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Best speaker 2023: Our favourite wireless, Bluetooth and smart speakers

Elevate your audio at home and on the go with our pick of the best speakers for every budget

Whether you’re slouching on the couch or lounging by the pool somewhere sunny, the best speaker is a must-have if you want an optimal audio experience. Music, movies, podcasts, audiobooks and even live radio can all benefit from a high-quality speaker, and with options aplenty, there’s something out there for everyone no matter their budget.

While an audiophile speaker packed with advanced features will inevitably come with a hefty price tag, there are still plenty of speakers out there that offer engaging sound without costing the earth. We’ve tested countless speakers and selected the best of them across a range of categories to help you find one that meets your needs.

If you’re unsure of exactly what to look for in a speaker, our buying guide below answers some key questions to help you narrow down your search. If you already know what you’re looking for, jump straight into the list of what we deem the best speakers on the market right now.

Best speaker: At a glance

How to choose the best speaker for you

Should I buy a fixed or portable speaker?

All speakers require power to operate, but not all of them need to be constantly connected to a power source. Fixed speakers do, and must be plugged into the mains at all times, but portable speakers have internal batteries that can be recharged, allowing them to be taken with you wherever you go. You’ll generally find that fixed options are larger and more powerful than their portable counterparts, while speakers with internal batteries tend to be designed to withstand use outdoors.

READ NEXT: Best noise-cancelling headphones

Should I buy a wired or wireless speaker?

Both fixed and portable speakers require a way of receiving data from an audio source. Wired speakers rely on a physical connection via an audio cable, while wireless speakers transmit data via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. There was once a time when wired speakers delivered vastly superior audio quality to their wireless rivals, but technological advancements mean the gap is now smaller than ever. 

Wired speakers, particularly hi-fi options designed for music professionals and audiophiles, still have a slight edge thanks to the stability a physical connection offers and the amount of data audio cables can transmit. However, a wired connection means your speaker will always have to be tethered to your source and you’ll have to deal with messy cables. As a result, more manufacturers are going wireless while also including the option to connect via a cable.

Wireless speakers require no cabling between themselves and their audio source, and instead connect via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, with some possessing the ability to do both. Though technically both wireless, we refer to options that use a Wi-Fi connection as wireless speakers, and those that operate over Bluetooth as Bluetooth speakers.

The former are generally mains-powered and some can be incorporated into multiroom setups that allow multiple speakers to communicate over your wireless network and work in tandem. The latter typically house an internal battery and can therefore be carried around freely. Because of this portability, Bluetooth speakers tend to offer some protection from the elements to facilitate outside use.

What size speaker should I buy?

This all depends on how much space you’re working with and what your intended usage is. If you’re planning on creating an immersive home theatre system, you’ll of course require a lot of floor space. But plenty of the best speakers come in compact packages and will sit comfortably on a desktop, slide neatly into a bookshelf or can be tucked away in a backpack. Bear in mind that the larger a speaker is, the more powerful audio it typically produces.

READ NEXT: Our favourite Bluetooth heaphones

Do I need a smart speaker?

Speakers from Amazon, Google and Apple feature built-in compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, respectively, allowing you to call out to your voice assistant of choice and control your audio without the need for an app or remote. You don’t necessarily have to buy a branded speaker from one of the above companies, however, as plenty of other manufacturers produce smart speakers featuring built-in voice assistant support.

What other features should I consider?

IP rating: While not applicable to all speakers, an IP rating is key if you intend on using your speaker outdoors. IP ratings are composed of two digits and reflect how dust- and water-resistant devices are.

For example, a speaker rated IP67 is both dust-tight (6) and waterproof (7), so will survive a trip to the beach and can be submerged in a metre of water for up to 30 minutes. IPX4, meanwhile, describes a speaker that has no protection against particle ingress (X) and can only withstand splashes of liquid (4), rather than full submersion.

Battery life: If you plan on carrying your speaker around with you, battery life is something you’ll need to consider. Smaller and cheaper portable speakers will naturally have less stamina, usually lasting no more than 15 hours, while heftier options can keep putting music out for anything between 20 and 40 hours.

Built-in microphones: Some speakers have built-in microphones that allow you to use them for calls and video chats or to hail your voice assistant. As with the speakers themselves, the number of microphones and their quality will vary depending on price and size, but they’re a handy inclusion nonetheless.

