Wireless Speakers Group Test

Doctor Digital reviews the best entry-level streaming speakers from Sonos, Jambox, Philips and Bowers & Wilkins

Smartphones, tablets and laptops offer an inexhaustible supply of music and Internet radio stations, but their speakers are laughably poor. Why not consider replacing your ancient radio with one of these compact wireless speakers?


Sonos PLAY:1 (£169)

Remote control: No App: Yes Portable: No Airplay: No Connection: Wifi/wired

Unlike the other speakers here, the PLAY:1 doesn’t rely on your phone or laptop. In the morning, you simply walk into your kitchen and hit the play button on the top, while the others would still have you faffing with your smartphone. Sound is well rounded for such a dinky box, but for true stereo you will need to buy two PLAY:1s. Obviously, this will double the price, but they can then be paired with the Sonos Playbar (review here) for surround sound TV. Even on its own, the PLAY:1 is hard to resist.

Special power: Sealed against humidity for bathroom singalongs

Philips Fidelio Soundcurve DS8800W/10 (£230)

Remote control: Yes App: Yes Portable: No Airplay: Yes Connection: Wifi

The Soundcurve is a long, squashed bean, with a hole in the middle perfect for storing takeaway menus (not manufacturer recommended). Set up is more finicky than the Sonos or Jambox: the instructions tell you to use a phone to enter the settings, but Dr D suggests a laptop instead. As well as a cute wee remote control, a free app adjusts the sound between settings like Bright, Warm and Powerful (all adjectives that have been used to describe Doctor Digital).

Special power: Lots of tweakable knobs for audiophiles


Remote control: No App: No Portable: Yes Airplay: No Connection: Bluetooth

Colourful and with sharp corrugated edges, the Jambox has character. Even without music playing, the bright red box made Doctor Digital smile. Sound is similarly brash, loud and metallic, while connecting through Bluetooth could not be simpler. Much like the Ghetto Blasters that inspired the Jambox, this is portable, with a battery that will last about 15 hours. The Jambox also works as a speakerphone for calls, although it makes Gran sound like the Wizard of Oz.

Special power: Small, loud and portable, if you want to be the worst people at the picnic.

Bowers & Wilkins A5 (£399)

Remote control: Yes App: Yes Portable: No AirPlay: Yes Connection: Wifi

As you would expect from the experts at B&W, listening to the A5 is as clear and fresh as an Alpine morning. Picky plucky guitars and pizzicato violins make the A5 sing, but it will do nothing to flatter poor quality recordings. It’s a handsome thing, looking like the altar in a robot church, but there is the feeling it should be smarter. The A5 has none of the Fidelio’s customisation or the Play:1’s independence: for the price, you might expect more of a full-featured music system. Still, it’s hard to argue with the sound.


Special power: A clarion call of audio quality, but it will make bad music sound terrible.