I’m a recent Spotify convert, but I’m already spoiled by the convenience of streaming Spotify music to a speaker over WiFi in my home.
This article is about how Spotify Connect works and speaker recommendations that suit your budget and any existing audio equipment you already have.
What is Spotify Connect?
With Spotify, your phone, tablet, PC, or laptop no longer has to be the source of the song files themselves. Pick a song and it plays from Spotify’s servers out of that device.
With Spotify Connect (a Spotify Premium feature), your phone, tablet, PC, or laptop can be like a “remote control” for the music you are playing, and a different speaker on your WiFi network can play the music.
You can play anything Spotify has on offer (which is a staggering variety of music, both niche and mainstream). Cool!
Some huge benefits to the Spotify Connect new hotness:
- You don’t need to store the audio files on your device
- Play from any of Spotify’s curated playlists (or your own custom made playlists on Spotify)
- You don’t have to “pair” your device with the speaker
- Your laptop or phone can still play its own sounds or make calls without interrupting the music
- You can leave the room or even the WiFi network with your device and the music will keep playing
- Sound quality is better over WiFi
- Change which speaker is playing Spotify music without having to restart the song or lose your place in the playlist
With just a few drawbacks
- Your device and speaker must be on the same WiFi network when you kick off the playlist
- Spotify Connect doesn’t work with local files, so if you have a song that Spotify doesn’t, you won’t be able to play it over Spotify Connect
- Spotify Connect is part of Spotify Premium, so you have to subscribe to get it
You can get some pretty complex setups going
- From your phone, choose a playlist of lullabies for your baby’s room
- From your PC, change the song being played through your TV’s PlayStation4
- From your phone, stop music from playing on your PC in the other room… and start it playing in your kitchen
- Ask your Amazon Echo (Alexa) to play a playlist from Spotify without lifting a hand
How to use Spotify Connect
Again, you have to have Spotify Premium. Once you do, in the Spotify app, click DEVICES AVAILABLE to get a list of available devices.
On Windows, it looks like this:
Select a speaker and, if necessary, authorize it to Spotify.
When you want to change which speaker or device is playing music, just pick that device out of DEVICES AVAILABLE. You can do this from any instance of the app.
So many different ways to play music with Spotify Connect
Once you see how cool Spotify Connect is, you might want to expand your speaker collection to take advantage of it. Spotify has its own long list of recommended speakers but this list isn’t sorted, features a lot of very high priced products, and doesn’t explain the overwhelming amount of options available (it also leaves out some really good choices).
You don’t necessarily have to buy new speakers – scroll down for some solutions for using speakers you already have, even if they aren’t WiFi. What you choose depends a lot on your budget, your wants, and what you already have.
In this section, I’ll show you what I would buy (or have bought) for playing music over Spotify Connect in a variety of scenarios.
Best Standalone WiFi speakers for Spotify Connect
These are speakers with the built-in ability to connect to a WiFi network. This is as “plug and play” as it gets. You simply put your WiFi speaker on the network, authorize it to Spotify, and there you go – now you can play anything Spotify has to offer from that speaker!
Be careful that you’re buying an actual WiFi speaker and not just a Bluetooth speaker – a lot of Bluetooth-only speakers show up in searches for “WiFi speakers”. You want a WiFi speaker that’s always “on” and waiting for instruction from you.
|Speaker||Price||Sound quality||Bluetooth||Special features|
Bose SoundTouch 10
|$$||Better||Yes||Remote control, 6 on-unit hotkeys you can map to play certain playlists|
Libratone ZIPP Mini
|$$||Good||Yes||10+ hour rechargeable battery, pair up to 6 ZIPPs|
|$$$||Better||Yes||10+ hour rechargeable battery, pair up to 6 ZIPPs|
|$$||Better||No||Part of the expandable Sonos family|
|$$||Best||Yes||Part of the expandable Sonos family|
Bowers & Williams Zeppelin
|$$$$$||Best||Yes||Deluxe audio quality|
I picked these speakers because:
- All are WiFi speakers
- They all have excellent sound quality
- They work with Spotify Connect right out of the box
- Most are within a $200-$400 price range
- All have overwhelmingly positive Amazon reviews
- Some have nice extras like a remote control, a battery so you can take it with you around the house, or buttons you can save to certain playlists
Bose SoundTouch 10
I think the Bose has a slight edge when it comes to overall sound quality vs. the similarly priced speakers. It’s just got a wonderful richness to it that’s kept me coming back to the Bose brand over and over.
But wait, there’s more! The Bose SoundTouch 10 has 6 customizable buttons that you can map to actions, such as playing a particular Spotify playlist. 1 can be your “morning routine” playlist, 2 your “chillout at night” playlist, etc. The remote control gives you access to those same hotkeys.
