The best smart speakers for 2019

Smart speakers add convenience to your life, and these are the best right now

Is your speaker just too dumb? Do you sit in frustration, issuing fruitless voice commands to a cold, lifeless hunk of metal and plastic that couldn’t even do your bidding if it wanted to? It may be time to look into a “smart” speaker.

Best Smart Speakers Award

From Sonos to Apple, smart speakers are hot right now. At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, there were countless devices of all shapes and sizes packing speaker drivers, microphones, and digital assistants capable of answering your queries and helping you control your smart home products. But how do you separate the good from the bad? We’ve gone and done it for you. No matter your needs, these are the smartest speakers out there.

Editor’s note: There’s one smart speaker for Microsoft’s Cortana A.I. (the Harman Kardon Invoke), and given Cortana’s lack of popularity, it didn’t warrant a spot on our list. However, Microsoft’s latest strategy appears to revolve around adding Cortana to existing smart speaker platforms, with Amazon Alexa as the first test bed.  Samsung has announced that will soon be launching its Galaxy Home a smart speaker equipped with Bixby, its proprietary A.I. Once we get a chance to check it out, we’ll update this list again.

Riva Concert

Our pick

Riva Concert Best Speaker 2018
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It sounds incredible, has Alexa built-in, and offers wide support of multiple streaming services.

Who it’s for: Everyone.

Why we picked the Riva Concert:

With gorgeous sound, a small footprint, and Amazon Alexa built-in, the Riva Concert goes head-to-head with our previous favorite smart speaker, the Sonos: One.

But there are a few awesome features that help the Riva Concert beat the Sonos option. First and foremost, it’s that the Concert offers true stereophonic sound — something the compact Sonos speaker doesn’t offer. This means wide stereo image and a beautiful soundstage, allowing the speaker to reproduce your favorite tunes with ease.

The splash-proof Riva Concert also features Bluetooth (another thing Sonos lacks), and the option to add-on an external battery — meaning it can be a great portable speaker, should you need one.

The Concert supports Spotify Connect and Airplay, and is extremely easy to set up via the company’s Riva app, making it an absolute no-brainer regardless of which of the most popular streaming services you use.

Read our full Riva Concert review

Amazon Echo Dot

The best budget smart speaker

best tech gifts under 50 echo dot 3rd gen image

Why you should buy this: It’s affordable, controls your home, and can route sound through bigger speakers.

Who it’s for: Those in need of an Alexa voice-control hub.

Why we picked the Amazon Echo Dot:

Alexa is the first Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) assistant that comes to mind for most people, and Amazon’s Echo has followed suit, becoming the signature smart speaker line. Typically, the Echo series — comprising the Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, Echo Plus, and Echo Show (not to mention auxiliary items like the Echo Buttons and Echo Connect) — prioritizes smart control over audio quality, but the Dot’s got a unique solution for that concession.

At just $50, the Echo Dot offers all the Alexa-based powers you’d get from the full-size version, and adds an awesome touch — an auxiliary output port, which allows you to route playback through a bigger (and presumably better-sounding) speaker, as long as that speaker has an aux-in jack.

Like the Echo, the Dot’s microphone will recognize your voice individually, so everyone can quickly get the info they need, and it’ll offer full command over all your Alexa-compatible smart devices. Plus, of course, it can tell you jokes and help with homework.

Read our full Amazon Echo Dot review

Google Home Mini

The best Google Assistant speaker

Google Home Mini vs Amazon Echo Dot audio output
Dan Baker/Digital Trends
Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’s cheap and surprisingly powerful.

Who it’s for: Those in need of an affordable Google Assistant voice-control hub.

Why we picked the Google Home Mini:

When Amazon introduced the Echo Dot, Google must have taken it personally, because it went out and designed a speaker that’s basically the exact same thing, except it sounds better. The Home Mini doesn’t have an aux-out port for sending your tunes to a bigger speaker, but it’s a damn good option nonetheless.

If you prefer Google Assistant to Alexa, the Home Mini is pretty much a no-brainer (unless you want to shell out some more cash for something with more oomph). There are tons of gizmos and gadgets that work with Assistant, it’s got individual voice matching, and it’ll make phone calls hands-free.

Compared with the Dot, the Mini is a tad taller and has a much stronger sound overall. It’s not going to blow your mind with clarity and detail, but it won’t make you cringe either.

Read our full Google Home Mini review

Apple HomePod

The best for Apple devotees

Apple Homepod
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends
Greg Mombert/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You’re willing to pay for great sound, and you’re an Apple fanatic.

Who it’s for: Strictly those with an iPhone and an Apple Music subscription.

Why we picked the Apple HomePod:

First of all, we don’t want to mislead anyone. The HomePod is not currently a very effective smart speaker. It only plays nice with iPhones, doesn’t currently offer multiroom audio support, and might stain your wood furniture (though, some say Sonos and Echo will too). Still reading? Well, good, because the HomePod does happen to do one thing very well: Play music.

Assuming you’re an iPhone user subscribed to Apple Music, the HomePod is an excellent choice. Its A8 processing chip constantly scans the speaker’s environment to optimize audio quality, and it works impressively well.

No matter where you place the HomePod, it sounds great, thanks in part to seven (!) tweeters surrounding a four-inch driver, each equipped with its own amplifier. Bass is big, midrange performance is warm and velvety, and treble is clearer than we’d ever hoped for upon the speaker’s initial announcement. If you’re flush with cash, and don’t mind spending extra time chatting with Siri, this is an awesome-sounding speaker.

Read our full Apple Homepod review

Google Home Max

The best smart party speaker

Google Home Max Review
Juliana Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Juliana Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: It’ll blow your doors off, and supports Google Assistant.

