Is there a resonable play-only wireless speaker?
June 10, 2020 5:51 PM   Subscribe

I would like a speaker that can connect to WiFi and play music streamed from my computer. Searches for this mainly bring up smart speakers, but I don't want to be recorded, just play music. Does this exist?

Bluetooth speakers don't work that well, so I'm wondering about WiFi options. I'm also open to being told that a WiFi speaker is a bad idea if there are security or other problems that I don't know about.
posted by medusa to Shopping (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sonos. Most (all?) of their products have smart assistant microphones built in but because they support multiple services, it doesn't do anything unless you give specifically set it up with Google or Amazon. You can play music without setting that up. IKEA also sells a few WiFi speakers that use Sonos circuitry inside.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 5:56 PM on June 10

The Sonos One SL was made for people like us. No microphone, no spying assistant. I have two. Work great.
posted by advicepig at 6:07 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

By the time the put a wifi chip in there, with the ability to interact enough to provide it network credentials -- well, that's a computer, and they may as well call it "smart" and price it higher.

If you don't mind tinkering for an hour or so, you can put a Raspberry Pi together with a cheap bookshelf speaker, and have it be an AirPlay target. Much cheaper than a Sonos device, but it takes a bit of your time. These days, many of us have time on our hands -- if not, buy the Sonos. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:25 PM on June 10

This is kind of what the Chromecast Audio does. It isn't a speaker itself it just plugs into one but then from your computer or mobile device you can send your music to it. Or yeah, with the Raspberry Pi you could install something like this on it and connect that to your speaker.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:33 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]

The google home and google nest mini both have microphone switches - if you turn the microphone off it does not listen. You can then cast audio from your computer to the device.
posted by trialex at 7:07 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

I'm happy with my UE Roll, that particular model is discontinued now but they've got a whole line of bluetooth speakers that are just speakers. Ultimate Ears.
posted by rodlymight at 8:27 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]

Thirding Sonos, particularly the One SL for your microphoneless needs. Unfortunately (for reasons of thrift) they really come into their own when you have more than one, for multi-room sound.
posted by mumkin at 8:58 PM on June 10

Neglected to mention the IKEA Symfonisk, which is essentially a somewhat bulkier, $99 microphoneless Sonos One. If you want to see if Sonos works for you, that's your lowest-risk entry point.
posted by mumkin at 9:01 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]

the Ikea Symfonisk is working well for me.
posted by kbuxton at 10:01 PM on June 10

must it connect via wifi? If you computer has bluetooth, there are abundant bluetooth speakers and mini shelf systems at all price ranges.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:39 AM on June 11

I have the Chromecast audio, plugged into an old stereo, and I have a Google Home which I got free with some promotion, and on which I leave the microphone firmly turned off. (You do have to set it up with your Google account to have it work, though, but then you can restrict it from ever doing anything other than playing your music). The Home works better than the Chromecast. The Chromecast was great at first, but now it disconnects from the network randomly every day or two and I have to redo the set up process from scratch, which is very irritating.
posted by lollusc at 1:56 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

Oh, every few weeks the Google Home randomly and plaintively reminds me that the microphone is off and begs me to let it spy on me again (and it does this out loud with a disembodied woman's voice, which was terrifying the first time) but I just ignore it and it continues to work fine without.
posted by lollusc at 1:58 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]

Seconding Ultimate Ears (UE). I have a few of them, (you can even connect theme as left and right speakers.) They put out very decent quality audio for the price and most importantly for me anyway, they don’t listen in to your conversations.
posted by Jubey at 3:29 AM on June 11

I would not trust a Google, Amazon or Apple speaker, even if the microphone is supposed to be turned off, because they need to be connected to your account to work at all. But if you get a speaker from a third-party provider Sonos or IKEA (or my favourite, Libratone), then if you don’t actively connect it to an account it won’t be sending your data anywhere, even if it has the physical capability to do so.
posted by riddley at 6:28 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]

I should note that I have checked that the microphone switch is really doing the thing, by looking at the page which lets you see the most recent commands you gave your Google Home, both with and without the microphone on. With the microphone off, nothing is being added to those records. Of course it could be a big conspiracy where Google is secretly still recording and blocking it from appearing in your data list, but that would have to be deliberate and it's a lot of work and risk for not much gain, given how few people leave the microphones switched off.

If we are going to assume that level of secret squirrel behaviour, the SONOS or IKEA speakers could also be recording your voice and sending it somewhere - just without a connection to any account info. Once something has WIFI access, anything is possible.

You could also check external traffic from your home wifi, with and without the microphone on. I have not bothered, since I was satisfied with the results of the checking I describe above, but it would definitely tell you for sure.
posted by lollusc at 8:51 PM on June 11

I have three pair of Monoprice Monolith MM-3 speakers. Intended to be computer or multimedia speakers, they are small, dead simple powered speakers that sound very good. Near-audiophile good and better than many short-field monitors costing substantially more. Bluetooth Apt-X and analog input. Bluetooth works well. On sale right now for $160. Usually $200. They ship with small angled stands to project sound at a slight upward angle if used on a desktop.
posted by bz at 10:56 PM on June 11

JBL Playlist speakers have no microphone, they can only receive commands over WiFi. I know this because I bought one expecting to be able to speak to it. I'm still happy despite the lack of a mic because that wasn't a key feature for me and the sound quality is even better than expected. They're a bit pricey but worth it, and you can get used ones for 30-50% off if you watch Amazon and eBay.

They have Spotify Connect and Chromecast support so one of those companies will be monitoring you as much as possible, but not recording you.
posted by Tehhund at 4:42 PM on June 14

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