New Choices in Wireless Home Audio Systems

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If you were around to witness David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust era, then you certainly remember the chore of creating a killer home audio system back in the day. Once you sprang for the speakers, you spent hours snaking wires from room to room—unless, of course, you hired a contractor to do the dirty work for you.

These days, Bluetooth speakers have eliminated the need for wires, significantly simplifying the process. With their limited range, though, they make it awfully hard to pipe Bowie's "Space Oddity" from the den to the dining room, much less the deck.

For a job like that, you need to pay a little more for Wi-Fi speakers, the sort now manufactured by Sonos, Bose, and Samsung. These allow you to broaden the system's footprint to take advantage of the full range of your router, hitching multiple speakers together via a network that's already in place. And they also permit you to pump music from streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora through those speakers.

This fall, consumers will get a new choice in Wi-Fi speakers as Riva—known for its Turbo line of Bluetooth speakers—enters the market with its new WAND (Wireless Audio Network Device) speakers.

Scheduled for release in September, the WAND line includes two home models: the WAND 100, a stereo speaker that will sell for about $250; and the WAND 300, a mono speaker that will cost between $450 and $500. For $200 more, you can add the 44-inch Riva Arena Trillium soundbar and better enjoy Bowie in "The Man Who Fell to Earth" on your TV. (Riva also has a battery accessory on the way for $80 to $100 that turns the WAND 100 into a portable speaker.)

The big question for music fans is, How will this new wireless system stack up against an established leader like Sonos, which has a broader selection of components, including speakers ranging from $199 to $499. According to Riva, its speakers and soundbar let you play audio from just about any source (Bluetooth included). That means virtually anyone in the family can play songs from a cell phone, laptop, or tablet. Riva claims you can use Apple's Airplay, Googlecast, Spotify Connect, and DLNA. The network will also be able to play Hi-Res audio files.

By contrast, Sonos's system is less open (although there are workarounds). Denon's HEOS system also lacks built-in Bluetooth support. And while Bose's SoundTouch and Samsung's systems both offer Bluetooth, they support fewer streaming services than Sonos.*

Of course, we'll be sure to check these claims as well as the quality and versatility of the Riva system when the WAND speakers and soundbar become available later this year.

*Correction: An earlier version of this article indicated that Bose's SoundTouch system did not offer Bluetooth.

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