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Best Smart Speakers: Our top voice assistant speakers

While Amazon initially paved the way for the smart speaker revolution with the Amazon Echo in 2014, there has been stiff competition from the likes of Sonos, Google, Apple, and many others as smart speakers grew in popularity.

So which smart speaker should you choose? That’s where we come in.

We’ve listed a range of smart speakers to fit into various ecosystems, so you can decide which one to have in your home. The ‘smart’ aspect of these speakers is one facet we consider in our appraisal, as the sound quality and design also need to be evaluted to make sure you’re getting good sound along with the smarts.

If you’re intrigued to know what other devices are available in the world of audio, you can also check out our round-ups for the best Bluetooth speakers, best outdoor speakers and best multi-room speakers.

At a glance

How we test

Learn more about how we test smart speakers

We play a lot of music, and we play it loud. We make sure that the smart features actually work, as why else would you buy it?

We test functionality with all the listed smart speakers, which means we regularly have conversations with the likes of Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. How responsive are they? And are the features wide-ranging or limited in scope? We take all of this into account.

Of course, it always comes back to the music. Speakers are tested by reviewers who have a love of music, a knowledge of sound quality, as well as a context of the market. We’ll listen to smart speakers alongside similarly priced rivals, so when we recommend a particular model, it’s among the best you can buy for the money.

Obviously, we know not everyone has the same taste in music, so we won’t only test with the same perfectly mastered album, but with a variety of genres and file qualities, from MP3 to Hi-Res FLAC.

Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin

Best sounding Alexa smart speaker
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Pros

  • Precise sound
  • Plenty of streaming options
  • Striking design
  • Nice app

Cons

  • Rather large to accommodate
  • No Chromecast
  • Stereo ambitions overstated

The Zeppelin range of wireless speakers from Bowers & Wilkins goes back to the age of the iPod dock, and this latest iteration embraces music streaming and voice assistance.

The Zeppelin keeps the airship looks, its contoured curves create a distinctive silhouette with the fabric covering embellishing the speaker’s premium feel. The FEA optimised enclosure offers rigidity and at a width of 650mm though it is not what we’d call compact. It’s a speaker that needs plenty of space to operate. There’s a choice of midnight grey or pearl grey finishes, both of which look great.

In terms of connectivity there’s AirPlay 2 for iOS devices, and in the B&W Music app there’s an array of streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer and Tidal to play music to the speaker. We found it offered a pleasing amount on convenience in collating music services into one app, and there’s a simple EQ adjustment available to tweak the sound. Alexa is the choice for voice assistance and we found her responsive to requests, able to pick up our voice from across the room when music was playing.

The Zeppelin’s enclosure has a pair of 25mm double-dome tweeters, two 90mm FST drivers deal for the mid-range while low frequencies are handled by a 6-inch subwoofer.

During our time with the Zeppelin, we found it was a speaker that delivered a precise sound, with a crisp mid-range, punchy bass and a top end that feature plenty of clarity that edges out the similarly priced Braun LE02 in our view. Vocals are crisp and clear and there’s a good sense of dynamism, its sound can fill a medium sized room comfortably. The claims of stereo imaging are overstated, with not much of a distinct left or right image apparent within the Zeppelin’s soundstage.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full review: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin

Apple HomePod Mini

Best Apple smart speaker
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Pros

  • Sound incredible
  • Very small
  • Great price
  • Decent voice control

Cons

  • Captive cable
  • Very reliant on Apple services (for now)

The original HomePod was a great smart speaker for those immersed within the iOS ecosystem, and the smaller HomePod Mini packs much of what we liked with the bigger HomePod at an affordable price.

It builds on the good looks by using the same fabric covering as the original, but swaps out the cylindrical shape for something more akin to a ball. Its overall size makes it one of the smallest smart speakers, tinier than the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation).

With a weight of just 345g, we found it easy to place around the home, as the Mini doesn’t take up much space. We did find it disappointing that Apple still ships the speaker with a captive cable. If it gets damaged then the whole speaker needs to be sent back.

Setup is easy as long as you have an iOS device to get things started. On the feature front there’s a lot to unpack, Siri mostly responded to us with clear answers and better phrasing than she has in the past, while smart home control has also become notably better with iOS updates. That’s led to HomeKit integration being improved, even if the service is still missing native support from the likes of Nest and Ring (a HomeBridge is needed to connect).

