Best Smart Speaker iMore 2020
Looking to find a smart speaker that'll keep your tunes going all night long with crystal clear clarity? Then we have to recommend the Sonos One Smart Speaker for overall efficiency, sound quality, and design.
- Best Overall: Sonos One
- Runner-Up: Apple HomePod
- Affordable Amazon Speaker: Amazon Echo (3rd Gen)
- Best-Sounding Amazon Speaker: Amazon Echo Studio
- Best Small Portable Speaker: Libratone ZIPP 2
- Best Portable Speaker: Sonos Move
Best Overall: Sonos One
If you're someone who wants high quality, pristine sound from your smart speaker, then the Sonos One is an ideal choice to consider. From streaming audiobooks to clearly broadcasting your favorite podcast, to playing your go-to album and blasting tunes from your fave music streaming service, this smart speaker has you covered, regardless of how old you are or where you live.
It's a substantially less expensive speaker than Apple's HomePod while still delivering similar pristine sound quality. Not only that, but it works with a ton of different music streaming services, giving you a variety of different tunes and playlists to pick from.
The Sonos One Smart Speaker can also work with AirPlay 2, so you can effortlessly use it with your iPhone for Siri support, and if you wanted a bolder sound, you could always combine it with another Sonos One Smart Speaker for maximum power.
This particular smart speaker provides you with premium sound thanks to a pair of Class-D amplifiers, while the humidity-resistant design makes it ideal for playing outdoors or even in the comfort of your own bathroom. It offers complete privacy and an LED light indicates whenever your speaker's microphone is turned on. If you want, you could even pair your Sonos speakers together in the same room for a clearer, more powerful sound.
This efficient and highly rated smart speaker allows you to stream from over 70 different music services and allows for practical AirPlay 2 compatibility, making it ideal for any Apple user. It's convenient and compact design means it can fit almost anywhere, and the speaker comes in 2 different color options: a stark, sleek, white, and a bright, bold black. You can mix and match between the two or grab two of the same for a bolder, more co-ordinated sound.
- AirPlay 2 compatibility
- Supports over 70 music streaming services
- Beautiful sound
- Alexa and Google Assistant support
- Needs to be plugged in
- No Bluetooth support
Functional and practical smart speaker
Designed to produce a full, rich sound and incredibly simple to set-up design, the Sonos One both versatile and ready to rock out.
Runner-Up: Apple HomePod
You can use your Apple HomePod with your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple TV, and your Mac, while a six-microphone array allows you to call Siri from quite the distance. It can easily pair to another HomePod, allowing you to double the power of your tunes and really blast 'em out loud and proud.
Just about every tech reviewer I know claims the HomePod is the best-sounding smart speaker around, and it's not just Apple fans saying that. In fact, this device holds its own against even extremely premium audiophile speakers that can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars more.
If you are totally ensconced in the Apple ecosystem and you can find it on sale, then the HomePod is a can't miss option. If, however, you use multiple other services and want a little more flexibility and/or want to save some cash, then other options from Sonos and Amazon might better suit you (especially since you can play Apple Music natively on those devices too, without AirPlay!). A word of caution — watch out for HomePod circles left behind on your shelves or tables no thanks to the silicon ring footing underneath the device!
- Amazing sound quality
- Compact design
- Simple setup
- Only works with HomeKit and Apple Music
- Silicon foot can leave rings on hard surfaces
Powerful, pristine, and ready to play
The HomePod is a beautiful, well-designed smart speaker that allows you to play your music with incredibly clear surround sound.
Affordable Amazon Speaker: Echo (3rd Gen)
The Amazon Echo (3rd Gen) connects to Alexa, allowing you to listen to your favorite podcasts, the latest news, the hottest albums, ask important questions, and so, so much more with beautiful sound quality, all from the convenience of your home. The 3rd generation has vastly improved speakers and a more pleasing design that makes it a true showcase device.
While the sound quality isn't on par with the Sonos One, HomePod, or even the Echo Studio, it's still pretty good, and very affordable. Additionally, you can play Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, and a host of other services natively on the device with Alexa. Once you set up the respective Alexa Skills and connect services, all you have to do is ask Alexa to play whatever artist, song, playlist, or genre you like, and she'll instantly start playing directly from that service, no special keywords required!
Echo smart speakers also sport convenient touch controls on the top of the devices with volume and mute controls, and the iconic Alexa LED light ring lets you know when Alexa is speaking or listening, and what she's trying to communicate.
