Best AirPlay speakers to buy in 2014

3 Feb 2014

As long as there are Apple products, there will be AirPlay speakers – but which are the best? Speakers with wireless AirPlay connectivity are aimed largely at iPhone and iPod users, but most units nowadays also come equipped with hardwiring options to connect up any device not blessed with the Apple logo.

But how to separate the best from the rest? Alongside stunning sound quality, manufacturers pay special attention to the build quality and design, while ease of use is also a must. AirPlay is slightly trickier to set up than Bluetooth but once connected, you can't argue with the simplicity of the best wireless speakers.

We've rounded-up the best AirPlay speakers you can buy in 2014 from our most recent reviews, and we'll be keeping this page updated as when we review new products...

 

Best AirPlay speaker under £300

Denon Cocoon Stream DSD-501

5 stars

Tested at £250

Denon Cocoon DSD-501

Denon proves you don't have to break the bank for a quality AirPlay speaker. The Denon Cocoon Stream DSD-501 delivers a refined and full-bodied sound from its elegant curved chassis – all for just £250. It's a tempting offer, and the wireless speaker easily ran away with a 2013 Award for Best wireless speaker £150-£300.

AirPlay is the main streaming feature, but Android users can stream tunes over the network as long as they have a DLNA media player app and the free Denon Cocoon app (which is lovely to use). You can stream from a NAS box and play internet radio, too. There's only one wired connection: a USB port that will charge and play Apple devices (but only charge Androids).

But its simplicity in design hides just how good the Cocoon Stream sounds. The rich, warm performance is peppered with sharp punches, solid weight and stunning precision. It sounds fantastic. High and low frequencies are handled with a sense of finesse and control that's admirable - especially at this price. With such polished sound and a decent features set, we can't think of a better AirPlay speaker bargain than this excellent Denon Cocoon Stream DSD-501.

 

More: Denon Cocoon Stream DSD-501 full review

 

 

Best AirPlay speaker under £400

Libratone Zipp

5 stars

Tested at £370

The Libratone Zipp stands apart from the sea of monochrome wireless AirPlay speakers with its brightly-coloured felt covers that you can swap and change - it's a fun and playful feature that's caught many an eye. But it's no gimmick – the Zipp has a premium feel, and the upright design delivers 360-degree sound that's immersive and enjoyable.

A particularly open and clear treble sits alongside bass notes that don't go boomy or flat. This is a confident speaker that delivers enthusiasm in spades without ever letting go of its composure. It's fast and punchy, with ample detail to keep you interested in the music.

Throw in the easily-connectable AirPlay, an elegant app, a 3.5mm input and its portable design, and the Libratone Zipp is one of the nicest experiences we've had when listening to wireless music.

MORE: Read our full Libratone Zipp review

ALSO CONSIDER: B&W A5

 

 

Best AirPlay speaker under £450

Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200

5 stars

Tested at £430

This isn't just an AirPlay speaker. It's a Bluetooth-toting, internet radio-playing all-round wired and wireless wonder. Compatible with iOS, Android and Windows devices, as well as offering analogue inputs and an ethernet port, the Cambridge Minx Air 200 is still the most versatile wireless speaker we've come across.

It may not be much to look at it, but its incredible sense of scale and subtle detail far outweighs any superficial misgivings. With powerful dynamics and an open soundstage, the Minx Air 200 is a bold and enthusiastic player that holds its composure even at high volumes. We'd avoid placing the speaker too close to a wall or corner to avoid boomy bass, though.

Wireless speakers with such comprehensive connectivity are hard to come by, so if your household is a mish-mash of music sources and devices – and if you want your room filled to the brim with exciting music – this Minx Air 200 is the speaker for you.

MORE: Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 full review

 

 

Best AirPlay speaker under £500

Audio Pro Allroom Air One

5 stars

Tested at £500

From its sophisticated leather finish and equally elegant and entertaining sound, everything about the Audio Pro Allroom Air One screams quality. Refined detail and accurate timing go hand in hand with a balanced sound that's utterfly captivating. It's hardly a surprise, then, that it snagged the Best wireless speaker £400+ gong at our 2013 Awards.

Even the 'vocals ooze quality.' The Allroon Air One can handle tricky bass notes and has ample weight, all the while retaining strict control and finesse.

Alongside the usual AirPlay connectivity, you can transfer your smart device's wi-fi settings to the speaker via USB – a handy feature. An optical digital input means you can also use the speaker as a soundbar, although its height might obstruct a fraction of your TV screen.

A beautifully crafted speaker with stunning sound, this AirPlay speaker will charm you away from its £500 rivals.

MORE: Read our full Audio Pro Allroom Air One review

ALSO CONSIDER: Loewe AirSpeaker

 

 

Best AirPlay speaker under £700

B&W A7

5 stars

Tested at £700

B&A A7

£700 is quite a lot to pay for an AirPlay speaker, but the B&W A7 justifies the price with hi-fi sound quality and sheer simplicity of use. An app is all you need to set the speaker up, while 3.5mm, USB and ethernet inputs offer flexible connectivity.

A subtle but classy unit that's designed to blend into any room, the range-topping A7 impresses with incredible vocal clarity and depth of detail – it gives space to individual instruments while maintaining cohesion across complicated musical arrangements. An ability to hit deep notes with punch and weight is present here, as is a forgiving nature for more heavily compressed tracks.

Add in a multiroom feature, and the B&W A7 is on its way into the hi-fi hall of fame. It's not cheap, but the A7 is worth every penny for the exciting and involving sound quality it delivers.

MORE: Read our full B&W A7 review

 

 

Upcoming AirPlay speakers 2014

Dream Audio Dream One

Release date: Autumn 2014

Price: $599

Dream Audio Dream One

Unveiled at CES 2014, this multi-talented, multi-directional wireless speaker certainly caught our eye. All sleek aluminium and piano finish, this unusally shaped wireless speaker (which we think looks rather like a 'Dalek's kettle') uses a clever design to distribute sound evenly around the room.

Dream Audio's proprietary 'Sound Array Module' acts as a waveguide to ensure the sound is spread in a 360-degree manner, thereby supposedly eliminating the need for a traditional sweet spot.

The Dream One also boasts a long list of wired and wireless connectivity: WIFi, DLNA, Bluetooth aptX, AirPlay, USB and 3.5mm inputs are more than enough to keep everyone happy and streaming from all devices.

The Dream app uses a spatial test tone to calibrate the sound according to the speaker's surroundings, and you can also add a second Dream One speaker for a stereo set-up.

 

MORE: Best wireless speakers to buy in 2014

MORE: Best tech products to buy in 2014


By Kashfia Kabir


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