Our team has reviewed smart speakers since the category emerged with Amazon’s Echo all those years ago: After hundreds of hours of listening, controlling smart home tasks, and generally getting the various voice assistants to do our bidding, we’re confident the Sonos One (Gen 2) will be ideal for most people. Whichever speaker you end up choosing, you may be surprised by what smart speakers are capable of doing.
We chose the Sonos One because it’s not just a great smart speaker, it can also function as an excellent wireless speaker even if you don't give many voice commands yet. It controls the smart home with ease while also delivering in the audio quality department to please audiophiles. However, there are other excellent smart speakers worth a look at, especially if you have something particular in mind.
Sonos One (Gen 2)
The best smart speaker
- Excellent compatibility with services and voice assistants
- Great sound
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Expensive for a smart speaker
Why you should buy this: The speaker sounds great, you have a choice of voice assistant, it works with every Sonos device, and it offers more streaming services than any other smart speaker.
Who it's for: Everyone.
Why we picked the Sonos One (Gen 2):
The second-generation version of the Sonos One is even more user-friendly, with an updated design that adds touch controls and incorporates Bluetooth 5.0 for a variety of connection options. Its core features still remain, however, including the ability to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant and to link with other Sonos speakers through Wi-Fi to fill the room with even more sound.
The speaker's far-field microphone array effortlessly hears voice commands from across a room, even when music is playing. If you have qualms about privacy, Sonos claims that muting the microphones is done via hardware, ensuring that when the mic indicator light is off, the speaker is definitely not listening. With AirPlay 2, you can stream any audio from an Apple device directly to the speaker or to any other Sonos speaker in your home.
But our favorite aspect of this model is simply the fact that it's a Sonos speaker. The Sonos wireless whole-home music system remains the very best we've ever tested. It has support for almost every major music streaming service, and it's all controlled from an app on your phone, tablet, or PC. Not only is the app full of great features like Apple Music playlist compatibility and the ability to group multiple speakers, but these features are also remarkably easy to use.
Thanks to Sonos' partnership with Ikea, there's also a growing ecosystem of cool third-party devices that can be used to control the Sonos One and any other Sonos speakers in your home. The Sonos One (Gen 2) is a fantastic speaker and a great way to smarten up your home.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock
The best budget smart speaker
- Charming new design
- Great audio quality for its size
- Alexa Guard protection
- Affordable cost
- LED clock should be default
Why you should buy this: It’s affordable, controls your home, displays the time, and can route sound through bigger speakers — though you might not need to.
Who it's for: Those in need of an Alexa voice-control hub.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) with Clock:
Amazon knocked it out of the park with its fourth-generation Amazon Echo Dot. This version is a stark departure from previous iterations, mainly for the obvious spherical shape — one that certainly is a looker! Besides the new design, you're able to tell the time in an instant with this particular version. There's also another.
Don't let its small size fool you because its performance packs a punch, despite its diminutive size. While it's meant for smaller spaces, such as offices and bedroom nightstands, the amount of bass and power put out by the Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock is impressive. You wouldn't expect a high level of quality out of something so small!
The most appealing part about the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock is its price. At $60, it's easy on just about any budget — meaning you can buy multiple units without forking over a huge sum of money! And who doesn't like that?
Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
The best smart speaker for Amazon Alexa
- Charming new spherical design
- Dazzling LED light ring
- Acts as an Amazon Sidewalk Bridge
- Great sounding audio
- Bass strains at highest volume
Why you should buy this: The Amazon Echo is the go-to Alexa-powered speaker thanks to its excellent audio and home control.
Who it's for: Casual music listeners who own Alexa-enabled devices in the home.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo (4th Gen):
Similar to the Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock, Amazon's Echo is in its fourth generation — offering a balance of rich audio performance with the intelligence of Alexa behind it. When it comes to music, it certainly is an upgrade versus the Echo Dot, since it's packing a 3-inch woofer and dual front-firing 0.8-inch tweeters. And that's all in a brand new, spherical design.
