Alexander Graham Bell invented his loudspeaker in 1876. He could not have dreamed then that they would one day talk to us and us to them. And that one day, we would be reviewing the Best Smart Speakers that you can buy.
Making our lives easier…
Seems to be the passion for many people these days. We can communicate with computers on a personal level, and they will complete tasks for us. Voice assistants in recent years take it all a stage further. The possibilities seem endless.
What is a Smart Speaker?
Basically, it is a wireless speaker with an integrated assistant. It will give you hands-free usage and complete actions for you. It can initiate functions or just provide you with information. To do this, it uses what is known as ‘hot words.’
Some Smart speakers will also use WiFi, but the principles will be the same.
What are they for?
Initially, they were used to stream music, maybe news programs, and set time-related reminders. They are beginning to go further now by managing lists of items you create. And even controlling devices in the home if they have the necessary technology. You can control lights, heating, and any number of actions.
In some speakers, this has been extended to include call and messaging options. It is quite likely that in the future, the operation of Smart Speakers will extend even further. How far will depend on what we can live and cope with.
So how far can technology take us, and what is there around at the moment? Let’s take a look…
Top 6 Best Smart Speakers To Consider In 2021 Reviews
1 Sonos One (Gen 2) Voice Controlled Smart Speaker – Best Value for Your Money Smart Speaker
This speaker is the follow-up to the original Sonos 1 speaker. Unlike most follow-ups, it doesn’t actually boast too many additional benefits. However, there is one inclusion that will please some.
How has it changed?
Well, it looks the same as observers will recognize. And it actually acts very much the same as generation 1. Some components have been improved, and it has an updated processor, which will give it a little more memory.
The inclusion of Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) has been a benefit that should improve the process of pairing up. But the main difference is that now it has Google Assistant built-in. It took some time for Sonos to get this organized, but now, along with Alexa, it has become a different animal.
It just got better…
The four-core processor connects to WiFi and will stream your favorite programs and radio stations. This was always a very good Smart Speaker. It has just got better, which makes it one to consider as one of the Best Smart Speakers on the market.
With this level of Voice Control, you can play your music, set up alarms, and check the latest news. You can also get any questions answered almost instantly without having to do anything other than ask.
Further set up and sound options can be achieved using the Sonos app.
Measuring just 4.72 x 4.72 x 6.34 inches and weighing only four pounds, it is going to fit in any small space. It is also protected from humidity, so you can even use it in the bathroom. You can link it up with other Sonos speakers if you choose to create a sound platform for every room.
As with the original Sonos, the sound quality is very good. And considering the size of the speaker, it provides a rich, warm sound that will fill most rooms. Although it has to be noted that the sound can distort at higher volumes.
Excellent value because of its competitive price tag, it is certainly one to consider.
If you’re interested in more products from Sonos, check out our in-depth review of the Best Sonos Speakers.
- Compact design that will work well in every room.
- Good contacts using Google assistant and other voice control methods.
- Sound can distort at high volume.
2 Amazon Echo (4th Gen) – Most Versatile Smart Speaker
The 4th generation Echo is an upgraded version of the original Smart Speaker from Amazon. The new-look includes a change from the original cylindrical shape to a rather appealing spherical look.
It is impressive and as it is 5.7 inches by 5.2 inches is a near-sphere. All the aluminum and the fabrics used in this speaker are recycled.
With the change of shape has come slight alterations to some of the controls. The light ring that used to be on the top is now situated on the base. This is a good move as the previous design did provide a rather visible bright glow. For those that like the ‘light ring,’ it still illuminates in blue when you use the “word,” you have chosen to wake up Alexa.
On top of the speaker are some basic controls. Volume up and down as well as a mute for the microphone and buttons for Alexa.
On the back, there is just a 3.5mm output for audio and the connection for the mains adapter.
Providing what is a decent sound is a three-inch woofer and two 0.8 inch tweeters. The tweeters are front-firing. It supports Dolby Audio but doesn’t extend to Atmos surround sound.
It has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub and will support Bluetooth LE (low energy) as well as Amazon Sidewalk.
This updated version is a bit more powerful than its predecessors. The tweeters are larger, giving a prominent top end. The low frequencies are adequate but aren’t going to knock down any walls. However, given the size of the speaker, the depth of the sound is better than good.
