Our favorite wireless speakers
I called the Zipp the portable AirPlay speaker to beat, and for good reason. The Zipp offers easy setup, it works even without a Wi-Fi hotspot, it plays for eight hours on a single charge, and it looks and sounds great, too. $400 gets you the basic speaker with an interchangeable cover; $450 gets you the speaker with three covers.
Jawbone Big Jambox
The original Jambox kicked off a race to make stylish, portable, nice-sounding Bluetooth speakers. The $300 Big Jambox heated up that competition. It takes everything that made the Jambox good and does it, well, bigger: The Big Jambox's audio sounds better, the speaker plays louder, and the battery lasts longer.
Jabra's $200 Solemate rivals the original Jawbone Jambox in volume, overall audio quality, and—more subjectively—perhaps even looks. The portable, Bluetooth-equipped Solemate is mighty durable, and its built-in battery offers eight hours of music playback. And if you want to use a non-wireless music source instead, there's an auxiliary-input cable carefully hidden in a groove on the underside—let's call it the sole—of the speaker.
iHome iP76 LED Color Changing Tower Stereo Speaker System with Bluetooth for iPhone and iPod
While the full name of iHome's $200 iP76 is a mouthful, the speaker itself is an eyeful. In addition to its 30-pin iPhone dock, the tower speaker can connect to a host of devices via Bluetooth. But what makes the speaker stand out isn't its audio, which is decent though not exceptional; it's the looks: The iP76 offers multiple lighting styles, and the light effects can even pulse in time with the music.
Audyssey Audio Dock Air
The small footprint (roughly 9 by 5 inches) of Audyssey's $400 Audio Dock Air is deceiving. This is actually a powerful AirPlay speaker that can fill even a large room with clear, crisp audio. It also offers especially impressive bass presence for its size.
JBL Micro Wireless
The pocket-sized, $59 Micro Wireless is truly surprising. How good can the audio from such a small Bluetooth speaker really be? While it can't rival larger speakers note for note, the "bigness" of the Micro's sound is jaw-dropping. The speaker's battery offers five hours of listening, and an integrated cable, which stores in a groove in the bottom of the speaker, lets you connect to another source—or even to a second (or third!) Micro Wireless in a daisy chain. It's available in black, green, blue, and red, and a non-Bluetooth version (the Micro II) is available for just $39.
Brookstone Big Blue Studio
Brookstone's $150 Big Blue Studio is a Bluetooth revelation: It's rare that a speaker sounds this impressive at this price. Plug in the Studio, tweak the bass and treble knobs to your liking, and enjoy clear, high-quality streaming audio.
If even $150 is too much for your budget, or if you want something truly portable, the $100 Big Blue Live also impresses.
TDK Wireless Weatherproof Speaker
TDK's $250 Wireless Weatherproof Speaker isn't just rugged—it’s also protected against the elements (IP64 certified, to be exact), so you can take advantage of its Bluetooth support and six-hour battery life just about anywhere. The speaker also gets impressively loud, making it ideal for the beach, park, or backyard.
Altec Lansing InAir 5000
Though Altec Lansing has discontinued this $500 AirPlay speaker, you can still purchase it—at a substantial discount of around $250—from a number of online retailers, including Amazon.com. And it’s worth considering: The InAir 5000 offers excellent, room-filling audio without the hiccups that plague some AirPlay speaker systems.
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