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It wasn’t that long ago that a multiroom audio system could break the bank. Purchasing thousands of dollars worth of speakers, amps, keypads, and switching devices was just the beginning. You then had to hire a technician to snake wires through the walls, make the connections, and adjust the settings to get all the components playing together nicely.
Today, it’s much easier—and much less of a shock to your budget. You can buy a wireless multiroom speaker system with great performance and unprecedented flexibility for surprisingly little money. Even better, you can set it up yourself in a manner of minutes, right from your smartphone.
Sonos has led the way when it comes to multiroom systems, but other companies have joined in, giving music lovers a variety of choices for modestly priced wireless speakers. And if you own a smart speaker from one of the major brands—Amazon Echo, Google Nest, or Apple HomePod—you can add other speakers to form a multiroom system that can deliver voice-controlled music throughout your home.
Our top-rated multiroom speakers offer not only solid sound but also impressive flexibility. If your aim is to execute an epic Rickroll and play "Never Gonna Give You Up" perfectly synced through 16 speakers on four different levels of your house, go right ahead. If your goals are more modest—streaming the 99% Invisible podcast quietly in the kitchen while the kids crank “Encanto” in the family room, all controlled by your smartphone—that’s also an option.
The following are some of the top multiroom speakers in CR’s ratings. Like everything we rate, from printers to pickup trucks, CR buys speakers anonymously through regular retail channels. Our trained testers put each model through a battery of lab tests for ease of use, versatility, and especially sound quality, which gets extra weight in our ratings.
The Amazon Echo led the way as the original smart speaker, but despite all that innovation, it didn’t sound great. Amazon has improved the sonics across its speaker line in recent years, and the Echo Studio is now the best-sounding option of the bunch.
Featuring a deep and powerful bass, a clean midrange, and smooth trebles, the Studio is in fact one of the very best-sounding smart speakers to pass through our labs. When playing Dolby Atmos and 3D audio content, CR’s testers report that the model provides a spacious “soundfield” that can fill a room. But the “Stereo Spatial Enhancement” setting adds a bit of an echo, so we recommend switching it off.
The Studio can be integrated into a multiroom system with other Amazon Echo speakers. But our testers experienced somewhat glitchy performance when pairing two Studios. A few problems arose when we changed the volume, and there were minor sync issues between the left and right speakers.
The HomePod Mini is Apple’s one remaining smart speaker, and unfortunately, it doesn’t sound nearly as good as the original HomePod, according to our testers.
The audio for the $99 model is congested in a way that’s similar to the $50 Amazon Echo Dot and Google Nest Mini, albeit with a fuller bass. That means the Mini is okay for podcasts or background music in a small room but hardly great for playing your favorite tunes.
The HomePod Mini works best if you’re deeply immersed in Apple’s ecosystem because it offers easy integration with the Apple Music streaming service, including full voice control and multiroom capability. The Mini can also control Apple HomeKit smart home products. It allows voice control of other music services, including Pandora and iHeart Radio, and can even integrate with Apple CarPlay in your vehicle. For instance, you could ask the speaker for driving directions while making coffee in the morning, then have it send your chosen route to your car.
If you’re not an Apple diehard, note that the Amazon Studio (above) and Sonos One (below) performed significantly better in our sound-quality testing.
Audio Pro is a Swedish company that’s been making speakers since 1978. Given that history, it’s no surprise that sonically, the Audio Pro C10 MKII sits near the top of our ratings. Our testers report that it delivers bass that’s deep and impactful though just a bit boomy, while the midrange does a fine job with both music and dialogue. There’s enough volume to fill a medium-sized room, and you can pair two units in stereo to improve the sound.
Our testers also give the C10 MkII a strong grade in ease of use and our top mark in versatility. The Audio Pro’s multiroom capabilities can be accessed and managed through the company’s dedicated smartphone app, which our testers found to be easy to use on both Android phones and iPhones.
The Denon Home 150 takes over where the company’s Heos line of multiroom speakers left off. Not only does it feature more traditional styling than its predecessor—some models in the Heos line resembled a high-end handbag—but it also provides satisfying sound and commendable versatility.
