Portable, fixed, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, multi-room, for home, cottage or poolside. Discover the features to look for to find the speaker that meets your needs. Of course, a good speaker must offer good sound quality; it is the number one choice criterion. Then comes the portability of the device, its features, the ease of configuring it, etc. Do you hesitate between a fixed model (to plug into a socket) and a portable model?
In general, fixed devices provide better sound quality. If you intend to move the loudspeaker frequently from room to room or bring it on a trip, a portable device will suit you better. You do not want to pay too much? We have found some very good devices sold for around $ 200 in both categories.
To accompany you in your choice, we offer a selection of speakers depending on your use. Are you an outdoor enthusiast, a music lover or a distracted listener? Determine the profile that most closely resembles the five shown below to find the right model for you.
The nomadic adventurer:
“My music follows me everywhere: a picnic in a park, camping evening by the fire, walk in the forest … Wherever I go, background music accompanies me!”
The ideal speaker of the nomadic adventurer must:
- Be portable and lightweight
- Be equipped with a battery offering great autonomy
- be water resistant
“Music for me is in the comfort of my chair that I appreciate it. I let myself be drawn into different sound worlds thanks to the quality of my speaker. “
The ideal loudspeaker of the audiophile must:
- Offer high sound quality
- To be tall to ensure good sound diffusion
The trendy homebody:
“I’m looking for a speaker to do everything, to put some background music, listen to a movie from my computer or a podcast while cooking.”
The ideal speaker of the connected homebody must:
- Possess the Bluetooth function
- To offer a great clarity of spoken voices
- Offer the possibility of using voice commands if it has Wi-Fi function
The mood provider:
“I bring the speaker, and anyone can play a song. Even when one moves away from a little, the connection should not be cut off. “
The ideal loudspeaker of the room provider must:
- Possess the Bluetooth function
- Be easy to install
- Provide a stable and interference-free connection
“The bottom line is that it works! My speaker, I like it because I do not need to make a lot of clicks to start my music. “
The ideal speaker of lazy techno must:
- Be easy to use
- Offer a good price-quality ratio
You do not recognize yourself in these profiles? The following selection criteria will help you to understand your needs.
Portable or fixed?
If you plan to move your speaker frequently from room to room or outside (ice fishing this winter or at the beach this summer), choose a portable model. Equipped with a rechargeable battery that offers up to 33 hours of battery life, most of these models weigh less than 1 kg. Pay particular attention to the shape of the device (cubic, cylindrical, etc.) to make sure it fits easily in your luggage if you want to transport it to the cottage or even abroad.
Do you plan to use your device especially at home? You will get a much better sound quality with the fixed models (which must be connected). The sound of these larger speakers fills the room better than portable models. You can use a fixed device in fairly large spaces – like your living room or terrace – without losing sound quality.
Bluetooth or Wi-Fi?
If you’re hesitating between the two, be aware that Bluetooth devices are often small and easy to use, while those that work with Wi-Fi usually offer better sound quality. In addition, most Wi-Fi devices allow you to connect using Bluetooth. However, as many do not have batteries, you will not be able to use them without a power outlet. Here are eight points that distinguish the two technologies:
- The sound quality of the Bluetooth connection is generally lower because of the compression process inherent in this technology.
- Bluetooth models are easier to configure than Wi-Fi devices.
- On average, Bluetooth models are cheaper and lighter than Wi-Fi devices.
- The range of Wi-Fi speakers is better. In Bluetooth mode, your audio source must be in the same room, which is not the case in Wi-Fi.
- Interference is lower with a Bluetooth connection because it has a short range. In Wi-Fi, follow our tips to avoid interference.
- A Wi-Fi device is operating using an application. The advantage: your music will not be interrupted by a call. The disadvantage: you are confined to what the application offers. For example, you will not be able to hear the sound of a video on YouTube if the app does not include the YouTube feature.
- Only Wi-Fi can create a true multi-room system by connecting speakers placed in different rooms.
Have you read terms like aptX and LDAC on the internet? These are codec names. A codec is a program that lets you compress your music to send it to your speaker, and then unzips it to play the sound. This is the communication language of your Bluetooth devices.
Wi-Fi devices use data transmission technologies such as AirPlay, Google Cast, Play-Fi or more closed protocols, such as Sonos, which only connects speakers of the same brand. Two speakers that use the same transmission technology can play the same music simultaneously.
Resistance to water and dust
Several products have a protection class according to an international standard for waterproofing. The water resistance index ranges from 0 to 9, that is to say from no protection against splashing and immersion (0) to protection against high-pressure cleaning (9).
The devices of our test have either IPX4 protection (protected against splashing water), IPX5 (protected against low-pressure water jets), IPX7 (protected against temporary immersion, for example, if you escape the top in the pool and you quickly retrieve it) or IP57 (protected against temporary immersion and dust).
Even certified, we do not advise you to use your device voluntarily under water. Note that we did not test the water resistance of the devices.
A “smart” speaker?
Some speakers have “voice control” function. Google Home and Amazon Echo, for example, incorporate real voice assistants that work only with voice. See our evaluation of voice commands from eight “smart” speakers. Other voice-activated models exist, but they are less sophisticated: you have to press a button every time you ask them something.
Think well before buying
- Are you leaning towards Wi-Fi? Check the compatibility of the manufacturer’s app with your phones, such as Windows Phone, and your favorite music or video services, such as Qobuz and YouTube.
- Is your phone’s battery draining quickly? Some speakers have Lightning (iPhone) or micro-USB (Android) chargers.
- Want to listen to your old MP3 player? Take care, because very few models are equipped with a 3.5 mm audio jack.
Looking for a speaker compatible with your TV? Both devices must be equipped with the same technology (Bluetooth, AirPlay, or have a 3.5mm audio jack) to connect. Check out our soundbar test for a better pairing.