THERE ARE DOZENS of smart speakers on the market and choosing the best is getting harder and harder. First of all, you have to decide which voice assistant you prefer. There are three that are worth using – Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri – and each has its pros and cons. If you are new, at the moment we prefer models from Google and Amazon as they are the most user-friendly.
Second, you need to find out which speaker has the features you want. Is music quality your number one concern? Do you want a touchscreen, or will voice support alone suffice? Does your speaker need to be connected to other smart home devices? Here it becomes more difficult to find the best option. Don’t worry, you’ll find what you’re looking for here! We’ve tested dozens of smart speakers over the years to find out what’s currently the best (and what’s not).
Check out our guides to the best Google speakers, best smart displays, and best Alexa speakers for more recommendations.
Updated April 2022: We’ve added the Beosound A1 to our list of portable speaker options.
- Best smart speaker overall
- Best Alexa Speaker
- Best Google Assistant speaker
- Beste Smart-Soundbar
- Bestes Google Assistant Smart Display
- Bestes Alexa Smart-Display
- Best Mini Speaker
- Best Portable Speaker
- What about Siri?
- Why we (for now) Google Assistant speakers
- Should you wait to buy?
Overall Best Smart Speakers: Sonos One (2nd Gen)
Connects to Alexa, Sonos, AirPlay 2 or Google Assistant
There are louder speakers and some that are more portable, but right now no smart speaker makes a better buy than the Sonos One ( 8/10, WIRED Recommends ). It sets the benchmark in a number of areas, including sound quality, stable multi-room audio, and smart home utility. Plus, it’s probably compatible with whatever ecosystem you prefer – it comes with Alexa enabled, but also supports Google Assistant and Apple’s AirPlay 2.
On the audio front, the Sonos One sounds great. It has a balanced sound profile and robust (but never boomy) bass for a speaker of its size. It connects to about 100 streaming audio services around the world, which is what most of them are. It’s also one of the best smart speakers you can buy if you’re planning on building a home theater setup – it connects to Sonos’ larger speakers and its TV soundbar.
It’s worth noting that Sonos was in a bit of trouble in 2020 because its older speakers wouldn’t get software updates. There is now a fix to support older hardware, but unfortunately this is a reality with computer powered speakers. Unlike their analogue predecessors, you can’t expect them to last forever. However, Sonos smart speakers have a track record that has lasted longer than anything else we’ve tested.
Best Alexa Smart Speakers
Connects to Alexa
Amazon’s Echo speaker ( 8/10, WIRED Recommends ) is a cute soundball that offers the same powerful bass and wide soundstage as the previous model, but with more room-filling sound than ever.
You can put it anywhere – in kitchens, bathrooms, even smaller living rooms – and it easily fills the room with 360-degree sound. Compared to the new Google Nest Audio speaker, I would choose this one for off-axis listening (i.e. when you’re not sitting directly in front of the speaker). Alexa also makes getting the news and weather updates convenient, and setting kitchen timers and alarms is a breeze. We also like that you can turn off the mics with a physical button when the voice-assistant friends and family are over.
If you’re looking for a basic, audio-focused Alexa speaker that won’t get in the way and won’t break the bank, this is the best you’ll find.
Best Google Assistant smart speakers
Connects to Google Assistant
The Nest Audio ( 8/10, WIRED Recommends ) is Google’s direct Echo competitor and performs very well. It has a compact, pillow-like shape and great sound that will easily fill small and medium-sized rooms. We really like using two Nests as a stereo pair because together they provide the best audio quality you can get from a $200 smart speaker.
As with all Google Assistant-powered devices, you can ask Nest Audio to set timers, play music, tell you the weather, and ask anything you’d search on Google. The Google Home app makes it easy to pair the speakers with any other Google-friendly smart device you have too.
Connects to Alexa
With a wireless subwoofer, room-filling virtual surround sound, and Amazon’s Alexa on board, the Yamaha YAS-209 is the best smart soundbar you can buy right now. Compatible with Spotify Connect, it has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, making it a great speaker for surround listening in your living room.
Bestes Google Assistant Smart Display
Connects to Google Assistant
Smart displays are great in the kitchen, but they often lack speakers to help you dance your way through meal prep. That’s why we like the Google Nest Hub Max ( 8/10, WIRED Recommends ), which boasts two pretty impressive speakers beneath its 10-inch display. You don’t get the same fidelity as you’ll get from standalone smart speakers, but it’s enough to throw a small dance party while the lasagna bakes. Plus, with a stop gesture, you can pause the music without having to touch the screen or use your voice.
The Nest Hub Max is our current favorite smart display for a number of other reasons too. We like that it can use its camera to identify individual members of the house, showing only information about each one, and the larger display is great for watching YouTube tutorials. Google has also added support for group video calls via Duo, Zoom and Google Meet, making this an even better choice if you regularly connect with friends or colleagues who use these services.
