The best smart speakers take all the top parts of music players and they add intelligent listening to make them even more useful. Not only do these have microphones to hear your commands, but they're backed by AI powered smart assistants.
All that means you can ask your speaker what you want to listen to – and plenty more besides. From checking the weather to controlling your smart home, these smart speakers can do it all without you having to lift a finger.
From the super affordable Amazon Echo to the higher end Sonos Moveright through to the compact Google Nest Mini – there are lots of speaker options to suit everyone's needs. Yup, you no longer need to sacrifice premium audio quality in order to get a smart voice controlled assistant in your favourite speaker spot in your home.
So from being alerted by your video doorbell to unlocking your smart lock door, it can all be done from the comfort of your sofa. It's worth noting that while some speakers offer multiple voice assistants, most will make you pick between Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Siri or Microsoft Cortana. So it's worth thinking about which you use the most, like best, or whichever is more compatible with your needs.
All that in mind, here are the best smart speakers out there right now, organized with stand out features so you can find the perfect model for you.
Top 10 best smart speakers 2021
1. Amazon Echo (4th Gen): Best smart speaker
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The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) smart speaker sits at the top of our best smart speakers list as the winner thanks to a perfect balance of price, audio performance and smart functionality. So while this might not be the very best sounding, or looking on this list, it does everything so well and all in one well-priced package, it really will serve the needs of most above and beyond what's expected.
This speaker is built to listen to you, since it's all about getting that Alexa smart assistant into homes. As such it comes packing in a six microphone array that can hear voices from anywhere in the room. In fact, if you enable it, this can even pick up your voice specifically and tailor the results to suit what it has learned you may want. Expect Alexa to understand all your requests, even in noisy environments with other voices, music, white goods and more all trying to drown you out.
To continue on the smart assistant features, Alexa is very capable when it comes to controlling the smart home. So while you can ask Alexa to play music, check the weather or convert a cooking weight for you, this does more. You can control your home's thermostat to get the temperature right, have the Echo alert you when your smart doorbell goes, or even add items to your digital shopping list with ease. Plus you get Zigbee and Sidewalk onboard for all your other smart gadgets that can be controlled directly from here.
The speaker itself is better than ever now in this fourth generation model. As such you can expect genuinely impressive balance for music with enough power and punch to fill a room without distortion, even at higher volumes.
A super all round smart speaker at a very fair price.
2. Sonos Move: Best premium smart speaker
The Sonos Move is the most mobile speaker from the now world renowned speaker company which started the whole multiroom revolution. The Sonos Move is the company's first truly mobile speaker as it packs in battery power to allow you to take this wherever it is needed, be that into various rooms or out into the yard for a barbecue party. The battery is good for a whopping 10 hours and the speaker is IP56 rated for water and dust so you don't even have to worry about rain or using this by the pool. Crucially, it does all that while keeping the high quality audio and smart voice control standards that we've come to expect from Sonos.
You have a six microphone array listening to your command – and that can be for Alexa or Google Assistant as you have the choice to setup with the one you use most. There's WiFi connectivity and Apple AirPlay 2 support but also, since you're likely to move this out of WiFi range at some point, Bluetooth connectivity. But the really great part of this speaker is its audio smarts.
Take the Sonos Move out into a new space and it will automatically detect it has been moved and use its microphones to test how its audio output is performing in that space. It will then adjust the audio to suit the space it is in. Playing this from the corner of a room, for example, will sound just as good as outside in an open space, as it will intelligently adapt to suit.
The Class D amplifier and speaker setup create perfectly balanced and powerful sound that's difficult to fault. You'll pay more for that Sonos name but you'll hear why the second you start using this superb speaker.
3. Marshall Stanmore II Voice: Best smart speaker for iconic looks
The Marshall Stanmore II Voice is a stunner, there's no denying it. With those classic guitar amp looks this combines retro with modern to give a look that screams music fan, when viewed from pretty much all angles. That's because this is designed by band-backing speaker specialist Marshall, which has decades of experience creating high-quality and reliable speakers. Making them smart – that part is new.
This speaker comes with Alexa as the onboard smart assistant and she can be controlled using the dual microphone setup which is able to pick up voice commands well. Not the best, but well enough to work in most situations. And unlike some other speakers, this not only offers WiFi and Bluetooth but also aux 3.5mm input and RCA, making this perfect for most uses.
