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Wireless Speakers Roundup


The promise is that listening to music will get easier. Hit Play on your wireless device and the audio comes out of your speakers—no cables or docks. Yeah, right. As is often the case, the simple solution has only added to the complexity, as tech behemoths and bit players square off in yet another format war.

At its most basic, the conflict breaks down into two camps: uncompressed and compressed—the former ostensibly delivering uncorrupted streams of music, the latter downsizing files to make them easier to move around.

Unfortunately, the definitions get terribly muddled. Terms like lossless, which would suggest raw audio, are often applied to formats that do indeed compress their streams (just not all that much). And some speakers built for uncompressed protocols like DLNA and Kleer have hardware limitations that don’t deliver on the full potential of those formats; it’s sort of like pulling onto the Autobahn on a moped.

In the end, it’s a three-part equation: Source file + streaming protocol + receiving unit = what you hear. We can’t do anything about what’s in your music library, but we can help you with the rest.

These are the wireless streaming speakers tested and rated:

  • Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air (AirPlay)
  • Sony SA-NS400 HomeShare Network Speaker (DLNA)
  • Creative ZiiSound T6 (Bluetooth)
  • Arcam rCube (Kleer)

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