How do I get all these tunes in my rooms?
April 6, 2016 12:18 PM   Subscribe

Help me decide which permanently-situated (more or less) Bluetooth speaker to buy. No batteries required.

I would like to buy a Bluetooth speaker to put on top of my kitchen cabinets so that I can have wonderful sounds in that room and the surrounding area. Details:

- corded power, not battery. I do not have any plans to move it.
- under $200

that's about it, really. I don't plan on playing anything so loud that it would interrupt the tenant on the other side of the wall. On the other hand, the kitchen and dining room and living room are all one big long room with a very high ceiling so it does need to have some umph to it so that it doesn't just sound like tinny whispering all the way down by the couch.

I'm considering the Marshall Acton M-whatever which is right now going for the top of my budget on Amazon. I believe that's The Wirecutter's Budget Pick for home Bluetooth speakers.

But hey, maybe you know something better that's treated you awesome so far and you want to make sure I don't make the wrong life decision so help me out here.
posted by komara to Technology (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Amazon's Alexa works as a bluetooth speaker, is corded, has fantastic sound quality, and if you have prime is a neat interface to a huge library of tunes. And it's under $200. I bought one a year ago and love it for the hands free aspect in the kitchen.
posted by cosmicbandito at 12:20 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

This Anker model lives in my very own kitchen. I leave it plugged in most of the time, but it also does have a pretty phenomenal battery life. It has the ability to be very loud if you want it to be. Umph it does have.

It also has the bonus of being 20% or so of your budget. But, you'll need to find a USB charger for it, and maybe a longer USB charging cable.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:38 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

These live in my bedroom and I'm pretty happy with them.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:51 PM on April 6, 2016

I quite like my Sony wireless bluetooth speaker.

It has a battery but I don't think there are many corded standalone speakers these days.
posted by My Dad at 12:52 PM on April 6, 2016

2nd'ing Alexa. Works by Bluetooth. And Wireless!

I can play Spotify by connecting with BLuetooth, or just saying "Alex play ____ playlist on Spotify"
posted by jander03 at 1:23 PM on April 6, 2016

Because Bluetooth can have some range and quality issues, I might actually go for some kind of speaker connected to a Chromecast audio, which goes over wi-fi instead. Couple friends of mine were looking into the same idea you had, and ended up going that way because a. cheaper per audio quality, b. wifi.
posted by General Malaise at 1:46 PM on April 6, 2016

I have both Chromecast audio and bluetooth speakers. I use Chromecast audio in my home office, connected to the audio-in of my stereo system. I use my phone or tablet to control it.

I use the bluetooth speaker bar in the kitchen.

I think the challenge with Chromecast audio in the kitch is that it has to be powered, and there are fewer electrical outlets to dedicate to it.
posted by My Dad at 1:56 PM on April 6, 2016

I have an Amazon Echo and it's just OK. The single mono speaker is acceptable for talk radio but it doesn't really have much range.

I have used a Sony "h.ear go" portable speaker and it sounds really, really good. It has an amazing amount of low end for such a small speaker. You can plug it in but it also has a battery to move around.

And best of all - it works with bluetooth, has Google Cast built in and also works via aux-in if you have something else you want to plug in. And it works as a speakerphone headset over bluetooth as well. The setup app is not good, but once you set it up you don't have to deal with it any more.

It's exactly $200 but having listened to a lot of bluetooth speakers, it's much better quality.
posted by GuyZero at 2:01 PM on April 6, 2016

I've been very happy with the cheapest Sonos player - here, which runs over wifi rather than bluetooth. It is $200 and plugs directly to the wall. I use it with streaming radio stations and Amazon Prime music. It also does locally-stored-on-your-phone, Spotify and the newish Apple Music thing.

- Has some limited memory; I use mine to listen to the same streaming radio station all the time and I usually don't have to set it up, just hit the physical start button.
- Can control on the fly from multiple sources without having to explicitly disconnect/reconnect, from different phones or computers. Nice if you aren't the only one living there; anyone on your wifi network can use it.
- Has alarm clock and sleep timer modes.
- Has some neat pairing features if you buy more speakers in the future
- Doesn't use up your phone battery, if you are using a cloud service.

