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Best smart speaker 2022: the top voice assistant speakers


Grumbling doesn’t get things done any faster. Quit talking to yourself and put your words to work: the best smart speakers will listen, learn and lend a helping hand. Or at least tell you a few jokes to lighten the mood.

From discs to spheres to cylinders, smart speakers come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Some sit pretty on your sideboard, while others are made for moving around the house.

Whether you’d like to heckle Alexa or shout at Siri, the speakers below will bring instant digital assistance into your home. And once your queries are answered, they’ll happily do DJ duty too.


Sonos One (2nd Gen)

The second-gen Sonos One might look the same as its predecessor (which itself looked like the Play:1), but it’s a slicker proposition in a few key ways. Performance is improved by a faster processor and memory boost, while smart assistant integration has been smoothed out.

Don’t let the understated design fool you: this is one feature-packed speaker. Besides support for Alexa and Google Assistant, the Sonos One plays nice with Spotify and AirPlay 2. It also features an ethernet port, so you can hard-wire it into your network for reliable audio around the house.

Sonos made its name with multi-room music boxes, so it’s no surprise that this smart speaker also sounds amazing. As clever as anything from Amazon or Google, it’s a clear cut above when it comes to tunes. While you’ll get the best separation by doubling up, a single One still delivers audio that’s rich and energetic.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

Subtle, smart and sweet on the ears, this is simply the best connected speaker you can buy right now

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Ethernet • Smart assistant: Alexa, Google Assistant • Battery life: N/A • Dimensions: 162x120x120mm, 1.85kg


Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

It’s always been pretty easy to recommend an Amazon Echo, even if the audio wasn’t top notch. That changes with the fourth generation: an all-round upgrade, the updated orb deploys a 0.8in tweeter and 3in woofer to deliver sweeter sonic performance. It also borrows auto-tuning tech from the Echo Studio, allowing it to tweak output to suit the room. Sure, it won’t trouble the Sonos One, but it easily outperforms its price tag.

Styled like a melon in a suit, the smart sphere features a repositioned light ring around its base, which tells when you Alexa’s listening. Press the button to mute the mics and it’ll glow an ominous shade of red.

A built-in Zigbee hub means you can now connect directly to devices such as Philips Hue bulbs, opening up new opportunities for seamless integration. Alexa also feels more responsive this time around, with her many abilities complemented by a catalogue of third-party Skills. Together with the option configure useful Routines through the smartphone app, that all ensures Alexa remains our favourite handsfree helper.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

With fuller sound and more responsive assistance, Amazon’s orb sounds smarter than ever

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm line in/out • Smart assistant: Alexa • Battery life: N/A • Dimensions: 144x144x133mm, 970g

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Apple HomePod Mini

Priced like an Echo, styled like a Dot, Apple’s HomePod Mini isn’t as accessible as either. From a sonic perspective, it comfortably outperforms expectations, offering more balanced sound than something of its size would usually manage. But it also makes you jump through a few hoops.

You need an Apple Music subscription to get the most out of the Mini, with native Spotify support still absent. There is an AirPlay workaround, but this rules out voice control. That said, if Apple Music is your streaming service of choice, the HomePod Mini rewards you with superb sound.

A single full-range driver fires sound downwards through a 360-degree waveguide (and two passive radiators) to produce balanced audio. It does lack a bit of oomph, but you can always pair two ‘Pods in stereo to fill the room.

Four microphones mean Siri is a keen listener, even if her responses can feel a bit mechanical at times. You can transfer songs from your iPhone to the Mini just by holding them close together, while the Intercom function allows you to send short voice messages to other Apple devices around the house. For those invested in the Apple ecosystem, this is the obvious choice.

