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Best speaker 2022: Our favourite wireless, Bluetooth and smart speakers

Ben Johnston
19 Apr 2022

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

  • Best mains-powered speaker under £100: Edifier D12 | Buy now
  • Best premium wireless speaker: Naim Mu-so 2nd Gen | Buy now
  • Best smart speaker: Google Nest Audio | Buy now
  • Best cheap portable speaker: Sharp GX-BT60 | Buy now
  • Best Bluetooth speaker under £250: B&O Beosound A1 2nd gen | Buy now
  • Best Alexa speaker: Amazon Echo (4th gen) | Buy now

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.

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The best speakers to buy in 2022

1. Edifier D12: The best mains-powered speaker under £100

Price: £100 | Buy now from 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 (WHD): 359 x 159 x 204mm; Weight: 4.6kg

Buy now from Amazon

2. Naim Mu-so 2nd Gen: The best premium wireless speaker

Price: £1,449 | Buy now from 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 (WHD): 628 x 122 x 264mm; Weight: 11.2kg

Buy now from John Lewis

3. Google Nest Audio: The best smart speaker

Price: £89 | Buy now from 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 (WHD): 124 x 175 x 78mm; Weight: 1.2kg

Buy now from John Lewis

4. Sharp GX-BT60: The best cheap portable speaker

Price: £30 | Buy now from Amazon

Despite being one of the smallest and most affordable entries on this list, the Sharp GX-BT60 is no slouch when it comes to audio quality. The open soundstage and effective instrument separation produce warm, detailed audio across a range of genres, and distortion only starts to creep in at maximum volume.

The rugged shell is rated IP67, so it’s both dust-tight and waterproof, making the GX-BT60 a great choice for a garden party or trip to the beach. It will last a decent chunk of a day out, too, with battery life of up to 13 hours, though that figure takes a hit if you’re cranking out audio at full whack.

There’s a handy 3.5mm port on the back, and support for both Google Assistant and Siri means you can use the speaker to hail your voice assistant of choice. There’s also the option to pair two GX-BT60s in “duo mode” to create a stereo effect, which Sharp says will work at a range of over 40 metres.

Read our full Sharp GX-BT60 review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 1; Inputs: 3.5mm; Outputs: 3.5mm; Wireless: Bluetooth 5.1; Voice assistant: Google Assistant, Siri; Remote: No; Dimensions (WHD): 100 x 40 x 100mm; Weight: 230g

Buy now from Amazon

5. B&O Beosound A1 2nd gen: The best Bluetooth speaker under £250

Price: £239 | Buy now from 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 (WHD): 133 x 46 x 133mm; Weight: 552g

Buy now from Amazon

6. Amazon Echo (4th gen): The best Alexa speaker

Price: £90 | Buy now from Amazon

If Alexa is your voice assistant of choice and you’re looking for an affordable smart speaker, the fourth-generation Amazon Echo is the option for you. A stylistic departure from what came before, the spherical speaker with an LED ring around the bottom makes for a much more attractive design than its tin-can-shaped predecessors.

The Alexa voice assistant is as helpful as it’s ever been, and all-new support for Zigbee means that the Echo can double as your smart home hub, controlling devices such as lights and thermostats directly. It sounds good, too, with the addition of a second 0.8mm tweeter helping deliver a much richer, fuller sound than the third-gen model.

It may not quite measure up to the Google Nest Audio in terms of audio quality, but if you prefer the Amazon ecosystem, the Echo 4th gen is as good as affordable smart speakers get.

Read our full Amazon Echo (4th gen) review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 3; Stereo: No; Inputs: 3.5mm; Outputs: 3.5mm; Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; Voice assistant: Alexa; Remote: No; Dimensions (WHD): 144 x 133 x 144mm; Weight: 970g

Buy now from Amazon

7. KEF LSX: The best bookshelf speakers

Price: £999 | Buy now from Amazon

This pair of wireless speakers offers a fantastic stereo sound experience and looks great while doing it. Created in collaboration with designer Michael Young and available in a range of colours, including black, white and the green pictured above, the KEF LSX is among the most stylish speaker systems on the market.

On the audio front, KEF’s signature Uni-Q driver takes centre stage, delivering powerful-yet-detailed sound with tight bass and a broad stereo soundstage. There’s no voice assistant but you do have plenty of streaming options, including Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal and the aptX Bluetooth codec for high-quality audio streaming. You can even hook it up to your TV or console via optical S/PDIF and wire in a subwoofer via the dedicated RCA output. With that versatility coupled with a gorgeous aesthetic, the KEF LSX is a wireless speaker system worthy of gracing any living space. 

Read our full KEF LSX review for more details

Key specs – Drivers: 2; Inputs: USB-A, optical; Outputs: 3.5mm, RCA; Wireless: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect; Voice assistant: No; Remote: No; Dimensions (WHD): 155 x 1240 x 180mm; Weight: 3.6kg per speaker

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