speakers have Bluetooth which lets you wirelessly connect to play audio from devices such as your smartphone, and the best portable speakers will be easy to carry around with you and have battery power that’ll last throughout the day.
The best small Bluetooth speakers are lightweight and don’t take up much space, and are often simple and easy to use.
Great for playing and improving the sound quality of music stored on your mobile device or streamed from the internet (including music services such as Spotify – which in some cases Bluetooth can also grant access free versions of such services).
Small, light portable speakers often have poorer sound quality – so be sure to check below to find out which are worth buying.
Bluetooth connections have a limited operational range of around 10 to 30 metres before the connection is lost.
Calls and alerts from your phone can disturb your listening, and not all devices support Bluetooth (such as older desktop computers and laptops).
Best multi-room speakers
Our experts have selected their top multi-room speaker recommendations in the table below. Smart speakers (which have voice assistants) are also often multi-room speakers - for more on smart speakers, see our dedicated guide including model recommendations for how to buy the best smart speaker.
Some multi-room speakers can be among the most expensive on the market, offering premium build quality designed to last and a wide range of features, but cheaper options are available too. These days, multi-room systems usually connect over wi-fi to avoid costly and messy cable installations.
That said, investing in multi-room audio with multiple speakers can cost thousands. Many brands including Bose and Sonos only let you connect to other speakers from the same brand, so you need to choose carefully as you become restricted to the brand’s app and speaker ecosystem – regretting your choice later is incredibly costly.
To avoid this, many Chromecast and other Google Home app-supporting speakers let you connect to one another across different brands (to find out what speakers support Chromecast, head to our wireless speaker reviews and select 'Chromecast' using the filter menu).
The best wireless speakers with wi-fi are easy and convenient to use while offering great functionality.
Wi-fi speakers typically have a longer wireless signal range than Bluetooth (the same as that of your wi-fi network).
Most brands give you access to a host of online radio and music streaming services (the latter usually requiring subscriptions to connect directly over wi-fi).
Wi-fi connections can be more difficult to set up.
Music streaming services usually require subscriptions when connecting directly over wi-fi (this can sometimes be avoided when streaming over Bluetooth from your phone).
Some of the best multi-room speakers at the top end of the market can be very expensive, particularly if you intend to buy more than one of them to form a multi-speaker setup.
Other great cheap speakers
Our Best Buy speakers set a high bar, and so if you’re not quite as demanding, we recommend Great Value models as well. These are cheaper options and still score well in our tests, making for excellent bargains.
We’ve listed speakers that are Great Value or other more affordable models below. For even more, head to our speaker reviews and select the Great Value filter (in the left-hand menu alongside our Best Buys).
Wireless speakers can vary greatly in price. Entry-level small Bluetooth speakers that are light on features can be picked up for less than £50, whereas larger, premium models can cost 10 times as much.
Wi-fi-enabled wireless speakers tend to cost a little more. There are few sub-£100 models on the market, so creating a multi-room speaker system can soon become an expensive venture.
How do we determine what’s a Great Value speaker?
Best Buy speakers need to score 70% or more in our expert tests, and Great Value speakers 60% or more.
To be awarded Great Value, a speaker also needs to cost at least 20% less than the average speaker of that type (such as other portable Bluetooth speakers). We only make speakers that offer the very best value for money Great Value. Some Great Value speakers even also score well enough to be Best Buys as well.
Video: how to buy the best Bluetooth or wireless speaker
Watch the video below to help you choose which type of wireless or Bluetooth speaker is best for you.
Wireless and Bluetooth speakers to avoid
Particularly when buying online, it’s very difficult to know how good speakers really sound compared with each other. Every manufacturer will say their speaker sounds exceptional, and that’s clearly not true.
We’ve found speakers costing many hundreds of pounds with poor sounding bass, and many portable speakers with tinny sound that distorts unpleasantly even if they have modest maximum volumes.
Below we are three of the many offenders our expert tests have exposed as well below standard – despite what their marketing says.
How we test wireless, smart and Bluetooth speakers
Unlike other tech publications, Which? uses a professional lab and expert listening panel with decades of experience between them to really find out which wireless speakers are the best on the market – and those that offer superb value for money.
Which? uses a unique benchmarking system that means you can directly compare our results, including sound quality, to find out which speaker really is best for you.
What makes the best wireless or Bluetooth speaker?
Modern wireless speakers aren’t simply passive speakers you plug into a hi-fi. Everything is built-in, and they come in all shapes and sizes from large, powerful wi-fi speakers that can be audio systems in their own right, to compact battery-powered small Bluetooth speakers.
Here are the key things to consider to buy the best wireless speaker for you:
Great sound – Sound quality is the top consideration when choosing the best wireless or Bluetooth speaker. But there are lots of other factors to consider as well. The very best sound may not be worth the compromise if the speaker is too large, but there’s no point getting a super-cheap wireless speaker that sounds little better than your phone’s tinny speakers. We use a discerning listening panel at our expert audio lab to rigorously test the sound quality of each wireless speaker.
