The best smart speakers of 2021 stand among a huge array of options as everyone is onto just how great these AI speakers are. That's a good thing in that you have great choices, some superb competition that pushes the price down, and more refined smarts than ever. But it does make picking one more difficult – that's why we've done the work for you.
The best smart speakers can be controlled with nothing but your voice. Speak your wish and it will be met by your new robot sound slave, dishing out music, audiobooks, podcasts or news. You can even use the gadget to set alarms and reminders, or talk to whoever is at your front smart doorbell. Most of them also allow you to control your smart thermostat and order groceries online.
When looking for the best smart speaker you'll need to think, primarily, about audio quality and ecosystem. Sound quality is important if you're using this as a speaker, but that might not be the most significant feature if you simply want to use this as a voice controlled interface for your smart home. This is where your choice of interface comes into play. Your personal preference between Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant will influence your final speaker choice, as you'll need to pick something that plays nicely with your current set-up.
Then there's price. There are budget smart speakers like the Google Nest Mini, which costs as little as $29. Or you can go for premium speakers like the Sonos Move, which is $299. Find the right balance for your needs by reading on to discover the best smart speaker for you.
1. Sonos Move: Best overall
The Sonos Move is the best smart speaker on our list for overall awesomeness. It's not the cheapest but for the money you don't have to make a compromise as this does it all. You get a choice of either Google Assistant or Amazon's Alexa which can control your smart home via the WiFi connection. You also have Apple's AirPlay 2 on that Wi-Fi. Unlike most smart speakers, this has a battery onboard for 10 hours use outdoors - yes it's IP56 rated for weather and drop resistance. There's also Bluetooth for when you're out of WiFi range.
A six microphone far field array hears your commands from anywhere and the speaker's Class-D amplifiers sound superb. The Move also has TruePlay which is smart self-tuning that calibrates the speaker when it detects it's been moved, so as to create the best sound for the space it is in. This speaker is near perfect, with great sound, superb smart assistance, a tough and good looking build plus it does everything automatically so you don't have to lift a finger - literally, with this voice controlled beauty.
2. Amazon Echo (3rd Generation): Best for smart speaker newbs
The Amazon Echo (3rd Generation) is the latest evolution of the smart speaker that started this whole smart speaker invasion in our homes. As such this is not only the best model yet but one of the best smart speakers out there. The seven microphone array hears your commands every time and understands even the oddest of mutterings. Control music, the smart home or ask questions to Alexa. The fact it looks good too is just a bonus at this sub $90 price.
The speaker itself is vastly improved with impressive bass for the size thanks to a 3-inch subwoofer and the balance is great too with the 8-inch tweeter pumping out great audio. There's Bluetooth, WiFi and even a 3.5mm port that's in or out as you need. Multi-room support, intercom between Echo devices and voice calling are just a few of the many features this speaker brings which make it valuable far beyond that low price.
3. Marshall Stanmore II Voice: Best for iconic looks
The Marshall Stanmore II Voice is a stunning looking and sounding smart speaker. It is designed to look like the cab of a Marshall amp, making it instantly and iconically recognizable. It's not small, larger than all other smart speaker in this list, in fact. But that's a good thing as this packs in bassy, rich, powerful and well balanced audio on a wide soundstage that does even the most complex tracks justice.
The Alexa smart assistant is built-in so this can be used as a multi-room speaker, as a voice controlled assistant or simply to play music with vocal commands alone. The 50W Class-D amp for the sub backed by two 15W Class-D amps for the tweeters make for seriously big sound that stays distortion free right up to max volume - not that you'll need that unless you're partying very, very loudly.
4. Google Home Max: Best for big sound with low price
The Google Home Max is, as the name suggests the largest speaker in the company's range and, as such, packs the most power. This is a seriously loud speaker that can be used as a party speaker, or as part of a stereo pair for big audio movies thanks to the dual 4.5-inch woofers in this beast. Despite the big impression this can make, it has a minimal design that allows it to fit into any room.
