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How to choose the best Wi-Fi speakers

Sonos vs Bose and other top brands

Wi-Fi® speakers are the building blocks for wireless multi-room audio systems. You can start with one speaker, and then keep adding more until you've filled your home with music.

You can use your phone to control the speakers. Play different music in each room or the same music in all rooms.

Sonos is the leading brand in multi-room audio but is by no means the only one. Bose, Yamaha, Denon, Bluesound, and SVS are just some of the audio companies that offer quality wireless systems.

Features to look for

Voice control: some systems have Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant built in. A few have both.

With Alexa or Google Assistant, you can not only control your multi-room audio system with your voice but also any compatible smart home devices.

DTS Play-Fi wireless audio technology: Play-Fi is a system used by several different manufacturers, such as SVS. It allows you to mix and match speakers and components from those brands into a multi-room audio system.

And there are Amazon Alexa-enabled Play-Fi devices, giving you voice control over your custom system. Our DTS Play-Fi article has additional information on how this setup works.

Apple® AirPlay® 2: If you own an iPhone® or iPad®, Apple AirPlay 2 lets you make them the center of your multi-room audio system The iOS device streams the music, and functions as the system's controller.

You can mix and match speakers and components that have Apple AirPlay 2 built in. If you have a subscription to Apple Music, you can ask Siri (through your iPhone or iPad) to select music with voice commands. Our article on Apple AirPlay 2 has additional information about this technology.

Google Chromecast built-in: This wireless system is controlled through the Google Home app. This app is a free download from both Google Play and the Apple® App Store. You can wirelessly stream the same song to one or more Google Chromecast built-in devices — even from different manufacturers.

Bluetooth®: Virtually all multi-room wireless systems feature some form of Bluetooth. Most let you stream music from your smartphone or tablet to one speaker. Some can take that incoming Bluetooth signal and distribute it to play through system speakers in other rooms.

Our top multi-room wireless systems

Sonos One wireless speaker

Sonos wireless hi-fi system

Sonos offers seamless and simple whole-home audio, and wireless surround sound, too. You can integrate your existing audio system (including a turntable) into the Sonos network. Trueplay automatically fine-tunes Sonos speakers to sound best in your listening rooms (Trueplay works with iOS devices only).

Gear choices:

Voice control: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant built-in

Compatible with: Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth (with Sonos Move)

Bose Smart Home Speaker 500

Bose® Smart Home Family

The Bose® Smart Home Family brings legendary Bose® sound to wireless multi-room audio. The speakers feature top-mounted preset buttons. You can easily play music from your favorite sources — without needing a smartphone or controller.

Gear choices:

Voice control: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant built-in

Compatible with: Apple AirPlay, Bluetooth, Google Chromecast

Yamaha sound bar detail


Yamaha MusicCast technology is integrated into a wide range of audio products, including home theater and stereo receivers. You'll have more options for system expansion. MusicCast products support Bluetooth, and they can send the Bluetooth stream to other rooms.

Gear choices:

•    powered speakers (can be paired for stereo)
•    receivers, preamps and processors
•    sound bars
•    streaming amp
•    streaming preamp
•    turntable with phono preamp built-in

Voice control: Amazon Alexa (through connected Echo device), Google Assistant (through connected Google Home device)

Compatible with: Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth

Denon Home 250 wireless speaker

HEOS built-in by Denon

HEOS built-in is the wireless technology found in Denon and Marantz products. This means you can use components and speakers from both in the same system. Some speakers have a USB port that can access high-resolution music from a flash drive. You can stream that music throughout the HEOS built-in system. A great option for sharing playlists from friends and visitors.

Gear choices:

Voice control: Amazon Alexa (through Amazon Echo device)

Compatible with: Apple Airplay 2, Bluetooth

High-fidelity audio streaming systems

Looking for a streaming solution that offers an even higher level of sound quality? The following multi-room systems are designed with your needs in mind. Do you subscribe to a high-resolution streaming service or have a collection of high-res audio files? Make sure the system you choose is compatible.

Bluesound sound bar

Bluesound wireless multi-room audio

Bluesound was made for streaming high-resolution audio files from your computer, media player, or online sources. Bluesound (from the folks who bring you NAD electronics and PSB speakers) can stream files with up to 24bit/129kHz without compression. The system also supports MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio technology.

Gear choices:

Voice control: Amazon Alexa

Compatible with: Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth

High-res file support: FLAC, MQA, WAV, AIFF

Bowers & Wilkins Formation Flex Wireless Speaker

Bowers & Wilkins Formation

The Bowers & Wilkins Formation wireless system was made for high-resolution audio. It can stream up files up to 23-bit/96kHz in full resolution. One-microsecond syncing between in-room speakers virtually eliminates latency for precise sound reproduction.

