October 23, 2021

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Play it loud with the best wireless speaker

A wireless speaker is the only way to play your music loudly and proudly these days. You can stream music from a mobile device, a set-top box like an Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV, or by using the speaker’s internal system. Many wireless speakers also respond to voice commands using digital assistants like Alexa. The best wireless speaker today is the Bose SoundLink Color II. The tones and volume are top-notch, the price fair, and setup is quick. Five models make it to the top of our list of the best wireless speakers this year. Let’s check them out.

Best overall: Bose SoundLink Color II

Portability and big sound reign supreme in our top choice, the Bose SoundLink Color II. This rugged speaker from Bose has a soft-touch silicone exterior that’s water-resistant and easy to grip, making it the best wireless speaker on our list for those who love to crank tunes indoors and out.

The internal lithium-ion battery lasts for eight hours in the SoundLink, and that’s our only complaint. This Bluetooth Bose model recharges quickly, but the battery life could be better. On the plus side, the SoundLink II pairs instantly with your iPhone, iPad, Android, and other SoundLink speakers. Best of all, the SoundLink II works with whatever smart assistant powers your phone.

The Bose SoundLink Color II comes in five colors: blue, neon yellow, red, white, and black. This pintsized speaker is portable, holds up to weather and travel, and pushes out rich sound on its own or when paired with another SoundLink. If you want a wireless speaker that’s useable indoors and out, toss the Bose SoundLink Color II in your cart now.

Pros:

  • Loud, full sound
  • Portable
  • Rugged
  • Easy pairing
  • Water-resistant

Cons:

  • 8-hour battery life

Best overall

Bose SoundLink Color II – Portable Bluetooth Speaker

An indoor/outdoor portable

Battery life is 8 hours, the price is nice, and the SoundLink II offers big sound in a tiny, water-resistant package.

Best bass: Sony SRS-XB43 EXTRA BASS

If it’s thumping bass you crave, you want the Sony SRS-XB43 EXTRA BASS wireless speaker. It pushes out solid bass and balanced sound, and streams over Bluetooth. A built-in EQ mixer gives you control over how much or how little bass this portable speaker delivers. It’s shockingly loud on its own but can also be connected to up to 100 other Sony speakers using their free Party Connect app.

And if you want a light show to accentuate your tunes, Sony does that too. You can bounce multi-color strobe lights on the speaker’s mid-section, display LED bars on the sides, or turn them off completely. You’ll never run out of juice with the Sony. The battery lasts a full 24-hours and recharges over USB or USB-C.

We love the deep, punchy bass on the Sony, the dedicated tweeter, and its durability. It has an IP67 waterproof rating and also holds its own against dust, water, and drops. Our only complaint is that you must download a companion app to get the most out of this speaker. Without the app, you’ll get an unbalanced sound experience that will leave you wanting more. If that’s not an issue, you’ll love the thundering bass and portability of the Sony.

Pros:

  • Huge bass
  • Excellent build quality
  • IP67 weather rating
  • Sync up to 100 speakers
  • 24-hour battery life

Cons:

  • Must download companion app to adjust settings

Best bass

Sony SRS-XB43 EXTRA BASS

A waterproof, portable speaker.

From poolside to office, the Sony EXTRA BASS delivers surprisingly loud, full sound.

Best party speakers: JBL Pulse 4

You’ll get an immersive sound and a light show with the JBL Pulse 4. It’s a portable Bluetooth speaker with an IPX7 waterproof rating. The Pulse 4 pairs easily with other Pulse 4 speakers, so you can crank up the music and spread the sound out wide.

Music streams wirelessly from your iPhone, tablet, or other Bluetooth-enabled devices to the Pulse 4. The wireless range is about 40 feet, so you don’t have to be standing next to the Pulse 4 to control the lights or sound. And with an IPX7 waterproof rating, it’ll be a big hit at your next pool party.

