Portable and wireless speakers have gone from niche to mainstream lately; I've noticed a trend towards larger wireless Bluetooth-compatible speakers designed to be the audio foundation of a living room, home office, or bedroom, replacing last generation's mini-bookshelf stereos, but taking a lot less space. Here are 5 Portable Bluetooth speakers are quite useful, since they produce adequate sound and are easily re-positionable. But it's the larger speakers that I'm currently interested in, the ones designed to stay put in the living room, on the shelf in a home office, or perhaps even in a dining room for easy wireless playback using AirPlay or Bluetooth. Here are 5 top models on my list:
1. Bowers & Wilkins A7: B&W realized that docking your devices is no longer necessary, and they responded with two massive speaker systems that will stream basically any source in your home Wi-Fi network. The A7 is B&W's flagship model, priced at $799.99, are equipped with a Class-D amplifier, 2 × 25W of B&W's signature Nautilus tube aluminium tweeters, 2 × 25W midrange speakers and one 50W subwoofer. Connectivity beyond Airplay also includes Ethernet, wi-fi, via optical digital, and USB streaming. The A7 also offers one of the most stylish, yet decor-unobtrusive designs in the category of wireless speakers, with the premium price also affording owners a 3-month membership to B&W's Society of Sound, a high-quality audio album(s) of the month club curated by Peter Gabriel, Real World Studios, and The London Symphony Orchestra (after that, it's $59.95 a year).
2. SONOS Connect Amp: What if you've already got a few hundred or even thousands of dollars invested in perfectly good speakers? The Sonos add-on system will turn yesterday's speakers into a wireless-compatible system of today, not only providing ample power for playback, but also adding streaming audio using AirPlay or Bluetooth wireless audio. Another option for owners of older stereo systems is just purchasing an Apple Airport Express and adding the system to an Airplay network, connected the Airport module to receiver via wired connection.
3. Bose SoundLink Air: This is Bose's first AirPlay device, and while the Bose SoundLink Air comes with a battery, it's large enough to serve as a stereo for a variety of purposes. The Soundlink Air offers two wireless options: via Bluetooth and also streaming audio via Wi-Fi network.
4. Bowers & Wilkins A5: The A5 is the slightly smaller sibling to the A7 above, priced at $499.99. The A5 has no sub, but slightly larger four-inch drivers that should provide adequate sound for smaller spaces where the bigger A7 would be overkill.
5. Philips Fidelio P9: Just like the Bose, this is a larger, mobile speaker that comes with a rechargeable battery and a cross-over filter for better separation of low and mid tones from the highs. There's also the option to plug in a USB smart device for charging; the P9 can also be used unplugged for up to eight hours.