If you’re a fan of Apple’s eccentric ecosystem, we’ve got some good news: AirPlay is back in the headlines. Sure, the feature became a side note as people started to care more about Sonos, Spotify Connect and Google Cast, but the Cupertino-based hardware and software maker is ready to make some waves.
The reason, in case you missed it, is that AirPlay 2 – the next generation of its cutting-edge proprietary wireless platform – has arrived.
AirPlay 2 turns the streaming standard into a proper multi-room platform – even adding Siri integration into speakers that never would’ve had it before.
To prepare you for the world of Apple-friendly wireless speakers that’s about to enter a renaissance, here are the best Apple AirPlay speakers on the market.
The best AirPlay speakers in 2018:
1. Sonos Beam
This is the AirPlay-friendly soundbar we’ve been waiting for
Great compact design
HDMI ARC compatible
No Dolby Atmos
If you’re looking for an AirPlay speaker that can not only stream music, but tackle TV audio as well, the Sonos Beam is the best option money can buy. It’s a fantastic soundbar for its price, one that takes full advantage of the Sonos ecosystem as well as Apple’s and is a joy to use (and set up, if your television has HDMI ARC). Its smaller form factor means it’s a device that will sit comfortably next to a 32-inch TV but it’s got enough of a footprint to not be dwarfed by a much bigger set.
If you’re an Apple enthusiast – but also enjoy additional functionality like Amazon Alexa support and the possibility of multi-room audio via Sonos products – you can’t do any better than this.
Read the full review: Sonos Beam
2. Naim Mu-so Qb
Big sound and stylish looks in a petite AirPlay-ready package
Small form factor
Full and vibrant sound
Setup can be painful
Naim makes some of the most stylish wireless speakers available and the Naim Mu-so Qb, a smaller version of the Mu-so soundbar released in 2014, is no exception.
In simplest terms, it’s a speaker cube that adds style to just about any room. And yes, these are our words, not Naim’s. The fabric grille on its sides is curved and a glass-like acrylic block at its bottom makes the Qb look like it’s floating. (Sort of.)
It also has a striking control wheel up top, and lit touch buttons that control playback away from your phone.
The Naim Muso Qb sound is lively, with great bass for its size, and good soundstage separation for a wireless speaker. It uses tilted drivers to make dispersal as wide and stereo-like as possible. This isn’t just an AirPlay speaker, either: It has Bluetooth, multi-room using the Naim app, a USB port for direct playback and a digital connector that lets you plug in your TV or AV receiver.
Performance, portability and versatility? It doesn’t get much better than this.
Read the full review: Naim Mu-so Qb
3. Orbitsound Dock E30
A small speaker that uses Airsound magic to fill larger rooms
Wide sound dispersal
Lots of lifestyle features
Airsound feature has issues
The Orbitsound Dock E30 has a lot going for it: This is a speaker with quite a few extra features, and while it might not match everyone’s home decor, it certainly tries its best to avoid looking like a plain plastic speaker.
Some highlights of the design are the groove in which you can rest your tablet or phone and you can also wirelessly charge your phone using a Qi panel on the top. Check online to see if your phone supports this standard. It doesn’t? There’s also a USB port on the front to let you plug-in your charge cable.
The Orbitsound Dock E30 has a different approach to sound too. It uses clever side-firing speakers that separate out the ambient parts of a song’s mix to increase the width of the sound. This occasionally gets confused with some songs but for the most part the sound is great for a fairly low-profile speaker.
Read the full review: Orbitsound Dock E30
4. Riva Arena
A flexible AirPlay-capable speaker, but one that makes some big compromises
Excellent sound quality
More flexible with Android than iOS
Expensive battery pack
The Riva Arena is about as close as you can get to a Sonos One with AirPlay on-board. To that point, sound quality is the best feature here.
Like other Riva speakers, the Arena has carefully crafted mids that make vocals sound well-textured and warm. It doesn’t throw out as wide a soundstage as some, but you can pair two Arenas together, like smart bookshelf speakers.
This is also a speaker that wants to let you connect anything. It has Bluetooth as well as Wi-Fi/AirPlay, and Spotify Connect too. A 3.5mm aux input on the back lets other devices get involved.
There’s no battery in the Arena as standard, but you can buy a battery pack that slots onto the bottom for 20 hours of adapter-free use. It’s not cheap, though. And that’s the issue with the Arena: no part of it screams value.
It’s more expensive than the Sonos One, which may be less flexible without Apple AirPlay, but makes up for it with voice assistant support.
Read the full review: Riva Arena
5. Apple HomePod
Superb sound. Excellent AirPlay support. So-so smart speaker
Amazing sound quality
Attractive, understated design
Apple Music subscription required
No Bluetooth streaming
Apple’s official AirPlay and Siri speaker is the HomePod.
As you might expect from Apple, it’s one of the most impressively engineered wireless speakers ever. It’s only 142mm in diameter and 170mm tall, but is home to seven tweeters and one 4-inch woofer/bass driver.
This array delivers not just 360-degree sound but incredibly deep bass for its size, reaching down to the kind of frequencies many wireless speakers don’t touch. It is almost certainly the best-sounding wireless speaker of its size.
It looks good, too. A seamless fabric grille covers most of its exterior, and there’s a neat little display on the top that animates as you interact with Siri.
On the debit side, the HomePod doesn’t have Bluetooth and doesn’t work with Android phones. And while it has the voice control most other speakers here lack, it only works with Apple Music, not Spotify. If you don’t mind being locked in to Apple’s ecosystem for the rest of time, consider the HomePod the best option out there.
Read the full review: Apple HomePod
6. Libratone Zipp
An excellent sounding home speaker you can also take on the go
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support
Balanced and clear sound
Short battery life
Buggy smartphone software
The Libratone Zipp is one of the few good battery-powered AirPlay speakers, in part because Wi-Fi (which powers AirPlay) sucks more battery than Bluetooth. It lasts for up to 10 hours between charges, making it a decent pick if you’re looking to take your AirPlay powered show on the road.
And the zip part isn’t just a cute design gag. Unzip the zipper and you can remove the wool cover and replace it with a different one.
Sound is great for a relatively small, battery powered speaker, too. It has enough bass power to make nearby objects rattle and goes very loud without tilting the sound toward one end of the audio spectrum or the other.
You might not initially think you need a portable AirPlay speaker, but being able to move the Zipp from the living room to the kitchen is a big plus. And stops you from having to buy a full multi-room setup. Libratone does offer multi-room control through the less-than-stellar app, if you feel up to the challenge.
Read the full review: Libratone Zipp