Portability – If you want to be able to take your speaker away from the mains, choose a portable model with battery power. Truly portable speakers should be small and lightweight with good battery life. However, smaller speakers will have a lower maximum volume and it’s more challenging to find one with good sound quality – so be sure to check our reviews to find the exceptions to the trend. If you only want to move the speaker occasionally, you can afford to get a larger one.
Easy to use – For portable, small Bluetooth speakers this will mean easy-to-use controls on the speaker housing and an easy-to-set-up Bluetooth connection to your smartphone or tablet. For home Bluetooth and wi-fi speakers, this’ll mean a simple-to-use app on your smartphone or tablet, and a straightforward setup process.
Durable and reliable – We’ve found speakers with painful buzzing sounds at certain frequencies that’ll ruin your listening, and others with extremely dubious build quality – even with more expensive models. Make sure you check our reviews to ensure you don’t get caught out.
Bluetooth and wi-fi – Bluetooth-only speakers are typically the simplest to use. They rely on a Bluetooth wireless connection to your smartphone, tablet or Bluetooth-enabled laptop. Bluetooth has a limited wireless range (typically 10-30 metres), which is fine for most. Some speakers also have wi-fi, and this makes them more self-sufficient. The wi-fi connection is more complex to set up initially but offers much more functionality, such as the ability to access music streaming services such as Spotify (may require subscriptions) and voice assistants including Alexa.
Apps – Wi-fi speakers and multi-room systems can be trickier to set up, and usually it all hinges on their accompanying apps (for your smartphone or tablet), as many speakers have only minimal physical buttons on the device itself. Some apps are really easy to use, but we’ve found others can be really clunky and poorly designed, which can make using your speaker very frustrating. If you’re not a fan of using apps, you can buy a wi-fi speaker with a voice assistant instead, which (following one-off setup via the app) you can use to access much of the same functionality on a day-to-day basis. Very few speakers come with a remote control, although you could buy a cheap second-hand smartphone or tablet one and install the app if you wanted a dedicated remote for your wireless speaker.
Voice assistants – Many of the latest wi-fi speakers offer the convenience of controlling them hands-free with only your voice. The voice assistants on offer for speakers are Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. Many wi-fi speakers will only support one of these, but some give you a choice (such as models from Sonos and Bose). They also give you great additional ever-growing functionality, such as asking for the latest news update, or being able to access internet radio directly. Read our complete guide to Alexa for more ideas.
Water resistance – Many portable speakers now have some level of water resistance. Choose one that has the level of protection you’re likely to need – if a speaker is water resistant, it will usually give its IP rating (ingress protection). To find out more about this, see the following section explaining these ratings.
Water ratings explained
Many wireless speakers, particularly portable models, are rated as being water resistant or waterproof.
The official system for this is known as IP ratings (ingress protection). This system is also used for dust protection – such as to prevent sand getting in if using the speaker on a beach.
The first digit of an IP rating tells you the level of protection against solids such as dust, and the second digit is the key one for protection from water.
What it means
Protection from splashes of water or a bit of drizzle.
Protection from jets of water - from a garden hose, for example.
The same water resistance as IPX5, but this speaker is also dust-protected. You’ll only ever see a ‘5’ or ‘6’ for dust protection on speakers. 5 means small amounts of dust may enter, but not enough to impact the function of the speaker.
For properly waterproof speakers, look for a second digit of 7 or 8. IPX7 means the speaker can be fully immersed to a depth of up to one metre in water. The manufacturer will state how long this is for – a typical time would be up to 30 minutes.
The same water resistance as IPX7, but this also means the headphones are fully dust tight, meaning no dust should enter. This is the most common IP rating for portable speakers, and is a good choice if you regularly use your portable speaker on the beach.
This is the highest waterproof IP rating on the scale. The speaker can be immersed in water to depths beyond one metre, and the manufacturer will state the maximum depth and time. The speaker is also fully dust tight. This rating is rare – IP67 should be enough for anything other than the most extreme environments.
Do take care though: don’t assume a waterproof model can survive any amount of submerging. The tests are done by the manufacturer under lab conditions to limited time and depth, and usually only done in fresh water and not salt water.
If your speaker has any flaps, such as for the charging port, these often need to be firmly secured, and if they degrade over time this can affect the waterproofing. The water resistance rating is usually only intended as protection from accidents.
Can I use music streaming services?
All wireless speakers can access music streaming services like Spotify by streaming it over Bluetooth from your smartphone (may require subscriptions). If you’d like music streaming built-in to the speaker itself, you’ll need a wireless speaker with wi-fi, so it can connect to the internet directly.
Each wi-fi speaker will support a different range of music streaming services, so make sure it features the one you want to use. To discover the best music streaming services to go for, see our expert best music streaming services guide.