Best Sonos Alternatives 2021: Multi-Room Wi-Fi Home Speaker Systems - Rolling Stone
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The Best Alternatives to Sonos Speakers

Superior audio quality in streamlined speaker systems

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Sonos helped pioneer the Wi-Fi connected speaker, but that has become very popular over the past few years. Don’t get us wrong, Sonos still makes incredible hardware, but it’s important to think about all of your options before committing to a connected speaker system.

Unlike Bluetooth speakers, connected speakers are designed to work alone and as part of a larger, multi-room audio system. For the best experience, you should pick a speaker from one particular company, and continue adding more of its gear to your home.

There’s no wrong answer, but starting a connected speaker system does require a little bit of foresight. Think about where you’ll put this first speaker, and how many more you think you’ll need over time. If you want to get a connected speaker, and want to know what’s out there besides Sonos, these are your best options.

What Are the Best Sonos Alternatives?

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best home connected speaker for you; below are the most important ones, which we considered while we were researching this list.

Size: All of our recommendations are bookshelf-sized speakers, which means they’re small enough to carry comfortably from room to room. They do need to be plugged into an outlet at all times, though.

Stereo Pairing: Like most wireless speakers, a majority Sonos alternatives in our guide play music in mono. Some offer the option to play music in true stereo if you get two of them, though.

Smart Features: Some of the connected speakers we’re recommending work with smart assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant, which allows you to use them completely hands free. This is especially convenient if you want to play music or a podcast on your speaker without picking up your phone.

Inputs: One of the big benefits of getting a connected speaker is the ability to stream audio to it over Wi-Fi, but some of our picks have additional inputs (commonly known as ports), which allow you to connect them to non-Wi-Fi enabled audio gear.

1. Denon Home 150

Denon Home 150

Amazon

Denon’s Home 150 is our favorite connected speaker — and the best Sonos alternative — because it has features we haven’t seen before.

The midsized speaker has a pair of drivers: one 3.5-inch mid-bass woofer and a 1-inch tweeter. Dual-driver speakers produce a better balanced sound, and allow you to hear all of the elements in the music you’re listening to instead of one overpowering another.

The two drivers are powered by a custom-tuned digital signal processor, an amplifier that intelligently decides which sounds need to be sent to which driver so music sounds its best. This speaker’s audio hardware is top-notch, but what really makes it stick out are its connectivity options.

The mono speaker can be connected with one of Denon’s other connected speakers to create a stereo pair. You can stream music to it using Denon’s app (iOS and Android), Bluetooth, or AirPlay 2 (Apple’s propitiatory standard). You can make it a network connected speaker by plugging it into your wireless router with an Ethernet cable, connect an MP3 player into its AUX input, or play music files directly off a flash drive by using its USB port.

We’ve never seen this level of versatility from a single connected speaker before — the USB port is particularly impressive. If you want a connected speaker that sounds great and can be used with any device in your home, this is the one to get.

Buy: Denon Home 150 Wireless Speaker at $249.00

2. Echo Studio

Amazon Echo Studio

Amazon

Amazon’s Echo Studio is the company audiophile smart speaker, and it’s a solid choice if you want to do more than just play music.

The speaker has a five-driver design that sounded pretty good in our tests. It’s more advanced than the audio hardware you’d find in a typical connected speaker, but there’s a good reason for that. The Echo Studio can play music mixed for Dolby Atmos, a new audio standard that sends music toward you, above you, and below you to fully immerse you in music. The Echo Studio can pull this surround sound-like effect off on its own, but we recommend pairing two together for an even better experience.

Its Dolby Atmos performance was solid, but there aren’t very many tracks you can stream in this format. Additionally, you’ll need to use a high resolution streaming service like Amazon Music HD if you want to listen this way.

When it comes to connectivity, you can play music in three ways: Asking Alexa, plugging something into the Echo Studio’s AUX input, or using its Toslink input (used for high resolution audio). In our testing we primarily used Alexa, which worked very well. The Echo Studio’s microphones always picked up our requests, and we were able to link the speaker up to a number of different streaming services, including Apple Music.

The reason to get the Amazon Echo Studio over other connected speakers is because Alexa can be used for more than playing music. You can use the smart assistant to get answers to your questions, set timers, or control smart-home accessories.

If you want a great-sounding connected speaker system that can play music without you even touching your phone, this is it.

Buy: Amazon Echo Studio at $199.99

3. Kef LSX

KEF LSX

Amazon

Kef’s LSX is a wireless, connected audio system built into a pair of bookshelf speakers. Both of the speakers need to be connected to a power source. They can be connected to one another wirelessly, or tethered together with an Ethernet cable.

What makes the LSX stand out is that this system was clearly designed for audiophiles. Everything from its sleek look to its single, custom-designed driver is very impressive. KEF has a long history in the world of high-end audio gear, and it’s brought all of that energy and knowledge into these speakers.

While most high-end speakers have a pair of drivers — including both of our other recommendations in this guide — KEF placed the tweeter in the middle of its woofer. All of the sound comes from a single source without losing audio quality. If you want some extra low-end, you can attach a subwoofer to this set of speakers.

You can stream music to them over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, an AUX cable, or an optical audio cable. It has a full-sized USB port that can charge your devices, and an Ethernet port that allows you to connect it to your home network, where it’ll be accessible to computers without Wi-Fi turned on.

The speakers an play high resolution (better than CD-quality) music over a cable, or when listening to music from certain high-end streaming services.

Kef’s LSX is a modern, wireless-first take on a traditional audio system. If you want connected speakers for your listening room, living room, or bedroom, this is the set to get.

Buy: Kef LSX at $1,187.48

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