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Four Sonos Alternatives: What Other Wireless Speakers Are Worth Buying?
Well, for starters, the Sonos products are very good (this editor has them in several rooms of his house). They set up simply (after a 2014 software update they don’t even require the Sonos Bridge to work), work easily and sound good.
But competition is a good thing. It makes companies work harder to create better, more innovative and (sometimes) less expensive products. For a few years Sonos didn’t really have much in the way of competition (unless you count Bluetooth wireless speakers, which aren’t really in the same category). Now there’s competition all over the place, some from major speakers brands, and some from companies you may not have heard of before now.
When looking at these Sonos alternatives, it’s important to consider the whys and hows of how the products differ from Sonos. Some distinquish themselves by their capabilities (BlueSound, for instance, offers a hard-drive vault that rips CDs), by their wireless technologies, by their audio performance (or perceived audio performance), and by their design. Picking the system that’s right for you depends on matching your needs with the features of the product. While Sonos might be the company all theses other products get compared too, there’s no one product or brand that’s right for every user, which again, is why we have competition.
One big distinguing feature of Sonos is the music choice you get. Last time I looked, the Sonos app offered about 35 different internet streaming music services. Most of the other products here offer 5 to 10. Does that difference really matter? That depends. If you only use Spotify and Pandora, then those other 30 or so services don’t matter to you. If you use a paid service (like Spotify or Sirius XM) then you’re going to be more likely to focus your listening on that anyway (otherwise, why pay?), so the Slacker or Songza (my current favorite) feature won’t matter. If on the other hand, you like to try new things, a lot, then a large number of music options will be meaningful.
All of the wireless speakers and audio systems discussed here are controlled by apps which provide volume control, track selection, room or zone selection and music streaming service options. Unless noted, they all are compatible with both iOS and Android.
Let’s check out these alternatives to Sonos wireless speakers and audio system.
BlueSound by Lenbook
The Bluesound wireless audio system comes from the Lenbook company, which also makes PSB speakers and NAD components. The system was heavily influenced by Paul Barton, founder of PSB speakers and an expert speaker designer. In the Bluesound family there’s one integrated wireless speaker called the Pulse, plus there’s a wireless amp called the Power Node (for connecting your own speakers to) and a wireless component (the Node) that connects to your stereo (or home theater) amp. Bluesound also offers the Vault, which is a hard drive based server that can rip your CDs and make them available on your network for other Bluesound components. One feature that makes the whole system stand out is its support for 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio. Bluesound doesn’t support nearly as many music streaming services as Sonos, but the 11 it does support include Tidal and Deezer, which offer lossless audio. Bluesound streams music over your own WiFi network, whereas Sonos creates its own WiFi network. More about Bluesound here.
It’s not a very creative name, but the Definitive Technologies wireless audio system looks elagent and is designed with the venerable speaker company’s high performance standards. The speakers and wireless amps use the DTS Play-Fi system which sends music from your smart phone or tablet to the speakers via WiFi, which makes is more like AirPlay than Bluetooth, but with Play-Fi you can play music on multiple speakers, not just one (but you can’t send different music to different speakers from one smart phone). A benefit of Play-Fi is that you’re not stuck with one company—multiple companies make Play-Fi speakers and products, and they all work together. Also, you’re not restricted by streaming services. Any music app you can download to your phone will be able to play on this system. More info here.
The Samsung Shape wireless speaker system is very similar to the Sonos family. The Samsung WiFi speakers are similarly priced as Sonos as well. One thing that makes the Shape system stand out is that it will also work with a selection of Samsung home theater systems, Blu-ray players and TVs, bringing all those products into the home audio ecosystem. The latest addition to the Shape Wireless Audio-Multiroom lineup also happens to be the smallest. The new Shape $199 M3 speaker (WAM350) can work on its own, as well as with the Shape M5 and M7 Wireless Speakers, the HW-H750 Soundbar, the HT-H6500WM and HT-H7730WM home theater systems, and the BD-H6500 Blu-ray player. More info here. Also available on Amazon.
The Denon HEOS family includes three wireless speakers, a wireless amp and a component (the Link) to connect to your own audio receiver. Each one can deliver music in any room, all without wires. The speakers operate on dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, in conjunction with the DenonController app. The HEOS speakers include MaxxAudio by Waves digital signal processing (DSP). HEOS can be used with a variety of digital selections, from streaming online services and smart devices to connected PCs, Macs and NAS drives. At the moment only six streaming services are on the HEOS app: Spotify, Rhapsody, TuneIn, and Pandora, iHeart and SiriusXM. HEOS uses your WiFi network and doesn’t require a network bridge, though a wireless extender is available if your home needs it. More info here. Also available on Amazon.
Also check out these affordable audiophile speakers here.
Also check out our 2015 Wireless Speaker Buying Guide here.
This article was originally published on February 23, 2015 and updated on October 7, 2015.