We observed that the HomePod Mini’s audio was much better than expected from such a small unit. Apple has crammed a full range driver along with two bass radiators and an acoustic waveguide that spreads audio into the room.

We observed plenty of bass alongside a good detail levels that bucked our expectation of how smaller speakers often sound. The scope in terms of volume is impressive, and at full whack the Mini can almost be too loud for some rooms.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full review: Apple HomePod Mini

Audio Pro G10

Best Google smart speaker
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Pros

  • Great sound
  • Built-in smarts
  • Handsome looks
  • Multi-room support

Cons

  • More expensive than previous model
  • Chromecast downsamples Tidal Master tracks

If you prefer the Google smart ecosystem but aren’t too interested in the Nest Audio range of wireless speakers, then the Audio Pro G10 is the speaker we’d recommend.

The A10 sports the same driver setup as the A10, but Audio Pro have found performance gains, sounding fuller and more expressive with vocals. Bass is more assertively described with the G10 than it was on the A10, the mid-range is handled with clarity and treble notes are defined with confidence.

Where previously you could connect to Audio Pro’s own multi-room setup with the A10, the G10 ditches that for connectivity with Google. That means this speaker can’t connect to other Audio Pro models within the Audio Pro app. Google assistance does bring Google Home (for multi-room) and Chromecast (for casting to the speaker from streaming services), all of which we found very easy to use. iOS users get some love with AirPlay 2 and there’s Bluetooth 5 as well. The 3.5mm jack also allows for plugging in a portable music speaker, if you so choose.

The shape of the speaker doesn’t lend itself to a wide soundstage, but nothing sounds too cramped or congested and we found performance consistent across AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Bluetooth inputs, with Chromecast offering the best performance.

The G10 looks identical to its predecessor with its modern and minimalist looks that comes in a choice of two different shades of grey for bright or dark environments. Some changes have been to onboard operation, with the four preset buttons replaced with buttons for muting the microphone, Google Assistant and input selection for a greater amount of control over the speaker.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full review: Audio Pro G10

Amazon Echo (4th Generation)

Best Alexa smart speaker
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Pros

  • Improved sound
  • Same price as the previous model
  • Zigbee hub
  • Looks fantastic

Cons

  • Zigbee hub not compatible with all devices

If you’re after a smart speaker that offers impressive audio quality, Zigbee and Matter compatibility plus easy access to the Amazon ecosystem, then the Amazon Echo (4th Generation) is an ideal choice.

Sporting a spherical design that’s shorter and wider than its predecessors, the Amazon Echo 4th Generation is designed to blend into your home rather than stand out. The status ring light has also been moved down to the bottom, which still gets your attention for notifications but with a less intrusive and distracting light than previous Echos. 

Alexa remains one of the best voice assistants for smart home devices, especially thanks to Alexa Routines, which can perform multiple actions at the same time each day. For example, you can set a routine to simultaneously turn on your lamp, set your thermostat and read out the headlines in the morning.

Not only can you control your smart lights and central heating using just your voice but Alexa also boasts numerous skills that can make your life easier, including setting timers, creating calendar events and checking traffic updates. 

You’ll also find the Zigbee hub included on the Echo 4th Generation which is particularly useful if you want to control all your smart home devices from your Echo. With the Zigbee hub you can add non-Amazon smart home devices to your Alexa network without having to use additional hubs. The Echo should also discover your devices automatically too, taking the pain out of laborious set-ups. 

It’s worth noting that not all third-party Zigbee devices are compatible so do check before you buy. 

Although a small and compact device, there are two 0.8-inch tweeters and a 3-inch woofer housed inside, which is one more tweeter than the previous Echo. This results in more detailed sound quality with extra clarity in audio. 

Amazon’s Echo 4th Generation is an impressive upgrade from previous generations. Not only does it boast upgraded audio but the built-in Zigbee hub and Alexa support means it’s easy to use and to integrate into your home.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Review: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Apple HomePod 2

Best Apple smart speaker for sound
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Pros

  • Fantastic sound and strong Spatial Audio representation
  • Removable power cable
  • Small and compact

Cons

  • Strangely slow in some situations
  • You need to be an Apple user to get the most out of it
  • Not overly different from the previous version

After being discontinued just when it was starting to hit its stride, Apple brought back the full-size HomePod smart speaker for another go-around, keeping the same design and similarly high asking price at $299 / £299.