Gear choices:

Voice control: None

Compatible with: Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth

High-res file support: FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC

McIntosh wireless speaker


McIntosh wireless multi-room audio components deliver audiophile sound quality. Their MB50 network audio streamer features analog and digital audio inputs, headphone jack, and balanced stereo XLR output. It can be used as the preamp for a high-end stereo system.

Gear choices:

Voice control: Amazon Alexa (through Amazon Echo device)

Compatible with: Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, DTS Play-Fi

High-res file support: FLAC, WAV, AIFF, ALAC

Popular questions

Can I use my own stereo speakers in a wireless system?

Look for an amplified streaming component or player with the Wi-Fi link built in. The Sonos Amp and the Denon HEOS Amp are two good examples. Want to get your existing stereo system into the mix? Some brands offer streaming music players that can connect to the aux input of your receiver, such as the Bluesound NODE and McIntosh MB50.

Can I play my vinyl records through Wi-Fi speakers?

If you choose a speaker or component that has an analog RCA stereo input, you can connect a turntable (so long as it has a built-in phono preamp.) Then you can play your records through any or all of the speakers in your multi-room audio system. The Yamaha RX-V6A home theater receiver and the Sonos Port both have this feature.

Sonos Port with a turntable on top of a cabinet.

Use the Sonos Port to incorporate your turntable into your wireless multi-room audio system.

Will my home network support a house full of wireless speakers?

You’ll need high-speed internet and a pretty good Wi-Fi router — one that provides a strong wireless signal in every room you want to place a speaker in. To learn more, read our wireless router buying guide.

More questions?

Our expert Advisors can help. Contact us today for free, personalized advice. Free lifetime tech support is included with every Crutchfield purchase.

Please share your thoughts below.

  • Sarah

    Posted on 11/2/2020


  • Rajat Chauhan from CARY

    Posted on 11/13/2018

    Hi, first off, very nice writeup..good job there. Can you please recommend a replacement under 1500$ for my JBL L16. My use us for living room with occassional dance parties in an area of 30 * 15. I feel JBL lacks feel during such parties and sound feels insufficient, otherwise its a great speaker. So far, only Naim muso seems to be something with higher wattage (450 vs 300), but am curious if anything else is out there that I'm not aware off. And yes, it has to be a wireless(wirefree ) option. Thanks much

  • Sonny Canterbury from Glenwood Springs

    Posted on 9/9/2017

    My church is looking for a system that will get its feed from our Presonus sound board and be broadcast to powered speakers in various locations up to 300 feet away inside the building. Any suggestions?

  • David Taylor from Salt Lake City

    Posted on 7/24/2017

    This review seems incomplete with including Apple's AirPlay. It is a multi-room, multi-vendor option. I have been running it from a Windows 2012 Server with iHomeServer (a $50 software program that runs iTunes run as a service so it's always on and provides lots of other features for web interface, streaming, etc) going to Yamaha Aventage receiver, Denon N7, as well as AppleTVs and a couple AirPort Expresses for quick-n-dirty speaker connections.

  • Adam B from boston

    Posted on 7/14/2017

    My multi room audio journey has gone from: Airplay --> Sonos --> Bluesound over the past three years. Airplay was dropping out on me all the time, even when I'd set up additional Airport Expresses (by CAT5) to extend range, I couldn't get it to play reliably from the top floor of my townhouse. That brought me to Sonos, which was a BREEZE to set up and sounded quite good, but then I got into HiRes audio and MQA, which had me return my Sonos kit for Bluesound Bluesound is a pain to setup and the Apps to control music are not as intuitive as Sonos, BUT... the sound quality of their equipment is unmatched. They use audiophile quality DACs, they use PSB speakers and they use NAD amp technology. You really sound the difference AND you get to have the upward compatibility of HiRes/MQA. Right now I control the system with Roon, which is fantastic and should be considered by anyone with Sonos or Bluesound equipment. Perhaps within a year or so I'll be using Siri and HomeKit... I noticed Bluesound's logo associated with the AirPlay2 protocol. We shall see!

  • Juan Pablo

    Posted on 2/18/2017

    2 words... Chromecast Audio!

