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Updated Apr 12, 2022 1:41 PM

The best smart speakers don’t just sound great; they’ll stream your favorite playlists, call your friends, order groceries, and tell you dad jokes—all at the sound of your voice. You don’t need to have a smart home to use a smart speaker, but integrating a smart speaker into your connected ecosystem opens up all sorts of automation features, from turning up your lights to strengthening home security. If you’re ready for a sound system that’ll also bring a new level of control and convenience to your home, we’ve got the line on the best smart speakers of 2022, whether you want to spend $40, $400, or really treat yourself (or someone else).

How we selected the best smart speakers

To select the best smart speakers, we considered about two dozen units, exchanging opinions based on our team’s own experiences with speakers in our homes and putting new units through the paces where possible. We also investigated the most recent developments in each category—considering some models debuting just weeks before publication. Our evaluations started with sound performance: While smart speakers aren’t designed to deliver the power and expansiveness of large stereo or multichannel sets, even the smallest should reproduce speech and music with clarity. With smart speakers, however, audio quality is just one part of the picture—we also evaluated each model’s ease of setup and use and ability to detect and process voice commands. Privacy features—including the ability to turn off microphones and cameras—were also must-haves.

Things to consider before buying a smart speaker

When it comes to smart speakers, fidelity isn’t necessarily the defining factor. It’s just as much about connectivity as it is connecting with your favorite artists. Digital assistants are at the heart of every smart speaker, with three worthy contenders: Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. The general consensus is that Google Assistant is the most human-like and Alexa offers the best third-party compatibility, but it’s more about playing nice within your existing home ecosystem. Beyond that, the biggest considerations are audio quality, size, security, and price.

Smart speakers and sound quality: What to look for

What makes up a speaker generally is the larger the speaker, the louder and better the sound. Because low frequencies are bigger than high frequencies, bigger speaker drivers are needed to reproduce them. The simplest smart speakers contain just one speaker, which reproduces all of the frequencies that it can handle. So if that speaker is small, it will be limited in its ability to reproduce sound in the bass range. But these mini multitaskers are designed for convenience and smaller often equals better in that context. As a result, most smart speakers just aren’t designed to fill the room with chest-thumping music.

That said, audiophile-grade smart speakers are available, though they’ll command a premium price for premium fidelity. If fidelity is a top priority, look for a smart speaker that incorporates separate woofers, which reproduce low frequencies; and tweeters, which reproduce high frequencies. In this two-way system, each speaker driver is optimized for its frequency range; the two drivers operate more efficiently, combining to produce cleaner, more precise sound. Some smart speakers incorporate a built-in subwoofer, which actively extends the speaker’s bass response, producing deeper, richer, quicker sound. Others, such as the Apple HomePod mini, use passive radiators, which vibrate in response to air pressure to create a bigger bass sound without the weight or power requirements of additional amplification.

It’s impossible to experience a stereo soundscape in a single speaker unless it has dedicated drivers reproducing both the left and right channels. Models at the top of our range here, such as the B&W Zeppelin and the Bose Smart Soundbar 900, feature built-in left and right speakers that work together to deliver true stereo sound; as a result, these speakers are much wider physically (and sonically) than the other models on this list.

Smart-speaker privacy and security concerns

Nobody likes the idea of a device eavesdropping on them 24/7. With smart speakers continually listening for commands, it’s right to be concerned about the information being collected and the potential for recordings to be exposed to humans as tech companies refine their AI assistants. Amazon, for example, discloses that training its Alexa assistant “relies in part on supervised machine learning, an industry-standard practice where humans review an extremely small sample of requests to help Alexa understand the correct interpretation of a request and provide the appropriate response in the future.”

The good news is, just about every smart speaker on the market provides the option to mute its microphone when it’s not being used and even delete recorded interactions. (Of course, the device won’t respond to your voice commands until you turn it back on.) Some smart speakers, such as the Echo Dot and the B&W Zeppelin, have physical microphone controls, while others, such as the Apple HomePod mini, mute the mic using their AI assistant or app. All of the units profiled here offer mic muting, and the Google Nest Hub Max also has a camera-off switch.

