Wireless speaker tech explained: which is better Wi-Fi or Bluetooth?

Wireless speakers continue to improve each year, with tech becoming more intuitive and an ever-increasing number of well-designed models that offer impressive sound for their compact size.

While most of us are used to Bluetooth speakers, there exists another tech that your wireless speakers can use to connect to the source device and vice-versa. In addition to Bluetooth, Wi-Fi connectivity for wireless speakers is little known, but it’s steadily gaining popularity, especially for connectivity at home.

If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve used at least one wireless speaker in your home. It can be an Alexa- or Google Assistant-equipped smart speaker or a snazzy portable Bluetooth speaker. Or maybe, a multiroom speaker or a host of cable-free surround speakers.

Bluetooth speakers or wireless speakers should not be confused with smart speakers that are different tech altogether.

What’s the difference?

First, let’s define what each means.

Bluetooth speakers are speakers that connect to your devices via Bluetooth. They never connect to the internet.  They are lightweight, often made for on-the-go activities, and designed to get music in places or situations where it would otherwise be difficult to have it. Something like the Monster DNA Max and JBL Flip Series are good examples of Bluetooth speakers.

Wi-Fi speakers, on the other hand, connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network. They might, however, also support Bluetooth. These speakers can be controlled via an app, voice command, or other means, and are a perfect way to add smart features to audio in a specific location, like a kitchen, lobby, bedroom, or great room. They tend to come with more features and can be more stationary than Bluetooth speakers. Something like the Sonos One, Apple HomePod Mini, or Amazon Echo are easily some of the smart speakers around.

Now, let’s take a deep dive at specific features and how they differ between the two.

Best Bluetooth speaker 2024 main

How do they work?

Bluetooth speakers

Bluetooth speakers pair directly to your devices via Bluetooth. That means all audio from that device comes through the speaker. That’s fine if all you need is to listen to music. But that makes Bluetooth speakers less admirable for multitaskers.

Some Bluetooth speakers support multipoint pairing, so you can connect to multiple devices at the same time. Therefore, if you move your smartphone from your laptop. Your sound should follow you intelligently.

Wi-Fi speakers

Wi-Fi speakers connect to your devices over Wi-Fi. You select a playlist on – maybe Spotify – and play it directly through your speakers.

Other sounds from your device won’t be played. So, if you get a notification, want to watch a video, or take a call while listening, your music plays, uninterrupted.

Wi-Fi speakers can connect and can be controlled by other smart devices on the same network: phones, computers, tablets, and even your TV. Some Wi-Fi speakers are even compatible with voice assistants, like Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri.

bluetooth speaker

Portability and power

Bluetooth speakers are designed for portability; and, nothing beats them. Brands like JBL, Sonos, and Ultimate Ears (UE) are popular for creating speakers that can be carried anywhere, including the outdoors. Some are even small enough to clip onto a loop on a backpack, and most have resistance to water and dust; some can even survive a dip in the pool. All this is courtesy of their rechargeable batteries, which can provide at least several hours of music playback before they can be recharged.

Smart speakers, on the other hand, are less portable. They are generally meant to be placed in one central location – a shelf, desk, or table. They typically need a nearby power outlet and don’t usually have batteries.

Again, there’s some overlap between these speaker categories. Some smart speakers are highly portable, and some Bluetooth speakers aren’t meant for on-the-go, outdoor use. However, it’s more common for Bluetooth speakers to have a rechargeable battery, a handle, and resistance to water and dust.

Best Bluetooth speaker 2024

Sound quality

Bluetooth speakers are bound by their natural portability, which means their sound drivers and other components can’t be as large. With today’s technology, such small speakers can generate a lot of sound and do other impressive things with lots of sound for their size, but audio quality is often sacrificed.

Smart speakers, which tend to be centrally located and often (but not always) larger, are the clear pick when it comes to sound quality. Many smart devices support connections to TVs, speaker bars, and home entertainment systems, making them better options. Also, Wi-Fi’s higher bandwidth means you can listen in higher resolution and is also less susceptible to dropout and lag.

Voice assistants

Bluetooth speakers can have voice assistant compatibility i.e., the JBL Link Portable has Google Assistant, but it’s not guaranteed, and may not be available on smaller models. As the name suggests, they are more focused on using the Bluetooth wireless protocol for control and playback.

Wi-Fi speakers can connect to and can be controlled by other smart devices on the same network: phones, computers, tablets, and even your TV. Most of them are compatible with voice assistants, like Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri.

Best Bluetooth speakers

Range

Of the two, Bluetooth generally has a shorter range, often around 10-20m, and walls and furniture might reduce that further. So, Bluetooth speakers work best when your device is nearby.

Wi-Fi speakers work wherever there’s a good Wi-Fi connection. As long as both your speaker and device are connected to the same network, you’re good to go. That’s handy because it means you can place speakers in any room and control them from wherever you are.

If you want to switch rooms—say you’re playing music from your phone in the living room and want to head to the bathroom—you can take your phone with you without the sound cutting out.

Final thoughts

When it comes to choosing between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speakers, remember neither is better per se. Or rather, both are great, but it mostly depends on what you need them for.

If all you need is a pair of speakers for your home, that you’re going to put in a room and plug in, maybe hook up to your TV – and want to enjoy the best sound quality, smart features, and sleek design, then Wi-Fi speakers are for you.

On the other hand, if you’re after a pair of trendy, ultra-portable, water-resistant, dust-proof speakers to use on the go; maybe to the park, the beach, or parties, you can get any better than Bluetooth.

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The best Bluetooth speakers 2024

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Tribit StormBox Blast Speaker and XSound Go Speaker
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JBL CHARGE 5 - Portable Waterproof (IP67) Bluetooth Speaker with Powerbank...
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Tribit StormBox Flow Bluetooth Speaker, Portable Speaker with XBass, 30H...
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Ultimate Ears EPICBOOM, Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, Big Bass and...
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The best Wi-Fi speakers 2024

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Sonos Era 100 - Black - Wireless, Alexa Enabled Smart Speaker
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Bose SoundLink Flex Bluetooth Speaker, Portable Speaker with Microphone,...
  • STATE-OF-ART DESIGN: SoundLink Flex outdoor speaker is packed with exclusive technologies...
  • CLEAREST POSSIBLE SOUND: Proprietary Position Qtechnology automatically detects the...
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Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless Speaker, (2) 1” Tweeters, (2) 3.5”...
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Sonos Five - White - Wireless HiFi Speaker
  • Included components: Product & warranty documentation
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Sonos Roam - Black - Wireless Portable Bluetooth Speaker
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KEF LS50 Wireless II Powered Bookshelf Speakers - Pair (Titanium Grey)
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Sonos Era 300 - Black - Wireless, Alexa Enabled Smart Speaker with Dolby...
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Last update on 2024-06-17 at 09:57 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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