Stuff says: ★★★★☆

Not as smart as some, Apple’s shrunken smart speaker is still a sonic success

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 • Smart assistant: Siri • Battery life: N/A • Dimensions: 84x84x98mm, 345g


Google Nest Audio

Freestanding and wrapped in 70% recycled fabric, the Nest Audio is about as subtle as smart speakers come. It’s compact enough to fit easily on a shelf, yet also feels reassuringly weighty. Taking minimalism to the max, there’s just one control: a mute button for the trio of near-field mics.

When they’re not muted, those mics do a great job of reliably picking up voice commands at a normal speaking volume. Machine learning smarts mean performance is slick, quick and hassle-free: local processing takes care of popular commands to save time and deliver speedier responses.

As for sound output, a 75mm woofer and 19mm tweeter replace the single 50mm driver found inside the original Google Home. A front-facing setup means audio is directional rather than room-filling, although volume can go pretty loud for a little speaker. Sound is full and clear, with improved bass presence – although the sonic signature could do with more dynamism overall.

Stuff says: ★★★★☆

Its sound lacks some dynamism, but as a smart speaker in neat packaging, the Nest Audio delivers great value

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast • Smart assistant: Google Assistant • Battery life: N/A • Dimensions: 175x124x78mm, 1.2kg

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Amazon Echo Studio

From weather forecasts to smart home control, Amazon’s Echo speakers are just about peerless. What the line-up previously lacked was something with the sonic muscles to do your music justice. Enter the Echo Studio: by far Amazon’s most powerful smart speaker to date, it’s full to bursting with drivers.

It’s also the first smart speaker cable of delivering 3D audio, utilising Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio to bring added depth and height to (certain) tunes. You’ll need an Amazon Music HD subscription to make the most of it. In truth, it’ll be some time before the 3D library is large enough to be a genuine selling point. But when it does work, the effect is amazingly immersive – especially for classical tracks.

The bigger boon in everyday use is the overall audio performance. Bass can be a little enthusiastic, but sound is otherwise bold and impactful, with good balance across the board. It can go properly loud and double up as a soundbar for your Fire TV, too. Add Alexa’s endless smarts into the mix and the Echo Studio shapes up as excellent value.

Stuff says: ★★★★☆

Easily the best-sounding Echo you can buy, the Studio is a faultless smart speaker – even if 3D audio isn’t revolutionary

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm line in • Smart assistant: Alexa • Battery life: N/A • Dimensions: 206x175x175mm, 3.5kg


Bose Portable Home Speaker

A handle isn’t usually something to write home about, but the fabric grip epitomises what this moveable Bose speaker brings to a crowded audio market. With an Echo-style light ring on its lid, the Portable Home Speaker is exactly what its name suggests: a wireless smart speaker with 360 sound that you can carry around the house.

It works as a Bluetooth, AirPlay 2 or Spotify Connect speaker, but you’ll need the Bose Music app to unlock its full range of features. Via your smartphone, you can pick between Alexa and Google Assistant. Once you’ve chosen your side, the PHS works like any smart speaker. Ask it questions, control your smart lighting, check your calendar: if a Google Home or Echo device can do it, so can Bose’s speaker.

There’s a backup button to trigger your chosen assistant, but the mics usually pick up vocal cues without a physical input, even when there’s music playing at high volumes. And when there is, the sonic signature is very Bose: authoritative and accomplished, if not hugely rousing.

Stuff says: ★★★★☆

Not perfect and definitely not cheap, but this feature-packed smart speaker is still very easy to like

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, USB-C • Smart assistant: Alexa, Google Assistant • Battery life: 12 hours • Dimensions: 192x119x104mm, 1kg


Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

Amazon’s smallest Echo is also its most affordable, making it easily the best budget smart speaker around. Styled like a scaled-down Echo, the fourth-gen Dot is dinky enough to fit almost anywhere, without compromising on Alexa’s smarts. It features the same natty fabric wrap, the same solid build quality and the same capabilities when it comes to answering your queries (or making animal noises).

As you’d expect from such a compact device, it won’t blow you away with sonic performance. That said, a 1.6in speaker inside is decent enough for streaming Spotify tunes in the kitchen, while a 3.5mm output means you can always hook it up to more powerful audio equipment.

