Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Best Smart Speakers

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The best smart speakers of 2020 are some of the most multifunctional devices you can own. Here’s why: they help us operate our smart home devices, play music, and come with voice assistants ready to answer our most mundane, obvious, or confusing questions. These AI virtual assistants that you control with your voice, including Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, have already seized many homes. This is because they can do a lot: play music, tell you about the weather, read the news and operate your smart home appliances hands-free, these are just a few of the many things they can help you with.

But it seems that many of us underutilize our smart speakers and choose 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 smart gadgets.

Best Smart Speakers

If you need help finding your next virtual assistant, take a look at our guide below. We’ve selected the best smart speakers for different styles, budgets, and smart home ecosystems. This makes choosing the right model for you a piece of cake.

1. Sonos One

The best-sounding smart speaker on the market

Sonos’ debut speaker Alexa is a sleek, characterful, and great-sounding device that brings together the best of both ecosystems. On the one hand, you have the ever-improving Alexa, on the other hand, you have Sonos with its own multi-room smarts and often unparalleled sound performance. There is also a new feature in the mix that promises to change the game: AirPlay 2. Allows the Sonos One to 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 little bound by the Sonos One, be sure to check out its portable cousin, the Sonos Move; this ingenious speaker comes with all the smarts of the One and is at the top of our list of the best smart speakers of 2020.

2. Amazon Echo Studio

An Echo smart speaker truly fit for audiophiles

Considerably larger than any previous Echo, the Studio succeeds in shading both the Sonos One and the Apple Home Pod (listed below). In addition to boasting 330W of power and upgraded internals suitable for CD-quality and hi-res audio (both now available through Amazon’s latest incarnation of its streaming service, Amazon Music HD), the Echo Studio also promises to deliver 3D audio through tracks encoded in Sony’s 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos.

Producing immersive, directional audio will always be difficult, but it is even more challenging to do it from a single speaker source. Still, it is an open, airy presentation that fits well with the 3D environment. The speaker sits in the jaws of a high sound image, with good detailing of the percussion and high frequencies. Although we’re not entirely convinced about the way it handles bass – and we wouldn’t exactly call it audiophile quality – for the money, the Echo Studio does a lot for it. Overall, this is one of the best smart speakers right now.

3. Amazon Echo Show 5

A fantastic addition to the Alexa family

The best smart speakers have displays to convey visual information: Everything from song lyrics to weather forecasts, shopping lists, videos, surveillance cameras, and more. Amazon’s latest smart speaker, the Echo Show 5, offers the perfect balance of screen size and price, with a 5.5-inch display and a price tag of just $90. If that’s too high for your budget, the display less Echo Dot (3rd Gen) costs just $50, but it’s often sold for a lot less money. Overall, this is one of the best smart speakers right now.

4. Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

Best entry-level smart speaker

If you use a smart speaker mainly to operate your smart home appliances, and you don’t care much about audio performance, grab the third-generation Echo Dot. Amazon has significantly improved the audio performance of this speaker, so it’s now the best-sounding smart speaker for the money. You can pair two for stereo, and you can add an Echo Sub to improve its low-frequency characteristics. The Echo Dot with Clock Variety features a simple and extremely convenient LED display, but it costs more. Overall, this is one of the best smart speakers right now.

5. Ultimate Ears Megablast

A fun and energetic portable speaker with a nicely controlled performance.

The Megablast is the loudest and smartest loudspeaker from Ultimate Ears to date. With Amazon’s built-in Alexa Voice Assistant, it can answer your questions as well as play all your favorite songs. More importantly, the Megablast joins the brand’s portfolio of five-star Bluetooth speakers, which are simply fun to use and listen to. Megablast looks and sounds great, and it’s an absolute treat. Overall, this is one of the best smart speakers right now.

6. Audio Pro Addon C5A

A class-leading smart speaker with Alexa support

The Audio Pro Addon C5A is virtually identical to the Addon C5, which was our wireless speaker product of the year in 2017. So adding Alexa voice control to an award-winning speaker is, frankly, the icing on the cake. Available at the price of an Addon C5 plus the cost of an Amazon Echo product bolt-on, it brings the whole package into a neat, easy-to-install box. And with that same award-winning sound, it’s the ideal combination for those who want an excellent Alexa wireless speaker that can be expanded into a fully-fledged multiroom system. Overall, this is one of the best smart speakers right now.

7. LG WK7

A solid start for LG’s venture into smart speakers

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The LG WK7 is LG’s first foray into the intelligent speaker market and the first product to be launched as part of the new partnership with UK audio specialist Meridian. There’s nothing special about the design, but it looks smart enough and the top features touch-sensitive controls for volume and playback. There is also a Google Assistant button and a function button that allows you to switch between wi-fi and Bluetooth.

There are no other connections – no analog input or 3.5mm connection – but a smart speaker like this doesn’t really need one, especially if there’s also Chromecast built-in and Android Things support. And it sounds pretty good by the standards of smart speakers, not least thanks to its hi-res audio support. There’s sometimes a little too much bass and the music doesn’t sound as good musically as on the HomePod, but there’s an impressive scale, clean and clear vocals, and a lot of punch on the drums and bass. The LG WK7 is one of the best smart speakers, especially now that it has a healthy discount.

8. Sonos Beam

Best smart speaker soundbar for TV

Even the best TVs tend to have poor sound quality due to their small built-in speakers, making the soundbars an attractive option for many. However, many soundbars tend to be large and clumsy despite their overall simplicity. This is where the Sonos Beam comes in. As a compact and well-stylized beam, the optional bracket allows it to easily fit under the smallest TVs on a console or on the wall. Like any Sonos product, it has a very good sound quality for its size and can be part of a much larger multiroom audio system.

The Sonos app allows you to stream from virtually any music service in the world, and it also does an excellent job of managing your private music collection. Overall, this is one of the best smart speakers right now.

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