The wireless speaker market has transformed and evolved in leaps and bounds in recent years. The different forms, shapes and types of wireless streaming on offer are more varied than before, and nowhere is that more evident than in the best wireless speakers category at this year's What Hi-Fi? 2023 Awards.
Our wireless speaker Best Buy winners are divided into two categories: home (for mains-powered units) and portable (battery-powered, on-the-go options), and six products in total that won trophies this year. But it was two new 2023 products from two tech giants – Apple HomePod 2 and Sonos Era 300 – that ousted old favourites to shake things up.
Both new speakers impressed us when we reviewed them (both five stars, naturally), delivering ease of use, smart voice control (Siri in HomePod, Alexa and Sonos's own in Era 300) and excellent sound quality for the money. The HomePod 2 (Best home wireless speaker £100-£300) is a refined, smarter and brilliantly well-made speaker that's an irresistible choice for Apple users – we're fond of its natural, energetic sound and subtle way with voices (which we preferred over the similarly-priced Sonos Era 100).
Both speakers, incidentally, also feature spatial audio. It's with the distinctive Era 300 that we were genuinely wowed by spatial audio tracks for the first time. At double the money of the HomePod 2, it delivers a convincingly immersive, engulfing sound that is worthy of praise and bagging the Best home wireless speaker £300-£500 category win. You also get far more versatile choices of streaming features with the Sonos for the higher price, too.
In their price brackets, the new Apple and Sonos speakers knock out the previous favourites at this price: the multiple Award-winning Audio Pro Addon C10 MkII and the Addon C3. While the Audio Pros are enjoyable, musical performers, we found the new Apple and Sonos speakers offered fresher design, newer features and delivered more expansive, expressive and engaging sound overall. Worthy winners, indeed.
- See all What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 winners in every category
At either ends of the price scale, however, we see repeat winners. On the budget end, the JBL Charge 5 Bluetooth speaker and the Apple HomePod Mini smart speaker retain their wins in the portable and home categories respectively, despite plenty of new competition. The Charge 5 (best portable wireless speaker under £200) delivers the perfect mix of rugged portability, strong basic features and clear, punchy, organised sound quality that still entertains above all – it offers the best value for its £130-£160 price.
Apple sees both current HomePods take wins this year, with the smaller, cheaper, HomePod Mini (Best home wireless speaker under £100) still impressing us. It might seem restrictive (Siri works best with an Apple Music subscription), but this tiny, mighty speaker isn't just for iOS users, and we remain amazed at the solid, subtle sound and excellent overall tonal balance and volume you get from this dinky speaker that costs under £99 – Apple's cheapest product by miles.
The Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Gen and Dali Katch G2 remain worthy winners at the premium end, showing that wireless speakers can deliver elevated audio performance that's a shade away from traditional hi-fi set-ups. Despite stiff competition from the likes of the new JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi, Sonos Move 2 and Ultimate Ears Epicboom, the Dali Katch G2 – the best portable wireless speaker over £200 for another year running – remains unbeaten for pure audio fidelity. For a Bluetooth-only speaker at £349, its clear, insightful, deftly dynamic and musical prowess is unmatched. While others might shout about more features and a bigger scale of sound, the Katch G2 is a beautifully made portable speaker that keeps things simple and focused on the music.
The Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation remains the best home high-end option over £500, and unless you're looking at stereo speaker systems (such as the KEF LSX II) there isn't a single unit that performs at such a high level. A multiple Award winner that keeps its crown for yet another year, it's packed with streaming features and offers a richly textured, large-scaled sound that's full of drive, energy and layers of detail that's far beyond what you'd expect from a relatively compact one-box speaker.
Our Awards season doesn't end here. Out of these six Best Buy winners, only one will take away the coveted Product of the Year prize for the wireless speaker category – this will be revealed on November 15th. Stay tuned to whathifi.com during the evening (GMT) to find out whether we'll see a repeat winner in the Naim or a brand new contender to the throne.
Discover all the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2023 winners across hi-fi and AV categories
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