The perfect sensible audio system of 2020 are probably the most versatile devices in our arsenal; they play music, assist us management our sensible dwelling units, and include digital assistants able to reply our each query.
These voice assistants, which embody Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, have taken our properties by storm. That is as a result of they will achieve this a lot – they will let you know concerning the climate, play music, let you know the information and management your sensible dwelling units hands-free (like your Philips Hue bulbs or sensible locks).
Regardless of this, evidently many people are under-utilizing our smart speakers, choosing to access voice assistants via our smartphones; that’s why you need to choose the right smart speaker for you to get the most out of these clever gadgets.
Among the most well-known smart speakers are the Amazon Echo and Google Nest (née Google Home) ranges of products – and a new fleet of products from both companies, including the Amazon Echo Studio and the Google Nest Mini, are set to shake up the smart home world.
So if you need help finding your next virtual assistant, take a look at our guide below. We’ve rounded up the best-sounding smart speakers for a range of budgets, styles, and smart home ecosystems, so choosing the best model for you should be a breeze.
Our top smart speakers
The best smart speakers 2020
1. Sonos One
The best-sounding smart speaker on the market
Best of Alexa and Sonos
Plays music while Alexa is muted
Sonos’ debut Alexa speaker is a cleanly-designed, feature-rich and great-sounding device that brings together the best of both ecosystems. You’ve got the ever-improving Alexa on the one hand, and on the other you’ve got Sonos with its own multi-room smarts and mostly unrivaled sound performance.
There’s also a new feature in the mix that promises to change the game: AirPlay 2. With it, the Sonos One can talk to Siri and form a multi-room pairing with the Apple HomePod.
It now also supports Google Assistant making it the most versatile speaker on the list.
If you feel a bit tied down by the Sonos One, be sure to check out its portable cousin, the Sonos Move; this nifty speaker comes with all the smarts of the One, and is top of our list of the best Bluetooth speakers for 2020.
Read more: Sonos One review
2. Apple HomePod
Superb sound, so-so smart speaker
Nice, minimal design
Siri’s scope is limited
Apple Music needed
The Apple HomePod finally entered the smart speaker battle for your bookshelf in early 2018.
The obvious benefit of an Apple HomePod over an Echo or Google Home device is that it’ll play nice with your other Apple products. So if you’re a die-hard Apple fan the HomePod may be a no-brainer.
But it’s worth asking the same question you should always be asking yourself when you want to splurge on a new Apple product: how much of a premium should you pay for owning a device that fits only seamlessly into the Apple ecosystem?
When we reviewed the device we were torn because we were really reviewing two things at once: how the HomePod weighs up as a premium speaker and how it fares as a smart home hub.
In the former category, the HomePod is excellent, as it boasts incredible sound and a very intuitive set-up. But in the latter, Siri is only middling in its implementation, and the fact that you’re not able to break out of the Apple ecosystem for many key functions also rankles.
Apple is said to be working on the Apple HomePod 2, or a cheaper, more compact HomePod Mini, rumored to launch at some point in 2020 – we’re halfway through now and we’re still waiting. Fingers crossed it’ll be worth it.
Read more: Apple HomePod review
3. Amazon Echo (2019)
The Amazon Echo just got hench
New Alexa features
Alexa app still needs improving
The humble Amazon Echo has entered millions of homes already – and with good reason. It’s an affordable entry point for those beginning their smart home, with audio capable enough to handle news, podcasts, music, or whatever you might be using your AI voice servant for.
That’s especially true with the new 2019 Amazon Echo, a third-generation model that bumps up the audio further with the drivers used in the 2018 Echo Plus – though without the latter’s Zibgee compatibility.
It even looks like an Echo Plus, and it may be confusing to tell them apart if you have one of each in your home – but the 2019 refresh of the standard Echo raises the baseline for the whole range. At $99.99 / £89.99 / AU$149, it is nonetheless cheaper than the Plus, or the Apple HomePod, regardless of the enhance to sound high quality.
With softer cloth appears than the extra industrial earlier fashions, Alexa appears extra at dwelling in a front room than ever – whereas new AI capabilities have launched voice profile options and extra variation with regards to altering voice velocity.
We do not suppose you need to be utilizing it to exchange your hifi – you may want the newly-announced Echo Studio for that – however on the similar time it is a actually great spot to start out if you wish to check out what the sensible dwelling life is like.
Learn extra: Amazon Echo (2019) evaluation
four. Google Dwelling
Nice for Chromecast homeowners and inquisitive varieties
Increasing hardware ecosystem
Lacking Google’s personal providers
Requires exact phrasing
For starters, you may by no means recognize simply how a lot music is on YouTube with out shopping for a Google Dwelling. We’re not saying Google House is able to taking part in any music you possibly can consider, however after dredging the depths of the ’90s we nonetheless couldn’t discover a tune Google Dwelling couldn’t observe down and begin taking part in.
