WIRELESS SPEAKER REVIEWS

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Michael Trei Posted: May 09, 2016 0 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $749 pr

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy, comfortable sound
Bluetooth with aptX, AAC
Simple to set up and use
Superb finish
Minus
No USB or Wi-Fi
A bit too large for desktop use

THE VERDICT
The easy-to-live-with HD6 looks great and can deliver high-quality, true stereo sound with a minimum of fuss and clutter.

In the decade since they launched their first powered speaker, Audioengine has become embedded in my mind as the no-brainer recommendation whenever friends ask about getting better sound on their desktop. Dozens of both audiophile and non-audiophile friends have bought A5 and A2 amplified speakers at my suggestion—and so far, nobody has been disappointed. They’re affordable, easy to buy, and easy to set up, and they look great.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Mar 07, 2016 3 comments
One of the hottest trends in consumer electronics is multi-room speaker systems. While single, portable Bluetooth speakers are fine for travel and using outdoors, many people are seeking simple and elegant solutions for whole-home listening. The new Libratone Zipp ($300) and Libratone Zipp Mini ($250) are certainly interesting options.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Mar 03, 2016 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $699

AT A GLANCE
Plus
AirPlay, Bluetooth, analog input
Redesign reduces cabinet resonance
Unique cosmetics
Minus
No iPhone/iPod dock

THE VERDICT
Bowers & Wilkins revises, revoices, and updates its popular high-end Zeppelin speaker to eliminate the iPhone/iPod dock, focusing instead on wireless connectivity—and it sounds better than ever.

The debut of the iPod was so cataclysmic that it nearly hurled the planet out of orbit. “1,000 songs in your pocket” was a revolution on par with “perfect sound forever.” And now it seems just as archaic. In fact, Apple no longer offers the iPod classic, and Bowers & Wilkins has quietly eliminated the iPhone/iPod dock from its formidable Zeppelin one-piece audio system. If you want to plug a wired device into the new Zeppelin Wireless, it’ll have to go into the analog minijack in back—the servants’ entrance, as it were.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Feb 15, 2016 3 comments
They say that size matters. With audio products, it is often the case: bigger speakers, bigger amplifiers, and bigger batteries can often translate into better sound and added convenience. The Nyne Rock boombox is one of the biggest and most powerful portable Bluetooth speakers we’ve seen in a long time. Let’s see if bigger truly is better.

Lauren Dragan Posted: Jan 23, 2016 2 comments
Following the success of their portable Bluetooth speaker, the Turbo X, Riva has decided to go even more compact with their latest introduction, the S. Smaller, lighter, and complete with a ballistic nylon carrying case, the S is just as attractive as the X; made for on the go. But Riva’s S has more up it’s sleeve than just being the Turbo X’s little brother.
Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Jan 19, 2016 6 comments

Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $499

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Auto-senses and adjusts output for vertical and horizontal orientations
Trueplay room EQ
Capacitance touch controls with audible feedback
Pure butt-kicking sound
Minus
Slight high-frequency edginess when used vertically
Tiny feet bumps are visible on sides of speaker

THE VERDICT
The Sonos PLAY:5 gets a radical makeover that adds $100 to the price but combines an amazing user experience with stunning audio performance.

Here’s the bad news: After six years, Sonos has stopped making the company’s first and, until now, best all-in-one wireless speaker system, the PLAY:5. Now for the good news: Sonos has a replacement for the PLAY:5 called…wait for it…the PLAY:5. (Confusing, I know.) At $499, though, the new PLAY:5 is $100 more than the original. For multiple reasons, the original PLAY:5 was my all-around favorite wireless speaker. Will its replacement prove worthy of its heritage—and the higher price?

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Dec 01, 2015 1 comments

Stereo Cubes Speaker
Performance
Build Quality
Value
One S Speaker
Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $2,944 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Intuitive, easy-to-use app
Classy, minimalist cosmetics
Supports up to 192-kHz/24-bit files
Minus
No Bluetooth or AirPlay
Only four currently supported online music services
No subwoofer outputs

THE VERDICT
The Raumfeld system’s excellent-sounding active/passive speakers, ability to handle hi-res audio, and very intuitive app make it a top-notch competitor and a standout in a category that’s spawning a plethora of me-too Sonos imitators.

It’s mandatory at the beginning of any wireless streaming audio system review to mention Sonos. The company is a Goliath that launched the category more than a decade ago and now dominates it. The reason is simple: Sonos gear sounds good, is reliable, and is about as easy to use as it gets. That doesn’t mean, of course, that Sonos is perfection incarnate, nor is it totally without flaws. (There are chinks in every suit of armor.) But you do have to feel at least a modicum of pity for any manufacturer that decides to pick up a slingshot and take aim at the Sonos colossus.

Al Griffin Posted: Nov 24, 2015 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Spacious sound
Fold-up, portable design
Cool conversation piece
Minus
Limited volume
Limited bass
Pricey compared with Bluetooth speakers with similar volume/bass capabilities

THE VERDICT
BenQ’s treVolo is a lush-sounding Bluetooth speaker that should please audiophiles with reasonable expectations.

Portable Bluetooth speakers range from toy-like novelties you can tote along in the shower to high-end Danish audio lunch boxes designed to survive a day at the beach. In between, you’ll find plenty of other options ranging from cheap and bad-sounding to pricey and good-sounding.

With Bluetooth speakers starting to become not just a popular, but a default audio playback system for many people, it’s perhaps time to take the category seriously. BenQ, a company best known for video monitors and projectors, has entered the crowded Bluetooth speaker arena with an attention-grabbing effort: a compact portable design that uses electrostatic panels—the same tech found in speakers from companies like MartinLogan—to convey sound. If that doesn’t count as a bid for Bluetooth speaker seriousness, I don’t know what would.

