Sound Investments in Wireless Speakers
The stereo system may have gone the way of vinyl records, replaced by digital music files stored on, or streamed from, smartphones, tablets and computers. But good speakers still define quality listening pleasure. The wireless sound boxes here may be small, but like most tech these days, they pack a punch.
Libratone Live ($699)
This thigh-high, Italian-wool-wrapped speaker is as soft to the touch as it is to the ear, but it's the sound that wows: By reflecting audio waves off the inside of its triangular shape, the Libratone can fill a room with deep, rich music.
Connectivity: Apple iOS mobile devices connect via Wi-Fi (sorry, Android users). Apple iTunes-connected PCs and Macs can use Wi-Fi to stream to up to six speakers at once--perfect for large offices, boutiques or bistros.
Braven 650 ($189)
Made from lightweight, nearly indestructible, aircraft-grade aluminum, the stapler-size Braven is ideal for desktops, workbenches and travel. Bonus: When attached to a smartphone, the unit's built-in mic turns it into a speakerphone.
Connectivity: The Braven 650 uses Bluetooth to sync to smartphones and laptops. Its integrated USB port turns the speaker into a charging station for phones and tablets.
iHome iW1 ($300)
The rechargeable, grab-and-go iW1 allows you to bring sound anywhere: to the patio, the break room or the company picnic. With iTunes and a Wi-Fi receiver, users can feed music to speakers in multiple rooms and on multiple floors from one computer or iPhone.
Connectivity: Works only with iOS mobile devices (iPhone, iPad) or PCs and Macs running iTunes.
JBL OnBeat Xtreme ($500)
Look past the OnBeat Xtreme's polarizing aesthetics and listen: This speaker packs a deep bass and full sonic range. Thankfully, that great sound comes through even when you hide the speaker behind a plant. Users of iOS mobile devices with a FaceTime app can turn the JBL unit into an übertech teleconferencing station.
Connectivity: Works with any Bluetooth-equipped device. iPhones and iPads connect directly to the speaker.
The connection question
Which wireless format to choose?
Pros: Audiophiles claim it sounds better because song-file compression is kept to a minimum, if at all. Wi-Fi signals reach farther and are more robust than Bluetooth.
Cons: Wi-Fi consumes more juice, affecting how long your smartphone's battery lasts.
Pros: It's available on a much larger range of mobile devices and laptops. No need to download special apps to sync speakers.
Cons: The device or computer streaming the music files should be less than 30 feet away from the speaker.
Based in Portland, Ore., John Patrick Pullen covers travel, business and tech for Men's Journal, Fortune and others.