The Sonos One is still the best smart speaker you can buy. Despite being released a couple of years ago, it’s mighty tough to overlook even with all the options from big players such as Google, Amazon, and Apple.
It’s not often you find something that supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Call it rare, which it is, but it also features fantastic sound for its size, support for Apple’s AirPlay 2 wireless streaming, and — because it’s a Sonos — it’s a champ at multi-room audio, integrating with the rest of your Sonos setup right out the box. A few have tried toppling it, but when you set the bar high, it makes it extremely difficult to overcome.
We chose the Sonos One because it’s not just a great smart speaker, it’s also just a great wireless speaker, which gives you the best of both worlds. It controls the smart home with ease, while also delivering in the audio quality department to please audiophiles. However, it’s not to say that it should be the only smart speaker worth considering.
Our team has reviewed smart speakers since the category emerged with Amazon’s Echo all those years ago, and we’ve developed a keen sense of what to look for in one of these products. After hundreds of hours of listening, controlling smart home tasks, and generally getting the various voice assistants to do our bidding, we’re confident the Sonos One will be ideal for most people. Whichever one you end up choosing, you may be surprised by what smart speakers are capable of doing.
Best smart speakers at a glance:
- The best smart speaker: Sonos One
- The best cheap smart speaker: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock
- The best smart speaker for Amazon Alexa: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
- The best smart speaker for Google Assistant: Google Nest Audio
- The best smart speaker for Apple Music: Apple HomePod Mini
- The best smart speaker for TV: Sonos Beam
- The best portable smart speaker: Bose Portable Home Speaker
- The best smart speaker for room-filling sound: Marshall Stanmore II Voice
- The best smart speaker for 3D sound: Amazon Echo Studio
The best smart speaker: Sonos One
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Why you should buy this: It sounds great, gives you a choice of voice assistant, works with every Sonos device, and offers more streaming services than any other smart speaker.
Who it’s for: Everyone.
Why we picked the Sonos One:
You can buy lots of smart speakers with Amazon’s Alexa. There is also a pretty good selection of those that have Google Assistant. But if you want a smart speaker that gives you a choice between these two options, well that’s much harder to find. Thankfully, the Sonos One does just that, making it not only one of the best sounding smart speakers you can buy, but also one of the most flexible. You can’t run Alexa and Google Assistant simultaneously, but switching between them is very easy to do.
The speaker’s far-field microphone array effortlessly hears voice commands from across a room, even when music is playing. If you have qualms about privacy, Sonos claims that muting the microphones is done via hardware, ensuring that when the mic indicator light is off, the speaker is definitely not listening. With AirPlay 2, you can stream any audio from an Apple device directly to the speaker, or to any other Sonos speaker in your home.
There are some minor drawbacks: No Bluetooth means that Android devices must use the Sonos app, and you can’t take the Sonos One away from your home’s Wi-Fi network and still use it as a wireless speaker. Unlike the older Sonos Play:1 — on which the Sonos One is based — there’s no speaker mounting hole.
But our favorite aspect of the Sonos One is simply the fact that it’s a Sonos speaker. The Sonos wireless whole-home music system remains the very we’ve ever tested. It has support for almost every major music streaming service, and it’s all controlled from an app on your phone, tablet, or PC. Not only is the app full of great features like Apple Music playlist compatibility and the ability to group multiple speakers, but these features are also remarkably easy to use.
Thanks to Sonos’ partnership with Ikea, there’s also a growing ecosystem of cool third-party devices that can be used to control the Sonos One and any other Sonos speakers in your home. The Sonos One truly is a fantastic speaker, and a great way to smarten up your home.
Read our full Sonos One review
The best cheap smart speaker: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock
John Velasco / Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: It’s affordable, controls your home, displays the time, and can route sound through bigger speakers — though you might not need to.
Who it’s for: Those in need of an Alexa voice-control hub.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) with Clock:
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. There’s also another one meant specifically for kids.
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 amount of bass and power put out by the Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock is impressive. You wouldn’t expect a high level of quality out of something so small!
The most appealing part about the Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock is its price. At $60, it’s easy on just about any budget — meaning you can buy multiple units without forking over a huge sum of money! And who doesn’t like that?
Read our full Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock review
The best smart speaker for Amazon Alexa: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
Why you should buy this: The Amazon Echo is the go-to Alexa-powered speaker thanks to its excellent audio and home control.
Who it’s for: Casual music listeners who own Alexa-enabled devices in the home.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo (4th Gen):
Similar to the Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock, Amazon’s Echo is in its fourth generation — offering a balance of rich audio performance with the intelligence of Alexa behind it. When it comes to music, it certainly is an upgrade versus the Echo Dot, since it’s packing a 3-inch woofer and dual front-firing 0.8-inch tweeters. And that’s all in a brand new, spherical design.
Of course, it’s a wonderful centerpiece in the living room if you’re planning to entertain guests, thanks to its robust and ample audio quality. Other features like a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, Bluetooth, and stereo pairing rounds out its audio features. When it comes to controlling the smart home, the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) can be used to turn off lights, check up on calendar appointments, and order pizza. Meanwhile, it can also monitor your home while you’re away by sending you notifications if it hears the sounds of smoke alarms with Alexa Guard.