How much should I be spending?

As you’ve probably deduced already, how much you should spend on the best speaker will vary wildly according to your needs. If you’ve got a tight budget, there are plenty of decent options under £100, with some cheaper models costing as little as £30. Fully featured, do-it-all speakers, meanwhile, will cost significantly more, with premium options setting you back in excess of £1,000.

How we test the best speakers

Plenty of speakers come through the doors at Expert Reviews every year, all with their own particularities. As such, how we test portable Bluetooth speakers, for instance, is invariably different to testing a soundbar.

Still, there are fundamental testing habits that relate to all speakers, starting with assessments of a speaker’s build quality, as well as the range of setup and connectivity options.

We then evaluate audio quality across all supported mediums, from Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to wired and optical, as well as all Bluetooth codecs and Wi-Fi streaming platforms where applicable. Listening to a range of musical genres, from bass-driven dance music through to orchestral numbers, as well as podcasts and radio, is crucial during this process so that no matter your listening habits, you know the speakers on our site have been tested for your tastes.

Many speakers also use accompanying applications offering additional features and customisation options, such as the use of a voice assistant or the ability to alter audio via a graphic equaliser, and we’ll always explore every one of these. Likewise, for any portable speakers, we’ll test whether battery life matches the manufacturer’s claims. Importantly, all of the above is compared to similar models of a comparable price to work out where a speaker sits in terms of value for money.

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The best speakers you can buy in 2023

1. Edifier D12: Best mains-powered speaker for £100

Price when reviewed: £100 | Check price at Amazon
The Edifier D12 is a muscular mains-powered speaker with a very reasonable price tag. You’ll need a fair bit of space to accommodate it, but the attractive wooden housing looks great on any shelf, desk or bookcase, and the D12 sounds good, too.

Its output of 70W RMS is more than enough to fill your living room and the two 4in woofers working in combination with a pair of 19mm tweeters deliver well-balanced audio. Trebles and mids are suitably crisp and are backed up by a weighty low-end response. There’s some minor distortion at maximum volume, but given how loud the speaker gets, you likely won’t want it cranked that high anyway.

Three top-mounted knobs give you control over volume, bass and treble, while the included infrared remote can be used to cycle between the various sound modes. Bluetooth 5.0 helps ensure low latency between video and audio, making the D12 a versatile and well-rounded speaker for not much money.

Key specs – Drivers: 4; Inputs: Line in, AUX; Outputs: Line out; Wireless: Bluetooth 5.0; Voice assistant: No; Remote: Yes; Dimensions (WDH): 359 x 204 x 159mm; Weight: 4.6kg

2. Adam Audio T5V: Best-value active speakers

Price when reviewed: £138 (sold singularly) | Check price at Amazon
Adam Audio is known for delivering high-end studio monitors at a similarly high-end price, but the T5V prove that you can have your affordable cake and eat it. They’re not the lightest, slimmest or most stylish speakers around, but they deliver a superb sound for the price.

The bass is rich and, while the treble isn’t quite as impressive, it was still pleasant to listen to in our tests. The T5V are loud too, with a volume that will easily fill most medium-sized rooms. That’s partly due to a scooped-out waveguide that helps the sound reflected off of the ceilings and walls stay true to what’s directly coming out of the speaker. They even sounded great in our echoey living room.

The all-black design might not appeal to those who prefer a wooden effect, but there’s no denying the sheer amount of quality you’re getting here for under £150. The Adam Audio T5V go toe-to-toe with hi-fi systems that cost two or even three times more. They’re a brilliant achievement.

Read our full Adam Audio T5V review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 2; Inputs: XLR and RCA; Outputs: No; Wireless: No; Voice assistant: No; Remote: No; Dimensions (WDH): 197 x 297 x 298mm; Weight: 5.7kg

3. Google Nest Audio: Best smart speaker

Price when reviewed: £90 | Check price at John Lewis
The Nest Audio’s big selling point is built-in Google Assistant, but it’s by no means a one-trick pony. Inside the subtly stylish housing are a 75mm woofer and a 19mm tweeter – a big step up from the single 50mm driver of its predecessor, the Google Home – which produce rich, textured sound across a wide range of musical genres.