Of course, it's a wonderful centerpiece in the living room if you're planning to entertain guests, thanks to its robust and ample audio quality. Other features like a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, Bluetooth, and stereo pairing rounds out its audio features. When it comes to controlling the smart home, the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) can be used to turn off lights, check up on calendar appointments, and order pizza. Meanwhile, it can also monitor your home while you're away by sending you notifications if it hears the sounds of smoke alarms with Alexa Guard.
You're getting a rich smart speaker in terms of performance, and features with the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). And you know what? It only costs $100.
Google Nest Audio
The best smart speaker for Google Assistant
- Superb audio performance
- Charming design for any decor
- Adapts audio quality to any room
- Attractive $100 cost
- Dense weight
- Too complacent with feature upgrades
Why you should buy this: It's bigger, packs more sound than its predecessor, and it's priced reasonably at $100
Who it's for: Anyone who loves great-sounding audio and relies on Google Assistant.
Why we picked the Google Nest Audio:
After a long wait, Google Home's successor finally launched with the Nest Audio. And this time, it's playing to a wider range of people because it brings that perfect mixture of intelligence and raw power.
What's apparent is that it's a substantially beefier speaker than the Google Home — aided by its 19mm tweeter and 75mm mid-woofer. The result is a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker that roars with incredible power. There's no denying that it's far more equipped at playing music than its successor, just because it's 76% louder and has a 50% boost in bass.
You can also pair it with another Google Nest Audio for stereo sound, plus now you can group multiple speakers in other rooms to play your tunes everywhere — while being harmoniously in sync. The best part of the Nest Audio is that you're not paying a fortune for premium audio with its $100 sticker price. It's affordable, packs all the intelligence of Google Assistant, and even delivers impressive sound.
Apple HomePod Mini
The best smart speaker for Apple Music
- Computational audio optimizes the experience
- Clean sounding highs and mids
- Compact size makes it discrete
- It's the most affordable HomeKit home hub
- Siri lacks the advanced intelligence of her peers
- Short power cord
Why you should buy this: Don't let its size fool you, it has great sound if you're an Apple fanatic.
Who it's for: Strictly those with an iPhone and either an Apple Music or Spotify subscription.
Why we picked the Apple HomePod Mini:
Apple certainly learned how tough it can be to complete in the smart speaker space. While its HomePod faced stiff competition when it launched, its sibling in the HomePod Mini fared much better. Part of that reasoning is that the HomePod Mini was cheaper, while still offering excellent audio performance.
Apple users will appreciate the HomePod Mini in the home because Siri can be leveraged on the speaker to accomplish a number of things, such as turning on the lights, unlocking the door, and much more. When it comes to audio, there's still a lot of power behind its compact design — but what's impressive is its ability to adapt to whatever it's playing. For example, if you're watching a movie on your television and using the HomePod Mini as your audio source, it'll tune the audio accordingly so that dialogue won't be drowned out by the sound effects in the background.
Speaking of home theater experiences, you can achieve that by pairing two HomePod Mini speakers together. In fact, you'd be surprised by how well it sounds compared to a traditional soundbar.
Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
The best smart speaker for TV
- Easy setup
- Immersive, room-filling sound
- Sleek design
- AirPlay 2
- No HDMI inputs
- Requires compatible TV for Dolby Atmos
Why you should buy this: You want much better sound for your TV, with sophisticated voice control, too.
Who it's for: Those with a TV in a smaller room like a bedroom or kitchen
Why we picked the Sonos Beam (Gen 2):
Even the best TVs typically have lousy sound quality due to their tiny built-in speakers, which makes soundbars an attractive option for many. However, there are a lot of soundbars and not all of them are as smart as the modern home theater needs. That's where this excellent iteration of the Sonos Beam steps up.
A compact and well-styled bar, it can easily fit under the smallest of TVs on either a console or on the wall using the optional bracket. Like every Sonos product, it has impressive sound quality for its size and can become part of a much larger multiroom audio system. The Gen 2 model is further improved with the addition of Dolby Atmos, an important part of home entertainment audio these days. The Sonos app lets you stream from virtually every music service on the planet and it does an excellent job managing your private music collection, too.
