Which is the best multi-room speaker to buy? Here are the finest we’ve reviewed
Sonos is no longer the only audio giant on a mission to dominate your house one room at a time. Bluesound, Bose, Naim and Samsung, as well as a few lesser-known brands, are exerting their multi-room chops, and the wider choice means a multi-room system is more affordable than ever.
There’s a lot more flexibility with set-up these days too. None of the multi-room systems we’ve included require a hub; you simply download an app to connect the speakers to your home network, and some will even stream via Bluetooth.
- Best overall: Sonos One
- Great sound: Naim Mu-So Qb
- Best for hi-res audio: Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i
- Great looking speakers: Ruark MRx
- Big sound: Marshall Stanmore
- Versatile multi-room: Samsung R1
- Good for big or small rooms: Riva Arena
- Ease of use: Bose SoundTouch 10
- Budget option: Jam Rhythm
A great multi-room set-up that boasts voice control
- Large music streaming service support
- Alexa functionality
- Play: 5 and Play: 3 speakers can play stereo
- Easy to use
- Lacks support for hi-res audio
Sonos offers a great variety of speaker options. There’s even an Alexa-toting smart speaker in the Sonos One.
Sonos speakers are easy to set up and connect to your home network quickly and easily. If you have a weak Wi-Fi signal, you can plug the speakers directly into your router via an ethernet cable, or alternatively, grab the Sonos Boost.
You can choose to run music from your computer, but the best source of control is the Sonos app. Available for both Android and iOS, its clean, fresh interface and universal search function make it super-easy to find your music.
With a comprehensive number of apps and a growing number of compatible speakers, Sonos is one of the best multi-room set-ups to invest in, and it’s still affordable – despite a slight price increase due to the ongoing Brexit scenario.
One of the best-sounding multi-room systems
- Premium sound and design
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Naim Uniti products can be used as network servers
Naim is one of the most respected hi-fi brands. When it launched the Mu-So wireless speaker, that seemed a bold but brilliant step into the lifestyle market. Then came the smaller, cheaper Mu-So Qb and multi-room support via the excellent Naim app, and everything fell into place.
More recently, Naim has bridged the gap between those two excellent speakers and its traditional hi-fi products by introducing the Uniti range. This features the fantastic Uniti Atom, a compact amplifier, with multi-room smarts, that can be used as a server within a Naim system – plug a music-filled USB stick into it, or connect a Uniti Core hard drive, and the files can be streamed to your other Mu-So or Uniti devices.
The Naim system certainly isn’t cheap, but it’s the best-sounding multi-room solution that still provides easy set-up and operation.
High-res performance in a versatile package
- Big sound
- AirPlay 2 compatibility
- Works with Alexa
- High-res support
- Not the smartest set-up
Bluesound’s Gen 2i range is arguably the pick for audiophiles thanks to its features and high-res music support.
There are plenty of products to mix and match, from the Pulse 2i, Pulse Mini 2i and Pulse Flex 2i wireless speakers to the Pulse Soundbar 2i and Sub, and the Node 2i and Powernode 2i for more traditional speaker set-ups.
All the speakers feature support for Apple AirPlay 2, and, thanks to a recent update, it works with Amazon Alexa (via the BluVoice interface). The speakers sound great too, big and loud with a good, crisp detail. The Node 2i music streamer is also one of the best around – its versatility makes multi-room playback very convenient.
And while there’s no support for Apple Music, most of the streaming services that matter are supported, including Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer and Napster. The Bluesound package is pricier than most, but its performance and functionality make it a worthwhile option.
Stylish, great-sounding speakers
- Gorgeous design
- Gorgeous sound
- Input flexibility
- Sluggish app
- R7 Mk3 is expensive
Ruark has a habit of making attractive, retro-styled speakers and radios – and making them sound great. The company recently brought its offerings into the realm of wireless multi-room audio with the MRx, R2 Mk3 and R7 Mk3.
The MRx was our favourite home audio product of 2018 – it’s a great wireless streaming speaker with a multitude of sources: Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, Deezer, Tidal, 3.5mm analogue, USB for hard drives and DLNA for network-stored music. You can stereo-pair it and it can also be used vertically in mono mode, making it a hugely versatile beast.