Whereas Google Dwelling excels as a DJ, it’s additionally a surprisingly clever sensible dwelling hub. It already hooks into a few of the largest platforms now out there by together with Nest, Philips and Samsung’s SmartThings, and given a few months that number will grow even more.
But we’re torn when it comes to recommending the Google Home. In some ways it’s disappointing and doesn’t live up to be the coveted center of the smart home Google has marketed it as.
That’s because it’s just not there yet. It’s a little too rigid in its language comprehension, its list of smart home devices is growing but still a bit underwhelming, and, perhaps the biggest disappointment of all, it doesn’t have many of Google’s core services built into it.
It has the potential to develop to compete with Amazon’s Echo in the future, but for now the Google Home is simply a smart novelty with access to YouTube Music, built-in Google Cast and the ability to save you a trip to the light switch.
Over the past year, the Google Home has received a number of notable updates, including the fact you can now use the device to make calls to landlines in the UK. Google Assistant has also been updated to included bilingual capabilities, Continued Conversation and Multiple Actions. A more recent update has also brought Google Assistant to Nest Security alarm systems.
Read more: Google Home review
Wild card for UK readers: Pure DiscovR
An Alexa speaker with knockout design
Expansive, detailed sound
Alexa voice control
Rubber base feels a little flimsy
The Amazon Echo range is still the market leader for smart speakers – in terms of sales, at least – but for all their hands-free convenience, they’re not speakers you’d look to if you want genuinely high-quality sound.
The Pure DiscovR manages to bundle top-class audio with all of Alexa’s smarts, and the intuitive touch controls to make using it by hand or voice a real pleasure. The ability to save voice commands as presets is invaluable, and something the rest of the smart speaker market could learn from.
The arresting design helps too. The rounded cube shape, and raised speaker – which can be compressed down into the casing to mute Alexa’s microphone – feels hugely innovative in a crowded market, while the flashing colors around the LED rim make for much more of a light display than the Echo’s meek blue.
You won’t get your hands on this in the US, though. The Pure DiscovR is exclusively sold through John Lewis within the UK, with plans to roll out to Europe later in 2019. The speaker is offered in both graphite and silver finishes – listed at John Lewis as black or white.
When you’re looking out for a top quality sensible speaker that delivers on voice management, sound high quality, and an progressive design – and with a watch firmly on consumer privateness – the Pure DiscovR is strictly what you want.
Learn extra: Pure DiscovR evaluation
The perfect sensible shows
The perfect sensible audio system with a display screen 2020
1. Google Dwelling Hub
A rival for the Amazon Echo Present
Cheaper than Echo Present
Google Pictures integration
Restricted video calling
With the latest onslaught of sensible show units from the large tech firms, there’s extra alternative than ever if you would like a display screen included together with your sensible speaker.
The Google Dwelling Hub is likely one of the newest crop of sensible shows, and it definitely offers its closest rival, the Amazon Echo Present a run for its cash, with intuitive voice management and nicely designed first occasion apps.
That being stated, this isn’t a speaker for audiophiles – it really works nicely sufficient to play music within the background when you do chores or learn, however it does not pack sufficiently big of a sonic punch to function your most important speaker for listening to music.
The place the Google Dwelling Hub does excel, is as a management centre to your digital dwelling, supporting over 5000 sensible units from 400 firms – plus, at round $80/£80 cheaper than the Amazon Echo Present (the distinction in Australia is a whopping AU$150), it is fairly good worth for cash too.
Learn extra: Google Dwelling Hub evaluation
2. Amazon Echo Present (2nd technology)
Like an Echo, however with a display screen
Nice voice recognition
Improved contact display screen
Speaker is simply too bassy
Alexa wants some education
The up to date Echo Present is a step in the fitting course, with higher design, a clearer display screen, and superior sound, however it has restricted help for third-party streaming providers.
The touchscreen is 1280 x 720 px – so it will not blow you away up shut, however it appears high quality from a distance. It additionally options adaptive brightness, though the display screen is not the principle manner you work together with the Echo Present – it is optimized for voice activation through Amazon Alexa, and it is nice for utilizing when you potter concerning the kitchen.
Its not the most affordable sensible show in the marketplace, nevertheless, it provides worth by combining units you have already got and ones you would purchase at a cheaper price elsewhere – simply have a look at the Amazon Echo Dot, for instance.
Put all the pieces collectively although, and the brand new Present is a marked enchancment on the unique model, and in case you’re eager on watching cooking tutorials or listening to music as you prepare dinner, it deserves a spot in your kitchen counter.
