Best Wireless Speakers of 2014

If you want to keep your music wireless and mobile then these are the speakers for you

by Steve Withers Dec 22, 2014 at 5:21 AM

  • These days we listen to music digitally where downloading and streaming has become the norm.
    As a result an entire range of products have developed that are designed to take advantage of our changing listening habits. The wireless speaker is one such device; offering the chance to stream music directly to the speaker and often providing a degree of mobility. The majority of these speakers use Bluetooth but some also offer WiFi and even high-resolution audio support to cater for all our listening needs. So here are the five best from the dozens of wireless speakers that we have reviewed this year.

    Philips - BT3500B - £39 - Recommended

    It's not often we get a chance to recommend a product that costs less than £50 but the Philips BT3500B wireless speaker fits that category very nicely. First of all it only costs around £39 but, more importantly, it delivers an excellent performance at this surprisingly low price. The BT3500 provides a reliable and robust Bluetooth connection, that is simple to pair. It also delivers a surprisingly good audio performance that is clear and loud enough to fill a small room.

    It's also very easy to use and of sufficient build quality that it should survive many a journey, making it truly mobile as well as wireless. The battery life could be more generous but at this price no one is complaining; so it's certainly one to consider for some casual listening when you're away from home. Whether it's looks, performance, features or price that you're after, the Philips BT3500 has it all, so this one wireless portable speaker that should be on your wish list.
    All these speakers are wireless and most are mobile, making them ideal for listening to music on the move.

    Cambridge Audio Go - £79 - Highly Recommended

    The Cambridge Audio Go is a wireless speaker that has been conceived as a portable device that can deliver in its primary purpose without compromising on sound quality. In that sense the Go is a huge success, delivering a well designed and accomplished wireless speaker that doesn't sacrifice performance for convenience. The design and build quality are excellent, whilst the quick charging and long lasting battery means the Go is ideally suited as a mobile wireless speaker. The size and shape make the cabinet easy to pick up with one hand and yet, despite the diminutive dimensions, Cambridge Audio have managed to cram a lot of audio technology inside.

    The five speaker array delivers an impressively wide and detailed soundstage and the rear bass radiator gives the Go greater presence than you would expect. The digital amplifier, signal processing and acoustical dampening mean that it can also go quite loud without distorting. The Go supports aptX Bluetooth and was simple to pair, although there's also NFC (Near Field Communication). The overall sound quality of the Go was excellent, so wherever you're listening to the Go, you don't have to settle for inferior sound quality. The fact that the Cambridge Audio Go is also available for such a reasonable price is just the icing on the cake and if you're looking for a portable wireless speaker it should definitely be on your list.

    Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 - £249 - Recommended

    The Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 is the company's first foray into the wireless speaker market and based upon our review, they completely nailed it. For starters, it ticks all the lifestyle audio boxes with its beautiful design and high quality Bluetooth streaming abilities. It also possess impressive battery life and a rugged, durable casing for when you need to take it out and about with you and there's even the ability to charge your phone or tablet with a USB port at the back. However the audio performance of the X3 is what really impressed us, however, ultimately punching hugely above its weight.

    The sounds the X3 produced were lively and detailed with no shortage of impact delivered by the passive bass radiator inside. It also gave a much greater sense of stereo separation than we were expecting and will be able to fill most rooms it is likely to be placed in with a wide and open soundstage. It also has a surprising amount of amplification power, which means you can crank the volume up without the distortion. Ultimately the Bayan Audio Soundbook X3 is gorgeous to look at, equally sublime to listen to and a triumph of mini proportions - definitely worth considering.

    Just because you're using a wireless speaker that doesn't mean you have to compromise on sound quality.

    Spaced360 - £249 - Recommended

    The majority of wireless speakers follow the same basic design but not so the Spaced360. This is the most unusual wireless speaker we’ve encountered to date, but the six driver/three legged design is intended to produce a sound which has no sweet spot and thus delivers equally to all present in the room. It’s solidly engineered and a full charge will give you more than four hours listening before you need to reattach to its base. It’s primarily designed as an outlet for your Bluetooth source and features NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity to speed things up, although you can plug in just about anything via the 3.5mm jack. The Spaced360 is also aptX enabled so your streamed audio will be of the highest possible quality. Setup proved to be quick and painless and the Bluetooth pairing was very robust and not subject to drop-outs.

    In terms of the performance of this particular wireless speaker, we wouldn't suggest you use it as your everyday music source because its stereo/mono nature isn't ideal for critical listening. However, the airSurround technology is successful in its intent and the Spaced360 produces an extremely spacious sound. So if you put it in a room at a party or out on the patio during the summer, there the design makes much more sense. Ultimately you’ll need to assess what you want from any wireless speaker you buy before deciding on the Spaced360. At £250 there are many others out there more faithful to music sources and equally capable of the impressive tonal output of this product, but if you’re a party animal or just fancy something a little bit different to the norm, it’s well worth a look.

    Sony SRS-X9 - £499 - Highly Recommended

    If you're looking for a wireless speaker that also supports high resolution audio, the Sony SRS-X9 might be ideal. The minimalist design uses black glass and metal to create a look that is contemporary, whilst the build quality is excellent. There are touch-sensitive controls on the top and a series of inputs at the rear, including USB and Ethernet. The SRS-X9 includes built-in WiFi and an antenna to boost the signal and it also supports DLNA, NFC, AirPlay and aptX Bluetooth. There is a basic remote control, along with Sony's Songpal app, which is well designed and effective. The SRS-X9 uses a seven speaker design with a woofer, two bass radiators, two magnetic fluid speakers and four tweeters, to create a wider sound field. There's a built-in S-Master HX Digital Amplifier to deliver 154W to the speakers and Sony include DSEE HX technology to upsample your compressed recordings.

    In terms of high resolution support, the SRS-X9 is compatible with all the major formats including DSD, WAV, AIFF, FLAC and ALAC and overall it delivered a wonderful audio performance. There was a wide and open soundstage that could fill a good sized room, whilst clarity and detail were excellent. High frequencies are well catered for and the low end was nicely integrated' resulting in a very enjoyable listening experience. The Sony was at it's best when playing back high resolution audio tracks but it was also very capable with compressed files and was able to upsample them quite effectively. In addition we didn't have any issues with the various files we tried. So, regardless of your musical tastes or the type of audio files that you use, Sony's SRS-X9 will deliver a great all round performance that more than justifies its price tag.

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