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Best smart speakers: The best voice assistant speakers

There are plenty of speakers vying to be the best smart speaker around, with efforts from Apple, Amazon, Google and Sonos jostling for position. So which speaker is the best? That’s what we’re here to help you make the right choice for you.

For those unaware, smart speakers offer the ability to quiz voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant about whatever is on your mind, as well as integration with other smart ecosystems and much more. They’re designed to help feed you with relevant information to help you get on with what you need to do.

Some speakers generally belong to their own ecosystem but others can mix and match, and that’ll informs which products it can work with it’s of interest to know what speaker does what, and whether it fits into an existing set-up. With multi-room functionality, you can daisy chain multiple speakers to create a whole house full of sound.

Here to make sure you make a smart decision, we’ve created this list that details the best smart speakers we’ve reviewed, with each speaker tested extensively with regards to their design, functionality and audio performance.

If there’s another type of speaker you’re after, check out our best outdoor speaker page, or peruse our best smart and best multi-room speaker lists.

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.

Amazon Echo (4th Generation)

Best affordable 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

The Amazon Echo (4th Generation) represents one of the best value smart speakers on the market, not only because it hits the same price as the previous gen model, but also because you’re getting some extra features into the bargain.

The 4th Gen Echo supports the Zigbee hub as standard, whereas the 3rd Gen required an extra £50 for the Plus model. A Zigbee hub provides the chance to connect other smart devices such as Philips Hue bulbs directly to the Echo without the need for a separate hub. In testing, the Zigbee hub worked well for basic functions, although some specific exploits weren’t available. For the majority of people it’s a feature that’s nice to have rather than a must-have, but it’s good to see it included.

The 4th Gen Echo has had a redesign that embraces a more spherical look and a funkier aesthetic to sit better alongside other furniture in the home. All the controls blend in to the design, which we thought looked especially sleek, and the repositioning of the ring light to the bottom makes getting notifications less obtrusive.

The extra tweeter we found gave audio a boost compared to the previous generation, unearthing more detail and clarity, although at higher volumes it can sound a little muddy. For general listening, the 4th gen Echo will more than suffice, although have a look at the Sonos One if you want the best audio in a smart speaker at a decent price.

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

Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin

Best sounding 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 all the way to the age of the iPod dock, and this latest iteration embraces music streaming and voice assistance.

The Zeppelin carries on the 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 it is not what we’d call compact, a speaker that needs plenty of space to operate. For design fans there’s a choice of either 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 directly play music to the speaker. We found it offered a pleasing amount on convenience, 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 on show, its sound can fill a medium sized room comfortably. Its 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 15. 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).

During testing, the HomePod Mini’s audio was much better than we expected from such a small unit. Apple has crammed a full range driver inside its tiny dimensions, 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 as the better-sounding option.

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 to be consistent across AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Bluetooth inputs, with Chromecast offering the best performance. Casting still doesn’t support MQA with Tidal Master tracks, so Hi-Res Audio is often downsampled to CD quality.

The G10 looks virtually identical to its predecessor with its modern and minimalist looks that come in a choice of two different shades of grey to suit bright or darker 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

Sonos One (Gen 2)

Best multi-room smart speaker
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Pros

  • Great sound
  • Small and convenient
  • Proper Alexa integration
  • Supports Google Assistant

Cons

  • Alexa not fully compatible with Spotify at launch

The Sonos One (Gen 2) is one of the best sounding smart speakers below $200 / £200, with an audio performance we found offered a balanced presentation with solid mids and impactful bass that showcased good depth and extension. Compared to the similarly priced Denon Home 150 and the Sonos doesn’t carry as much bass, but it is a more nuanced and detailed performer.

In addition, the soundstage it offered proved wide for a speaker of its size, with enough volume to fill a room. For anyone who’s owned a Sonos Play:1, the audio signature will sound similar, but this comes as no surprise as both speakers feature the same driver configuration.

The One is a capable smart speaker with hands-free control via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. We found the integration good, with easy control for media playback and answering questions. Both assistants offer a similar feature set, such as changing the volume of any music, or playing music from a preferred music streaming service.

Control can also be done through the Sonos S2 app. The layout here proved to be functional and clean, making it easy to find our favourite tunes and there’s a vast selection of streaming apps to enjoy, a list that includes Tidal, Amazon Music, TuneIn 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, as well as the ability to connect up to other Sonos speakers such as the Move with Sonos multi-room connectivity.

Compared to older Play:1, the 2nd gen One has a more minimalist design, compact enough to in a cabinet or be placed by a bedside table; the swap from physical buttons to responsive touch sensitive buttons makes for a slicker interaction with the unit. There are a number of very good smart speakers at this price, but the Sonos’ overall performance means it edges out other contenders.

Reviewer: Ced Yuen
Full review: Sonos One Gen 2

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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