Don’t be fooled by its compact size. Its two tweeters and 5¼” woofer deliver ultra clear tunes whatever the volume, even when it’s cranked up to its maximum 80 Watt output. Plug in your player using the retro guitar cable, or go wireless with the Bluetooth feature.
If I were buying a Bluetooth speaker for home use, I’d get the $400 Marshall Stanmore. It sounds more refined than most competitors, has convenient bass and treble controls, and plays loud as hell without distortion—3 to 5 decibels louder than anything else we tested. I base this recommendation on a series of blind listening tests as well as professional and amateur reviews.
I also have a recommendations for speakers if you dislike the styling of the Marshall, or want to save a little money or spend more and get a speaker with Apple’s Airplay wireless music technology.
Who Should Buy This Bluetooth Speaker
Anyone looking for an easy-to-use audio system that delivers good sound quality (that doesn’t need to be portable) will find a home Bluetooth speaker a great choice.
Bluetooth is the easiest wireless audio technology to deal with. You don’t need to install an app: If you’ve been using, say, the TuneIn Radio and Pandora apps on your tablet to listen through headphones, a Bluetooth speaker lets you use those apps the same way you did before. Any Bluetooth source (tablet, phone, computer) works with any Bluetooth speaker.
Bluetooth does degrade sound quality compared to Wi-Fi-based systems like AirPlay and Sonos, but it’s unlikely you’ll hear a significant difference. Be warned, though: if you’re a serious audiophile, this kind of speaker is unlikely to please you, because none can match the sound quality of even a halfway-decent conventional stereo system.
How we decided on the Marshall Stanmore
First off, in choosing models to test, we passed on anything with an internal rechargeable battery (which we would consider portable, regardless of the size.) We concentrated on speakers around $400, which past experience has told us is the least you can reasonably expect to spend for a wireless speaker that produces decent bass and fills a room with sound. If you spend more than $400, you’ll likely get AirPlay capability and even better sound.
A good home Bluetooth speaker should have bass, midrange, and treble in natural and roughly equal proportions. The sound should be full and satisfying, and the midrange should sound smooth, without making voices sound unnaturally edgy or constricted, and the treble should let you clearly hear high-frequency sounds like the breath of a flautist. We also looked for physical controls like volume adjustment.
We used outside reviews to narrow down our final list, which included the Wren V5BT, JBL Authentics L8, Fluance Fi30, and the Marshall. I then set up a blind test pitting these speakers against each other, including myself, Wirecutter headphone editor Lauren Dragan, and frequent Wirecutter listening panelist and musician John Higgins.
Review by TIME.COM