How we test wireless and Bluetooth speakers
By Oliver Trebilcock
Discover how our experts test wireless and Bluetooth speakers for sound quality and ease of use. Only the very best earn our Best Buy award.
Whether you're looking for a large speaker with powerful sound and a remote control or a portable Bluetooth speaker you can fit in your suitcase, Which? has got you covered with the most accurate and up-to-date information.
We put every speaker through the same test, regardless of brand or price, so we can find the best model for you. Our tests involve a mixture of audio assessments from our expert listening panel, technical lab testing and an ease-of-use analysis. The information we provide is easy to understand and free of external bias, giving you the evidence to make an informed buying decision. Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about wireless speakers.
- What's the sound quality like?
- How easy is it to use?
- What additional features does it have?
- How long does the battery last?
- Should I buy it?
Head straight to our wireless and Bluetooth speaker reviews - or read on to find out more about how we test to answer each of these questions.
What's the sound quality like?
We connect each speaker to an iPod and put it through a mixture of technical and subjective sound-quality tests. Our expert listening panel is made up of experienced listeners who can discern small differences in sound quality.
Our experts listen to and assess contrasting pieces of music covering jazz, classical, pop and rock, and several radio broadcasts.
How easy is it to use?
We assess each speaker according to a series of typical everyday scenarios, including the initial set-up and creating any connections needed - be it Bluetooth or wi-fi. We also look at how clear the instruction manual is and if the remote control or mobile app is simple to use or not.
For wi-fi speakers we also assess how easy it is to create a multi-room speaker system.
What additional features does it have?
If the speaker has any additional features, including tone controls, any wireless connections such as Bluetooth streaming or Apple AirPlay and radio functionality, we'll test them. We also record how long the battery on portable speakers lasts on a full charge.
How long does the battery last?
Many Bluetooth speakers, particularly the ones designed for portability, have batteries built in. Manufacturers will usually give their own battery-life figures, but we don't take them at their word.
We leave the speakers running and measure how long it takes for the battery to run down, so you have an exact figure. Some speakers can't break the five-hour mark while others easily exceed 20.
Should I buy it?
Every speaker we test gets a Which? test score so you can see which are the best and worst, as well as exactly how each compares to other models. If there's a fault, we'll buy a replacement to see whether it's a one-off issue, or symptomatic of a larger problem. We'll also speak to manufacturers directly to help remedy any problems that may arise and what they plan to do about the problem.
We use set criteria to determine the overall test score. These are weighted differently depending on whether a wireless speaker is portable or for home use.
Portable speaker scores are based on the following criteria:
- 60% sound quality
- 25% ease of use
- 10% battery life
- 5% features
Home wireless speaker scores are based on the following criteria:
- 70% sound quality
- 20% ease of use
- 10% features
Speakers must score at least 70% to be a Best Buy. Speakers that score 45% or less are highlighted as Don't Buy models to avoid.