The R2 Mk3 is more of a bedside or kitchen radio in shape and function. The R7 Mk3 makes a great living-room statement piece as it’s styled like an old radiogram. Both are also Wi-Fi connected. All three can be controlled by the Ruark Link app, which isn’t as slick as Sonos – but slick enough.
Attractive speakers with a big sound
- Retro styling
- Flexible connectivity
- Decent sound
- Sonos sounds better
The Marshall multi-room system will appeal to those who enjoy the retro styling of Marshall’s inimitable amps, and has a whole host of flexible connectivity and decent sound quality to back it up.
Marshall uses Google Home to cast music direct from the streaming apps themselves, with Bluetooth connectivity to cover others, like Apple Music and Amazon Prime Music. There’s also 3.5mm aux in connections for hardwiring devices.
Marshall’s only problem is that it’s more expensive than the arguably better-sounding Sonos system.
A piece of cake to use, with hi-res support as well
- 360-degree speakers
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality
- Touch controls
- Hi-res audio support
- Sound lacks finesse
Samsung’s multi-room alternative to Sonos is wide-ranging and versatile, if not exactly cohesive when it comes to design.
The entire system is controlled via the Samsung Multiroom app, and the streaming magic happens over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Spotify, Deezer, Napster and the usual fare of apps are supported.
It’s a piece of cake getting your fleet of Samsung multi-room speakers singing in harmony throughout your house. While the R-Series is still available, Samsung’s readied its successor in the VL Series.
Riva Wand Series
Big sound from an underrated speaker brand
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Google Home support
- Quick and simple set-up
- Varied feature set
- Arena loses composure at higher volumes
Riva isn’t well-known, and its design apes that of Sonos, so it would be easy to dismiss the brand as an also-ran. That would not only be short-sighted, it’d also be completely wrong.
The system mainly works on Google Home, and set-up is quick and simple via the Google Home app. You then cast your music to the speakers direct from the streaming apps, including Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer, Google Play and Qobuz.
Unsupported services like Amazon Music and Apple Music can be played via Bluetooth, and there are also hardwired connections, including aux-in on both, and optical on the larger Riva Festival.
Decent features and performance make it worth a look
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality
- OLED displays on the SoundTouch 20 and 30
- Alexa voice control support
- Design is a bit bland
Perhaps best known for its noise-cancelling headphones, Bose has delivered a high-performing collection of multi-room speakers in its SoundTouch range. The system offers multi-room audio streaming via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth playback from a smartphone, tablet or computer.
One neat little feature is an array of six preset buttons on each speaker in the range, allowing you to jump directly to your favourite internet radio stations or playlists with a single press. You can quickly set up and change your favourite go-to stations using the app.
Jam Smart Sound
Multi-room sound on a budget
- Spotify, Tidal, Tunein support
- Better suited for small rooms
- Enjoyable sound
- Less variety than more expensive efforts
- Not the most stylish
The Jam Smart Sound multi-room system features two speakers for round-the-house fun: Jam Rhythm and Jam Symphony. The mid-sized Rhythm is better suited to kitchens, bedrooms and offices, while the Symphony brings booming bass to larger spaces for double the price.
While Jam’s offering has less variety than some of the big multi-room families in this round-up, it is the most affordable.
Control is via Jam’s app, available for both iOS and Android, and there’s also an intercom feature in case you need to announce home time to your party guests through your multi-room set-up, Big Brother-style.
All of the multi-room speakers in our round-up are Android and iOS compatible, but it’s important to make sure the system you choose can stream the content you want. Some speakers will happily stream from any music app you like, while others are limited to the likes of Spotify, Deezer and Tidal.
The beauty of a multi-room system is that you can build on it over time. If your dream of Sonos heaven is stifled by your budget, you can always invest in just a couple of speakers to begin with and then add more later.
If you’re too impatient to wait, you might want to consider some of the cheaper set-ups on the market. The Jam Smart Sound multi-room system was already affordable compared to its rivals and has dropped even further in price, to the point where you can start building a multi-room system with the Jam Rhythm speaker for less than £50. You can add the Jam Symphony for only £50 more if you want some room-shaking bass.
Of course, it’s never going to be cheap bringing the audio cavalry into your house, but there’s a system here for everyone.
Alternatively, head to our Best Bluetooth Speakers guide if you’re after that one winning speaker.
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