The reassuringly weighty 10-pound speaker packs in a powerful 50W Class D amp for the sub and two 15W Class D amps for the tweeters resulting in high-quality audio with lots of grunt. Everything is well balanced and, as you might expect from Marshall, the volume can go all the way up without any distortion at all. That makes this a viable day to day speaker as well as a unit that can be cranked up for a party.
It's also worth noting that this speaker not only stands out as visually iconic with that Marshall design but this continues into the audio performance. This is a Marshall sounding speaker making it ideal for guitar based music, but thanks to a fine balance it does well with all types of music.
4. Google Home Max: Best value smart speaker
The Google Home Max is, as the name suggests, the largest and most powerful of the speaker range that Google has to offer. As such this is a model that's ideal for anyone that wants the functionality of a Google Assistant speaker but with the extra audio performance of a stand alone speaker. Crucially this does that bridge-crossing feat all while keeping the price down at the same time.
As such this is one of the best value for money smart speakers you can buy. Use this as your day to day speaker and assistant but also have it in reserve for party level output thanks to the dual 4.5-inch woofers. That means this speaker is powerful enough to work for most uses alone but it can also be paired with another to create a stereo pair, ideal for watching movies with immersive audio.
Google Assistant is easy to control thanks to dual microphones which are able to pick up your voice from across even a noisy room. That means you can control your music by voice but also your smart home including thermostats, door locks and more. Or just use all those Google smarts to have it answer questions for you, or even carry out web searches on whatever it is you're interested in. Ideal if you're away from your phone and want a quick calculation or fact immediately.
For connectivity you're all set with WiFi, Bluetooth, a 3.5mm aux in and USB-C so you can charge a smartphone right from this mains powered speaker too. It's not the lightest at 11.7 pounds, but that's a weight which is reassuring of audio quality and – since this isn't made to be that mobile – it's ideal for what you're getting, which is a very capable and reasonably priced speaker.
5. Amazon Echo Dot with Clock: Best smart speaker for the bedroom
The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is a perfect smart speaker to live in a bedroom or office space as it not only offers audio playback and listening but at-a-glance time and data thanks to the funky digital display. This is a really beautifully designed bit of kit from Amazon which manages to cram in the features while keeping the price super low.
This isn't the best speaker on the list, of course, but it still does a good job of playing music at a quality that can be enjoyed – just don't expect the bass or vast soundstage of a larger speaker. It does listen very well, with far-field microphones that pick up your voice with ease. That makes this a great way to control smart devices using your voice alone, as well as having access to the weather, conversions, shopping, and answers to any other question that might spring to mind.
The clock is a newer addition which adds in at-a-glance time on the LED display, letting you do away with your bedside clock, for example. This is intelligent in terms of lighting as it dulls at night so you aren't bothered by a bright light as you sleep – but while remaining plenty clear enough to read the time should you need. You can even tap to snooze the alarm, like a classic bedside clock offers.
So if you want a smart speaker that has an excellent ability to listen, offers superb responses, delivers decent enough sound, and does it with a clock, while staying on budget – this is an ideal option.
6. Sonos One: Best multi-room smart speaker
Sonos is where multiroom speakers began and since the company started adding smart assistant controls too, these are some seriously impressive speakers that justify their price and then some. Primarily you can expect very good audio performance from the Sonos One, one of the company's most popular speakers in its range. This is thanks to not one but two Class-D amps and a mid-range woofer that combine to offer balanced audio with enough bass and a wide enough soundstage to handle anything you throw at it.
Of course, being Sonos, this is also super compatible for multiroom speaker controls. Use the Sonos app and paired up other speakers, or play using the likes of Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Apple's AirPlay 2. This is smart enough to pop up on your network meaning you can also control it from within your music player, like Spotify, sending to this speaker alone or multiple speakers as you need.
This is a multiroom speaker first but thanks to six far-field noise cancelling microphones it also works perfectly as a smart speaker. While those microphones are also used to create the best audio performance for the space the speaker detects it is in, they also listen to you. Speak a command and the speaker will quickly respond as you need. That could be to play music, turn up your home heating, check the weather and plenty more besides.
All that and the speaker looks stunning too with a minimal finish and sleek lines which will actually enhance any space that is lucky enough to find this living within.
