We've reviewed a few popular Bluetooth speakers lately, and while some are great, the tradeoffs are usually the same: you'll tear your hair out dealing with the clunky process of pairing and unpairing devices, and there's usually a significant loss of sound quality involved. But if you're on iOS, you also have the option of using Apple's AirPlay system, which works over Wi-Fi to offer a much smoother experience. Setup is a breeze (just make sure your device and speaker are on the same Wi-Fi network), playback is seamless, and there's almost no degradation in sound quality. If you own an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, adding an AirPlay speaker to your living room or bedroom can theoretically turn your device into an powerful little entertainment hub with great sound, no wires, and no hassle.

Until recently, that dream really was theoretical — although there have been a few AirPlay speakers on the market, they were almost all extremely expensive and saddled with the usual bugginess of first-generation products. (In many cases it was cheaper and simpler to just add an Airport Express or Apple TV to your existing speakers.) That's changed recently as newer AirPlay speakers have started to roll out; manufacturers are starting to get the hang of the technology, and there are some more inexpensive options out now. We gathered up a bunch of available AirPlay speakers and tested them out to determine which one's worth the money in your wallet and the space in your home.

Before we get started, there are a few longstanding AirPlay issues to consider in general. First of all, you'll always need to be near a Wi-Fi network, unlike Bluetooth, which only requires that the device and speaker to be relatively close to each other. You can use a Bluetooth speaker almost anywhere, but AirPlay devices are much more restricted in their portability because of the Wi-Fi requirement. (Forget about streaming wireless music in the park, for example.) You'll also need to set up AirPlay speakers anew every time you hit a different Wi-Fi network, and some networks (like one at the Verge offices) are too crowded for AirPlay to negotiate a reliable connection.

None of these issues are dealbreakers if you're just listening to music at home or in your backyard, but there's definitely something lost when speaker and phone can't just connect directly as they do with Bluetooth speakers. If you can deal with those tradeoffs, AirPlay definitely offers better sound, more usability, and tighter integration with your iOS device. So... which speaker to buy? Let's take a look.