You’re getting a rich smart speaker in terms of performance, and features with the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). And you know what? It only costs $100.
Read our full Amazon Echo (4th Gen) review
The best smart speaker for Google Assistant: Google Nest Audio
John Velasco / Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: It’s bigger, packs more sound than its predecessor, and it’s priced reasonably at $100
Who it’s for: Anyone who loves great-sounding audio and relies on Google Assistant.
Why we picked the Google Nest Audio:
After a long wait, Google Home’s successor finally launched with the Nest Audio. And this time, it’s playing to a wider range of people because it brings that perfect mixture of intelligence and raw power.
What’s apparent is that it’s a substantially beefier speaker than the Google Home — aided by its 19mm tweeter and 75mm mid-woofer. The result is a Google Assistant power smart speaker that roars with incredible power. There’s no denying that it’s far more equipped at playing music than its successor, just because it’s 76% louder and has a 50% boost in bass.
You can also pair it with another Google Nest Audio for stereo sound, plus now you can group multiple speakers in other rooms to play your tunes everywhere — while being harmoniously in sync. The best part of the Nest Audio is that you’re not paying a fortune for premium audio with its $100 sticker price. It’s affordable, packs all the intelligence of Google Assistant, and even delivers impressive sound.
Read our full Google Nest Audio review
The best smart speaker for Apple Music: Apple HomePod Mini
John Velasco / Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: Don’t let its size fool you, it has great sound if you’re an Apple fanatic.
Who it’s for: Strictly those with an iPhone and either an Apple Music or Spotify subscription.
Why we picked the Apple HomePod Mini:
Apple certainly learned how tough it can be to complete in the smart speaker space. While its HomePod faced stiff competition when it launched, its sibling in the HomePod Mini fared much better. Part of that reasoning is that the HomePod Mini was cheaper, while still offering excellent audio performance.
Apple users will appreciate the HomePod Mini in the home because Siri can be leveraged on the speaker to accomplish a number of things, such as turning on the lights, unlocking the door, and much more. When it comes to audio, there’s still a lot of power behind its compact design — but what’s impressive is its ability to adapt to whatever it’s playing. For example, if you’re watching a movie on your television and using the HomePod Mini as your audio source, it’ll tune the audio accordingly so that dialogue won’t be drowned out by the sound effects in the background.
Speaking of home theater experiences, you can achieve that by pairing two HomePod Mini speakers together. In fact, you’d be surprised by how well it sounds compared to a traditional soundbar.
Read our full Apple HomePod Mini review
The best smart speaker for TV: Sonos Beam
Why you should buy this: You want much better sound for your TV, with sophisticated voice control too.
Who it’s for: Those with a TV in a smaller room like a bedroom or kitchen
Why we picked the Sonos Beam:
Even the best TVs typically have lousy sound quality due to their tiny built-in speakers, which makes soundbars an attractive option for many. However, many soundbars tend to be large, and clunky affairs despite their overall simplicity. This is where the Sonos Beam comes in.
A compact and well-styled bar, it can easily fit under the smallest of TVs on either a console or on the wall using the optional bracket. Like every Sonos product, it has very good sound quality for its size and can become part of a much larger multiroom audio system. The Sonos app lets you stream from virtually every music service on the planet and it does an excellent job managing your private music collection too.
But the reason we’ve chosen the Beam for this roundup is its smart speaker chops. With the ability to run either Google Assistant or Alexa as its voice assistant, it can serve as the hub for a host of home automation commands.
What we really like about the Beam is that it can translate spoken commands for Google Assistant or Alexa into signals that control your TV. “Alexa, turn on Bedroom TV,” will do just that. Other commands, like “Alexa, turn the volume up on Bedroom TV,” work well too, as will similar commands for Google Assistant.
These voice commands are so effective, they almost entirely eliminate the need for a physical remote. But don’t worry, the Sonos Beam also plays nicely with traditional infrared TV remotes too.
Read our full Sonos Beam review
The best portable smart speaker: Bose Portable Home Speaker
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: Lightweight and highly portable, yet with surprisingly good sound, this smart speaker can do it all.
Who it’s for: Those who want a smart speaker that can keep up with their on-the-go lifestyles.
Why we picked the Bose Portable Home Speaker:
You already know that we love the Sonos One for its ability to let you choose your preferred voice assistant. 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. The app isn’t as good as the one Sonos provides, but as long as you don’t intend to build a whole-home music system using Bose speakers, we doubt you’ll mind.
While you shouldn’t let it fall in the pool, the speaker is protected from small amounts of water thanks to its IPX4 rating, so you need not fear the occasional unexpected rain shower.
Apple users will love the AirPlay 2 integration which lets you stream any audio — be it music from your favorite streaming service, or the soundtrack from a Netflix movie — directly to the speaker when connected to Wi-Fi. When on the road (or if you’re an Android user) the Bose Portable Home Speaker‘s Bluetooth connection lets you keep the tunes going. With 12 hours of battery life between charges, those tunes can go on for most of a day.
