It’s almost harder to buy a regular speaker than it is a smart speaker nowadays, as most brands are moving towards integrating some sort of assistant feature into the latest and greatest home audio tech. Whether that’s Google Assistant, Apple’s Siri, or Amazon’s Alexa, AI-integration gives prospective customers yet another specification to ponder, research, and compare to other speakers.
This can be quite a daunting task when, in reality, all you want is a good speaker that fits your budget, has good sound, and caters to your personal needs. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide of the six best smart speakers on the market right now.
Some speakers are “smarter” than others, with the term smart denoting that the device is wireless and includes a built-in voice command feature.
We’ll go through each of the smart speakers’ pros and cons, as well as what type of person would be best for each of the options, in order to help you find the perfect one for your needs.
Scroll through our selection below and let us know which you end up copping in the comments.
Sonos One Speaker: “The Social Butterfly”
The Sonos One speaker is what we would call a social butterfly. Its ability to connect to multiple speakers in the household and the fact that several people can connect simultaneously make the Sonos One a great option for parties or larger gatherings where various musical tastes are required. Alexa is built in, which gives users a myriad of information ranging from the weather to traffic and news updates.
In addition, with the comprehensive and easy-to-use Sonos app, you can play music from multiple sources at once, meaning you won’t have to choose between Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music. The only negative when it comes to the Sonos One is that it doesn't connect to TVs, meaning you’ll have to make do with built-in television speakers or buy a separate unit for your entertainment system.
The Sonos One is perfect for people that have accounts on several music streaming platforms and appreciate flexibility in their smart speakers.
Amazon Echo Dot: “The Small One”
As the brand suggests, the Echo Dot runs Amazon’s Alexa service which allows users to play music, control smart home devices, make calls, and much more. For such a small device, it packs a lot of power. It’s easy to set up and incredibly reasonably priced. However, true audiophiles might want to add an additional speaker.
The biggest plus is that Alexa, when set up and used correctly, can make your life much easier. People who want a central smart-hub for their home and are on a tight budget will love the Echo Dot. Those that want amazing sound quality and the best money can buy will likely be better off looking elsewhere.
Apple Homepod: “The Designer’s Favorite”
Apple’s newly-unveiled HomePod blows the rest of the speakers out of the water when it comes to sound quality and its minimal, clean design. Siri is, of course, built in and has been refined so that her voice accuracy is always on point, avoiding unnecessary misunderstandings.
While it is a perfectly designed smart speaker that will please even the staunchest of audiophiles, this is where the good news stops. The speaker is expensive, coming in at $349 retail, and is only compatible with Apple devices. It requires an iPhone 5S or later and only plays music over AirPlay.
To take full advantage of the incredible sound you’ll need an Apple Music subscription as you can only play music from Apple-owned or affiliated sources.
This speaker is best for those that are true Apple stans, have several of the brand’s devices, and prefer Apple Music over Spotify or Tidal.
Google Home: “The Know-It-All”
Not only does Google Home run Google’s own AI assistant — arguably the most comprehensive of the big three — it comes with an optional color-changing base allowing for unmatched customization. The smart speaker fully integrates with your other Google devices if you have them but, thanks to Bluetooth connectivity, you can connect with whatever device you want to.
While the bass on this device is certifiably banging, the speaker falls down in balanced sound and has limited add-ons when compared with some of the other speakers on this list. Adding to the list of negatives is the fact that the Google Home is non-portable.
This smart speaker is best for bass-hungry people that don’t mind sacrificing some sound quality for a budget-friendly and incredibly smart audio device.
Amazon Echo: “The Old Pro”
The Amazon Echo is the slightly larger and more comprehensive version of the Echo Dot. While more expensive, you get what you pay for with both versions. Its extensive Amazon Alexa voice assistant works perfectly and turns this speaker into a multi-faceted smart device.
The sound quality is good but nothing groundbreaking. It seems like Amazon has gone with the tried and tested as the sound quality has not improved much over the first generation Echo and the bass won’t be getting you any complaints from your neighbors.
This smart speaker is perfect for those that want an established device that doesn’t oversell what it can do but still packs a respectable punch when it comes to smart features and sound quality. The fact that it costs under $100 is also a plus that not many other smart speakers can claim.
JBL Link 20: “The Traveller”
JBL’s smart speaker boasts a balanced overall sound, as well as portable and sturdy design. It can be submerged in water without damaging or negatively effecting the speaker and has an average of about 10 hours battery life. It also has the Google Assistant built-in, meaning you’ll be able to Google just about anything.
While its sound is good enough, it’s definitely not the best out there. No AUX input also means that, while portable, you’ll have to rely on Bluetooth and Google Home to play your music.
At that price and with its portable design and robust construction, JBL’s speaker is perfect for those that want a smart speaker but don’t want to compromise on portability. This is a smart speaker you can set up at home one minute and take to the park the next.
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