Who it’s for: Google Assistant users or those with extra cash to spend.

Why we picked the Google Home Max:

Like the Google Home Mini above, the Home Max is compatible with a laundry list of smart devices, it can recognize different voices, and it’s got an understated, fabric-covered form factor that looks a little nicer than most of Amazon’s gaudy, futuristic speakers.

It’s also a sonic savage, capable of filling spacious rooms with booming bass and startlingly clear audio. At more than 11 pounds, it’s not really a speaker you’ll be carrying from room to room, but you probably won’t need to, because you’ll be able to hear this puppy from a distance. The touch controls are neat, if limited, and the Max supports a litany of hi-res audio codecs for playback.

The microphone does occasionally struggle to pick up commands over loud music, but chances are you won’t be asking for weather updates while you’re dancing the night away.

Read our full Google Home Max review

Marshall Stanmore II Voice

For those who hate the way smart speakers look (and sound)

Marshall Stanmore II Voice review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: This smart speaker not only fills a room (or a condo) with sound, it fills it with style too.

Who it’s for: Anyone who wants a smart speaker, but can’t stand the sound and style compromises required by many of the other models.

Why we picked the Marshall Stanmore II Voice: You’d think that given the number of companies out there, all producing smart speakers, we’d have a greater variety of designs to choose from. But plastic and fabric pucks and cylinders are everywhere, and for some of us, it’s just not the look we’re going for. Though not a budget purchase, Marshall’s Stanmore II Voice is a breath of fresh air in a category that desperately needs it: Superb wireless sound, in a retro-guitar-amp body that oozes authenticity, and Alexa built in. What more could you ask for? Google Assistant perhaps? No problem: It comes in a Google-flavored version too.

Read our full Marshall Stanmore II Voice review

Amazon Tap

The best portable smart speaker

Amazon Tap

Why you should buy this: It’s part smart speaker and part portable Bluetooth speaker.

Who it’s for: Anyone who values versatility and portability.

Why we picked the Amazon Tap:

The Tap occupies an interesting niche in the smart home space. It doesn’t offer the best sound quality-to-price ratio, it can’t make phone calls for you, and it doesn’t have any revolutionary abilities. It does, however, have a rechargeable nine-hour battery, so it effectively splits the difference between portable Bluetooth speakers and Echo-esque smart speakers.

The Tap boasts 360-degree audio, and unlike the Echo, it fires omnidirectionally — not downward — meaning the sound travels further and with better clarity. It’s got a microphone button on board for Alexa activation, but you can set it up for voice activation using the mobile app.

Otherwise, it can do everything an Echo does, minus phone calls. Need trivia answers? Sure. Access to Alexa’s Skills? You betcha. Want to trigger smart home routines? You get the picture. Just don’t take it near the pool, as it’s not waterproof.

Product Review

JBL’s Live 650BTNC are a wonderful everyday listening companion

A long-lasting battery, solid active noise cancelation, and vibrant sound make the JBL Live 650BTNC a great pair of headphones for everyday listening. Looking for feature-packed wireless headphones at a low price? These are just the ticket.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Smart Home

From the kitchen to the bedroom, here are the best Alexa tips and tricks

Amazon's voice assistant Alexa has plenty of neat skills. So many, in fact, it seems like new ones appear every day. We've rounded up the top Echo tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your virtual assistant.

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.

Amazon slashes the price of the Ecovacs Deebot 901 robot vacuum for one day

Amazon took a dramatic price cut for its Deal of the Day on the Alexa-compatible Ecovacs Deebot 901 robot vacuum cleaner. Digital Trends' reviewer gave the 901 high marks for room mapping and voice response with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Spruce up your Lenovo smartphone with the best Moto Mods for the Moto Z-series

Moto Mods, the snap-on accessories compatible with Lenovo's Moto Z-series smartphones add a lot of value without adding a lot of bulk. Looking to try one out? Here are a few of our favorite Moto Mods.
Home Theater

Amazon and Google agree to more support for each other’s streaming services

Amazon and Google have taken a major step toward thawing their relationship: YouTube will be officially supported on all Fire TV devices, and Prime Video will work on all Chromecast and Android TV devices in the coming months.
Home Theater

What’s new on Hulu in May 2019, and what’s leaving soon

Our complete list of what's new on Hulu for May 2019, our personal favorites, and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on all the site has to offer -- and ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Movies & TV

The best Black Mirror episodes are disturbing, mesmerizing, and provocative

After watching all 19 episodes across four seasons and one movie, we selected and ranked the best Black Mirror episodes released so far. Read on to find out if your favorite episode from the award-winning Netflix series made the list.
Movies & TV

From comedies to biopics, these are the best movies about music and musicians

The best movies about music range from hilarious comedies to powerful and informative biopics that illuminate the world of sonic expression from all possible angles. Here are our current favorites.
Home Theater

Here's how to turn off subtitles on Netflix, no matter the device

Subtitles are great if you want or need them, but they can be a major headache if you’ve somehow turned them on by accident and can’t figure out how to get rid of them. Don't worry, it's not as complicated as it seems.
Home Theater

Run to the beat of your favorite music with the best running headphones

Running is a great source of exercise but isn't always the most thrilling, especially when you're fiddling to keep your headphones in place. Check out our picks for the best headphones for running, so you never have to miss a beat again.
Home Theater

Banish the buffer screen with these tips for silky smooth streaming video

If you’ve been having troubles with streaming Internet videos from Netflix and other services in HD, the problem may be your network. Here’s how to make sure your streaming video experience goes smoothly.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.