The design is near-identical to the original model with a few useful tweaks. One of those changes is the move from a captive cable to one that can be disconnected and swapped out, useful if it ever gets damaged. The screen on top is bigger than before, although we found it doesn’t do much other than pulse when playing music.

It’s a speaker that perhaps looks bigger than it actually is, covered in a soft mesh fabric that blends nicely into softer environments. It is a heavy speaker at 2.3kg, but unless you’re moving it about, this isn’t likely to be a great issue.

As usual with Apple devices, the HomePod 2 works best in an Apple ecosystem. There’s still no Bluetooth compatibility, though in terms of smart support we found the HomePod 2 to be an improvement with Matter compatibility that can link devices from the likes of Apple, Amazon and Google together in one ecosystem. Siri works well to identify commands, though frustratingly, Apple still restricts which music streaming service is set as default, so there’s no means of adding Spotify and controlling it via Siri.

On better terms is the actual sound quality from the speaker. Though our reviewer found its frequency response to be bass heavy, it produces great audio for its size, with clear and crisp vocals along with a nice warm to how it handles low frequencies that hits hard. It’s with spatial and Dolby Atmos audio that we found the HomePod 2 very impressive, creating a sense of depth and separation between instruments and vocals to provide a great sense of 3D immersion.

Reviewer: Max Parker
Full Review: Apple HomePod 2

Sonos Era 100

Best Sonos smart speaker
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Pros

  • More emphatic bass delivery than the One
  • Quick Tune Trueplay
  • Supports Bluetooth connectivity
  • Wider sweet spot
  • Excellent app interface

Cons

  • Hike up in price
  • Arguably too bassy
  • No adapters included with speaker

The Era 100 replaces the now discontinued One (Gen 2) and Sonos has sought to give the design and sound quality a makeover.

It’s taller, deeper but around the same width as the older speaker, carrying on the industrial design that Sonos has used for all its recent products, so it looks sleek and minimalist. There’s no Ethernet port for this model, replaced by a USB-C port. It can still be connected to a router, but requires the use of an adapter, which is rather annoying as well as adding more cost.

Control can also be done through the Sonos app, the layout has been simplified to make it easier to find content, though at launch it was missing a number of features that Sonos has slowly been adding back.

You can listen to a wide range of streaming apps, a list that includes Tidal, Amazon Music, TuneIn, Qobuz, and Spotify, as well as any music you’ve got saved on your device locally. There’s also support for AirPlay 2 for iOS devices, and the addition of Bluetooth, as well as the ability to connect up to other Sonos speakers such as Era 300 with Sonos multi-room connectivity.

The Era 100 supports Amazon Alexa and Sonos Voice Control. We found the integration good, with easy control for media playback and answering questions.

The sound is better than the One Gen 2 in some ways. The bass response has been improved to offer more depth and richness to music, while the treble is clearer and more detailed, the sweet spot has been widened so you don’t have to sit directly in front of the speaker to enjoy the best performance. Where it’s not as good is in its midrange performance, which is warmer but less detailed and sharp. We couldn’t quite hear as much detail and sharpness as we observed on the previous speaker.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full review: Sonos Era 100

Denon Home 150

Best HEOS smart speaker
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Pros

  • Enjoyably bombastic
  • Big sound
  • Smart looks
  • Now with native voice support

Cons

  • Sonos One strikes a better balanced sound

The Home 150 is Denon’s answer to Sonos’ One and Era 100 speakers, offering a richer and more distinctive audio performance.

The design is minimalist but stands out more than Sonos speakers with its fabric covering. Up top is a touch surface that lights up whenever your hand hovers over it (a nice touch), while around the back are connections for hooking a USB to speaker or hardwiring to a router through the Ethernet port.

The Home 150 now supports Alexa, so you can finally ask her Alexa questions and she’ll respond. The rest of the smarts come through Denon’s Heos app, which is the nicest looking but does offer integration with streaming services such as Amazon Music, Tidal, Deezer, and Spotify, You’re also able to tweak the speaker’s EQ sound and optimise the bass, depending on where the speaker is placed.

Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, and Wi-Fi streaming are included, and the speaker supports music up to 24-bit/192kHz through the USB input.

Like the Era 100, the size dictates that the Home 150’s soundstage isn’t the widest, but it’s a speaker that doesn’t need an invitation to go loud. Its bass performance is rich and warm, though we feel the treble performance could be a little clearer and detailed. The warmth of its sound does mean that its midrange performance comes across as very expressive and musical. It’s not the sharpest or most detailed presentation, but the Denon Home 150 is a fun smart speaker to listen to.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full review: Denon Home 150

Amazon Echo Dot (5th generation)

Best budget smart speaker
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Pros

  • Improved audio
  • Looks great
  • Improved tap controls

Cons

  • No 3.5mm audio output

Previous Echo Dot smart speakers have felt like cheap ways to get Alexa control and replies around the house, but they’re weren’t particularly good for entertainment. The Amazon Echo Dot (5th Generation) changes that, and this model houses a larger 1.73-inch front firing speaker.

That’s significantly larger than the 1.6-inch speaker on the previous generation model. The difference is stark, with the 5th generation model sounding much more imposing and impressive. Bass is now rendered with a degree of skill, and the speaker delivers more poise. Sure, the high end can be a bit harsh, and more subtle detail is lost, but the Echo Dot has gone from a no-frills speaker to a decent budget choice that can handle music.

Otherwise, it’s business as normal. The Echo Dot apes the design of the larger Echo, although here the spherical speaker is smaller, around the size of a baseball. And, there’s a choice of three options that all use the same base technology: the Echo Dot (5h generation); Echo Dot with Clock (5th generation), which adds a smart LCD screen for showing the time and more; and the Echo Dot Kids (5th generation), which has two animal designs and comes with a year of Kids+.

Other speakers on this list will deliver a better audio experience, but if you want a cheaper smart speaker that can turn its hand to anything, this is the one to buy.

Reviewer: David Ludlow
Full Review: Amazon Echo (5th Gen)

B&O Beosound Balance

Best premium smart speaker
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Pros

  • Extravagant design
  • Big room-filling sound
  • Google Assistant smarts
  • Plenty of app customisation

Cons

  • Extravagant price
  • Compromised Tidal Masters performance with Chromecast
  • Not the most dynamic performance

The B&O Beosound Balance is an ornate looking smart speaker that comes with a high price tag to match.

As expected from a B&O product, the Balance has an immensely minimalist design, complete with a natural wood base and speaker housing wrapped in knitted fabric that feels lovely to touch. Inside is space for seven drivers with two 2-inch full range drivers, two opposing 5.25-inch bass drivers and one ¾ tweeter for high frequencies in the front of the speaker, while around the back are two 3-inch full range drivers that act as ‘sound enhancers’.

It’s a hefty speaker at 7.2kg, and one we found best to set down and leave once a good place has been found as carting the speaker around can be rather tiresome. There’s a choice of Natural Oak, Black Oak, Nordic Ice and White Marble to fit your décor.

The Balance comes in two version, one with Google Assistant and one without (both, strangely, cost the same). Google support brings built-in Chromecast, but the likes of AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth 5 are available to increase the number of ways to send audio to the speaker. If you have deep enough pockets, a stereo pair of Balance speakers can be created in Google Home for a bigger audio performance.

The B&O app is one we found simply laid out and easy to operate, offering the means to adjust the direction of the speaker’s sound, control playback and change EQ settings in a fairly intuitive manner.

It’s no real surprise the audio is good, as we found the presentation to be clear, detailed and natural in tone. While the soundstage is not be the widest, predictable given its conical shape, it at least is consistent from all angles when in its 360 mode.

We would recommend placing the speaker against a wall to firm up the sound, but overall this is a high quality speaker, that performs well across a range of music genres. The volume scaling could use some more finesse, sliding from low to high can result in sudden jumps in loudness that aren’t welcome.

Reviewer: Kob Monney
Full review: Bang & Olufsen Beosound Balance

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FAQs

Which voice assistants are supported by smart speakers?

You’ll find that Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the most commonly supported digital assistants on speakers. If you’re within the Apple ecosystem then Siri is the assistant of choice.

Can I turn digital assistants off?

You could disable digital assistants through the speaker’s companion app if that’s supported. Many allow for the microphone to be turned off to disable the assistant.

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