In the less than five years since it was introduced, the Amazon Echo has been joined in the smart speaker market by dozens of competitors, most notably the Google Home. Together the two behemoths control 94 percent of the market. (Sorry, Apple and Microsoft). Some 21 percent of Americans now own a smart speaker, and those numbers are growing fast. For those looking to add a voice to their home, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite well-reviewed smart speakers, from sound bars and portable models to high-end whole-home systems. They serve different purposes, but they all look good, sound great, and are powered by increasingly useful digital assistants.
Sonos quickly became a beloved high-tech audio brand for two reasons: setting up the custom wireless configuration with a bunch of different speakers is easy, and the sound that comes out of every one of them is fantastic. The Sonos One adds the convenience of Amazon Alexa, which means it provides you with hands-free access to all of the music services that connect to Alexa to your entire Sonos system. And if you’re a Google partisan with serious FOMO right now, don’t worry: Sonos is actively working to bring Google Assistant to the One, as well.
Connecting via a smartphone app to Google Assistant, the wifi-connected Assist becomes your vigilant assistant, responding quickly to a “Hey, Google!” With a simple shout across the room, you can blast music from services including Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube Music. And we mean blast: a tweeter, woofer, and amp come together for serious sound. A slew of features is also easily accessed, including Google queries, access to your Google account email and calendars, and voice control of your Chromecast (sold separately). And if you need it, the Assist also comes with Bluetooth.
A 6,000 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery powers this beast of a portable smart speaker for up to 10 hours. It’s wrapped in waterproof fabric and comes with minimal but useful buttons: power, Bluetooth on/off, play/pause, volume up and down, mic on/off, and a button that activates Google Assistant when pressed (though you can also do so with your voice, as with non-portable Google Assistant speakers). The Link 20 is a little over 8 inches tall and a little less than 4 inches wide. It weighs a couple of pounds — not light as a feather, but more than easy enough to carry to your next picnic or camping trip.
Apple’s wired HomePod carries all the marks of the brand: solid performance, innovative design, and minimalist good looks. It’s definitely pricier than the standard first-party offerings from Amazon and Google, but it’s also more powerful. The top-mounted woofer provides bass-rich output wherever you place the speaker. If you’re already married to the Apple ecosystem, particularly Apple TV and Apple music, the HomePod is a solid choice. You can also set up your smart home around it using HomeKit, Apple’s smart home standard that has plenty of manufacturers on board.
Bose has defined quality in the consumer sound market for decades, and the SoundLink Revolve+ continues this legacy. True 360-degree sound radiates from its conical design, which is both water- and drop-resistant (but not water- and drop-proof, so don’t use it like a beach ball). An important note: this speaker doesn’t come with a voice assistant built in. Instead, it links to your phone and has a button that can activate Siri in iOS devices and Google Assistant in Android devices. That’s a less elegant solution than the other speakers on this list, but the sound quality and sleek design still make this a speaker worth checking out.
Half sound bar, half smart speaker, the Beam combines the standard features of the latter with the media-enhancing hoo-ha of the former. Either synced seamlessly with the rest of your Sonos system (like the aforementioned One) or perfectly content on its own, the wired speaker also connects to Amazon Alexa, allowing you to turn on the TV, change channels, increase the volume, and more. It also connects to Apple AirPlay. While it’s less powerful (and expensive) than the company’s other sound bars, to date it’s their only smart bar, which can outweigh the alternatives’ sound benefits.
The Acton II Voice is immediately recognizable by fans of the company’s legendary guitar amps and cabinets and by anyone who’s ever been to a rock concert. In addition to its gold-and-black aesthetics, this Marshall speaker offers characteristically powerful sound. Three dedicated amps power dual tweeters and a subwoofer for big sound despite its small size (about 6 inches tall and deep and 10 inches wide). But under its classic good looks is an all-new, Alexa-connectable brain. Use it to pair the speaker with others in your home that also connect with the service, creating a bespoke whole-house system with a look that’s completely different from its competitors.
The original smart speaker is still one of the best, most versatile devices on the market. The latest generation adds a cloth covering that makes it look a little warmer than the stark steel exterior of the first-generation Alexa. It’s available in a bunch of different colors and as a bundle with a lot of connected devices, so you can get your smart home started right off the bat. The Echo has seven microphones and noise-canceling and beamforming technology, so it always hears you easily. Buying an Echo also gives you access to thousands of Alexa skills and the ability to control your Fire TV with just your voice, so you never have to worry about losing the remote again.