Bluetooth is the wave of the hi-fi future, but cords connect us to our past. If you’re not ready to cut the cord completely, these compact players — units that can stream Bluetooth or accept hardwired inputs from any number of sources — give you the best of both worlds. We consulted with audiophiles to compile this list, and along the way, it became apparent that player design has truly kept pace with audio quality; all these units look as great as they sound. So take a look, take a listen, and be ready to be taken away.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Wireless
This striking, powerful system is an easy favorite. Its audio engineering is first rate, with a newly enhanced digital signal processor and individual amplifiers driving each of the two tweeters, two mid-range speakers, and a 150mm long-throw subwoofer, which is engineered to spread deep bass throughout the room. It’s got a thick cabinet to reduce vibrations and a cool football shape that’s both fresh and futuristic.
Peachtree Audio Deepblue2 Bluetooth Music System
The 440-watt amplifier embedded in this substantial cabinet provides generous amounts of power to all five drivers — one subwoofer, two mid-range speakers, and two tweeters. Combined with generous surface areas, which move more air with each beat, the result will be more natural, lifelike music no matter what your source is, whether it’s a hardwired analog turntable or a Bluetooth stream from your mobile device. Plus, Deepblue2’s Smart Volume allows even low-volume playback to shine, via automatic frequency response adjustment. At low volumes, where the ear is less sensitive, you’ll still feel rich bass and complete clarity.
Bang & Olufsen Beolit 15
This gorgeous, Scandinavian-designed sound system comes in a variety of subtle colors, and it will look great in any environment. But it’s the sound quality that sets it apart. The Beolit 15 deploys four active drivers and two passive bass radiators, all driven by dual amps delivering 240 watts of peak power. The speaker placement lets the device generate sound in all directions for true room-filling capability. Furthermore, those smart designers also gave the portable, five-pound system a flexible full-grain leather strap for easy transport and a clever tray at the top, so you can conveniently stash your phone while listening.
Marshall Woburn Black
The classic look of this shelf system comes from Marshall’s decades of experience crafting world-class guitar amps and its collaboration with menswear designer John Varvatos — chosen for his “old-world craftsmanship and rock-n-roll sensibility.” But there’s nothing old world about this system, with its choice of either Bluetooth or optical-cable input from a television, Apple TV, computer or cable. Pumped through dual tweeters and dual woofers, your selections will sound terrific, and your shelf will look pretty sensational. too.
The company that earned our praise for the audio systems it designed for Bentley Motors has also gotten our attention for its first wireless music system. The Mu-so uses six 75-watt amplifiers for each of its custom-designed drivers and an elegant, vibration-damping wooden cabinet. Bundled with a 32-bit digital signal processor to tune the audio, the system delivers astoundingly great sound, and it can be synced with other Naim receivers for multi-room audio. Now if only the living room could be as comfortable as that Bentley.