But the reason we've chosen the Beam for this roundup is its smart speaker chops. With the ability to run either Google Assistant or Alexa as its voice assistant, it can serve as the hub for a host of home automation commands. It can translate spoken commands for Google Assistant or Alexa into signals that control your TV. "Alexa, turn on Bedroom TV," will do just that. Other commands, like "Alexa, turn the volume up on Bedroom TV,” work well too, as will similar commands for Google Assistant. You can also control the speaker with an app, or use it with Apple AirPlay 2.
Bose Portable Home Speaker
The best portable smart speaker
- Very portable
- High sensitivity mics
- Great 360-degree sound
- Alexa and Google Assistant
- AirPlay 2
- Limited app features
- Missing some midrange
- Not ideal for Android
Why you should buy this: Lightweight and highly portable, yet with surprisingly good sound, this smart speaker can do it all.
Who it's for: Those who want a smart speaker that can keep up with their on-the-go lifestyles.
Why we picked the Bose Portable Home Speaker:
You already know that we love the Sonos One for its ability to let you choose your preferred voice assistant. The Bose Portable Home Speaker gives you that choice too, plus a built-in rechargeable battery, carry-handle, and Bluetooth so you can take it with you anywhere you go.
Though considerably more expensive than the Sonos One, the Bose is the ideal choice for people who demand absolute flexibility. When at home and connected to your Wi-Fi network, the Portable Home Speaker is a full-fledged smart speaker that lets you talk to Alexa or Google Assistant. Using your voice to control music playback via Spotify works like a charm, but the Bose app gives you additional options like multiple speaker groupings. The app isn't as good as the one Sonos provides, but as long as you don't intend to build a whole-home music system using Bose speakers, we doubt you'll mind.
While you shouldn't let it fall in the pool, the speaker is protected from small amounts of water thanks to its IPX4 rating, so you need not fear the occasional unexpected rain shower.
Apple users will love the AirPlay 2 integration which lets you stream any audio — be it music from your favorite streaming service, or the soundtrack from a Netflix movie — directly to the speaker when connected to Wi-Fi. When on the road (or if you're an Android user) the Bose Portable Home Speaker's Bluetooth connection lets you keep the tunes going. With 12 hours of battery life between charges, those tunes can go on for most of a day.
Marshall Woburn II
The best smart speaker for room-filling sound
- Classic, durable design
- Surprisingly clear beautiful sound
- Bluetooth and AptX support
- No voice assistant support
Why you should buy this: The classic design incorporates truly rich sound.
Who it's for: Those who don't want to compromise on big, full sound — or classy looks — when buying a smart speaker.
Why we picked the Marshall Woburn II:
Smart speakers, it can be argued, often suffer from two drawbacks. First, they're not the most attractive. Whether it's a small plastic puck or a fabric-wrapped cylinder, few of them add to the decor of your space. Second, though some of these speakers sound very good, they lack the kind of power needed to really fill a room with big, bold sound.
The Marshall Woburn II addresses both of these issues head-on. With its retro-cool, guitar amp-inspired design, there's no denying the speaker makes a statement. That vintage vibe carries all the way through with physical control knobs on the top surface and chunky rubber feet on the bottom. It gives instant appeal to any room while making placement easier than ever to decide.
But the speaker is more than a fancy face. Inside, you'll find excellent drivers including two 1-inch tweeters and dual 5.25-inch subwoofers powered by class D amps that equal 110 watts. Go ahead and crank up the volume — you won't get a hint of distortion even at the highest settings.
In addition to the analog controls, the speaker supports Bluetooth 5.0 with AptX to connect to your mobile device. The only downside to this high-quality speaker is that it doesn't support voice assistants directly, although you can still use phone-based voice assistants to connect if you prefer. Overall, the Marshall Woburn II is an ideal mix of style and reverberating sound for those who take their wireless sound seriously.
