WIRELESS SPEAKER REVIEWS

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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 1 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 2 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 0 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.

Darryl Wilkinson Posted: Feb 06, 2015 0 comments

BeoLab 18 Speaker System
Performance
Build Quality
Value

BeoLab 19 Subwoofer
Performance
Features
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $25,625 as reviewed

AT A GLANCE
Plus
WiSA wireless multichannel audio technology
All processing and switching built into the TV
Motorized TV speakers and TV stand
Minus
No backlighting on remote control
Nothing else but the price

THE VERDICT
Although most of us can’t afford this system, those who can will be treated to an amazingly moving experience that no other system can provide—every time they turn it on.

Bang & Olufsen is unusual in the AV world. In fact, I could have stopped at “unusual.” I once heard a story about B&O that perfectly sums up what I’m talking about. It’s probably apocryphal, because the person I heard it from had heard it from someone else, but I’ll tell it anyway. Years ago, when B&O still made phones—corded, landline telephones—a guy from the U.S. asked one of the Danish engineers why the handsets had their unique shape, which made them almost impossible to cradle between your ear and shoulder so you could have a conversation and still use both hands. (Twenty-some years ago, that was the era’s version of “hands free.”)

The engineer’s answer was short and to the point: “Because we don’t talk on the phone that way here.” That sort of stubborn—some might say arrogant—confidence in the belief that their way is the right way is one of the core characteristics of Bang & Olufsen. When other AV companies are busy jumping on the latest technological bandwagon, B&O is off in the woods searching for truffles.

Lauren Dragan Posted: Nov 26, 2014 1 comments
If you live in a small apartment or a dorm, or you’re looking for a sound system for your office, small stereo bookshelf speakers are usually the way to go. They take up less space than traditional sound systems, are simple to set up, and generally offer better sound quality than the speakers attached to your computer, small TV, or portable device. But as we’ve all experienced, getting connected to analog speakers can be a drag. Running cables under carpets or through walls in a rental isn’t always a possibility, and nobody likes having wires pinned along the molding and ceiling. If these problems sound familiar to you, then a wireless stereo speaker may be just what you’ve been looking for.
Lauren Dragan Posted: Nov 26, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $200

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Louder than smaller
portable speakers
Easy to set up
Good battery life
Minus
Lacks high-frequency detail
Lacks bass intensity

THE VERDICT
The Go is perfect for someone who wants better and louder sound than the average wireless portable, or who wants to amplify their music device and doesn’t want to commit to their speaker staying put in one room.

How It Connects: Bluetooth, AptX, NFC, ⅛” analog.

The Cambridge Audio Go is lightweight and small enough to carry with you (about 2.5 pounds) but big enough to fill a midsize room with sound. Equipped with two 0.75-inch titanium dome tweeters, two 2-inch woofers, and a rear bass radiator, it’s a step up from the tiny Bluetooth portables that most of us are familiar with. Perfect for kids’ bedrooms, dorm rooms, or other small spaces, the Go sounds better (and louder!) than the speakers on your laptop but is easy to cart to another room.

Lauren Dragan Posted: Nov 26, 2014 2 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $300

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Exceptional sound and bass response for the size
Easy to set up, NFC pairing a bonus
Unique design
Minus
Lacks detail of stationary speakers
While portable, still takes up a lot of bag space

THE VERDICT
The One would be my pick for portable/desktop crossover. It’s not tiny, but it’s definitely easy to take with you, and the sound is really fantastic when you take the footprint into account.

How It Connects: Bluetooth, NFC, ⅛” analog.

Another relatively compact portable option, the Infinity One weighs just under 3 pounds and costs $100 more than the Cambridge Audio Go. That $100 is well represented, however, in both added features and sonic quality. With four 1.77-inch drivers and two passive radiators, the One puts out an impressive amount of sound.

Lauren Dragan Posted: Nov 26, 2014 0 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $600

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Fantastic sound with pleasantly forward bass
Lots of bonus features (including optional cordless Qi device charging)
Sexy retro design
Optical input
Minus
Bass could be a bit much for those who love flat response

THE VERDICT
Perfect for folks with small apartments where space is tough to come by, the L8 is versatile, adaptive, and attractive enough to be front and center of a small audio setup.

How It Connects: Bluetooth, NFC, DLNA, Wi-Fi, Airplay, ⅛” analog, optical.

A true bookshelf speaker packed with extras, the JBL Authentics L8 is the largest model we’ll discuss here, measuring about 26 x 10 x 13 inches and weighing around 16 pounds. So whereas the Go and the One offer portability, the L8 is made to stay put. That said, if you can’t take the L8 with you, there are a lot of ways to bring your audio to the L8.

Lauren Dragan Posted: Nov 26, 2014 0 comments
Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $700

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Light-up touch display
Included remote
Small footprint
Minus
Accentuated highs
Lackluster mids and bass

THE VERDICT
While the small footprint is fantastic, and the bonus features exceptional, the SRS-X9’s sound quality disappointed.

How It Connects: Bluetooth, AptX, NFC, USB, LAN, DLNA, AirPlay, ⅛” analog.

Economical in the use of space, the Sony SRS-X9 measures around 17 x 5 x 5 inches and weighs about 10.5 pounds. Sony really crammed a lot into the relatively small body of the X9, with four 0.75-inch tweeters (top and front), two 2-inch midrange drivers, a 3.75-inch woofer, and two passive radiators. The overall design is your standard black side-lying monolith, though in a cool surprise, the sleek, touch-sensitive controls on top are hidden when the unit is off and only appear by backlight upon power-up.

Leslie Shapiro Posted: Oct 27, 2014 0 comments
Typically at Sound &Vision, we review serious products, for serious listeners, tending to shy away from gimmicks. Every once in a while, however, a product shows up on our doorstep that looks like it might be a toy, but deserves a closer look. The Yantouch Diamond+ Bluetooth speaker with an amazing light display is one such product.

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Sep 29, 2014 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
PRICE $1,000

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Serious drivers and power
AirPlay, Bluetooth, DLNA
Cool retro styling
Minus
Some connectors inconveniently located
Bright tonal balance, though adjustable

THE VERDICT
JBL’s Authentics L16 is a powerful-sounding triple-threat wireless speaker system—oh, and it’s got a phono input.

If you’re the type who likes to order the biggest hero (hoagie, grinder, po’ boy, or submarine depending on where you live) sandwich you can find with everything on it, JBL’s Authentics L16 may be just the wireless speaker for you. At more than 2 feet wide, it’s a big mama jama. And its wireless connectivity is all-embracing. In addition to a direct device-to-device Bluetooth connection, the L16 supports both Apple AirPlay and DLNA via Wi-Fi, for streaming from just about any smartphone, tablet, or computer. It’s also got the retro angle covered, with cubed sculpted-foam grille cosmetics.

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