Read our full Bose Portable Home Speaker review
The best smart speaker for room-filling sound: Marshall Stanmore II Voice
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Why you should buy this: The Stanmore II Voice has the capabilities of a voice assistant in a serious sound machine.
Who it’s for: Those who don’t want to compromise on big, full sound — or classy looks — when buying a smart speaker.
Why we picked the Marshall Stanmore II Voice:
Smart speakers, it can be argued, often suffer from two drawbacks. First, they’re not the most attractive. Whether it’s a small plastic puck or a fabric-wrapped cylinder, few of them add to the decor of your space. Second, though some of these speakers sound very good, they lack the kind of power needed to really fill a room with big, bold sound.
The Marshall Stanmore II Voice addresses both of these issues head-on. With its retro-cool, guitar amp-inspired design, there’s no denying the Stanmore II Voice makes a statement. That vintage vibe carries all the way through with physical control knobs on the top surface and chunky rubber feet on the bottom. It gives instant appeal to any room.
With its single woofer driven by a 50-watt amplifier and two discretely-powered tweeters, you not only get big, bold sound, you also get true stereo — making it one of the few smart speakers on the market that does this. It balances heart-thumping bass with clear treble to produce a sound that is as musical as it is powerful. Go ahead and crank up the volume — you won’t get a hint of distortion even at the highest settings.
Even if you like it loud, your voice assistant will hear you clearly, thanks to the built-in far-field mics that are surprisingly sensitive, while connectivity options include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 3.5mm line-in jack, and a set of RCA plugs on the back — perfect for connecting one of the best turntables.
You can’t use both Alexa and Google Assistant, unfortunately, but Marshall sells two different versions of the Stanmore II Voice, so the choice over which one you prefer is still yours.
Read our Marshall Stanmore II Voice review
The best smart speaker for 3D sound: Amazon Echo Studio
Why you should buy this: As the only smart speaker with Dolby Atmos capabilities, it delivers an incredibly immersive, 3D sound experience.
Who it’s for: Alexa fans who want a speaker on the leading edge of new digital music formats.
Why we picked the Amazon Echo Studio:
Though it bears a resemblance to the Apple HomePod with its cylindrical shape, the Echo Studio is, in fact, an entirely new breed of smart speaker. It’s still an Amazon Echo, which means that you get all of the benefits of being able to issue voice commands to Alexa to control everything from your music to your thermostat. But when it comes to audio, the Echo Studio is in a class of its own.
Recently, Amazon has been getting very serious about audio quality. We talked about this above in relation to the Echo Dot 3rd gen, but it goes much further. With the launch of the Amazon Music HD streaming service, Amazon is now a leading source of top-quality music. The service offers CD-quality audio and hi-res audio, as well as immersive 3D music tracks via Dolby Atmos Music, and Sony 360 Reality Audio. And for now, the Echo Studio is the only speaker on the planet that works with all of them.
CD-quality and hi-res audio are easy to understand: They’re the best versions of stereo audio you can get. Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio are different. These two new formats expand your music into something far wider, deeper, and immersive — which is why we refer to them as 3D. The Echo Studio not only projects these formats around a room the way they were meant to be heard, but it also reinforces the sound with a clean and powerful bass response we simply didn’t expect from a speaker at this price.
The Amazon Echo Studio may not please audiophiles — it tends to muffle some midrange sounds for stereo sound — but it is nonetheless a superb value and (at the moment) a unique smart speaker that leads a growing movement.
Read our full Amazon Echo Studio review
Research and buying tips
- Should I buy an Alexa smart speaker or Google smart speaker?
- Do smart speakers help the visually impaired?
- Do smart speakers have an aux input?
- Can I use smart speakers to listen to FM radio?
- Do smart speakers usually have a battery?
- How do smart speakers help the visually impaired?
Should I buy an Alexa smart speaker or Google smart speaker?
That depends on which ecosystem you like most. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, and both allow you to use the most popular streaming services out there. If you’re undecided, go for a smart speaker that gives you a choice like the Sonos One or Bose Portable Home Speaker.
Do smart speakers help the visually impaired?
Yes. Because they have a lot of functionality that doesn’t require buttons, smart speakers can be great for visually impaired people.
Do smart speakers have an aux input?
Some smart speakers, like the Marshall Stanmore II Voice, have 3.5mm inputs. If you need an AUX input, we recommend checking to make sure the speaker has one before purchasing.
Can I use smart speakers to listen to FM radio?
No, most smart speakers do not have an FM tuner. If you want to listen to the radio, your best bet is to use internet radio on these speakers.
Do smart speakers usually have a battery?
Some do and some don’t. If you want to take your smart speaker with you on the go, we recommend making sure it has a built-in or add-on battery (like the Bose Portable Home Speaker).
How do smart speakers help the visually impaired?
Visually impaired individuals can benefit tremendously from using a smart speaker at home. As with any physical disability, smart speakers offer people actions through voice interactions. Instead of having to get up to flick a switch to turn on the lights, you can just speak actions to a smart speaker. Additionally, smart speakers can read the news aloud — instead of having people try to read it themselves. These are just a couple of the many examples of how smart speakers help the visually impaired.