Amazon Echo Studio
The best smart speaker for 3D sound
- Class-leading bass
- Slick and simple setup
- Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio support
- Large, sprawling soundstage
- All the Alexa smarts
- Midrange occasionally muffled
- Brittle touch to lighter instruments
- 3D music still in limited supply
Why you should buy this: As the only smart speaker with Dolby Atmos capabilities, it delivers an incredibly immersive, 3D sound experience.
Who it's for: Alexa fans who want a speaker on the leading edge of new digital music formats.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo Studio:
Though it bears a resemblance to the Apple HomePod with its cylindrical shape, the Echo Studio is, in fact, an entirely new breed of smart speaker. It's still an Amazon Echo, which means that you get all of the benefits of being able to issue voice commands to Alexa to control everything from your music to your thermostat. But when it comes to audio, the Echo Studio is in a class of its own.
Recently, Amazon has been getting very serious about audio quality. We talked about this above in relation to the Echo Dot 3rd gen, but it goes much further. With the launch of the Amazon Music HD streaming service, Amazon is now a leading source of top-quality music. The service offers CD-quality audio and hi-res audio, as well as immersive 3D music tracks via Dolby Atmos Music, and Sony 360 Reality Audio. And for now, the Echo Studio is the only speaker on the planet that works with all of them.
CD-quality and hi-res audio are fairly easy to understand: They're the best versions of stereo audio you can get. Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio are different. These two new formats expand your music into something far wider, deeper, and immersive — which is why we refer to them as 3D. The Echo Studio not only projects these formats around a room the way they were meant to be heard, but it also reinforces the sound with a clean and powerful bass response we simply didn't expect from a speaker at this price.
The Amazon Echo Studio may not please all audiophiles — it tends to muffle some midrange sounds for stereo sound — but it is nonetheless a superb value and (at the moment) a unique smart speaker that leads a growing movement.
That depends on which ecosystem you like and use most. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, and both work with the most popular streaming services. Alexa tends to work with more smart devices, but this is becoming less of a factor with time. If you’re undecided, pick a smart speaker that gives you a choice like the Sonos One.
Yes, they have a lot of functionality that doesn’t require buttons, making smart speakers great for visually impaired people. They are particularly useful when paired with smart devices around the home that can be controlled via voice. Even without smart devices, these speakers can help make schedules, read the news, look up information, plan events, provide recipes to cook meals, and lots more — really putting the "assistant" in voice assistant.
Some smart speakers, like the, have 3.5mm inputs. If you need an AUX input, we recommend making sure the speaker has one before purchasing.
No, most smart speakers do not have an FM tuner. If you want to listen to the radio, your best bet is to play an internet radio station on these speakers. Some services do turn FM channels into internet stations you can listen to on smart devices, like myTuner Radio.
It's not common. Batteries are more common on simpler Bluetooth speakers designed more for portability. If you want to take your smart speaker with you on the go, we recommend making sure it has a built-in or add-on battery (like the Bose Portable Home Speaker).
Yes, smart speakers generally need Wi-Fi to set up and use. You can access some features with Bluetooth, but a Wi-Fi connection is still needed for the smart speaker to operate.
Yes and no. After some initial hiccups, smart speakers typically work like this: The mics are always listening for their wake word, like, "Hey, Alexa." But they don't recognize or record anything else. Once they do hear the wake word, they listen to the speech after it to interpret the request. That command is typically recorded, but settings in apps like Alexa allow you to stop the speaker from storing the command in the cloud, or make sure it's deleted soon afterward. Smart speakers also come with physical mute buttons that will shut down the mics entirely if you don't want them on.
Today's smart speakers have voice profiles so each person in the family can create their own profile with their own preferences. You can also use apps to set controls, such as disabling any music with profanity, etc. That being said, there have been cases of kids using smart speakers to order things online (100 gallons of ice cream, etc.) or otherwise get into trouble, so it's a good idea to limit what they can do.
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