For a speaker of its size, the Nest Audio manages to get fairly loud too, though more raucous tracks do sound a little strained if you push the volume right up. When listening to spoken-word content, you can choose to have volume handled by Google’s Ambient IQ tech, which adjusts volume and EQ on the fly depending on background noise. It’s a neat feature that works well and transforms the Nest Audio into a reactive part of your home.

Touch controls can be a little fiddly and the speaker lacks an AUX-in port, but if you’re after an affordable smart speaker with Bluetooth functionality and Google Assistant built-in, the Nest Audio should be your number one pick.

Read our full Google Nest Audio review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 2; Inputs: No; Outputs: No; Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast; Voice assistant: Google Assistant; Remote: No; Dimensions (WDH): 124 x x 78 x 175mm; Weight: 1.2kg

Check price at John Lewis

Other options worth considering:

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4. B&O Beosound A1 2nd gen: Best Bluetooth speaker under £250

Price when reviewed: £234 | Check price at Amazon
We were blown away by the original B&O Beoplay A1, and this second-generation model improves on its predecessor in a number of ways. New features include an IP67 rating, certifying it as both dust- and water-resistant, and repositioned control buttons that are much easier to access than before.

Audio quality is superb, battery life clocks in at over 40 hours at a low volume (closer to 18 at moderate volume) and there’s support for the Alexa voice assistant. It’s not built-in as it would be on a dedicated smart speaker but instead connects to the Alexa app on your phone to let you control the speaker with your voice.

Sadly, the 2nd gen model can’t be paired with the original to create stereo audio and it lacks the 3.5mm port of its predecessor, but these minor issues don’t prevent it from being the best Bluetooth speaker in its price bracket.

Read our full B&O Beosound A1 2nd Gen review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 2; Inputs: USB-C; Outputs: No; Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1; Voice assistant: Alexa; Remote: No; Dimensions (WDH): 133 x 133 x 46mm; Weight: 552g

Other options worth considering:

READ NEXT: Best Bluetooth speakers

5. Sonos Move: Best-sounding smart speaker

Price when reviewed: £380 | Check price at Amazon

Best speaker - Sonos MoveThe Sonos Move is the brand’s first portable smart speaker, taking all the connectivity and features we love from other Sonos speakers and wrapping them up in a package powered by an built-in battery. 

The speaker is compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant (though not both interchangeably), battery life is decent and audio is on the level we’ve come to expect from Sonos. Volume is powerful enough to fill a large room, there’s buckets of bass and each note is delivered with an impressive level of control and clarity. In short, the Sonos Move runs sonic rings around Google and Amazon-branded smart speakers.

The Move is fairly hefty, however, standing nearly a foot tall and weighing a chunky 3kg. Still, if you can find the space for it and don’t mind lugging it around with you when out and about, the Sonos Move is a fantastic smart speaker, and well worth the money.

Read our full Sonos Move review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 2; Inputs: USB-C; Outputs: No; Wireless: Bluetooth 4.1; Voice assistant: Alexa, Google Assistant; Remote: No; Dimensions (WDH): 160 x 126 x 240mm; Weight: 3kg

6. Naim Mu-so 2nd Gen: Best premium wireless speaker

Price when reviewed: £1,149 | Check price at John Lewis
You simply won’t find a better all-in-one wireless speaker than the Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation. It’s a bulky unit, but one that’s equipped to deliver phenomenal sound quality no matter the audio source. It packs 450W of amplification, there’s great balance across the frequency range and the speaker suffers from no distortion or loss of detail at higher volumes.

Connection options are plentiful, with a 3.5mm AUX-in, USB Type-A port and optical SPDIF, alongside an HDMI ARC port that allows you to connect the Mu-so 2nd Generation to your TV in place of a soundbar. There’s no support for voice assistants, but both the remote and Naim companion app are so easy to use that the absence of voice controls isn’t felt too keenly.

It may be pricey, but the Naim Mu-so 2nd Gen is a room-filling wonder that’s best-in-class for style, versatility and audio quality.

Read our full Naim Mu-so 2nd Gen review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 6; Inputs: USB-A, HDMI ARC, 3.5mm, optical S/P-DIF; Outputs: No; Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast built-in; Voice assistant: No; Remote: Yes; Dimensions (WDH): 628 x 264 x 122mm; Weight: 11.2kg

Check price at John Lewis

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