  • Steven from Philadelphia

    Posted on 1/6/2017

    I love Sonos - and the gen 2 Play:5 has great sound. It works so well and the app is easy to use and reliable. Before I tried Sonos, I tried PlayFi (had a Klipsch RSB-14 playbar, 2 "The Three" speakers and 1 Klipsch PowerGate for in wall speakers in my bathroom). It was a nightmare - constant problems with speakers not showing up, Spotify Connect speaker groups being separate from the other speaker groups (and disappearing every time you put your phone down and looked at the app again). Sonos on the other-hand has been working perfectly since day one. If you want to listen to music from many sources and want to create a whole house wireless system, I really can't imagine that you'd be disappointed with Sonos - especially if you pair it with a Spotify Premium account. Just waiting to pay down my credit card so I can add a couple more speakers and I'll be set for quite a few years.

  • Howard from Tampa

    Posted on 12/8/2016

    Started out with Squeezebox. Had it for 2 years. It worked some of the time... Broke down and got the Sonos. Never been happier. Three Zones, including outdoor lanai, running perfectly for three years. It just works.

  • Paul G from DC

    Posted on 10/23/2016

    Agree on both counts Robert Richter. I've just replaced my squeezebox setup running through a Musical Fidelity DAC with Bluesound Node 2 (purchased from Crutchfield). I had internet radio up and running in seconds but couldn't get it to read my lossless media library. The issue turned out to be I hadn't updated my Apple OS. Once I did that it has been seemless. The Bluesound quality is simply superb!!

  • Robert J. Richter from North Reading

    Posted on 10/23/2016

    first, Sonos did not invent the wireless music system, Squeezebox, later purchased by Logitech was way ahead of them at least a decade. Second, I would rate Bluesound as one of the best systems out there, and you do not even mention them.

  • Joe M from Indianapolis, IN

    Posted on 8/22/2016

    I have recently "Drank the Sonos Kool-Aid" after having 3 AppleTV's for years. Although streaming across the WIFI network to AppleTV units is simple enough, these have been riddled with networking issues (momentary silences, freezes, and complete disconnections) since day one. The lack of synchronized play from mobile device was what sent me over the edge. After all these years, Apple's devices should EASILY be able to handle this request...and do it WELL! Even when attempting from Itunes/PC...multi-room sync was never timed correctly. Sonos system is up to 4 zones now (and counting). Back-fed turntable play via the line-in on Connect which feeds the main audio system for full-house turntable sound. Yes it's expensive. Yes it's an investment. You will NOT be dissatisfied! Sonos all the way! (RIP to my Slimdevices Squeezebox who pioneered this first...they just couldn't hang).

  • Richard from Glendale CA

    Posted on 7/30/2016

    Just picked up a McIntosh RS100 very nice multi room mono speaker and with two it's stereo. DTS-Play Fi

  • jonathan dimpley from swindon

    Posted on 5/11/2016

    Hi guys I have samsung multiroom 360. After looking at your thread, I went shopping around for multiroom speakers. I went into john lewis and tried out the sonos and bose speakers. From what i saw the bigger play 5 and the bigger soundtouch 30 where the best offerings from these manufacturers. However i was really impressed with the whole range that samsung had to offer. And i really felt that they were really underrated and would love to hear your thoughts on their range. I have two r7s, r6, r3 and their curved soundbar, the j650. I originally had the playbar and was really diassappointed with the sund quality especially considering the price. Stereo paired r7s sound simply incredible. Would love to hear your thoughts.

  • Dave Lisowski from Clifton,NJ

    Posted on 2/23/2016

    I love my Sonos system. I can use my tablet or phone to control the music playing and to have my upstairs and downstairs all coordinated. I can move speakers around. Sound quality with the Play 3 is very good. The one thing I really do dislike is that since I have a nice Bose sound system already on my PC, I would like to directly use it as one of my speakers. However, I cannot directly play them even though Sonos is controlled via that PC. Instead I have to employ another pricey Connect unit so my PC can transmit to it and then connect to my speakers. DUH! The Sonos app is pretty good, easy to use but lacks features like putting star ratings on songs and things like that it is lacking. Otherwise I like the sound quality very much and am happy with the purchase.

  • Christos from Sugar Grove, IL

    Posted on 2/18/2016

    Keep an eye out for Raumfeld everybody. They are brand new to the US market out of Germany. They make audiophile grade wireless speaker systems. Their system easily will stream files up to 24bit 196khz. I purchased 4 of their products when they launched US sales on February 1st and it is a great system with excellent sound. Unfortunately Crutchfield only covers products they sell in this 'Review'.

  • putkowski from flatrock

    Posted on 1/8/2016

    It's a real shame that SlimDevices' (Logitech) ecosystem has fallen off the map. I will continue to use it because it supports real stereos (rather than limited fidelity alternatives..)

