Written by James Hamel
Celine Dion quite famously kicked the ass of the song “All by Myself” and its final minute and a half of orchestral sonic cheesiness with her much vaunted French Canadian vocal prowess. It was hard to believe when you first heard her covering that song that so much VOICE was coming out of so small a human being. The same is true of the following small compact wireless speaker systems meant for use in the home or on the go.
More than one of the following speakers had us sobbing like babies as Celine entered the home stretch of “All by Myself.” Oh, come on admit it! That woman can pull a tear out of the most hardened and stoic cynic. And we pride ourselves on being both here at Infotainment Experts. And fans of Madame Celine. A class act she is, truly.
Best Stand Alone Wireless Speaker Under $500—Harman Kardon Aura
Be sure to buy the actual HK Aura which costs usually somewhere in the range of $300-$500 as opposed to the similarly cool looking Aura Studio. The full fat HK Aura experience is all encompassing, awe inspiring, jaw dropping and totally multi-dimensional given how many different ways it can connect to your music. Frankly, the HK Aura is really all the compact speaker you need. It isn’t meant to be brought to the beach or any such nonsense but to us at InfotainmentExperts.com it is the Gold Standard Speaker of 2016 in that it is the only unit we need to have in our home. End of story.
Best Wireless Speaker Under $300—Infinity One
Smaller than the Aura but still best suited size wise to work inside a home, apartment or dorm room, the Infinity One is a new speaker from the minds at a brand previously best known for in-car and boat speakers. Well, it is from Infinity with a little help from their friends Linkin Park. Yes, the band. You can listen to it with battery power thanks to ten hours of lithium ion charging, the only thing that detracts from its portability is the weight of the speaker. But in our hands the Infinity felt quite sturdy and its four 1.75 drivers thumped the bass into every Linkin Park and Adele track we could throw its way. Hey, Adele plays drums on most of her songs so that counts. Listen to “Hello” as it reaches its final minute and a half. The woman is wailing on the drums.
Best Wireless Speaker Under $200—GGMM M3 Retro
We love the cool leather and chrome enhanced style of the GGMM M3 as well as its sonic capabilities. Along with that this puppy can connect to your music any old way be it via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, AptX and an aux-input you can use to turn this speaker plug into your TV and act as a dual speaker system if you buy two. Yep, you can sync two GGMM M3 retro speakers at the same time with each unit pumping out one side of stereo sonic goodness. We love the look, sound of this speaker and its $169.00 price on Amazon.com. (Price at time of article publication. Vendor may change price at any time. So buy one now fool!)
Best Wireless Speaker Under $100—JBL Flip 3 (or even 2)
All small JBL Flip speakers rule. And come in a crayon box full of Crayola colors. But while they may look like toys the sound that comes from them is simply unparalleled. This puppies are the best value in the industry for the price and should please even the most ardent music lover. Plus, you can buy multiples of the JBL Flip and have them everywhere in your house, outside the house, one for the car.
Best Truly Portable Wireless Speaker—Bose Sound Link Mini 2 and Fugoo Style (tie)—
There once were two itsy bitsy, Celine Dion sized speakers both of which when played “all by themselves” could easily blow the minds of any listener with their clarity, sonic bombast, and stylistic understatement. But the Fugoo Style ($149 on Amazon) and the Bose Sound Link Mini 2 ($179 if you search) are more than just tiny powerhouses, they are true lifestyle statements. Both are truly portable and can fit easily into any bag and go along with you to the beach or the local park. Just sync your favorite MP3 player by Bluetooth or an aux. input jack cable and you can enjoy hours or high quality audio on the go. Even better, these speakers are great around the house giving listeners truly top quality audio playback at an affordable price. The listening experience from these two simply cannot be topped anywhere else.
Runners Up a.k.a THE REST (Bose Sound link Three)
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the Bose Soundlink three that a little more stylistic imagination could not help remedy. This wireless speaker may play loud and be able to maintain a steady, even sound no matter what but it is dull as dishwater to look at. Colored zip on covers do not help matters nor do the covers with the logos of sports teams. A decent speaker everyone can like but no one loves. It may have unimpugnable sound reproduction but then so does the Sound link mini 2 and it is not $300.
JBL Charge 3
It sounds great, the charge. Just like the Flip. The Charge is just sturdier, more waterproof and more capable in regards to battery power. You really can’t go wrong here. But we think the Flip is cuter, sorry. The Charge is nice looking, just not as cute.
Harman Kardon Onyx Studio/Go+Play
We loved the wacky Star Wars droid on Steroids looks of both the Harman Kardon Onyx Studio and Go+Play in home speakers and found their sound quality to be exemplary. They both simply lacked the Aura’s ability to fill an entire home with sonic resonance and thumping power. Sometimes life is hard for siblings.
Nice but expensive and now out of date due to newly arrived Hi-definition speakers from the folks at Sony. At the time it was okay but Sony and the world keeps moving forward. The audio world, that is. It’s kind of like looking back on a band like “The Black Eyed Peas” circa “Boom, Boom, Pow.” Okay at the time but right now, hello dated.
Harman Kardon Esquire
Turn your eyes fans of Harman Kardon. We have not tested the Harman Kardon Esquire 2 and will eat humble pie if our opinion of to sonically substandard Esquire One are erased by the newer and more updated unit. First off, our test Esquire had a very hard time connecting wirelessly to anything and the speaker was very fussy about what kind of music it would play. It would fizz, fuzz and sometimes cut out altogether. Sorry, that was our experience. And we were not happy about it. Hopefully it was a defective unit. But again, we would have to try another unit to verify that. It never lived up to, in our eyes, the Harman Kardon standard.
Polk Audio S2
This was not really a fair test of this product really as this speaker really is meant to be used in hi-def Wi-Fi multi-room situations where you have, ahem, multiple Polk Speakers of various sizes and costs in each room. Sadly, Polk could not find a way to assist us with testing their multi-room speaker system which we have little doubt is quite lovely and components are not regularly on sale half off on their website for any reason. Oh, you can order a variety of sassy speaker covers for this unit. Eat your heart out Sonos.
Bowers & Wilkins A5
Save your money for the stylish and powerful Bowers Zeppelin speaker and save your money as this uncharacteristic misfire boasted muddled sound quality and seemed built only to serve as a less expensive point of entry for those of us who would have rather had the A7 speaker. We love everything in the Bowers & Wilkins lineup. This is only likable.