This is a significant improvement on previous Echo units and sits at a great price point that makes it an attractive buy. Some will not like the design, but we think it looks fine. It certainly performs well.
Just nit-picking, really, but Alexa just doesn’t seem to be as good or as flexible as Google assistant.
- Nice design and easy to use.
- Everything you need to be built in for a good Smart speaker at a great price point.
- Alexa can be awkward to use at times.
3 Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST Portable Bluetooth Speaker – Most Durable Smart Speaker
For some, Ultimate Ears might be a new name in audio. They were established in 1995 in California and manufacture in-ear monitors and speakers. They are now part of the Logitech group.
This speaker is made to be used anywhere and therefore has a rugged build. It carries an IP67 rating. That means it will go underwater up to about a meter for up to 30 minutes. It is no lightweight, though, measuring 3.50 x 3.50 x 9.40 inches and weighing four pounds.
The battery will give you about 12 hours of use, depending on the volume you use, of course. The charging port is located on the bottom of the unit and not easily accessible, which loses some points.
You get 360 degrees of sound that is acceptable without being anything special. It can struggle a little bit at higher volumes depending on the genre of music.
The Bluetooth connection has a standard range of 30 meters. It supports devices with A2DP. You will need to check compatibility for first time setup. It will require a WiFi router 802.11, and the Operating system requirements are iOS 10.2 or Android 5.0.
But is it Mega?
Despite a lot of comments about this speaker, we were not particularly convinced. Maybe it’s because we find anything called ‘Mega’ slightly awkward, especially when it’s applied to a small portable speaker.
Also, you are encouraged to use the app to get updates. That indicates that perhaps this needs a little help to become the finished product.
It is very expensive, and we really cannot see why. Unless you want to take it to a depth of 30 meters for an hour. But why would you want to?
- Decent quality build.
- 360 degree sound dispersion.
- Quite a few.
4 Yamaha Audio YAS-209BL Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer – Best Premium Smart Speaker
If there is one thing you can usually be sure of, it is the quality of a Yamaha product. This Soundbar and subwoofer are a good example.
A variety of uses…
If you can find a Smart Speaker that also doubles up as something else, that has to be worth a look. This is the case with this system, so look closely. This is a soundbar and sub that you can use in a home cinema set up. It has DTS virtual 3D surround sound. You get the theater-like depth of the bass and clear, concise highs for the dialogue.
But how about as part of your music set up? This is going to excel in having the low-frequency depth for home cinema. It is going to be great with music.
Also, Alexa is built-in as well. Suddenly this becomes a different thing. It gives you control over your soundbar using your voice. Call up the news or extra music. Set timers or get answers to questions. Even control other Smart devices in the home.
In the main bar, there are four tweeters. In the subwoofer, a six and a half-inch driver. The Soundbar and the Subwoofer generate 100 watts each.
This gives you an impressive sound platform. Whether for movies, music, or getting answers and information, the sound is deep and warm.
The Subwoofer measures 7.5 inches by16.5 by 16 inches. The soundbar 37 by 2.5 by 4.25 inches. The Soundbar and Sub are predominately plastic in their build. There is cloth material on the front of the soundbar.
On top of the bar, some basic controls. But being positioned where they are, could make the system a little awkward to use. It comes with a remote control, however, which does help. Setup is easy via an Optical cable or HDMI. Unfortunately, Yamaha has decided not to build in a headphone connection or a 3.5mm connection.
Versatile and practical…
Nevertheless, it is a good system that gives you a variety of options for its use. Set at a decent price point, it is an attractive option. If someone were looking to buy their first home cinema system as well as a Smart Speaker, this is it.
- Good sounds that can be used for a variety of functions.
- Well-built with Alexa at a great price point.
- A headphone socket and a 3.5mm connection may have been useful.
5 Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) – Best Compact Smart Speaker
The Echo Dot from Amazon has a good reputation and has become very popular amongst Smart Speaker users. This is the 4th generation Echo Dot.
This is a small speaker, but it has a decent sound. Measuring 3.9 by 3.9 by 3.5 inches, it is ideal to sit on a bedside table or stand. The addition of a clock means it makes an ideal nightstand companion.
All the usual features of a basic alarm clock are included. You can set the time, an alarm, and a timer. It even has a snooze control. Unlike an alarm clock, though, you can ask Alexa to play your music or get the latest news or check to see what the weather might be. And it does all of that with a nicely balanced sound from a 1.6-inch speaker.