Whether you want an accessible smart speaker for your living room shelf, or a whole arsenal for in-house comms, this brilliant ball is a bona fide bargain. And for an extra tenner, you can get one with a clock face for easy timekeeping.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

The best budget smart speaker you can buy, with surprising volume, a neat design and no shortage of skills

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm line in • Smart assistant: Alexa • Battery life: N/A • Dimensions: 100x100x89mm, 338g

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Audio Pro G10

Audio Pro is a lesser-known name in the hi-fi game, so it’s got its work cut out to convince listeners away from more familiar equipment. At first glance, the price tag of the Swedish brand’s first Google Assistant speaker might put you off. But pitted squarely against the like of the Sonos One, it’s got the audio chops to compete.

Attractive in a Scandi way – complete with a brushed aluminium top – it’s about the size of a sourdough loaf. It makes good use of its ready dimensions: equipped with a 3in long-throw woofer, a 1.25in tweeter, dual 4.5in passive radiators and a 52-watt Class D amp, this is very much a wireless hi-fi speaker that happens to have voice control. It sounds good wherever you can fit it, with the barrel shape dispersing composed audio in almost all directions – even if bass could sometimes do with extra punch.

Having Google Assistant on-board also means it can do everything a smart speaker needs to, while support for Chromecast, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Bluetooth (plus a 3.5mm input) makes it easy to cue the music, whether by voice or device.

Stuff says: ★★★★☆

A pricey but impressive all-rounder with serious sonic chops

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm line in, AirPlay 2, Chromecast • Smart assistant: Google Assistant • Battery life: N/A • Dimensions: 194x140x140mm, 1.5kg


JBL needs no introduction in the Bluetooth speaker arena, but the Link Portable proves it can make a solid smart speaker too. Wrapped in fabric that feels neat and premium, the Link Portable sits somewhere between the Sonos One and the JBL Flip 5 – and that’s no bad thing.

Understated by design, the Link Portable features volume controls and a Google Assistant shortcut on top, with mute, power and Bluetooth buttons hidden around the back. Connected to Wi-Fi, it can cue up Spotify tunes on command, as well as doing all the usual Google Assistant stuff (with instructions picked up by a pair of mics).

Though it’s relatively weighty, the Link Portable’s form factor is still backpack-friendly, yet its 20W power output is more than enough to get feet tapping, with full-bodied audio pumped out in 360. And it’ll last for up to eight hours before it needs to be returned to its charging dock.

Stuff says: ★★★★☆

A capable speaker with surprisingly premium packaging, the Link Portable serves up moveable smarts at a fair price

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB-C • Smart assistant: Alexa • Battery life: 18hrs • Dimensions: 133x133x46mm, 558g


Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen)

Properly portable smart speakers are rare. Not only does Bang & Olufsen’s second-gen Beosound A1 offer impressive pocket-friendly performance, but it also introduces Alexa support for voice control wherever you travel. In fact, B&O reckons its the first Bluetooth-only speaker with full integration for Amazon’s smart assistant.

Because the A1 doesn’t have Wi-Fi connectivity, you’ll need to keep the speaker connected to a smartphone with an active internet connection. So in one sense, it’s more of an app extension than a full-fat smart speaker. But with that link active, its built-in mics can detect your commands from up to five metres away.

Its pearl-blasted aluminium finish is nothing if not premium, while an IP67 rating means it’s more waterproof than the first-edition. Upgraded audio drivers and Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity also improves the sound output, with plenty of toe-tapping bunch. Despite the A1’s compact size, it also serves up surprisingly weighty bass, without sacrificing any clarity.

Stuff says: ★★★★★

One of the best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy, with Alexa long for the ride

TECH SPECS

Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB-C • Smart assistant: Alexa • Battery life: 18hrs • Dimensions: 133x133x46mm, 558g

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