The dual microphones pick up voice commands to the Google Assistant which is one of the easiest to talk to and be understood by. Play music, turn down the smart thermostat, ask a question, get it to tell you a joke - the list of smarts goes on and on. All that and it dramatically undercuts the sonically similar competition on price.
5. Amazon Echo Dot with Clock: Best for the bedroom
The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock adds to the third generation Dot with an LED display that shows the time and, if asking the weather, displays the temperature. It also comes with a touch sensitive top making it the ideal bedside alarm clock that you can tap to snooze. Or, of course, just tell Alexa to be quiet and you can head back to sleep. The Alexa LED light ring helpfully lights before the alarm so you can wake before even hearing the noise.
Beyond being a smart alarm clock this is a fully fledged Alexa voice assistant with controls for the smart home and music as well as answering questions and more. The speaker is small but it's good enough to listen to the news, radio or podcasts - just don't expect it to replace your real stereo. A great, affordable way to smart voice control your home from yet another room.
6. Sonos One: Best for multi-room
The Sonos One supports Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple's AirPlay 2 making it one of the most versatile smart speakers, allowing you to add it to most multi-room setups. The Sonos multi-room support is the best out there for playing back different tracks in different rooms, one tune throughout the house, or tracks in certain sections you group off.
The speaker packs in two Class-D amps, far field noise cancelling microphones and a mid-range woofer for a superbly balanced and powerful audio performance. It'll even allow you to tune to the room, using a smartphone app, for the perfect equalizer balance. It looks great anywhere and can be grouped up as a stereo pair or even as part of a 4.1 sound system.
7. Apple HomePod: Best for Apple fans
As you'd expect the Apple HomePod is well designed and built to look and sound fantastic. This has one of the best sonic performances of any smart speaker, and that applies to any room as it auto calibrates to suit its surroundings. You get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 and AirPlay 2 support but everything is controlled via Siri - which isn't a good thing as Siri just isn't that smart. Also you're limited to Apple Music for a decent experience so if you're not an Apple user you might as well move along now. Also, this is a really expensive smart speaker, so keep that in mind when weighing up your choice.
8. Amazon Echo Studio: Best for Hi-res audio quality
The Amazon Echo Studio is the go-to speaker for playing Hi-res audio as it packs in a 24-bit DAC and supports Dolby Atmos, Sony 360 Reality and FLAC to name but a few high-quality audio formats. That's all played out through a hefty 330W amplifier that runs three 2-inch midrange speakers, one 1-inch tweeter and a mighty 5.25-inch woofer. That equates to really big, really immersive and really high quality sound. This also analyzes the room and adjusts acoustics to suit the space perfectly.
Alexa is the smart assistant running the show, meaning you get lots and lots of smart home and internet focused controls that are too many to list here. We particularly like the ability to make calls, for free, from the Echo and to send out intercom or announcement messages to other Echos - great for getting the kids down at dinner. The only downside is the bass can be a little overpowering at times.
The Google Nest Mini might look like the old Google Home Mini, and it also sounds similar due to identical speakers, but it does more. This one has three microphones so it'll hear you far better and that's a good thing since this is made to be wall mounted, like an intelligent voice assistant for every room. The price makes that possible as this is super cheap.
This isn't going to be your main speaker with that little 40mm driver, but it does work well for answering questions, playing the radio or listening to a podcast. The design is minimal allowing it to fit into any room and the bass has been enhanced by Google smarts making it a step forward from the last generation without stepping up the price.
10. Google Home: Best for basics
The Google Home is the oldest smart speaker on this list as Google hasn't changed it since it was released in 2016. As such it's starting to look a little dated with that dual microphone, 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch radiators but no sub and limitations on Spotify tracks across speakers.
But it's also cheap. For the money you get a Google Assistant packing speaker meaning free calls can be made, you can control Google Cast between device, issue smart home orders, ask questions and enjoy Google Routines to make combinations that activate with just one word. So while the hardware isn't the newest, that Google brain is always getting better.