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Best smart speakers 2020: Smarten up your home

Best smart speakers 2020: Smart speakers allow you to stream music from Spotify and Tidal; talk to them though the magic of voice assistants; and control other smart devices in the home. No matter how you look at it, they’re fast becoming a permanent fixture in the home.

Some smart speakers are tiny; some are huge. Plus, interaction with voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri means that a huge swathe of information is only a voice command away.

But not all smart speakers are equal. Some models offer great smarts, but sound quality can be left wanting. Others may sound terrific, but their smart capabilities aren’t up to scratch. So which are the best smart speakers available, and which will best suit your needs? Our exhaustive list, plus links to full reviews, will help you to make your home just that bit smarter.

Related: Best smart home devices – How to build a smart home


Sonos One

1. Sonos One

Smart, with great sound

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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 slots neatly into an existing Sonos set up, providing multi-room capabilities as well as support for voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant.

Diminutive in size but big in sound, the One generates a full-range sound without missing a beat. If you’re after a discreet unit that will fit easily into any room, one that offers all the smarts without scrimping on audio quality, then the Sonos One is the full package.

Amazon Echo 3rd Gen close up

2. Amazon Echo 3rd Gen

Best-value smart speaker for music

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Pros:

  • Improved sound
  • Same price as the previous model
  • Great colour choices

Cons:

  • The cheaper Echo Dot may meet your needs

The Echo 3rd Gen doesn’t comes with the Zigbee hub – but if you have no interest in what that is, then it’s unlikely to be a huge miss. The Echo 3rd Gen was one of the first Alexa speakers from Amazon to emit reasonably decent sound, displaying punchy bass and a faithful enough high-end that ensures listening to the Echo is rarely a chore.

Audio performance can even be boosted by creating a stereo pair with two units, or one Echo 3rd Gen and an Echo Plus 2nd Gen. Considering how much it costs, the Echo 3rd Gen is something of a bargain.

3. Amazon Echo Studio

The best-sounding Echo speaker

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Pros

  • Weighty bass and big sound
  • Alexa is terrific
  • Dolby Atmos 3D
  • Synergy with other Echo/Fire TV products
  • Good value for the price

Cons

  • Not as nuanced in the mid-range or treble
  • Bass can be overpowering
  • Weighs a tonne

The Echo Studio can play Dolby Atmos music and Hi-Res Audio. The focus on a premium sound experience at an affordable price makes it the best-sounding Echo speaker yet – but it isn’t flawless.

For one, there isn’t a huge amount of 3D audio for the Echo Studio to take advantage of, nor does all of it work well in 3D. Factor in its bassy sound and the Echo Studio can sound overcooked. But the Dolby Atmos 3D does work, and the number of features and versatility it offers (you can use it as a TV speaker) make for a good speaker.

4. Samsung AKG VL5

Detailed, room-filling sound

Pros

  • Big, room-filling sound
  • Precise and detailed delivery
  • Effective smart app

Cons

  • Pricey

The Samsung AKG VL5 is a fantastic-looking speaker, with an aluminium body that’s complemented by a wood finish. Control of the unit is easy: it’s operated through the Moving Dial, which you can detach from the speaker and carry with you.

It delivers a big, open soundstage, with a precise and detailed delivery. Our main complaint at the time of review was its hefty £600 price tag, but it’s currently available for less than £200.

Amazon Echo Dot with Clock clock

5. Amazon Echo Dot with Clock

Best value smart speaker for the bedroom

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Pros:

  • Useful clock display
  • Loud and clear audio for speech
  • Looks great

Cons:

  • Not ideal for music
  • Display doesn’t show notifications

With the Clock you get the benefits of the current Echo Dot, which offers neat looks and powerful audio for speech, alongside the convenience of the clock on the front, it’s an ideal bedside companion.

For an audio speaker you can do better, but for its size, the Echo Dot with Clock’s sound quality is impressively loud and clear. If you’re looking to get a smart system up and running, the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is a great way to integrate Alexa into your home.

Netgear Orbi Voice hero

6. Netgear Orbi Voice

Wi-Fi extender, Alexa and speaker in one

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Pros:

  • Excellent combination of Wi-Fi and smart speaker
  • Great Wi-Fi performance
  • High-quality audio

Cons:

  • Alexa has placed limitations on this system

The Netgear Orbi Voice is likely to be the unfamiliar unit in this list. It serves a dual purposes, with it mesh Wi-Fi technology extending Wi-Fi in the home, it also bundles Alexa voice control and a sound system by Harman Kardon.

All this works out to be a potent combination. The Orbi Voice is a speaker that’s easy to listen to, offers plenty of bass, and can fill a good-sized room with ease. The main issue with the Orbi Voice is one that’s out of its control: Amazon’s treatment of third-party devices means you can’t use Alexa to voice-call nor set up the unit within a group of speakers.

Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Gen) side

7. Amazon Echo Plus 2nd Gen

A high-quality smart speaker

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Pros

  • Smart new looks
  • Decent audio
  • Useful smart home hub and temperature sensor

Cons

  • Limited number of supported smart home devices

The original Echo Plus proved hit-and-miss when it came to performance. The Echo Plus 2nd Gen, which sports a new look, is much improved.

Bass is thumping and the high-end faithful – although the mid-range suffers from compression and a lack of subtlety. It isn’t a speaker that could reach the heights of an Apple, Audio Pro or Sonos, but its performance means the the potential of the Echo Plus is fulfilled at the second time of asking.

Google Nest Mini side view

8. Google Nest Mini

A slight improvement over the original

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Pros:

  • Wall-mount option
  • Simple touch controls
  • Speech sounds better thanks to better bass

Cons:

  • Few improvements over the original
  • No 3.5mm audio jack

The Google Nest Mini speaks to gentle evolution rather than evolution. The addition of a wall-mounting option provides more freedom regarding placement, and improved bass response makes the unit a better-sounding speaker than the original.

It still isn’t the most ideal for listening, with tinny and harsh tones at the top-end; we’d place the Google Nest Mini more in the category of smart speaker than a genuine wireless speaker. For those with the original Mini, this doesn’t offer enough to warrant an upgrade. For all those who are new to smart speaker game, though, the Home Mini is the best small Google Assistant speaker.

Apple HomePod

9. Apple HomePod

One for iOS users only

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Pros:

  • Stunning sound quality
  • Clever spatial awareness
  • Handsome looks

Cons:

  • Siri isn’t that smart
  • Frustrating software
  • Restricted to Apple users

If you’re an iOS owner who’s fully immersed in the Apple ecosystem and value great audio then the HomePod is second to none. At launch the price was a stumbling block, but a reduction means this unit is now slightly more amenable – although it remains significantly more expensive than its peers.

It’s the best-sounding smart speaker out there, with a warm, expansive sound that’s clear as well as revealing plenty of detail. Siri isn’t the smartest of voice assistants, and you’ll likely suffer from Apple’s wall-garden approach. This is one for Apple lovers.

Sony LF-S50G Smart Speaker

10. Sony LF-S50G

One of the prettier smart speakers

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Pros:

  • Attractive design
  • Splash-proof
  • Clock display
  • Gesture controls

Cons:

  • Sound isn’t amazing
  • Gesture controls

This speaker came out at a time when smart speakers weren’t ubiquitous. It’s been outmatched by others for features and performance, but its current price means it can be had for a tidy sum.

While the sound can be categorised as just fine, the sound is bigger than the speaker’s stature suggests; its room-filling nature means there’s no traditional sweet-spot that you need stand in. With an attractive design and gesture controls, the Sony is worth auditioning.

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