Apple, Sonos, JBL, and Polk are the best Wi-Fi speakers for 2021

Apple, Sonos, JBL, and Polk are the best Wi-Fi speakers for 2021 ...

Wireless audio for the home is nothing new, but the last few years have seen a rise in speakers that utilize Wi-Fi streaming as an alternative to Bluetooth. The ability to control music in a multiroom environment is one of Wi-Fi's biggest selling features, but almost all Wii speakers include voice control via specialized voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Siri.

It's difficult to find a budget speaker that doesn't have microphones, but they all come with mic switches or you can opt for 'dumb' speakers like the Sonos One SL if you have privacy concerns. Keep reading for our list of the best Wi-Fi speakers for your needs -- and don't miss CNET's guide to the top smart speakers.

Best speaker under $100

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The Symfonisk is bigger than all of them. For $100, there are a number of excellent smart speakers to choose from, including the Amazon Echo, Nest Audio, and HomePod Mini. Bigger cabinets usually equate to better sound. While this speaker is ideal as part of a Sonos surround system, it also makes snoozeable for ages.

Read our Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf WiFi Speaker review.

Ikea, for $99 (US$99) at Ikea.

Best speaker for the money

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The Sonos One is the smart speaker to get and will please any music fan at under $200, with Alexa and Google Assistant as well as excellent sound quality. You have a flexible, high-quality speaker system that responds to voice commands for less than the Play:5.

Sonos is a $29 store that offers sonos members $219.
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Best lifestyle speaker in the world

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Most Wi-Fi speakers don't mesh well with the rest of your decor. Boxy and usually black, they're a bit bulky. The Ikea Sonos speaker literally thinks outside the box and delivers a Sones-compatible lamp that sounds better than most speakers at this price. It's not a smart device, but it will respond to Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa commands.

Read our Ikea Symfonisk Table Lamp review.

Best for Android users:

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Google may have a number of speakers, including the Nest Audio, but the Home Max -- which was great with music -- has been discontinued. It's also surprising that the list of affordable-yet-good-sounding Chromecast built-in speakers can be counted on the fingers of one hand. The JBL Playlist is the best I've heard, with a generously sized speaker and enough volume to fill ideally suited rooms. To increase its versatility, it also has Bluetooth and an auxiliary input. It may not be "smart", but if you want a speaker that can be controlled via an existing Google Assistant speaker, this is the one to buy.

Read our JBL Playlist review.

$180 at Amazon for $1180.
Walmart, offering $257 for $227, is offering another $217 for $57.

Best indoor/outdoor speaker for indoors/ outdoors

The Sonos Move is a wireless speaker that's portable and water resistant and provides exceptional sound in opulent boxes.

Read our Sonos Move review.

Crutchfield, $399, Cruitch Field, is $395 for $349.
Sonos, Inc. is offering $399 for $349.
$555 at Amazon for $595.

Best Chromecast streaming sound bar

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The Polk MagniFi offers almost everything you need in a streaming TV speaker, including Chromecast built-in. The MagniFi over the Yamaha YAS-209 was chosen because it has a robust multiroom system, but if you want Alexa built-in, the Suzuki is an excellent speaker.

Read our Polk MagniFi Mini review.

Crutchfield, $299, Crunchbackfield $249.
Best Buy, $300 for $300 at BestBuy.com.

Best for Apple fans!

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The Apple HomePod is a lot more competitive than other Wi-Fi and multiroom speakers. It's one of the most spacious all-in-one wireless speaker options, with a lot of roominess and deep bass. However, the company discontinued the standard HomePod in March 2021 to focus on the Homepod Mini.

Read our Apple HomePod review.

Target, $300, Target 300,

Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi

Both of them can be categorized as wireless speaker system. Wi-Fi provides the same basic functionality as Bluetooth: you can play music over an external speaker or sound system using your phone's WiFi connection. Just like speakers that utilize Bluetooth connectivity, it can work with a subscription music service app like Spotify (via Spotify Connect) or Apple Music, iPlayer or TuneIn, or your own music collection. Here are the top 10 reasons to get a streaming Wi-Fi speaker:

  • Because of its higher bandwidth, a Wi-Fi speaker sounds better than if it were paired with.
  • Wi-Fi has a wider range.
  • Wi-Fi doesn't take over your phone's audio channel -- so you can call without interrupting the song, for example.
  • It also works great for multiroom audio, allowing playback from multiple speakers throughout the house via your Wi-Fi network, all controlled by a single phone app.

What are the major multiroom standards?

When you buy a Wi-Fi speaker, you're also investing in an ecosystem -- i.e., dozens of products and applications that work together but don't usually work with other ecosystems. Here's a look at the major Wi-Fi ecosystems out there today.

  • Sonos: It's a little pricey and pricier than Sonos, but it still has some of the best home speaker hardware available. The company is moving away from the megalithic single app in favor of native support for third-party music services (Spotify Connect, Apple AirPlay 2). Considering the high-quality audio and bomb-proof construction, Sonos is still the premium Wi-Fi system to get. The introduction of Ikea's Symfonisk range makes the system even more affordable.
  • Apple AirPlay/AirPlay 2: The reach of Apple's AirPlay 2 alongside its Music streaming service will increase, with its most intriguing feature being multiroom, but there are plenty of speakers out there that still support the original Airplay. Great for iPhone users.
  • Chromecast is now available. For the cost of entry, and ease of use, Chromecast built-in is our current favorite Wi-Fi music system. There are no new apps to learn -- just cast in a compatible app and music will play out of your speaker(s) of choice.
  • Amazon Multi Room Music: Amazon's Echo speaker family, which combines wireless audio with voice control and home automation, has repositioned the speaker market. MRM has been a shaky start, partly because third-party device support is scarce.

There are a number of other Wi-Fi options, some open and some specific to ONE manufacturer. These are: Yamaha MusicCast, Denon HEOS, Bowers and Wilkins Formation, Bose Music, and Bluesound are among the companies represented by Yamaha. There are plenty of protocols that have been abandoned or replaced, whether it's in favor of a newer version or competition from more popular protocols. This includes All-Play, LG MusicFlow, and Samsung Multi-Room.

If you want to perform a song in "house party mode," for example, where it hits multiple speakers throughout the house at once, all of them must share the same ecosystem. All of the speakers for Sonos and other proprietary systems will have to be Sonoma (or connected to a Sonum device). For Chromecast, all of the speakers, regardless of brand, will have to be Chrome cast-compatible. And so on.

Most Wi-Fi speaker products support streaming services such as Pandora and Spotify, but double-check first to make sure. Is your music stored in iTunes, Google Play Music, or Amazon Music? You'll be fine with a Sonos (for example), but other products may offer less than stellar support.

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