Bob Ankosko Posted: Jul 24, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $299

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Compact design
Impressive build quality
Simple to set up and use
Spacious, full-bodied sound with a kick
Minus
No remote control
Not ideal for driving rock
Not practical for use as a soundbar

THE VERDICT
The little Theatre Box will surprise you with its bold, big sound.

Sinatra is crooning in the background. “I like New York in June, how about you? I like a Gershwin tune, how about you?”

Frankly (sorry, couldn’t resist), I like what I’m hearing from the small box sitting on the filing cabinet in my home office. Impressive how clear and present the Chairman is on this Capitol recording (“How About You?”) released 59 years ago (Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!). Even more impressive, his voice is coming from a speaker that’s about half the size of a shoebox.

Barb Gonzalez Posted: Jul 15, 2015 4 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $180

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Speaker and remote respond to plain English
Voice control initiates music, weather, traffic, and more
Voice-command access to music by artist, song, or radio station
Shopping list and reminders transfer to companion mobile app
Minus
Best used with Amazon Prime membership
Tendency to push Amazon products

THE VERDICT
The most useful gadget since the invention of the remote control.

When Amazon first made the Echo available to a limited number of Amazon Prime users, it seemed like a novelty device possibly destined to end up in the Land of Forgotten Gadgets. Instead, this voice-controlled Bluetooth speaker has become the device I wouldn’t want to live without.

Lauren Dragan Posted: Jul 08, 2015 6 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $350

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Easy setup
Intuitive controls
Portable footprint but big sound
Minus
A little pricey compared with competition its size
Even with phono mode, vinyl may not be loud enough at line level

THE VERDICT
Portable enough for on-the-go listening, the Riva Turbo X is a little more expensive than most, but it’s worth the money for folks who want a small speaker without sacrificing sound quality.

There’s a multitude of portable Bluetooth speakers on the market today. Every form of novelty is covered: They’re splash-proof, they have disco light displays, some literally dance. Standing out in a field of hundreds takes a little something extra that’s truly special. How novel is it, then, when a small Bluetooth speaker’s claim to fame is that it actually sounds fantastic? Enter the Riva Turbo X, a seven-driver, 45-watt (RMS) little dynamo that is smaller than a loaf of bread and yet easily fills a medium-sized living room with high-quality sound.

Bob Ankosko Posted: May 13, 2015 0 comments
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $349

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Blends into any décor
A cinch to setup
Clear, clean sound with vocal and acoustic music
Minus
Volume and bass are limited
Sound is confined
Pricey

THE VERDICT
Clio is an unobtrusive, one-of-a-kind speaker that is capable of producing clear yet confined sound with limited volume and bass potential.

They call Clio the first invisible speaker. And even though it’s not really invisible, when you put this unique specimen on a kitchen counter, end table, or fireplace mantel, it’s pretty darn hard to spot with its low-profile base and acrylic glass “windshield” that disappears into the room.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: May 04, 2015 0 comments
Travel companions really have to stand out if they’re going to make the final cut on my packing list. They have to be small, pack a punch, and be fun to have along. The Soen Audio Transit XS (MSRP $180) Bluetooth-enabled portable speaker was begging to come on my next trip—a weekend at the beach. Was this small Bluetooth speaker up for the challenge?

John Sciacca Posted: Mar 13, 2015 1 comments

W Studio Soundbar System
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
W9 Wireless Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
W7 Wireless Speaker
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
W Amp Amplifier
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $3,295 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Stellar audio quality
Sleek-looking components

Minus
Android app is pretty basic
iOS app very limited
Doesn’t currently support true high-res listening

THE VERDICT
The speakers sound amazing and the W Studio soundbar is a home run even without its multiroom capabilities, but the limited Play-Fi app for streaming leaves Def Tech’s W system lagging behind the best multiroom systems.

For a while, audio manufacturers seemed resigned to give it the ol’ “lie back and think of England” routine when it came to accepting Sonos as the dominant force in the wireless audio world. Sure, they might not have liked it, but they weren’t offering any compelling alternatives of their own. And while there had been some challengers in the past, most fell well short of the Sonos benchmark and quickly faded.

This tide has changed lately, however, and the war for wireless audio is heating up. Multiple systems are now offering their spin on wireless music distribution and hoping to take a bite out of the Wi-Fi audio pie. And unlike past attempts, several of these new solutions are not only good, they’re great. Darryl Wilkinson recently reviewed two top rivals for Sonos’ throne, Bluesound (S&V, June 2014) and Denon’s HEOS (S&V, January 2015). Now, well-regarded speaker manufacturer Definitive Technology is throwing its hat into the ring by embracing Play-Fi in its new Wireless Collection.

Bob Ankosko Posted: Feb 18, 2015 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $997 as reviewed (three speaker models plus accessories)

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Robust sound from small, medium, and large speakers
Excellent fit and finish
Portable design
Minus
A little pricey
Connection process can be finicky
Tiny transmitter “batons” easy to misplace

THE VERDICT
The Korus wireless speaker system requires almost no setup and delivers excellent sound quality from three different size speakers.

I first learned of Korus last summer at the CE Week press event in New York City. Big sound emanating from small wireless speakers prompted me to stop at the booth for a closer look—and listen. I was impressed. So much so that a couple months later, I found myself doing a hands-on evaluation away from the hustle and bustle of the noisy trade-show floor.

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