Apple just dropped its high-end smart speaker, HomePod, to $299 today from its normal $349 price point. While it’s awesome to save in any way you can, especially on Apple products, there are still those who are looking for more budget-friendly alternatives while enjoying Apple’s ecosystem at the same time. These are the best AirPlay-enabled speaker and set up alternatives to Apple’s HomePod for under $299.
What is HomePod?
For those who don’t know, HomePod is Apple’s smart speaker. It offers HomeKit control, Apple Music compatibility, and fantastic sound. You can pair two HomePod speakers together to enjoy stereo listening, and through AirPlay 2, have a near lag-free audio experience. But for the people who don’t want to spend $299 on a smart speaker, there are still many options out there. Learn more in our year-in review from the end of 2018.
AirPlay vs AirPlay 2, what’s the difference?
AirPlay is Apple’s first wireless technology used to send audio or video from one device to another. AirPlay was quite limited in use, however, as it only let you stream from your Apple device to a single AirPlay-enabled device.
With AirPlay 2, you can create multi-speaker pairs (like stereo) and they’ll stay in sync. Plus, AirPlay 2 gives a more latency-free experience than its predecessor. Lastly, AirPlay 2 will allow you to play different songs on different speakers throughout the house, and control it all from one single device.
The obvious alternative – Sonos
Sonos is the obvious alternative to HomePod. With AirPlay 2 support, Sonos offers many of the same features as Apple’s HomePod does, but with far lower prices and many more options. Prices start at just $199 each for AirPlay 2-enabled speakers and $149 for AirPlay 1. Note: Sonos Play:1 only supports AirPlay when partnered with newer speakers from the brand’s lineup.
With Sonos, you can go on the more budget-friendly side and pick up two Play:1 speakers for the same price as the HomePod and enjoy stereo audio. Or, you can opt for something like the Sonos Beam with two Sonos One speakers and enjoy room-filling surround sound through AirPlay 2 on your Apple TV. The possibilities are really endless with Sonos, and with as many options as the company provides, there’s surely a product to fit your lifestyle.
Budget-friendly portability – GGMM E5
If you want to bring AirPlay with you on-the-go, then GGMM’s E5 battery-powered speaker is a great option. It’s $129.99 shipped at Amazon, but you can get it for $110 when you clip the on-page coupon.
“Why do you need a portable AirPlay speaker?” you may ask? Well, simple, now that spring and summer are just around the corner (or already here), outdoor parties will begin to happen yet again. A portable speaker like this means you’ll be able to enjoy your tunes wherever you are, including your backyard or the beach. Plus, the GGMM E5 offers Alexa built-in, multi-room audio, Bluetooth, and even an aux input so you can enjoy your music regardless of what devices you have.
There are even built-in adjustment knobs for treble and bass so you can have the ultimate control in your listening experience.
Luxury portability – Libratone ZIPP
The Libratone ZIPP portable speaker offers the same portability as the above GGMM E5 but in a vastly different package. You’ll get 360-degree audio from Libratone’s model, and use the phone-based application to tune your audio. There’s still multi-speaker and multi-room functionality, all with up to 10-hours of battery life.
The beautifully designed Libratone ZIPP offers a uniquely high-end aesthetic compared to other speakers and is the perfect size to bring with you to the beach by strapping it to your backpack or leaving it on your towel. At close to $290, this speaker rivals the Apple HomePod’s price point but offers features that Apple can’t compete with, like being able to bring it with you anywhere you go.
Budget-friendly versatility – Yamaha MusicCast WX-010
The Yamaha MusicCast WX-010 is probably your best shot at a budget-friendly AirPlay speaker. It comes in at just over $100 on Amazon, in the white color, at least. Featuring Alexa-connectivity (should you already own an Amazon speaker), AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Spotify Connect, this speaker will give you easy-to-control audio without breaking the bank.
It won’t have quite the dynamic range of HomePod, but it’s great if you’re looking for a simple one or two speaker setup without spending hundreds.
Well-known quality with a price to match – Bang & Olufsen Beoplay M3
If you want to buy from a brand known for its quality audio, Bang & Olufsen is your go-to. The company offers multiple speakers in different price points, but the best bet here is the Beoplay M3 compact model for $270.
Though close to Apple’s HomePod in price, these speakers offer far more than the competition. The M3 gives you Bang & Olufsen’s known audio quality, AirPlay, and Chromecast in one great package. You can build multi-room audio setups and more with these designer-inspired speakers.
Create your own system with receivers or a Raspberry Pi
If you already have a speaker system that you absolutely love, then this is your best bet. You have two options when using your own speakers in an AirPlay-enabled household: a Wi-Fi-connected A/V receiver or your own Raspberry Pi.
Using your own receiver can not only give your AirPlay audio but a unified home theater setup. The Denon AVR-S640H offers 5.2-channels of audio, 4K HDR passthrough, and AirPlay 2, making it a great option for your home theater at $379.
On the DIY side, however, you can save quite a bit of cash. Whether you already have a Raspberry Pi or need to pick one up, this method will likely only set you back around $50 at the most. Time and knowledge will be your friend here, but we’ve got a great writeup on how to use a Raspberry Pi as an AirPlay-enabled receiver for any speaker in your home.
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