The best smart speakers: Reviews & Recommendations

Ready to make the leap to a smart speaker? With hundreds of choices out there, the search can get pretty overwhelming. We’ve made things easier by narrowing down our top selections for every scenario and budget. We’ve even included models with visual displays and speakers you can take outdoors. No matter your preferred assistant ecosystem, there’s a smart speaker here for you. 

Best-sounding smart speaker: Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin

Sarah Jones

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Why it made the cut: This sleek audio airship uses reference-grade drivers adapted from the company’s audiophile speakers. If superior fidelity and iconic design matter most to you, there’s no comparison with this best sounding smart speaker.

Specs 

  • Assistant: Alexa
  • Drivers: 5
  • Dimensions: 28 x 12 x 11.6 inches
  • Frequency response: 35 Hz to 24 kHz

Pros:

  • Audiophile-grade speaker array
  • Elegant, minimalist design elevates any decor
  • Scalable platform can be updated with new features and services

Cons:

  • Bookshelf placement can impact sound quality

When Bowers & Wilkins introduced the Zeppelin in 2007, it set a new bar for visually arresting, audiophile-grade speakers. Since then, it has evolved with new technologies and features; the newest model, introduced in fall 2021, brings advanced smart functions into its feature set.

Zeppelin, like most smart speakers, is all about minimalist design and ease of use. Its 14 pounds poised atop a curved metal pedestal, the Zeppelin’s five front-facing drivers are clad in creaseless “midnight grey” (black) or “pearl grey” (gray) fabric, while the rear is equally smooth plastic save for embossed icons on the top for volume and playback controls, an Alexa voice control button, and a multifunction/pairing button. Finally, on the lower back is a recessed panel housing a power plug, reset button, and USB-C port (for service only). (Zeppelin has no audio I/Os, so put that 3.5mm cable back in the drawer—with a speaker like this, however, that’s sort of the point.)

Setup was a simple matter of connecting with the B&W Music app, which provides built-in (subscriber) access to a range of streaming services including Deezer, Qobuz, TIDAL, Soundcloud, and Last.fm, plus curated B&W playlists. (What you won’t find is much in the way of EQ/tone sculpting/correcting, etc., but the finesse of the speaker’s tuning means you won’t feel you’re really missing anything.)

Zeppelin can also stream via Apple AirPlay 2, Bluetooth 5.0 (including the AAC, SBC, and aptX Adaptive codecs), and Spotify Connect, which streams Spotify tracks from the cloud, versus your phone. (The app and current digital audio converter defaults decode streams at 24-bit/96 kHz resolution, but since the speaker converters are capable of accepting 192 kHz files, you can feed it higher-resolution audio by streaming that content over Wi-Fi using AirPlay 2, as I did.) Amazon Alexa voice control lets you stream music, control the speaker and music playback, and access typical Alexa skills and functions.

With an audiophile brand like B&W, fidelity is paramount. This is a company with products constantly among the best speakers for music. Zeppelin’s elegant speaker features proprietary Fixed Suspension Transducer technology trickled down from the company’s flagship (read very pricey) 800 series speakers, with two 1-inch, double-dome tweeters and two 3.5-inch midrange drivers flanking a single 6-inch subwoofer in the center. Together, the drivers deliver a frequency range of 35 Hz to 24 kHz. Everything is powered by five channels of Class D amplification totaling 240 watts.

Zeppelin’s broad elliptical design isn’t just about aesthetics. Because its tweeters are positioned at its outer contours, you’ll experience as much stereo separation as possible from a single speaker. (Due to its irregular shape, the Zeppelin isn’t the best choice if you’re looking for the best bookshelf speakers to nestle amongst other personal audio gear and physical media, but this imposing airship does make a great centerpiece and conversation piece in the right room.)

My first impression of the Zeppelin is that this speaker delivers an incredibly powerful, dynamic sonic presentation at any volume level, with a cohesive sonic signature that’s especially favorable to vocals and other midrange sounds.

