Smart speakers are one of the defining equipment of smart homes. This is why it is important you get the best. In this guide, we have decided to discuss on the best smart speakers you can find out there. If you have any interest in knowing, then you have to read through this guide keenly.
What Exactly Is A Smart Speaker?
It seems like the term ‘smart’ is used a lot often when referring to modern appliances these days. But what is it that makes a speaker ‘smart’ in the true sense? Simply put, smart speakers are audio devices that not only play audio but also allow you to perform multiple with voice control.
Having said that, keep in mind that it’s just a simple definition. There’s more to a smart speaker than just voice commands. Here are some things that make a speaker truly ‘smart’:
Voice assistants perform different functions, as we have already stated.
- An AI with some extent of humanlike features, such as the ability to answer questions, basic conversation with a human user, voice recognition abilities.
- Can integrate with other smart devices in your home, including, but not limited to your phones, television, and even the lights or alarm system of your home.
- Ability to analyze your activities and preferences and then use it to improve itself and provide faster results.
Buyer’s Guide for Smart Speakers
These are just a few things that could leave you on a bad note. If you are putting in your money on smart speakers, you must be sure that you’re getting a product that’s worth the price and will give you the best experience. That is why we’ve listed some things that you need to look out for when buying the most suitable smart speaker for your home.
Even though smart speakers are capable of performing loads of functions, more often than not, you will primarily be using them as an audio output device. For most of the part, your speakers will be playing music and songs or audio from a television, computers, gaming consoles, etc.
So, the first thing you need to consider is the sound quality of the speakers. Take some things into accounts such as where you want to place the speakers, the size, structure, and interiors of your room, and if there will be any echo and reverberation.
Based on these things, you can decide which speaker has the best sound quality as per your needs. Reading product specifications and customer reviews will help you to get a good idea of the sound quality you can expect from a speaker.
But it would be even better if someone you know already owns a brand of speakers that you’re interested in, so you can get a taste of the sound quality it provides.
Size and Portability
The size and aesthetics of smart speakers may not make a huge difference in their performance. But it will surely be desirable if the speaker doesn’t occupy a lot of space and blends in nicely with your interiors. In fact, many speakers are compact and well designed so that they even double up as a decorative accessory when you place them in your room.
Along with the size, portability is also an important factor, but it depends on your needs. If you want a speaker for a single room, then portability is not an issue. But if you plan to use it outdoors or want to be able to move it around different sections of your home, you will need a speaker that can function on both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and doesn’t need to be plugged in.
Or you can even opt for multi-room settings where the speakers themselves are not portable, but they are placed all over your home and interconnected to each other. And that also brings us to the next point.
Compatibility with Other Devices and Smart Assistants
One of the most decisive factors when buying a smart speaker is its compatibility with different devices and voice assistants. If you’re already using a voice assistant like Google Home or Amazon Alexa, you must narrow down your choices to speakers that are compatible with those. Google Home and Amazon Echo are smart speakers themselves as well.
But if you don’t already own a voice assistant device, you can also find many brands that offer speakers with inbuilt Amazon Alexa or can seamlessly connect to both Alexa and Google Assistant devices to offer more flexibility.
Needless to say, you also need to check in advance if the speaker you wish to buy is compatible with all the various smart devices in your home. You can do this easily by contacting the dealer or manufacturer.
As with any device or product, you must have an idea of the overall user experience that you can expect from smart speakers. Since you have not bought and used the product yet, you won’t get a perfect idea of the user experience of the product. But the product specifications and user ratings should give you a decent idea. Look out for certain things in the product specification such as:
- Whether it’s compatible with multiple streaming services, all voice assistants, and a wide range of devices so you have maximum options in hand.
- What are the total functions you can control with voice commands?
- What are the hands-on features, such as buttons and controls on the speaker?
- How long is the battery backup (if it runs on batteries) or how much power it consumes (if it needs to be plugged in)?
And of course, reading customer reviews will certainly give you better insights into the product as well as the manufacturers and their customer service quality. After all, even when a product is defective or not up to the quality at times, good customer service from the manufacturer’s end can improve the overall experience significantly.
Bluetooth vs. Wi-Fi
When it comes to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi compatibility, you have three options: Bluetooth only, Wi-Fi only, or both. Bluetooth speakers are portable, and you can carry them along wherever you go. But the downsides are that it will play all audio from your phones such as ringtones and alarms so you can’t enjoy uninterrupted music. And they also have a limited range of connectivity.
Wi-Fi speakers have greater range, allows you to connect multiple speakers to the same Wi-Fi and create a system, and it filters out other audio from your phone. But all of it comes at the cost of portability as you can only use such speakers in your home.
Not to mention that you will be unable to operate them when the Wi-Fi is down. Then, some speakers can connect to both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and provide the best of both worlds. But obviously, such speakers are going to have a bit higher price tag.
So speaking of price tags, we move to the next topic, which is:
Pricing and Budget
Everyone has their own budget, and that decision is entirely in your hands. But there are a few things we want you to think about.
First of all, if you want the best buy within your budget range, you must do some comparative research. Make a list of the highest-rated products that are within the price limit you have planned. List their features and compare them, mainly focusing on features that you are mainly looking for.
Which brand offers the best multi-room setting? Which product offers a better bass boost or stereo sound? Do they offer compatibility with the streaming services I use the most? These are just some examples of what comparisons you should be doing between different products of similar pricing and secondly, you should always check out products that are both slightly above and below your budget. Perhaps you could find similar features for a lower price, or much better features for just a couple of bucks more.