Sonically, the 150 delivers bass that’s impactful but a little boomy, an even midrange, and extended high frequencies. Our testers found that pairing two 150s improves the illusion that the musicians are right there in the room with you, though adding the second speaker does make the bass a bit boomier.
The Home 150 provides enough volume for a midsized room, but if you need to fill a bigger space, you might consider Denon’s larger Home 250 and Home 350 models. Our testers found a strong family resemblance among all three speakers, but the larger models supply more bass and volume, albeit for more money. All three models can integrate seamlessly in a multiroom system.
Like speakers in the Heos line, the Home 150 differs from most models by rival Sonos in that it offers both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. This allows you to quickly move a playlist or podcast from your smartphone to the speaker. (Although our testers note that selecting the Bluetooth input had to be done from Denon’s otherwise intuitive smartphone app.) For most of your listening, however, you’ll want to use the more robust WiFi connection.
Yes, Ikea sells the Symfonisk speaker, but it’s powered by Sonos and is compatible with Sonos wireless speakers throughout a whole-home system. All of which makes it a top performer at a low price.
Our testers report that this second-generation model is functionally identical to the previous version (which was $20 cheaper). The new Bookshelf speaker also sounds a lot like its Sonos brethren, with clear trebles, a balanced and detailed midrange, and bass that’s tuneful although not especially deep. The Symfonisk’s sound quality falls just a bit below those of the Sonos One (below), but the gap is small enough that most casual listeners won’t notice the difference. Our testers also report that a stereo pair of Symfonisk speakers sounds much better than a single unit, especially when it comes to capturing that you-are-there factor that provides the magic on a really good recording.
Ikea calls this Symfonisk model a bookshelf speaker. Literally. It can be mounted horizontally on a wall and used as a shelf, but its limited capacity makes it better suited to light volumes of poetry than Russian novels. (The Symfonisk line also includes a more expensive Sonos-powered picture frame speaker.)
Like other Sonos home speakers, the Symfonisk models lack Bluetooth capability; they need WiFi to function.
The Sonos One smart speaker has two features that make it a great choice for a wireless multiroom system: its small size and its relatively low price. The model fits unobtrusively on a shelf. And though it doesn’t offer the sheer bass response of larger speakers, it does deliver impressively detailed sound on vocals and instrumentals.
It also costs less than some rivals, so you can start your system with a couple of Ones—say, one in the kitchen and the other in a bedroom—and expand to other rooms (or stereo pairs with better sound) as your budget permits.
The Sonos One can also integrate with the company’s wireless models, adding smart speaker functionality to an existing Sonos system. Like other Sonos home speakers, the One doesn’t have Bluetooth capability. It streams through WiFi, and you control it with the company’s smartphone app.
The One is platform-agnostic; it has built-in support for Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. If you’re into Apple, you can also stream music to the speaker using an iPad or iPhone with Apple’s AirPlay 2. Sonos recently introduced Sonos Voice Control, which allows you to choose selections without using a digital assistant like Alexa or Google Assistant that records your commands and sends them to the company’s servers. (Commands to “Hey, Sonos” are processed locally on the device.)
If you don’t need or want smart speaker functionality, the similar-sounding Sonos One SL is essentially a Sonos One without a mic.
If sound quality is your top priority in a multiroom system—and that’s usually a great place to start—take a close look at the Sonos Five.
It’s the highest-rated and best-sounding multiroom speaker we’ve tested, delivering solid bass and crystalline trebles that let you hear every detail of your favorite recordings. And while a single Five offers up fine sound, two Fives paired in stereo earn our rarely bestowed top rating for sound quality.
The Five is a bit limited in functionality, though. It’s not a smart speaker, and like other home models from Sonos, it’s WiFi only, with no Bluetooth connectivity.
But because the Five integrates smoothly and seamlessly in a whole-house system with other Sonos products, features like those can be added by including a Sonos One (for smart speaker chops, including voice command) or a Sonos Move or Roam (for portable smart speaker capability, as well as Bluetooth streaming) to your Sonos system.
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