Listening to Diana Krall’s “The Look of Love,” the Zeppelin revealed every nuance of Krall’s luxurious silk-and-sandpaper vocal stylings in a very direct, lifelike presentation. I was struck by Zeppelin’s tight, defined low-end response; piano notes were defined across the entire register and I could pick out, practically feel, Christian McBride deftly pulling his fingers across the bass strings.

While the lush string arrangements may not have felt as wide as they would on a pair of speakers, directional cues are audibly reproduced and the soundstage was expansive for a single enclosure, with defined stereo separation at a close distance, say within 3 or 4 feet. No transients are lost, attack and decay are handled with aplomb, it’s just more tightly focused unless you’re at a closer proximity.

That said, not many people are spending their days sitting in front of their smart speakers musing on how the Zeppelin has far more imaging than the average all-in-one. Luckily, the Zeppelin is equally satisfying for those seeking room-filling, body-rocking sound to energize their abode. Going full-bore with Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls On Parade,” the speaker delivered every gut punch with authority, clarity, and true linearity, never distorting even at levels loud enough for my neighbors to ask me what the heck was going on.

Ultimately, any smart speaker will turn on the lights and order groceries. But if powerful sound and equally dynamic style are your top priorities, Bowers & Wilkins’ Zeppelin is the one to beat.

Best smart speaker with voice control: Apple HomePod mini

Tony Ware

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Why it made the cut: If you’re Team Apple, this best smart speaker with voice control is the way to integrate a smart speaker with built-in Siri into your ecosystem.

Specs 

  • Assistant: Siri
  • Drivers: 2
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.3 inches
  • Frequency response: 70 Hz to 6 kHz

Pros:

  • Only smart speaker with Siri built in
  • Advanced acoustic design
  • Easy to set up and use

Cons:

  • Limited compatible smart devices

If your world runs on Apple, HomePod mini is here to provide the soundtrack. A surprising amount of acoustic features are packed into this tennis ball-sized speaker: a full-range driver works with a proprietary acoustic waveguide to deliver 360-degree sound, while two passive radiators beef up the bass. Two minis can be paired for true stereo and multiple HomePod minis can be connected for whole-home sound. One of our editors loves having one (pictured here) perched on the kitchen counter as a hands-free timer and to indulge his dinner-prep soundtrack requests, among many other uses.

Apple recently introduced blue, yellow, and orange models, in addition to standard white and space gray options. These cheery spheres bring the cute factor along with a ton of Apple-centric functions: an Intercom function that sends messages to other speakers in your home and the ability to hand off audio from an iPhone to the mini by holding the phone over the speaker bring extra value to this little orb. Users can sign up for Apple Music’s new Voice plan, an Apple Music tier that’s accessed only through Siri voice commands and listened to exclusively on Apple devices, for just $5/month.

HomePod mini is limited to controlling HomeKit-enabled devices, so if you’re not invested in that ecosystem, you won’t get the most out of its smart features. But if you’re already all-things Apple, it’s the only speaker with Siri built in and it’s a very affordable way to bring a smart speaker into your setup.

Best portable smart speaker: Sonos Move

Why it made the cut: This rugged, weather-resistant speaker effortlessly transitions from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth and bedside to poolside. 

Specs

  • Assistant: Google, Alexa
  • Drivers: 2
  • Dimensions: 9.44 x 6.29 x 4.96 inches
  • Frequency response: 49 Hz to 18 kHz

Pros:

  • Trueplay optimizes audio performance for any space
  • 11-hour battery life
  • Robust dirt, dust, and water protection

Cons:

  • Heavier than most portable speakers

Sonos has been in the home hi-fi game for 17 years, but Move is its first portable speaker. Move is a Bluetooth speaker with (lots of) added benefits: As the best portable smart speaker, it integrates with the Sonos ecosystem when it’s in Wi-Fi mode, which means you can sync it to other Sonos components in a multiroom system, and even pair two Moves as a wireless stereo pair over Wi-Fi. When you’re ready to take it outside, simply switch over to Bluetooth 4.2 operation.