My one complaint: the JBL Pulse 4 doesn’t sync with previous generation Pulses. If you own earlier model gen 2 or 3, pairing won’t work. You must have at least two Pulse 4s to take advantage of that feature. A shame for an otherwise excellent sounding speaker with a cool LED light feature.

Pros:

  • 12-hour playtime
  • 360-degree LED lights
  • Pairs with other speakers
  • Bluetooth
  • Waterproof

Cons:

  • Doesn’t sync with previous-gen models

Best party speakers

JBL Pulse 4 – Portable Bluetooth Speaker

A waterproof sound a light show

A cool-looking LED wireless speaker with smooth sound, Bluetooth, and 12 hours of playtime.

Best smart speaker: Marshall Stanmore II

When you want superior sound and smarts, look to the Marshall Stanmore II. The free Marshall app lets you control volume and sound output without lifting a finger, or you can use the onboard analog controls on this retro-looking wireless speaker.

As a smart speaker, the Stanmore II scores high marks. It comes with Alexa baked-in. If you don’t want your speaker listening in, you can turn on voice mute and concentrate on the music. The Stanmore II works over Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth. It’s perfect for the backyard or to keep around the house but is less functional without Bluetooth when you’re away from home.

And it’s pricey. There’s no getting around the high price tag. For A1 sound quality, though, this is one of the best on the market. The bass and treble are perfectly balanced, and this thing pumps out beats in big and small spaces.

Pros:

  • Superb sound
  • Alexa support
  • Analog and app controllable
  • Excellent bass output

Cons:

  • Spendy
  • Lacks Bluetooth

Best smart speaker

Marshall Stanmore II – Wireless Smart Speaker

A smart speaker with incredible sound

The Stanmore II from Marshall has exquisite sound, Alexa built-in, and looks oh-so-fine.

Best soundbar: Sonos Beam

The Sonos Beam is a simple-to-use soundbar that integrates perfectly into the Sonos ecosystem. It pairs well with a couple of Sonos Ones for a wireless surround sound system or works perfectly on its own to provide much better sound than your TV’s speakers ever could alone.

When you’re not using the Beam for TV and movie watching, it also serves as a wonderful addition to your wireless music setup. Being a Sonos speaker, the Beam features full multi-room support through the Sonos system, just like a Sonos One or Play:5. It also features AirPlay 2 integration, letting you connect it to your Apple devices wirelessly. It pairs great with two HomePods set up in a stereo pair, for instance.

The Sonos Beam is part of the newer generation of Sonos products, and thus, Alexa support comes standard. You can not only control music playback with your voice, but you can also control your TV. You can turn your TV’s volume up and down, and you can turn your set on and off with simple Alexa voice commands. Yes, it’s expensive, but we think it’s one of the best wireless speakers out today.

Pros:

  • Great sound
  • Control your TV with Alexa
  • Google Assistant support
  • Sonos ecosystem
  • AirPlay 2

Cons:

  • Expensive

Best soundbar

Sonos Beam – Smart TV Sound Bar

A great living room speaker.

Sonos Beam has terrific sound and full control over your TV. Perfect for any living room.

Bottom line

Wireless speaker systems are perfect for playing music throughout your home or backyard while avoiding expensive, time-wasting wiring setups. For some speakers, it also means that you can take them wherever you go or play music from any device you own.

The Bose SoundLink Color II is the current king of the hill for wireless speakers, simply because it’s the best option for most people. It delivers rich sound, pairs instantly with iOS and Android, is small enough to tuck in a backpack, and it stands up to the weather.

The battery life on the SoundLink II could use improvement. It holds out for eight or so, long enough for a backyard BBQ or gym session. Still, it doesn’t stand up to the competition in the battery department. Apart from that, we love itty bitty SoundLink II for its rugged build, solid sound, and pairability with other Bose speakers.

Get the Bose SoundLink Color II and take big sound with you while you’re on the move.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Jodi Owan works behind a keyboard and a camera. Find her on Instagram or her website.