7. Apple HomePod: Best smart speaker for Apple fans
The Apple HomePod is currently in its second generation and is now better than ever, both in terms of sound and features that it offers. First and foremost, this is the speaker built by Apple for users of its products, meaning it works best with them. So if you want Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, keep on reading – this is Siri powered only. And it's also built to play best with Apple AirPlay 2 – but you do also have Bluetooth for direct connectivity if you need.
The audio performance is high-fidelity, meaning this supports Apple Lossless and you also get Spatial Audio for sound that fills any room this lives within. The system works with microphones to adjust and optimize that audio playback to suit the space, in real-time, meaning one of the best audio performances you can get at this price. So from listening to music to playing audio for a movie, this will pack plenty of punch to deliver an immersive experience. In fact this support Dolby Atmos for truly surround sound as you listen to your movies or shows.
The Siri smart assistant is also better than ever with the HomePod. Not only can you have it carry out commands like controlling your smart home thermostat, set alarms or play music about the home – it even has automations like detecting smoke or carbon monoxide alarms and will alert your iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch right away.
The HomePod also looks amazing with that rounded mesh finish that's available in black or white. Either way it's housing a 4-inch excursion woofer, five horn-loaded tweeters and room sensing microphones. All that makes for stunning performance and when paired in stereo with another unit can make this the centre of your home audio experience.
8. Amazon Echo Studio: Best smart speaker for Hi-res audio quality
The Amazon Echo Studio is the best speaker that you can buy from the Amazon range as it offers the highest quality audio by far. Of course at its heart this is still an Alexa smart assistant controlled speaker but it's also a premium quality audio device on top of that. As such, you can buy this to get the best Alexa experience without needing to lose out on all that a premium speaker brand can offer you.
This audio quality comes from features like support for Hi-res playback with a 24-bit DAC built in to create the ideal output no matter the input. You also have support for quality audio like FLAC files – as well as digital audio performance from Dolby Atmos and even Sony 360 Reality sound, plus plenty more besides.
Whatever you play, it goes through a system powered by a massive 330W amplifier which runs three two-inch midrange speakers, a one-inch tweeter and a monster 5.25-inch woofer for serious bass power. All that means you get a super powerful audio output but with the balance to deliver the right performance for whatever it is you're listening to. It will even use its array of seven far-field microphones to analyze the room and adapt its audio output to best suit the space. The bass may be a bit much for some listeners but with the ability to play with presets this is something that can be perfected as needed.
Alexa onboard means you can control your smarthome, get answers to questions, add items to your shopping list, have the doorbell alerts come through and plenty more. It's even a Zigbee hub. You get a lot for the price of this very impressive smart speaker.
9. Google Nest Mini: Best cheap smart speaker
The Google Nest Mini is the company's mini speaker option which allows you to get a voice controlled Google Assistant smart speaker without spending too much. That makes this ideal if you want a smart assistant in any room you need, without breaking the bank by buying full-on speaker performance too. As such this does deliver enough audio quality for music playback but not enough for an audiophile to be happy. So for most people it will do the job fine, offers a balanced performance and quite a bit of volume, just not the most bass. That said, this version has had a decent bass performance upgrade over the previous generation.
This unit looks decent with that mesh upper and minimal puck shape, all with the multicoloured Google LEDs to help alert you to status changes. It's also wall mountable making it potentially an out-of-the-way option for any space. It's also more sustainable, says Google. What you won't find is a 3.5mm aux in, although with WiFi and Bluetooth 5.0 plus Chromecast support, you likely won't find much of a need for it with a speaker of this size.
The Google Assistant works very well here thanks to three microphones which can pick up your voice even over music playing at loud volumes – something the older models did struggle with at times. So while that 40mm driver isn't the most powerful, this is a great point of interaction with your smart assistant. Pop a few of these about the home and you can control the thermostat, unlock smart doors, close smart blinds, have instant answers to nearly any questions and plenty more, all a voice command away.
10. Audio Pro G10: Best premium quality smart speaker
The Audio Pro G10 is a second generation version of the Swedish company's premium built smart speaker. As such you get all the design positives of this stunning smart speaker only now with the addition of Google Assistant to control everything.
The key factor with this device is that you get that stunning and high-quality, weighty Swedish design but without the high-price tag you might expect. Go beyond the plush material outer and the minimalist design – which doesn't scrimp on button controls – and you have some superb audio grunt too.