  • Andy Thorpe from Richmond

    Posted on 1/3/2016

    Sonos is likely still the gold standard I would imagine for a simple, clean, wireless audio system. The interface is just incredibly easy to use. However, I switched over to an AirPlay based system a while back (Sonos is just too expensive to scale up past a couple of zones). One can get four Apple TVs for the price of one Sonos player (and obviously they do more than hook up wirelessly to your PC/phone.) Also, there are many receivers and speakers that are AirPlay compatible. Alternatively one can connect an appletv/airport express to an amp and high end speakers for cheaper than a single zone combo with Sonos. The problem with AirPlay is easily playing music in multiple zones simultaneously. If one could sync between "zones" using AirPlay on a mobile device it would be perfect. You can currently only select multiple zones simultaneously when using a Mac Laptop.

  • Adam k

    Posted on 11/14/2015

    What I would like included in a review such as this is some cross-comparison of the quality of the audio, and of course relative price.

  • Constantine L.

    Posted on 10/8/2015

    What about Apple's Airplay? I use a marantz receiver for each room, in-wall or in-ceiling speakres from definitive technologies. the source can be anything but usually tidal (the only lossless streaming service i know) through a computer. you can also use itunes. each receiver appears as a separate airplay device (best if you use ethernet but works just fine using wi-fi, the marantz receivers are wi-fi capable). each room will cost over 3k but the result is far superior in audio quality and flexibility than any of the above solutions... Sonos (which i tried for a bit) sounds like an AM station compared the the above... You can use a different equalizer setting for each speaker, different volume level for each speaker, Dolby Atmos if you want to, etc, etc. Your apple remote app can control itunes and the marantz app can control each individual room/receiver for advanced settings. You can also built an airplay multi-room system with just a small number of apple TVs (one per room) and legacy receivers/powered speakers, etc. quick, cheap and it works quite well... At some point Apple will make airplay support video broadcasting to multiple zones (currently only one) and then all of the above will be obsolete because you'll want your video broadcast in sync to every room too, from your iphone, ipad, computer, cable box, satelite, apple tv, etc. etc.

  • Greg

    Posted on 9/19/2015

    Despite all these systems I'm not sure there are any that offer a complete set of features that I want. All seem deficient in some way. I've looked at: 1) Sonos is the obvious wifi audio choice but for some inexpliable reason, they don't offer bluetooth. Not being able to stream directly from devices is ridiculous. 2) Samsung was my next choice but doesn't seem to offer outgoing bluetooth connectivity, meaning while you can stream from PC, you can't use headphones to listen to servies streaded through the speakers. 3) The Yamaha MusicCast system seems to offer both these functions, but doesn't seem to offer a PC controller application (just mobile) like Sonos does. And as it's a new platform it doesn't seem to support as many online services yet. Additionally there aren't any reviews available yet on their entry level speakers. I'll just have to wait and see I guess. If Sonos would just offer bluetooth and a model with a battery they'd be perfect. It's mind boggling they don't support device streaming after all this time.

  • Alison Almquist from Albuquerque

    Posted on 8/22/2015

    Wireless is awesome.

  • Jonathan Takiff from United States

    Posted on 7/16/2015

    Hey Donna Sullivan. Your dad would be happiest with the Bose SoundTouch approach to powered speakers/internet radio receivers, offering six channel preset buttons on each device. Once the system's set up (via a phone/tablet/computer app), no additional controls are needed. Just tap a button on top of a Bose box and the station pops on - usually pretty fast (though BBC channels do take a few seconds to come on.) And for across the room control, the units come with a dedicated (RF) remote - also rare in the multi-room streaming audio species.

  • Commenter image

    Ralph Graves from Crutchfield

    Posted on 6/18/2015

    Don: We agree. Korus V600 and V400 wireless speakers are great. When the article was originally written, Korus was just getting started. We'll be publishing an update shortly (many of the systems reviewed have expanded), and that will include Korus.

  • Don from Ny

    Posted on 6/17/2015

    What about korus. They are great wireless speakers. Why weren't they reviewed?

  • Commenter image

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/7/2015

    Donna, I sent your question to our sales team, and they'll be contacting you via email soon. They should be able to find the best wireless speaker or multi-room system for the job.

  • Donna Sullivan from New York

    Posted on 5/6/2015

    Help! My Dad loves to listen to music, he is a very simple man. Currently he enjoys listening to the music stations from his cable TV that he can play through out the house via a wireless speaker (from Rocketfish). This recently broke & I would like to replace this for him. Not sure if I should just get another RocketFish RocketBoost or if there is something better - I have SONOS & love it - but working something from an app or the computer is not for him. I'm trying to surprise him so any suggestions on what I should be looking for would be appreciated.

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