Best Alexa Smart-Display
Connects to Alexa
The Echo Show 10 is a great Alexa-powered alternative to the Nest Hub Max. It’s easier to use than third-party Alexa devices because it can call and connect to Amazon’s other Echo speakers. This version looks a lot better than the first generations of Echo Shows you might have seen, with a full-size 10-inch screen that swivels almost 360 degrees to follow you with its cameras while you’re on the phone or read a recipe. like a cool robot assistant.
On the screen you can see what music is playing, pause the sound, skip to the next song and view the lyrics of some Amazon Music tracks. It can also play Amazon Prime videos and has a video version of Alexa’s daily Flash news briefing. Voice and video calls are supported, with Amazon recently adding Zoom support.
Best Mini Smart Speakers
Connects to Amazon Alexa
If you’re not into the music, Amazon’s Echo Dot with Clock (4th gen) and Google’s Nest Mini (7/10, WIRED Recommends) give you the most benefits of a smart speaker, and you can use them to replace existing speakers cheaply to embellish.
The sound is very similar between the models and they have near-identical footprints, so you can easily argue that one is better than the other based on the ecosystem alone. We used to prefer the Nest Mini for this reason, but now that Amazon has put a simple clock on the front of the Echo Dot, we like the Alexa-powered option a little better.
The Echo Dot With Clock’s tiny display is handy. It can tell you when your kitchen timers are up or when your alarm is set for the morning. Of course, it also shows the time. That makes it a better companion for bedroom and kitchen. You can also ask it about the weather, let it answer your random questions, and play white noise at bedtime to help you fall asleep. It also offers an easy way to bring a smart assistant to places in your home where you don’t usually listen to music.
Best Portable Smart Speakers
Connects to Google Assistant or Alexa
The little Sonos Roam ( 9/10, WIRED Recommends ) has become our new favorite portable speaker. I (Parker) have taken it on road trips, to outdoor weddings, and in the basket of my bike. The easy-to-use Sonos ecosystem works with Google Assistant and Alexa, and the speaker has Bluetooth for when you’re out of Wi-Fi range. It even includes wireless charging, making it the perfect speaker to leave at home between outdoor trips.
You’ll listen at medium volume for 10 hours on a full charge, and the thing is sturdy; An IP67 rating means it can survive in 3ft of water for 30 minutes. I’m not easy with speakers, and our review unit is still going strong. If you want to improve your game on the go, buy one and store it in a stainless carry-on mug. Just grab a drink along the way.
There are tons of smart speakers out there. Here are a few more we like:
- Amazon’s Echo Studio ($200) is the best-sounding Alexa speaker. Don’t just buy it for the music quality, but the Echo Studio is on par with the Google Home Max in terms of powerful bass and room-filling soundstage. Its odd shape keeps it off the top of our list.
- The Bose Home Speaker 500 ($349) has Alexa and a little more. It certainly doesn’t come cheap, but this Bose speaker sounds pretty good (not as clear as the Sonos One, but overall great) and it gets loud. It features hands-free Alexa, Bluetooth, a 3.5mm AUX port to connect directly to your phone or MP3 player, and six useful preset buttons that you can assign to select a specific playlist or album from Open Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music and TuneIn. The front-panel display shows album art and a few other prompts, but it’s not nearly as effective as those on real smart displays.
- The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level ($1,549) is a gorgeous speaker built to last. The company designed the high-end model to be repairable and upgradeable over time. It is made from natural fabric and wood for a truly sustainable ‘cradle to grave’ experience. It’s a beautiful flat speaker that comes with Google Assistant on board – or you can buy it without a smart assistant for the same amount of money.
What about Siri?
It looks cool, but Apple’s HomePod Mini ($99) (6/10, WIRED Review) shares the same issues as the original, larger HomePod (now discontinued) speaker, including a higher price point than much of the competition. It doesn’t have anywhere near the level of third-party smart home support that you’ll find on Amazon or Google. You can get a full-size Nest or Echo speaker for the same money, and you should too.
Why we prefer Google Assistant speakers (for now).
There are many reasons to love Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, and it works pretty well. If you want to use your voice assistant to shop or use Amazon services like Prime Music or Prime Video, an Alexa-powered speaker is probably best for you.
Google Assistant has fewer skills and is compatible with fewer smart home devices than Alexa, but it can do enough to qualify as truly useful, and Google is adding new skills at a rapid pace. Speakers with the Google Assistant work better when you connect them together, and they’re compatible with a variety of Google apps and services. Google is better at answering random questions and telling you where to eat because it can access information through Google apps and send it to your phone.
Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube Music are the top ways to play music with Google Assistant and cover most of your bases. The service can also cast Netflix shows and movies to your TV if you have a Chromecast connected.
Should you wait to buy?
Now is a good time to buy one of these speakers. Apple, Google, and Amazon all released new speakers not long ago, and they should remain useful for several years to come, as many of the improvements have to do with the services that power each digital assistant, rather than the speaker hardware itself .
It’s worth noting that none of these smart devices last forever. Like any product with a computer inside, every smart device will eventually become obsolete. Stick to things made by big brands and support the big ecosystems and you’ll get more life out of your purchase in general.