Learn extra: Amazon Echo Present evaluation
three. Amazon Echo Spot
This addition to the Echo household is a enjoyable, versatile video system
Pretty kind issue
Pricier than Echo
In our opinion, the Amazon Echo Spot is the best-designed Alexa system Amazon has ever created – it’s a gadget you’d fortunately have in your bed room, in your desk, in your kitchen, and just about wherever else.
The Spot is flexible – it doesn’t have a chameleon-like capability to adapt to the room you set it in, however that is definitely not only a sensible alarm clock, one thing Amazon has been very clear about.
It does all the pieces the Echo Present does, however it all feels higher on this smaller kind issue. The design is nice – it is out there in black and white – and we are able to simply see the Spot getting used within the bed room, kitchen and even on a desk. Actually, it’s your decision it in all of those locations.
That is the factor with the Amazon Echo Spot: very similar to different Echo units, Amazon desires you to have a mess of them in your house so that you at all times have entry to video chat regardless of the place you’re.
Primarily, it desires the Echo Spot to exchange the Echo Dot. The Amazon Echo Spot is a bit more costly than the brand new Echo, although, and in flip far more costly than an Echo Dot.
That is due to the addition of the display screen. Whereas we nonetheless have not seen that killer Talent for the display screen, it does improve the look of the Spot and opens up the probabilities for it being far more than only a sensible speaker.
We’re simply hoping that Amazon’s Expertise turn into far more video-friendly – as soon as this occurs, the Amazon Echo Spot will turn into an absolute must-have.
Learn the complete evaluation: Amazon Echo Spot evaluation
Greatest sensible audio system FAQ: fast questions answered
What can sensible audio system do? Sensible audio system can do plenty of issues. First up they’re audio system in their very own proper, from the fantastic-sounding Apple HomePod by to the less complicated Amazon Echo Dot.
However additionally they have plenty of particular options because of the sensible voice assistants which might be built-in. These sensible assistants are voice-activated, which implies you possibly can actually ask them to do a variety of issues, together with taking part in music, answering questions and controlling different sensible dwelling units. And that is just the start.
Which voice assistant is greatest? On the entire that is subjective. Some individuals have at all times preferred Apple merchandise one of the best and keep loyal to Siri. Others actually like Alexa after snapping up an Echo as quickly because the sensible speaker was first launched.
The final consensus appears to be that Google Assistant is, largely, probably the most correct voice assistant. When you’ve bought a whole lot of Apple merchandise, in fact Siri is one of the best and for general compatibility, you are greatest choosing Alexa. However they are not exhausting and quick guidelines.
Is Alexa higher than Google? For starters, the selection may rely upon which speaker you just like the look of probably the most. Certain Amazon’s Echo vary is similar to the Google Dwelling, however the Present, Spot and Dot look fairly totally different.
In the case of the sensible assistants inside the audio system, they’re each extraordinarily succesful. Amazon’s Alexa has many, many Expertise, which set it aside from the remainder. However Google has been a frontrunner within the AI sport for a very long time now, nicely earlier than the sensible speaker market emerged. It is loads more durable to vary Alexa’s voice, too.
Is there a month-to-month charge for Alexa? No. You do not want something aside from the free Alexa app. Nonetheless, you’ll get loads of perks in case you’re an Amazon Prime member.
Trying to the longer term
What may very well be coming quickly?
These are the entire greatest sensible audio system in the marketplace proper now, however with the large success of those voice-activated sensible dwelling assistants, this choice is more likely to be just the start.
Proper now quite a few different firms, together with a few of the greatest names in tech, are additionally engaged on their very own sensible dwelling audio merchandise. Whether or not they shake-up the market or change into a load of sizzling air stays to be seen.
However within the meantime, listed below are only a few of the highly-anticipated upcoming releases and rumors circulating proper now:
Spotify sensible speaker
There are a great deal of audio system in the marketplace that already will let you join your Spotify account. However that does not imply the favored streaming service cannot make its personal product to compete with the most important names in tech.
Rumors counsel Spotify has been working by itself voice search interface, however it hasn’t but lifted the lid on a speaker that might compete with the likes of the Amazon Echo or Google Dwelling.
That hasn’t stopped us from dreaming up what a Spotify sensible speaker may look, sound and behave like.
Learn our Spotify speaker wish-list: what we need to see in a Spotify sensible speaker.
Every little thing is a great speaker
Perhaps the longer term is not about which sensible speaker you can purchase in spite of everything, however shall be far more centered on integrating voice-activated sensible assistants into different merchandise.
Over the previous couple of years, Alexa and Google Assistant have discovered their manner into automobiles, rest room mirrors, and even smoke alarms.
Amazon itself has launched quite a few linked units, included the Echo Wall Clock, Echo Glow, and Echo Frames.
Whereas that will sound just a little gimmicky, it truly solves one of many main niggling factors of the sensible dwelling: you need to have entry to your voice assistant in each room however don’t actually need to fill your house with audio system.