Move answers to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands (though, no, you can’t chat with both at the same time.) Access a range of streaming services (including Sonos’ Radio HD) using Sonos’ mobile app. Because Apple AirPlay 2 is built in, you can stream audio directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer.

Move isn’t exactly a feather-light speaker, clocking in at almost 7 pounds, but that beefy build allows for bigger speakers and a battery that provides up to 11 hours of playback. Inside, a woofer and downward-firing tweeter are powered by two Class D amps. Trueplay tuning technology continually optimizes Move’s sonic response for its surroundings. (A smaller sibling, the Sonos Roam, comes in closer to 1 pound and with similar song-casting/network-friendly features, though far less robust sound.)

This rugged, weatherized speaker is IP56 rated for protection against dust, dirt, and sprayed water, making it the best smart speaker for bathroom karaoke shower sessions as well as backyard BBQs. In short, it’s the ultimate sonic companion for all of your adventures—indoors or out, rain or shine. 

Best smart speaker with alarm clock: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) with Clock

Why it made the cut: This fourth-generation speaker is the simplest entry point to the Amazon smart-home ecosystem.

Specs

  • Assistant: Alexa
  • Drivers: 1
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 3.9 x 3.5 inches
  • Frequency response: Not Provided

Pros:

  • Offers basic Amazon Guard home protection
  • Controls are easier to reach than in previous versions
  • Multipurpose clock display

Cons:

  • Minimal bass output

Amazon’s Echo Dot smart speakers are available in various sizes and feature sets; the popular Echo Dot 4th Generation with Clock is the newest of the bunch and our pick for best smart speaker with an alarm clock. This newest evolution of Echo Dot has the same functions and spherical form as the previous model but adds an LED clock display that can display alarms, outdoor temperature, and timers.

Like most of the smart speakers on our list, the Echo Dot is all about minimalist design: The top of the unit offers simple volume up, down, and mic mute buttons plus a multipurpose Action button that performs functions like waking Alexa, silencing alarms, and resetting the speaker. Models are available in Glacier White and Twilight Blue (a version without a clock is available in gray).

Echo Dot will play music from various streaming services, including Amazon Music, Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, and TuneIn. Because it uses Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, it can answer general questions, control smart-home devices, make calls, and make voice calls to other Alexa devices. Using Amazon Guard home protection, Alexa can send you phone alerts if the Echo Dot detects the sound of smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, or glass breaking.

The tiny 1.6-inch front-facing speaker isn’t designed to fill the room with as much sound as the three-driver flagship Echo might—and even though it’s round, it’s very directional, though a 3.5mm line out lets ambitious audiophiles send the output to a more robust system. Echo Dot will, however, deftly execute your Alexa commands while offering a cool, convenient way to wake up to your favorite songs, listen to the news at your desk, or play podcasts in the kitchen.

Best smart speaker with screen: Google Nest Hub Max

Why it made the cut: This is the best smart speaker with a screen because this fully loaded system provides media streaming, videoconferencing, AI assistance, and home security functions at an accessible price point.

Specs

  • Assistant: Google Assistant
  • Drivers: 3
  • Dimensions: 9.85 x 7.19 x 3.99 inches
  • Frequency response: Not Provided

Pros:

  • Can be controlled with hand gestures
  • Robust 2.1 audio system
  • High-resolution video display

Cons:

  • No physical camera shutter

Google Nest makes dozens of speakers, doorbells, cameras, hubs, and accessories for its smart-home ecosystem. The Google Nest Hub Max, introduced in 2019, is Nest’s largest smart display, featuring a 10-inch screen and premium 2.1 sound.

In addition to the full functionality of its built-in Google Assistant, Nest Hub Max supports Google Cast; plays news, podcasts, and audiobooks; and streams music from apps like YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more.

The Nest Hub Max is designed to deliver a bigger sound than its predecessors. Its large footprint allows for a speaker configuration powered by two 18mm tweeters and one 75mm woofer. 

Its marquee feature, though, is its camera—a first for Nest displays—which facilitates video calling with services like Duo, Zoom, and Google Meet, and allows the unit to function as a security camera. The camera also opens the Nest Hub Max up to innovative features like customizing features for individual household members and giving users the ability to use hand gestures to pause music playback.