The SoundTouch 10 supports both WiFi and Bluetooth, so you still have the option to bring it with you to places where WiFi isn’t available and stream music from your device to it (provided you can plug it into AC power).
Libratone ZIPP WiFi + Bluetooth Multi-Room Wireless Speaker
With its beautiful physical design and excellent sound quality, the ZIPP WiFi + Bluetooth Multi-Room wireless speaker is like an Amazon Tap on steroids. The 360 degree sound projection, carry strap, and 10-hour lithium battery all add up to make the Zipp the most portable WiFi capable speaker in this comparison. The ZIPP might be the perfect speaker for you if you want fantastic sound out of a speaker you can easily grab and take with you into the backyard, along on a road trip to the beach, or into your apartment complex’s rec room.
It comes in two versions that are fairly close in price and features: ZIPP and ZIPP Mini.
These two speakers are almost identical in features (battery, carry strap, touch controls on top). The major difference is the wattage and the size of the woofer, which mainly affects the overall sound quality and how well it holds up at louder volumes.
- 4″ neodynium woofer
- 100 watts total power
- 10 hour battery
- 3.3 lbs
- 10.3″ tall
ZIPP Mini speaker
- 3″ neodynium woofer
- 60 watts total power
- 10 hour battery
- 2.4 lbs
- 8.8″ tall
If you’re having a hard time deciding, go with the full size ZIPP. These two speakers are very close in price and the bigger ZIPP has an edge when it comes to overall sound quality.
Sonos Play:1 Compact Smart Speaker
The Sonos Play:1 Compact Smart Speaker is part of a whole family of amazing-sounding speakers that coordinate to play the same song in multiple rooms, or stream (via Sonos’s own proprietary app) different songs to different speakers.
The Play:1 is actually the entry-level speaker in the family: there’s also the Sonos Play:3 and the Sonos Play:5, which are also WiFi enabled and better at filling larger areas with even better sound. The Play:1 is at home on your desktop or bedroom, somewhere where you aren’t necessarily trying to fill the room but just want some easy listening right next to where you’re sitting. It still sounds good at higher volumes, but if you think you’ll be regularly filling a room with music, the Sonos Play:3 is better suited to that job.
When you synchronize a whole bunch of Sonos speakers, the auditory experience is nothing short of incredible, and there’s virtually no limit to how big an indoor space you can soak with Sonos goodness.
If you only intend to get one speaker you’ll miss out on the Sonos’s unique feature and major selling point: its ability to integrate with a collection of Sonos speakers. With multiple Sonos speakers, you can fill a room or have the same song play in multiple rooms.
Sonos Play:3 Smart Speaker for Streaming Music
If your budget allows for it, it’s totally worth it to go up a bracket and get the Play:3. Compared to the Play:1, the 3’s sound is richer, deeper, and crystal clear even at high volumes.
The Sonos Play:3 has two mid-range drivers, one tweeter (each with their own dedicated amp), and a bass radiator (contrast with the Play:1’s two custom-designed drivers with dedicated amps). Basically, the Play:3 adds a tweeter and bass radiator – and what you hear is a richer range of sound. It’s serious business in a fairly conveniently sized package.
You can orient it vertically or horizontally. There’s no battery in it, so it’s not really meant to be portable, and it works with virtually any streaming service, not just Spotify Connect.
Bowers & Williams Zeppelin
Full disclosure: I don’t own this speaker and I don’t know anyone who does, so it’s the only speaker in this list I haven’t tried in person and listened to myself. Spotify.com recommends it, though, and I felt this list could use at least one super deluxe option.
The Bowers & Williams Zeppelin has the widest “stereo image” of all the speakers in this list. (Normally you’d use multiple speakers to get a wider stereo image.) The Zeppelin has 2 double dome tweeters, two midrange drivers with FST technology and a 6.5″ subwoofer for deep bass. If that comes off as just a bunch of jargon, don’t worry – it means this speaker has multiple sets of what makes speakers sound great, plus a generously sized subwoofer for its size.
This is a total luxury purchase for music streaming. If you want the experience of multiple good speakers packed into one awesome speaker (and your budget is generous), check out the Bowers & Williams Zeppelin.
I have an awesome home theater and I want to play Spotify music through it over WiFi
Cheap solution: get an Amazon Echo Dot. Amazon Echo Dot turns any speaker into a Spotify Connect capable speaker. You can control a Dot (and through it, your speakers) with your voice or the Alexa app. (See the Dot section further down in this article to learn more about using Dot with Spotify Connect).
Pricier solution: upgrade your receiver. If your current one is kinda old and you want more ports, WiFi support, etc, you might be best off upgrading your receiver to a WiFi receiver (and keeping all your existing speakers).
