We purchased the The 9 Best Smart Speakers so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full products reviews.
The best smart speakers allow you to control your smart home devices using your voice, while also providing excellent sound quality and useful skills and features. When most people are looking for a smart speaker, the first thing they look for is which voice assistant it has. Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are the three most popular voice assistants. Each assistant has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Alexa, for example, is known for its device compatibility and user-friendly app, whereas Google Assistant is known for being extremely quick and intelligent.
A good smart speaker should have excellent voice recognition and music playback, so far-field microphones are just as important as tweeters and woofers when it comes to sound quality. You shouldn’t have to shout to get the speaker to pick up your voice commands from a distance, and the far-field microphones should be able to hear them even if there are background noises. Audio software is also important, and more and more speakers are including adaptive audio features, which allow your smart speaker to adjust to the room’s acoustic conditions.
We tested a variety of smart speakers and chose the Sonos One as the best smart speaker because it includes Alexa and Google Assistant in a speaker with excellent sound. We’ve also included our picks for the best smart speakers in categories like best budget smart speaker, best for Amazon, best for Apple, and best for Google.
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Best Overall: Sonos One
The Sonos One’s second generation (Check latest price on Amazon) provides smart features for controlling your devices as well as premium sound quality for listening to your favorite tunes, all at a reasonable price. The Sonos One comes with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant built-in, giving you the option of using either of the leading voice assistants. Voice commands are picked up very well by the Sonos One. You can listen to music from over 50 different music streaming services, get the news, and control compatible smart home devices such as your lights and thermostat. Although this speaker lacks an audio jack or Bluetooth audio streaming, it does support Apple AirPlay 2. It also has an Ethernet port for a hardwired connection.
The Sonos One’s sound quality, in addition to the dual assistant support, is what makes it so appealing, and the reason for this is the speaker’s audio hardware and tuning software. It features two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer for rich, clear sound with deep bass. When compared to many other smart speakers on the market, you can hear a significant improvement in quality. The unassuming unit fits in just about anywhere, measuring 6.3 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches, weighing four pounds, and coming in black or white. It’s easy to pair two Sonos Ones together for stereo sound, add the speaker to a surround sound system, or make it part of a multi-room audio configuration. Plus, with automatic firmware updates and intuitive touch controls, the Sonos One is extremely user-friendly for such a full-featured smart speaker.
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Best Appearance: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
You could argue that Alexa was the first smart home assistant, and the Amazon Echo (Check latest price on Amazon) was the smart speaker that gave it shape. The Echo, now in its fourth generation, continues to prove why it’s one of the most popular smart speakers, and Alexa remains one of the most trusted virtual assistants. Alexa’s tens of thousands of “skills” give you hands-free access to a variety of useful functions, most of which are only available through third-party apps and services — everything from getting news to ordering a ride to playing trivia games. Amazon Prime subscribers can also take advantage of having access to Amazon’s vast collection of media, which includes a nice selection of free music.
The new Echo has a stunning, all-new design, with a spherical presentation that is both attractive and easy to blend into any home decor. It has a faster processor, better sound, better smart home integration, and a built-in temperature sensor, among other enhancements over its predecessor. Erika, our product tester, praised the AZ1 Neural Engine Processor (which plays a key role in the Echo’s excellent voice recognition capabilities) and praised the design, power, and value of the 4th Gen Echo.
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Best Design: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)
Since its introduction in 2016, the Echo Dot has been a fantastic compromise between functionality and price. In the four years since then, Amazon has learned a lot about how to integrate a smart speaker/smart hub into other smart tech and make it the center of a smart home technology infrastructure. Throughout that time, Alexa has improved as well, and the adorable 4th generation of the Echo Dot (Check latest price on Amazon) reflects all of those lessons learned and upgrades.
First, the design: a rounded dot as cute as a button, reminiscent of the same-named candy, swaddled in soft cloth bifurcated into grey and blue. Erika Rawes, one of our reviewers, praised the new spherical form factor’s modern elegance. It’s also not a slouch in terms of performance. While the 4th Gen isn’t a huge step forward from previous models, it still offers great sound, excellent voice recognition, and near-flawless Alexa integration (and, by extension, smart home integration).
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Best Budget: Google Home Mini
The Google Home Mini (Check latest price on Amazon) is the company’s most affordable smart speaker. The second-generation Nest Mini was released in late 2019, but we prefer the first-generation model because it is so inexpensive. If you don’t need a lot of bass, this speaker is a good choice for those who want the benefits of a voice-activated digital assistant without spending a lot of money. The tiny pod, which is less than four inches in diameter, allows you to ask a quick question, get a weather update, set a timer, or call out smart home commands from anywhere in your home. It even has an interpreter mode to translate conversations with someone who speaks a different language.