The most used controls are conveniently placed on the top of the Echo Dot. They include volume up and down control, an Action, and Microphone off button.
The LED displaying the time is on the front. On the rear are the connections for a 3.5mm line out and the power port. At the bottom of the speaker is the lighting ring as per the latest design.
You can use the speaker to control other smart devices in your home and also connect with other people in the house. Either individually or all together.
If you have never used any of these Amazon speakers before, you will get a pleasant surprise. Set up is quick and basically fool-proof. That is always good news.
One last bit of good news is that the fabric and the aluminum used in the construction are 100% recycled, as are 50% of the plastics. Well done to Amazon on that one.
A nice-sounding practical speaker with plenty of good features. It ought to be considered as one of the Best Smart Speakers on the market.
- Compact size with a nice practical design.
- Plenty of functions at a decent price point.
6 Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Best Budget Smart Speaker
This Amazon Echo Dot 3rd generation has been included because it is still one of the most popular Smart Speakers. Having been largely replaced by the 4th Generation Echo Dot, it is still on sale.
We understand that Amazon will continue to sell this speaker until stocks are gone. Therefore, if you want one, you might have to move fast.
This styling has long been a favorite because it is so easy to use. On the top are the standard Echo Dot controls of Volume up and Down, microphone off, and Action buttons. On the rear, the power port, and the 3.5mm connection. The important thing here is that they are nicely positioned with plenty of space between them.
This has the light ring at the top of the speaker as against the 4th Generation, which has it at the bottom. Most people agreed having it at the bottom was a better design hence the move.
It has Bluetooth supporting A2DP for better streaming. You can access the Alexa assistant and the information that it can provide. As usual with the Amazon speaker series, it is easy to set up.
With this model, there is a 1.6-inch speaker, which you might consider adequate. However, the sound is not so good for music and lacks the richness of the later Echo Dot models.
If you can find one, it will certainly be worth a look.
- Very easy to set up and use.
- Good design with basic but attractive styling.
- The sound is not as good as on later models.
What do you want from your Smart Speaker?
There are some important things to consider when buying a Smart Speaker, especially if you are a first time user.
The reason for getting a Smart Speaker is the ability to connect up with other devices and actions. Therefore, the pairing process and performance are important. All will give you that basic option, but some will go further. They will have access to Alexa or Google assistant.
As you will be aware, this is a service that provides information on request. But it can be a bit more than that with certain speakers. Sometimes the speaker will not come with Alexa or Google’s Assistant built-in. They can be paired with it in certain circumstances.
If you are looking for a real Smart Speaker experience, then Alexa and or Google Assistant should be on the list of requirements.
What are you going to use the speaker for? It may be that you might want to just use it occasionally for information, news, or other spoken dialogue. In that case, the quality of the sound might not be high on your priority list.
However, you can use it as part of a music system. Or even as a stand-alone system. It can even be part of a Home Cinema set up. In those circumstances, sound quality will be important.
We all want things around that look nice. But that is a personal thing and subject to individual tastes. There are plenty of speakers around with a variety of designs and colors. You shouldn’t have a problem finding one that fits in your home.
This may be an important issue, especially if you are moving the speaker to various locations. Some batteries will give you a good length of time. Others not so. It is always worthwhile checking the battery performance.
Using Alexa or Google Assistant is an interesting experience if it is your first time. It has the ability to learn with you. It will recognize your tastes and what you may be interested in and make suggestions on that basis.
Technology moves at a very fast pace. And it is quite possible that before you even plug yours in that, another advance has been made. That is why it is important to decide exactly what you want and then search for a speaker that fulfills your criteria.
Looking for Something Else?
The speakers you want are waiting. Check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Powered Speakers, the Loudest Portable Bluetooth Speakers, the Best Wireless TV Speakers, the Best Bluetooth Speakers with Radio, and the Best 7.1 Home Theater System you can buy in 2021.
What are the Best Smart Speakers?
There are some great options for Smart Speakers. The Amazon Echo Dot, in its various forms, is a good system and will certainly be high on some peoples’ list. But for us, we quite like the idea of being able to use it in the shower or bathroom and know it will be safe.
We would therefore choose the …
A good Smart Speaker that has everything we need at a very nice price point.
Until next time, happy listening.