The Onkyo HT-R593 is a reasonably priced choice that supports both Bluetooth and WiFi. This isn’t quite the one my family uses, but it’s close (ours was part of an Onkyo speaker bundle).
I don’t have an awesome home theater but now I kinda want one
Now, if you want to upgrade your entire home theater speaker setup, check out the Onkyo HT-S7700 5.1.2-Ch Dolby Atmos Ready Network A/V Receiver/Speaker Package. This is what we have in our house for TV/movies/gaming/recreational music listening and it’s just an amazing home theater set. The bundled receiver works great with Spotify.
I have (or want) an Amazon Echo, how does well Echo work with Spotify?
In a word: seamlessly.
I use Spotify Connect with my Amazon Echo all the time. The Echo lives on my nightstand and gets a lot of use as a late-night relaxing music playing machine. Spotify Connect totally replaced Amazon Music for me, which I was only using begrudgingly (the Windows application interface takes some getting used to, and I hate when I ask it to play a song and get a sample instead).
You can tell it, “Alexa, play <PlaylistName> playlist from Spotify” and it’ll find the playlist, whether it’s a Spotify playlist or one you created yourself. You can also set Spotify as the default music player so you don’t have to specify, “from Spotify”.
One caveat: Spotify has a lot of its own playlists, so you might have to come up with creative names for the playlists you make. For instance, I struggled to get Alexa to understand that “New Stuff” was the name of one of my playlists. I renamed the playlist to “Beep”, which Alexa reliably gets right.
Now, as far as being a speaker goes, the Echo is just okay. It’s better at low and medium volumes than it is at high volume. I use mine for listening to “chillout” / “relaxation” type stuff before I fall asleep or in the morning before getting out of bed, and for that, it’s perfect. Virtually any similarly priced speaker from Bose, Sonos, or similar will sound better than the Echo does, but you don’t get all the cool voice control stuff.
However, Amazon has a solution to this. It’s called…
Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon Echo Dot turns any speaker into a Spotify Connect capable speaker. It’s also back in stock starting October 20, 2016, after selling like a heap of hotcakes this spring.
The Dot listens for your requests just like an Echo, and instead of using its own built-in speaker (which it has, but it’s pretty poor quality for music), it pipes the audio into the (much better) speaker you’ve plugged into it. The only “catch” here is that the speaker hooked up to the Dot has to be turned on.
Also new: you no longer have to already own an Echo in order to get a Dot – you can order a Dot directly from Amazon.com.
Awesome speakers on your computer itself
If you spend a lot of time on your computer (and keep it on a lot) like I do, you might like having a good set of speakers on your computer itself. As long as my computer is turned on and Spotify is open (which is almost always true), I can stream Spotify music through my PC’s speakers from any instance of the Spotify app.
Yes, this means I can be nowhere near my computer, controlling the music coming out of it via the Spotify app on my phone. (This is also great when I realized I left my computer playing music in the other room and don’t want to get up to turn it off. Apparently, I am that lazy. Also, we have a new baby, so little conveniences like this really add up.)
Attached to my computer are a slightly older version of the highly-rated Bose Companion 2 Series III Multimedia Speakers. These are the PC speakers I recommend to everyone who asks because:
- the sound quality is incredible
- they’re reasonably priced
- they don’t take up a lot of desk space
- you can plug your headphones right into the front of the right speaker without getting out of your chair
The sound quality way better than a few larger speaker sets I’ve owned that came with more speakers and a subwoofer.The headphone port is in a convenient place, too, not on some “pod” that’s easy to lose track of or on the back of the speaker. I’m still using these Bose “TriPort” headphones (mine are of 2006 vintage, they’re immortal), and when one of my favorite bands puts out a new album, these speakers are what I first hear it on.
Why use Spotify Connect over WiFi instead of playing through Bluetooth?
When you play music to a speaker over Bluetooth, the sound quality is worse and you’re restricted to having to stay near the Bluetooth speaker you’re playing to. If you go too far or put the phone in your pocket, the signal quality is degraded or drops entirely. If you open a YouTube link, get a phone call, or something autoplays on Facebook, your music-over-Bluetooth stops and you get your (possibly accidental) audio instead.
Basically, streaming over WiFi is just a better overall experience, but you will still appreciate Bluetooth connectivity if you want to take your device and your phone outside of WiFi range. (In that case, I hope you have a good data plan or your carrier lets you stream Spotify for free, because streaming over wireless data is usually less than ideal.)
The bottom line
I love playing music to any speaker in my home with Spotify Connect, and I love all the conveniences of switching which speaker is currently receiving the stream. Streaming has largely replaced playing over Bluetooth for me, and it’s an all-around better experience.
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