Streaming Service Compatibility
Most smart speakers are offering compatibility with as many streaming services as they can. Manufacturers are including popular music streaming services such as Spotify, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, etc. as well as video streaming such as Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus.
So, you should check in advance if the speaker you are planning to buy is compatible with the streaming service you have subscribed to and use the most.
Multi-room speaker systems are growing very popular these days. They are a system of multiple speakers placed in different areas of the home, all connected to the same Wi-Fi. They can be controlled separately or all at once. And you can start with a single speaker and add as many or as few speakers you want later on.
The benefit of multi-room speakers is that it turns your entire home into a smart setting. You can perform voice commands from anywhere in your home. And you can play different audio with each speaker in different sections of your house or play the same audio from all speakers.
Of course, they are going to be more expensive to set up throughout your house. Since there are quite a lot of brands that manufacture multi-room speakers, you will need to go through some reviews and do a bit of research to pick the best system for your home.
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Best Smart Speakers
The Sonos One is a cleanly designed, feature-rich and great-sounding device. It’s sociable, too: you can use it with either Alexa or Google Assistant and it also has AirPlay 2. That means the Sonos One can talk to Siri and be part of a multi-room system with the Apple HomePod or Apple HomePod Mini.
- Rich sound
- Access to Google Assistant or Alexa
- Mic array picks up commands even from a distance
- Expensive compared to the rest of the market
This spherical Amazon Echo is a complete revamp of the company’s flagship smart speaker. The new shape is only part of it: there’s seriously improved sound quality, a built-in Zigbee smart home hub and a new AZ1 neural edge processor that reduces the time it takes for Alexa to respond to commands. So, this is a big step forward for Amazon’s smart speaker.
- Futuristic look
- Improved sound over previous version
- Zigbee hub integration
- Max volume level isn’t loud enough
This small version smart speaker is an Apple-made smart speaker. Despite their small size these smart speakers pack a powerful punch: if you’re committed to Apple’s ecosystem and services such as Apple Music, you’ll love the way these speakers sound – and their comparatively low price.
- Incredible sound
- Sleek design
- Only smart speaker with Siri built-in
- Needs Apple Music for full function
- Small number of compatible smart home devices
If you’re looking for a smart speaker with Google Assistant built-in, the Google Nest Audio is currently the best Google-manufactured smart speaker you can buy; we liked the Google Home Max speaker, but Google has stopped making it.
The Nest audio picked up our commands with ease, and Google Assistant is quick to respond as well as loud and clear. The subtle and unassuming design should blend in well with any home decor, and in addition to its audio skills it’s also a surprisingly intelligent smart home hub.
- Subtle and unassuming design
- Picks up voice commands very well
- Quick, clear responses
- Missing detail in the mids and trebles
- Doesn’t function as a Zigbee hub
The Echo Studio gets far louder than the Echo and has better treble response for crisp, clear sound as well as booming bass. That alone makes it a strong pick.
The biggest surprise in the Echo Studio, however, is Dolby Atmos support combined with directional audio. The speaker has five separate drivers that can generate a wide sound field with (if the geometry of the room is suitable for it) accurate imaging from left to right and even above. Amazon promotes the Echo Studio’s ability to play 360-degree music via its Amazon Music HD subscription service, which is not included in Amazon Prime.
- Excellent value for the size and power
- Loud, clear sound
- Compelling directional audio
- Requires Amazon Music HD to listen to fully 3D Ultra HD music
The Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin is a speaker with a long pedigree and it’s admirably up to date with modern technology. The first Zeppelin was an iPod dock with a 30-pin connector, which launched 15 years ago. Now, it’s a completely wireless speaker with Apple AirPlay and Bluetooth, as well as Alexa. It still looks like a cool, floating black football, and it still sounds fantastic.
- Powerful audio performance with rich bass and detailed highs
- Stylish, iconic design
- App includes adjustable bass and treble settings
- Built-in Amazon Alexa voice control
- Stereo separation could be more pronounced
The Sonos Arc stands out from the pack as a soundbar. It works with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It also supports Sonos’ multi-room audio platform, which means you can mix and match it with other Sonos speakers as part of your home theater setup or around the house.
The Arc sounds excellent by itself, however, which is what makes it impressive. It puts out enough bass that you probably won’t miss a subwoofer.
- Large sound field with powerful bass, even without a subwoofer
- Supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
- Can easily be expanded with satellites and a subwoofer
- Dolby Atmos compatibility with angled tweeters
- Only works with pricey Sono’s subwoofer
Over time, google speaker’s audio quality has improved, and Google Assistant is still smarter than Alexa, but Amazon is ahead of the game when it comes to hooks into the smart home. If you want better audio performance, the Google Nest Audio delivers a lot of bang for the buck, but it costs twice as much as the Mini. The Nest Mini’s price also makes it the runner-up in the best budget-priced smart speaker category.
- Improved sound quality
- Google Assistant rarely gets stumped
- Works great with other Nest devices
- Capacitive buttons are easy to miss
- Sound quality still isn’t that great
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.
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 number of bass and power put out by the Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock is impressive.
- Charming new design
- Great audio quality for its size
- Alexa Guard protection
- Affordable cost
- LED clock should be default
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.
- Very portable
- High sensitivity mics
- Great 360-degree sound
- Alexa and Google Assistant
- AirPlay 2
- Limited app features
- Missing some midrange
In conclusion, smart speakers are great addition to your smart home homes. Interestingly, for families with children, 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.