It was abundantly clear at this year’s CES and Macworld|iWorld expos that wired speaker docks had been given the old heave-ho, to be replaced by wireless speakers like Bluetooth and (more rarely) AirPlay. With the holidays upon us, here’s a look back at what we feel are the best wireless speakers from this past year. They cover a wide range of price points and use cases, from the expensive home theater setup to a rough-and-tumble outdoor speaker that’s ready to go anywhere.
Currently a member of my globetrotting iDevice entourage, Soen’s Transit speaker is hands down my favorite portable Bluetooth speaker for its combination of incredible sound, long battery life, and gorgeous design. I (and my Transit) just returned from two weeks in India, where the Transit was a fixture in every hotel room I stayed in; unpacking wasn’t complete until the Transit was out and perched on a desk or table somewhere in the room. The Transit’s clean and tight bass provided extra realism to movies I watched on my iPad, and its impressive detail and clarity provided perfect music whether I was listening to soft jazz while working or pumping up some high energy music to get me moving in the morning.
BOOM was first introduced to us at this year’s Macworld, and the brand’s outlandish names and styling are backed up by impressive audio quality. The rugged explorer of the pack, Boom’s Urchin speaker is part of the company’s Ready 4 Anything (R4A) series, and its water-resistant design and array of accessories let you do just that. You can clip your urchin to a backpack, mount it on a wall, or just stick its included suction cup to the nearest surface for beats whether you go. Rain, dust, and the occasional drop don’t faze the Urchin, and its removable silicone skin lets you wash off the accumulated dirt before you hit the road again.
I’ve had one of Wren’s V5 AirPlay speakers (V5AP) for a couple months now. I’ve been traveling and haven’t yet posted my full review, but the Wren is easily one of the best sounding bookshelf speakers I’ve ever heard, and it’s hands-down the best looking. With an elegant yet understated design and real bamboo wood enclosure, I can’t quite decide if I want the Wren facing forward (so I can hear it) or facing backward (so I can see the gorgeous bamboo cabinet). I do know, however, that it has replaced the Bose SoundDock as my primary Mac/iPad speaker on the desk in my bedroom. From a relatively svelte enclosure, the Wren manages to deliver brilliant audio details and robust stereo separation, all while cranking out enough bass that I had to move it away from the wall to give the Wren’s bass port more space to radiate.
The Wren is $399 and is available in either a bamboo or rosewood cabinet from the Wren Sound online store. If you order by December 2 and use the code BFCM, you can get your Wren for just $349.