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Choosing speakers for your iPhone or iPad

Bluetooth, Apple AirPlay, Wi-Fi and wired

David Brown is a member of Crutchfield's Home A/V writing team. He studied writing and politics at Ithaca College in upstate New York, where he grew up. He spent 12 years in Washington, D.C., where he earned a Masters degree in journalism and wrote an award-winning humor column. David relocated to Charlottesville, VA, in 2012. He enjoys listening to music, playing the guitar and piano, and hiking with his wife and children.

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Speakers for iPhone and iPad

Newsflash: your iPhone is a gateway to a world of music! But you already knew that. So the question is: how do you play all those millions of tracks (as well as sound for TV shows, movies, and games) through a speaker? I’ll walk you through the options, starting with the simplest.

The easiest, most cost-effective solution: a Bluetooth speaker

It doesn’t get much simpler or more convenient than a portable Bluetooth speaker. It’s compact, you can take it anywhere, and it’ll play any audio that your phone can play. Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, that cute video of your dog barking at the TV – if it makes sound on your phone, you can hear it through a Bluetooth speaker.

Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker II

The Bose® SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth® speaker II and your iPhone is all you need for great sound just about anywhere.

Pairing your phone to a Bluetooth speaker is very easy. Watch the video below if you don’t believe me.

Portable Bluetooth speakers have another benefit: they all have built-in batteries. That means you can charge them up and take them anywhere. Every other category of speaker needs to be plugged in to work. Keep that in mind when you see the term wireless – it’s referring to a wireless connection to your phone. There’s no getting around the power cable.

A bigger, better Bluetooth speaker

If a Bluetooth speaker sounds good, but you want better sound, get a wireless home speaker. These are single speaker systems that you put in a room and leave there. They’re a little bigger and need to be plugged in all the time. But they can offer really nice sound with your phone.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless

Some powered home speakers, like the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless, have both AirPlay and Bluetooth built in.

Most wireless home speakers have Bluetooth. There are others that have Apple AirPlay – that’s another easy way to stream music wireless from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.

Need help deciding between speakers with Bluetooth or AirPlay? Good news – most speakers with AirPlay also have Bluetooth. Check them out here.  

Watch this video to learn more about the differences between AirPlay and Bluetooth.

Want speakers in more than one room?

Music isn’t just for the living room – it’s for the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom, and everywhere else in your house. If you’re shopping for more than one speaker, you should consider a wireless multi-room system. These are wireless home speakers that can play independently or in sync with each other – all controlled with an app on your phone.

Wireless multi-room system

A wireless multi-room audio system can play different music in different rooms.

The most popular multi-room system is Sonos. It’s a great place to start if you’re interested in multi-room systems. Sonos (like all multi-room systems) uses Wi-Fi to stream music from the cloud using your phone as a controller. It’s compatible with all the big music services, like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora.

Want a multi-room speaker that also has Bluetooth? Check out Yamaha MusicCast, Bluesound, or Bose SoundTouch. Read our rundown of multi-room systems for more info.

Step up to stereo sound

Single speakers are convenient. But there’s something special about true stereo sound coming from separate left and right speakers. You get a better sense of how the music is supposed to sound, with more detail and an accurate image of where the musicians are in the mix.

You can get a pair of powered stereo speakers with Bluetooth built in. That makes it easy to stream from your iPhone wirelessly to the speakers. And because the power is built in, you don’t need a separate receiver or amp.

Audioengine HD3 powered stereo speakers

Audioengine's HD3 powered speakers have Bluetooth built in for listening wireless from your phone.

Many powered stereo speaker systems also have inputs for connecting other sources. So if you have a turntable or a disc player, you could connect those as well.

Get a complete stereo system

Want to go all the way and get a killer music system that works with your iPhone? Call, email, or chat, and we’ll be happy to help you match bookshelf or floor-standing speakers with a receiver or amplifier

We're also starting to put some complete systems together, matching speakers to amps and even including wire. All these systems have Bluetooth, so you can use your phone as the source.

Our first system matches a Yamaha stereo receiver to some of our most popular Klipsch bookshelf speakers. Check it out here.

The beauty of these systems is that you can upgrade them over time. Maybe you have a small apartment now. When you move into a bigger place in a few years, you can upgrade those speakers. Or if some awesome new technology comes along in five years, you can upgrade the receiver. 

Last updated April 05, 2017

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