For those (rightly) concerned about privacy, the Nest Hub Max has a kill switch that disables both its camera and microphone, but the camera doesn’t offer the reassurance of a physical shutter—the only minor drawback of this robust, full-featured box.

Best smart soundbar: Bose Smart Soundbar 900

Why it made the cut: An elegant way to bring truly cinematic sound into your connected smart home.

Specs 

  • Assistant: Alexa and Google Assistant
  • Drivers: 7
  • Dimensions: 4.21 x 41.14 x 2.29 inches
  • Frequency response: Not Provided

Pros:

  • Dolby Atmos surround sound
  • Elegant design
  • Optional surround add-ons

Cons:

  • Only one HDMI port

Most smart speaker manufacturers use “smart” as a point of departure, with sound quality coming in a close second. Bose, on the other hand, has been making audiophile-quality speakers for nearly six decades. As the best smart soundbar, The 900 combines the best of both worlds, adding Atmos and smart functions to an already-impressive soundbar.

Inside this low-profile, glass-topped enclosure (available in black or white), a seven-driver speaker array includes a dedicated center channel and two up-firing drivers that deliver Atmos height content; Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, and hi-res 24-bit/192 kHz content are also supported via a single HDMI ARC/eARC port (DTS and DTS:X, however, have to be decoded at the source and sent as PCM). The 900 will create an immersive presentation with any sonic content, though, using Bose’s proprietary PhaseGuide virtual-surround technology. ADAPTiQ calibration prepares the 900 to perform its best based on your space. And if that’s not enough, Bose offers several bass modules and surround satellites to expand your soundstage. Want to listen in private? Pair the Soundbar 900 with Bose Bluetooth headphones (like the Bose 700 Headphones) using Bose’s SimpleSync technology.

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are built in, making it easy to control the Soundbar 900 and other connected smart devices, regardless of your preferred way to request music, the weather, etc. Use the Bose Music app to stream music from supported services—including Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, TuneIn, Deezer, and SiriusXM—whether over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect.

The app can also control the soundbar; a physical remote is also included. Alexa users can take advantage of Bose’s Voice4Video, which lets you control your TV and soundbar with your voice and combine several steps into single commands. If you’re looking for a versatile system that supports Dolby Atmos, the Bose 900 is the best smart speaker for TV sound that’ll make your hair stand on end.

FAQs

Q: Are smart speakers worth it?

Smart speakers are worth it if they’re integrated into a smart home. Sure, smart speakers offer tons of features you’ll never find in traditional speakers, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality and app control, and their AI assistants can read you a book and report the weather, but you’ll get the best value out of smart speakers when you can use them to enhance the effectiveness of other smart devices in your home, such as lights and home security systems.

Q: Do expensive speakers sound better?

Expensive speakers tend to sound better than inexpensive speakers because they’re generally the product of advanced engineering and are constructed from premium materials like rigid enclosures and stiff cones that produce smoother, more accurate sound. But spending more money doesn’t guarantee better sound; plenty of expensive audiophile speakers are more about marketing hype than merit. It’s difficult to judge a speaker’s sound on specs alone, so try to audition models in person, and if you can’t, check out a range of professional reviews.

Q: How much does a good smart speaker cost?

Good smart speakers cost more than equivalent traditional speakers, but older-generation models can be picked up for as little as $20. That said, if you aim for the cheapest smart speaker you can find, expect to get what you pay for fidelity-wise. It’s all about what’s most important to you: The cheapest speakers tend to be the smallest, which means you’ll sacrifice bass and definition. But that might be acceptable if you won’t be listening to music or you just want to stick to voice control. If sound quality is important to you, expect to spend closer to $100, more if you’re seeking big, room-filling sound.

A final word on choosing the best smart speakers

The “best” smart speakers mean different things to different people and the versatile products here meet the needs of a range of scenarios. Ultimately, the best smart speakers marry great sound, versatility, and ease of use, and if you choose any of the models profiled here, you won’t be disappointed.

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