Best AirPlay speakers for iOS devices [Gift Guide 2012]

One of the coolest accessories for audiophile iDevice owners are AirPlay speakers which allow you to stream music to the speaker anywhere in your home or office, so long as it is on the same Wi-Fi network as your iDevice.

Given that this holiday season is likely to belong to Apple, and that millions of iPhones, iPads, and iPad minis are going to be under Christmas trees the world over, accessories for Apple devices are going to be very popular.

One of the coolest accessories for audiophile iDevice owners are AirPlay speakers. Using Apple's AirPlay protocol, you can stream music to a speaker anywhere in your home or office, as long as it is on the same Wi-Fi network as your iDevice.

So, why pick AirPlay speakers over Bluetooth-enabled speakers, or a traditional dock? There are a number of good reasons to do so.

First, while a Bluetooth hardware is pretty good, sound quality can suffer if the iDevice is not close to the speaker. Walls and electronic devices such as TVs can cause interference and a reduction is audio quality. AirPlay's Wi-Fi connection is far more robust, which means that it takes a lot more to ruin the audio experience.

AirPlay also does a lot more than transmit audio; it also beams track metadata, such as the artist, album, and song title, to the speaker.

Finally, if you're happy with the iTunes ecosystem, then AirPlay speakers allow you to listen to your music no matter where it is stored -- iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPod touch, or even a PC or Mac via iTunes.

Finally, if you have a new iDevice featuring the Lightning dock connector, then you're going to have to take the wireless route because currently there aren't any docks that make use of the new proprietary connector.

Before I go on to show you three of the best AirPlay speakers, one last thing -- they aren't cheap. If you want cheap, AirPlay speakers aren't for you.

Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air

Without a doubt the strangest-looking speaker in this line up, but the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air is also one of the best in terms of build and audio quality.

The Zeppelin Air is a 13.5-pound monster of engineering, packing two tweeters, two mid-range drivers, and an internal subwoofer into a single package. It also comes with its own USB post -- that can be used to sync docked iDevices, an Ethernet port, a 3.5-mm auxiliary input port, and a component video output for sending video to a television.

Logitech UE Air Speaker

If the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air is a little out of your league, then perhaps the Logitech UE Air Speaker is more in your price range.

While the audio quality of the Logitech UE Air Speaker is not going to offer the same audio experience that a more expensive speaker will give you, for most people it is more than good enough. It also comes with a neat app that allows users to control the treble and bass remotely.

The speaker comes with a 3.5 mm auxiliary input to allow you to hook up non-iDevice media players to it.

JBL OnBeat Air

The cheapest AirPlay speaker in the list. It is also the most compact, which means that you don't have to devote whole shelf to your speaker.

The speaker comes with a 3.5 mm auxiliary input to allow you to connect non-iDevice media players to it, and a component video output for sending video to a television.

For those looking for an AirPlay speaker that doesn't require a second mortgage, the JBL OnBeat Air is the speaker for you.

  • Source: JBL.
  • CNET: Review.
  • Price: $249.95.

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