Inside you'll find a room-filling powerful 52W Class D amp backed by two 4.5-inch passive radiators, a 1.25-inch balanced mode radiator tweeter and a 3-inch long-throw woofer. All that combines to offer a balanced audio performance which creates a great soundstage, despite this not being a 360-degree speaker - in spite of that rounded shape. Even at full volume, which fills larger rooms, this won't falter on sound quality making this a viable party speaker option.
In terms of smarts, this can be controlled using your voice thanks to Google Assistant and some impressively accurate microphone pickups. It's also good to go for Apple AirPlay 2 and offers Chromecast support – making it easy to play from whatever service you currently use. You also have Bluetooth 4.2 which makes playing directly from a phone – ideal at house parties – a viable playback option too. And that covers you for FLAC, Apple Lossless, AAC, WMA and MP3 audio formats.
From design quality to looks to stunning sound – this does it all for a relatively low price.
Best smart speakers advice
What to look for in the best smart speakers
There are plenty of factors to consider when buying a new smart speaker but one of the most important is what do you need it for primarily? Is this to get voice controlled access to your smart assistant anywhere in your home? If so then a smaller and more affordable device like the Amazon Echo or Google Nest Mini could serve you well. But if it's also audio performance you want, then you may want to consider going larger and spending a little more.
So, presuming you want decent audio performance, you may next want to think about which smart assistant you need. While some third-party brands now offer the choice of either Alexa or Google Assistant, some are one or the other. So think about which you use most, which works best with your smart connected devices and which integrates ideally with your phone.
Next up you could think about what level of audio performance you need. Do you want to go high-end for Hi-res audio playback or could you get by just fine with a basic but decent enough performance. In short, are you an audiophile or someone that needs decent audio without it being pro-level? If you're the former than the Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo Studio or Sonos One could be for you. Otherwise most other speakers on this list will more than support your performance needs.
Looks is, of course, another factor. While most smart speakers now look great, some are design focused like the iconic Marshall or Audio Pro units in this list. You will pay a premium for these but you'll see that in the room, and hear it in audio performance too.
Other considerations include connectivity, price, portability, water-proofing, visual feedback, button controls and microphone performance.
What can smart speakers do?
Smart speakers do a lot. It’s kind of their thing. As the name suggests, they’re speakers first and foremost though. This means that they’re ideal for playing music throughout your house via music streaming services like Spotify and Amazon Music.
Alongside this, smart speakers are also an amazing way to connect and control all of your other smart devices around your home. This can be anything from asking Alexa to turn the heating down on your smart thermostat through to asking Google Assistant to dim the lights via your smart lamps.
You can also ask your smart assistant all kinds of questions using your smart speaker. You can ask for anything from news and weather updates to random trivia questions. Smart assistants will even tell you jokes and play games with you too.
Which is the best AI voice assistant?
There are basically three choices when it comes to AI voice assistants for your smart speaker - Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant. At first glance, you might just think that it’s best to stick with what you know. So, if you’ve got an Apple iPhone then get an Apple smart speaker and if you have an Android phone, get a Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa device.
There is certainly some logic to that, and it’s true that devices usually play best with other devices in the same ecosystem, but that’s not the be all and end all when it comes to choosing the best smart speaker.
Some smart speakers are locked to the smart AI assistant that they’re built for, so if you choose based on the software, then you’re also limiting yourself when it comes to hardware. Amazon devices only support Alexa, Google devices only support Google devices, and you guessed it, Apple devices only support Siri. Third-party devices like the Sonos Move and Sonos One have more freedom though, letting you choose which AI assistant you want.
OK, but which one is the best? Well that depends on what you’re expecting it to do. When it comes to answering questions, Google Assistant is the clear winner. An industry analyst called Loup Ventures put all three AS assistants through their paces in a rigorous series of tests back in 2019 and found that Google Assistant answered 92.9% of 800 test questions correctly, and correctly understood the question 100% of the time. By comparison, Siri only answered correctly 83.1% of the time, while Alexa managed to give the correct answer just 79.8% of the time.
That doesn’t make it a clean sweep for Google Assistant though. If you’re looking for device compatibility, Amazon Alexa really can’t be beat - it works with just about everything. And if you’re looking to inject some humor and humanity into your AI assistant, then Siri is certainly the funniest and most naturally speaking of the bunch.