SOUND AND BEAUTY
The Best Looking Speakers That Look As Good As They Sound
Traditional speakers have never been the most elegant looking things. Here are some unique, great-sounding alternatives for your house.
Traditional speakers have never been the most elegant looking things, with most opting for the typical “big black box in the corner” look. And sure, while Sonos provides easy multi-room audio from all your favorite streaming services—without looking ugly—they aren’t exactly pushing the boundaries of style. Here are some unique, great-sounding alternatives for your house.
Marshall’s Acton, Stanmore, and Woburn are arguably some of the best-known, retro-stylish speakers on the market right now, sporting a guitar amp-inspired look and remarkably good sound for the price. Each comes in a slightly different size (with the $280 Acton being the smallest, the $350 Stanmore in the middle, and the $500 Woburn on the larger end) but all have the same basic feature set: control knobs along the top for volume, bass, and treble, plus Bluetooth, RCA, and 3.5mm inputs. The Acton and Stanmore also support Wi-Fi connectivity and have Alexa built-in for hands-free music—the Woburn does not, but you can add Alexa functionality by bundling it with an Echo Input.
If the guitar amp style isn’t really for you, but you like the idea of a more retro look, check out Klipsch’s competing wireless speakers—oddly named The One and The Three. The style is a bit more traditional, with wood grain on the edges and Klipsch’s signature copper accents on the knobs. Like Marshall’s speakers, Klipsch’s line ranges in size and price, with The One clocking in at $250 and its larger brother at $490, both of which come in a variety of colors. The One is mainly a Bluetooth speaker, though it also includes a 3.5mm input, while The Three adds USB and Wi-Fi options for higher quality sound. You can even set up multiple Threes for multi-room audio using either Klipsch’s Stream Wireless system or DTS’ Play-Fi.
Tivoli takes this idea a step further, emulating the look of an old-school radio with their line of wireless speakers. The $180 Model One supports Bluetooth, 3.5mm, and FM radio, while the $300 Model One Digital adds Wi-Fi so you can listen to Spotify right on the speaker. You can set them up for multi-room audio with the $150 Cube or the $190 Sphera, or go all-out with the $600 Music System that supports CDs and has an alarm clock built-in (if you’re old school like that). If you like the idea of an internet radio but Tivoli’s options are a little too retro, Como Audio’s Solo and Duetto might be for you instead, with a small screen on the front that integrates with different internet radio services.
For something a bit more unique, Bowers & Wilkins have a few stylish options. The T7 (which seems to be low in stock, but is available refurbished from Amazon) is a portable Bluetooth speaker you can pick up and move anywhere, though its novel appearance will make it look like it was meant to be part of your home. The Zeppelin isn’t quite as unique, but will blend in nicely without looking too much like “just another speaker.” If you have more than a few hundred dollars to spend, though, Martin Logan’s $1000 Crescendo X—which comes in Walnut and Black—looks fantastic, and can stream AirPlay, Play-Fi, or Bluetooth, along with its optical, analog, and Ethernet inputs. And while none of these speakers have Alexa built-in, you can always add it using the aforementioned Echo Input—though with speakers that sound this good, you may want an Echo Link and Dot combo, which will transfer your audio at a higher quality than the Input.
If money is no object, Bang & Olufsen’s wireless Beosound series has a host of stylish speakers ranging from the 360-degree, Google Assistant-enabled BeoSound 1 to the wall-mountable BeoSound 35, the large disc-like Beoplay A9, and the decorative wall tiles of the BeoSound Shape. All of these support protocols like Apple’s AirPlay, Google’s ChromeCast, DLNA, and Bluetooth, and you can connect them all for multi-room audio throughout your house. You’ll pay a few thousand dollars for these speakers, though, so they aren’t for the faint of heart—but if you want something truly unique that sounds incredible, Bang & Olufsen is one of the most interesting companies in audio today. (And hey, if you think that’s expensive, at least they’re not the Sonus Faber SF16.)
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