The Home Mini comes in a variety of colors, including charcoal, chalk, sky, and coral. Four gentle LED dots light up as status indicators on top, and you can control the volume by tapping on the sides. Although the sound quality isn’t as good as some of the larger speakers, the 360-degree sound output is powerful enough to play music across an entire floor of your house, and you can even pair two Google Home Minis for stereo sound. The Home Mini’s voice recognition is also excellent, and the three far-field microphones can pick up your commands from across the room.
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Best Multilingual: Google Home Max
Google Assistant is one of the most popular and effective voice assistants on the market, thanks to its use of Google AI. You can ask questions in a natural, fluid manner and receive helpful, cogent responses. The assistant can also ask follow-up questions to ensure you’re getting the most accurate answers to your questions, and it has an interpreter mode to translate conversations (as mentioned above).
If you’re serious about your music, the Google Home Max (Check latest price on Amazon) is the speaker to get. Clean sound and powerful bass are prioritized in the Home Max. Two 4.5-inch woofers and dual 0.7-inch tweeters work together inside the simple exterior to produce big, room-filling, bass-heavy sound. It’s even better with the Smart Sound feature, which uses machine learning to adjust equalizer settings based on the room’s acoustics and speaker placement.
The Google Home Max can be configured to play music from YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, and other services. You also have a lot of audio source flexibility with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and wired auxiliary connection options.
Best for Simplicity: Apple HomePod
If you like Siri, the HomePod (Check latest price on Amazon) could be a good fit for you. While the HomePod lags behind its competitors in terms of smart home product compatibility, it makes a strong case for being one of the best-sounding smart speakers. It has seven horn-loaded tweeters and one high excursion subwoofer with a custom amplifier to produce crisp, detailed, and powerful sound that is rich in bass but overall very balanced, in addition to its exceptional audio tuning. Even when there are a lot of background noises, a six-microphone array picks up your voice commands from a distance.
The HomePod is an excellent choice for Apple fans, thanks to its superior audio quality and Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility. Apple’s digital assistant, unlike Alexa or Google Assistant, does not have a large number of third-party skills. However, you can still do a lot with the HomePod. You can use it to check the news, make calls, check messages, control smart devices, and create scenes, among other things.
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Best for LED Display: Bose Home Speaker 500
Bose is known for producing high-quality audio equipment, and the Home Speaker 500 (Check latest price on Amazon) lives up to that reputation. With a pair of drivers aimed in opposite directions, the high-end device boasts full stereo sound. The Home Speaker 500 combines Alexa and Google Assistant functionality, and a sensitive eight-microphone array picks up your voice commands without requiring you to repeat them.
In addition to the digital assistant’s features, the smart speaker has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Apple AirPlay 2 wireless connections, as well as an aux input jack for wired audio connections. Music can also be synced with portable speakers and headphones using Bose SimpleSync technology.
The 8-inch tall speaker comes in black or silver and has an elegant design. It’s also not as minimalist as other smart speakers, with a small color LCD screen that displays information and album art for the currently playing song. This device, on the other hand, blends in with almost any home decor.
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Best Splurge: Sonos Beam
The Sonos Beam (Check latest price on Amazon) is a smart speaker that also doubles as a soundbar for your TV. With the built-in Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, you can control your TV, streaming music services, smart home devices, and much more. The Beam is noticeably compact for a soundbar, measuring 2.70 x 25.63 x 3.94 inches and fitting under most TVs or mounting on a wall. Whether you’re watching TV or listening to music, you get powerful, high-quality sound despite its small size.
A center tweeter, four full-range woofers for mids and lows, and three passive radiators to move air and improve bass sound are all included in the Beam. It also has five D-class amplifiers that are tuned to the speakers and five far-field microphones for voice recognition. There’s an Ethernet port on the back, as well as HDMI with an Audio Return Channel (ARC) for sending TV audio to the speaker. If you have other Sonos devices, you can also use Airplay 2, as well as the brand’s multi-room audio system capabilities.
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Best for iPhones: Apple HomePod Mini
The spherically-shaped HomePod Mini (Check latest price on Amazon) is Apple’s mini smart speaker, measuring only 3.9 inches wide and 3.3 inches tall. It can control compatible smart devices, answer questions, tell you the weather, keep you up to date on the news, and play music, just like you’d expect from a smart speaker. The Mini, on the other hand, is an excellent iPhone or iPad companion. You can use your mobile device to send audio to the speaker, text with your voice, and more.
With a full-range driver, dual passive radiators, and computational audio, the HomePod Mini delivers exceptional sound clarity. It has audio tuning software that can make real-time adjustments to the volume or speaker movement based on the song, thanks to Apple’s S5 chip. This, combined with 360-degree audio, results in fantastic music. With a four-mic array, voice recognition is also excellent (including a mic that helps it decipher the difference between its own music and voice commands).
Apple prioritized privacy in the HomePod Mini as well, so you can use it safely without worrying about your information falling into the wrong hands.
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The Final Word
For those looking for a versatile smart speaker with great sound, the Sonos One is a great choice. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, the Echo Dot (4th Gen) is the way to go for Alexa fans, while the Google Home Mini is a great choice for Google Assistant fans.