- No AUX in

My complaints on bluetooth / portable speakers in general that lead to me switching to a wifi speaker:
- If you have a phone call come in while you are connected to the speaker, it can be a pain to the speakers unpaired before the call goes to voicemail.
- Sometimes the portable speakers have an annoying low battery warning that always seems to go off at 3AM.
posted by fbo at 2:23 PM on April 6, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just got a bluetooth speaker this week for my husband's birthday, spent a lot of time researching specifically bluetooth speakers without batteries, for music in our house.

After a lot of investigation, the main contenders for home systems lately are the Bose Soundtouch 10, the Sonos Play 1, and the Harman Kardon Omni 10. They are all under USD200, as they're just over CAD200 right now.

These three are all designed for corded power, wireless music. They all have bluetooth and wifi ability. They all have apps to use for playing music to them via wifi, and you can connect multiple speakers via wifi as well. The Bose and HK have aux jacks.

I found the first two in a store so I could compare them together... bose usually makes great systems but this one I found tinny and lacking. The Sonos Play 1 sounded better and frankly I thought looks better. But I was also looking at a few Harman Kardons (including the Onyx II - looks cool... but couldn't find a comparison to the other ones I was looking at.) I found this review online comparing the Sonos Play 1 and HK Omni 10, and what clinched my decision was hearing that the guy tried both out with people in a blind sound test and the Omni 10 was the winner 8/10 times.

For a quick comparison of my three and your marshall, here's a spec comparing tool.
posted by lizbunny at 3:11 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

If putting the speaker above some kitchen cabinets then the friction involved with Bluetooth would be a dealbreaker for me. Typically the speaker is going to need to be re-paired regularly or if anyone else wants to stream then paired again. That requires physically interacting with the speaker, which is sitting up there on that cabinet. Bluetooth range would also be an issue, especially if you walk around your home with the paired phone in your pocket. I'd go with a wifi option like a Chromecast or other wifi-supported speaker as suggested above.
posted by homesickness at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've never had a BT speaker before, but recently bought one because I'm currently on the road a lot. So: I've been doing a bit of research this last month, test-driving different models in Best Buy etc and, long story short: I've been pretty alarmed by the relationship between cost and sound quality - from what I found, it kinda feels like more money's getting you nicer packaging to give you the impression that you're getting better sound for your extra $$$'s.

What I settled on was this Sol Republic Deck which had great reviews (the non-refurb model has a 4.5* Amazon rating) and cost $200 when first released, but still my expectations were low - and frankly I rate it as just "OK" for the $30 I paid for the refurb (I would've had a *fit* if I'd paid $200 for it).

TL;DR - don't assume that price equates to quality, or believe what you read in the reviews: buying a speaker without hearing it is like buying perfume without smelling it - 100% get into a store to test drive whatever you narrow your options down to (there's loads on display in big box stores).

(FWIW: my motive for buying a BT speaker was portability - if I was buying something easy to use that wasn't going to be moved, I'd get some small Mackie active speakers and connect my device with an aux cable.)
posted by 7 Minutes of Madness at 6:46 PM on April 6, 2016

Man, I really appreciate all of your input. Thank you very much.

I have a second application that could use a BT speaker so for now I'm going with the cheap action - the Anker that furnace.heart mentioned. If it's good, it can stay in the kitchen and I'll buy another. If it sucks, it can go to the less-important application, and then I'll buy something higher up on the list.

For the record, I had used wi-fi before (an Apple Airport and some old PC speakers) and didn't like it - it felt clumsy, and sometimes data would drop. This was years ago and I'm hearing that perhaps there are better options now.
posted by komara at 8:00 PM on April 6, 2016

I bought a small Bluetooth dongle and plugged it in to my normal speakers.
posted by katrielalex at 2:27 AM on April 7, 2016

I've also got an Anker Bluetooth speaker in my bedroom. It's a smaller cube, but can be plugged in, or use batteries. It's sufficiently loud, easy to use, and very out of the way.
posted by culfinglin at 10:52 AM on April 7, 2016

The Anker arrived today. Even while testing and charging it at work I realized it would never do for top-of-the-cabinets operation - it turns off after some duration of inactivity, even when plugged in to power.

Other than that, though, it's pretty nice. I like the look and feel, and the volume is totally appropriate for the rooms. I'd love some more bass to it, but you know what they say, "People who bought $40 speakers can't be choosers."
posted by komara at 8:34 PM on April 11, 2016

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