- Great value
- Much improved speakers and design
- Can play Apple Music and Spotify natively
- Can be paired to another Echo (3rd Gen), Fire TV, or as audio group with other Echos
- Sound quality doesn't match Sonos or HomePod
Affordable Amazon Speaker
Better sound and cooler colors.
The 3rd gen Echo is built for better sound with a softer, plusher look that comes in four colors, including the soft new Twilight Blue and a firey Product Red.
Best-Sounding Amazon Speaker: Echo Studio
Amazon has received mixed praise on its line of Echo smart speakers for years. While many have appreciated the smart capabilities of Alexa, some have bemoaned the quality of the speakers for music playback. Well, no more! The Echo Studio is Amazon's first real step into the world of premium speakers, and so far we really like what we hear.
The Echo Studio offers 360-degree, room-filling sound that has impressed our colleagues at Android Central, but the much hyped 3D sound features were not appreciated at all. Amazon has an HD music service that you can subscribe to in order to really get the most out of this speaker, but you may want to just mess around with the EQ settings in the Alexa app first before you commit to another (or more premium) music subscription service.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about this speaker isn't just its sound capabilities, but its price. It delivers HomePod-quality sound at Sonos One level prices. This is a great alternative to those devices, and sits quite comfortably among them for the best smart speaker around.
- Great price point for a premium speaker
- Built-in Zigbee smart hub
- Can be paired with another Echo Studio or to Fire TV, or as audio group with other Echos
- First-gen product
- HD music mode has received mixed reviews
Best-Sounding Amazon Speaker
Great alone, or with friends.
The Echo Studio delivers amazing sound. It can be paired with another Echo Studio and Echo Sub for a great Fire TV surround sound experience.
Best Small Portable Speaker: Libratone ZIPP 2
The Libratone ZIPP 2 is a smart speaker that gives you a 10+ hour long battery life from a single charge and allows you to stream music from a number of your favorite apps. It comes in deep lagoon, white, grey, black, and red color options.
This is a great smart speaker to take with you to the beach, on a picnic, or over to a neighborhood barbeque, and you can even connect up to 10 of these together for multi-room audio or the ultimate block party! When things get too loud, you can just rest your palm on the top of the speaker and it will minimize the volume until you move your hand.
The Libratone ZIPP 2 has hands-free Alexa, so you can ask the Amazon virtual assistant to help control your smarthome, change songs or volume, set timers, and more. It works on WiFi, and you can stream to it via Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, or even plug in a USB drive or aux cord to use it as a dumb speaker.
- 10-hour battery life
- Multi-room and multi-speaker support
- Hands-free Alexa controls
- Supports Bluetooth and AirPlay 2
- A little expensive for a portable speaker
Best Small Portable Speaker
Colorful, convenient, and crystal clear.
The Libratone ZIPP Wireless Speaker is a portable and beautifully designed smart speaker that doesn't need to be plugged in.
Best Portable Speaker: Sonos Move
The Move is the latest smart speaker from Sonos, a company that has built a reputation as the leading player in this space. Long anticipated, it appears to have lived up to the hype, offering amazing sound in a multipurpose speaker. It is technically a portable device since it has a battery and can be used outdoors, but it also functions quite well as a traditional speaker indoors as well.
This speaker is solidly-built, and thanks to its IP56 rating it can handle humidity, light rain, snow, dust, salt spray, UV rays, and extreme variances of hot and cold temperatures. Not too shabby! Amazon Alexa is built-in for hands-free control, but you can also stream to it over WiFi, AirPlay 2, and Bluetooth — yes, Bluetooth! The Move is the first speaker from Sonos to officially support this common wireless protocol!
While the Move has been lauded as a great device (and some even go far as to say it's the best Sonos has ever made), it is quite expensive, especially compared to other portables. But if you're a Sonos fan, or if you can find a deal on it, then we can definitely recommend the Move for your next dance party!
- Amazing sound from a portable speaker
- Excellent build quality
- Water and dust resistance
- Microphones aren't the best
- May be a little big for some to lug around
Best Portable Speaker
Super versatile speaker
The Sonos Move is a bigger, better-sounding Sonos One that you can abuse — and leave the house with.
Regardless of the smart speaker you end up deciding on, there are plenty of different options available based on the amount of money you want to spend, how and where you want to blast your tunes, and what kind of style and look you want your smart speaker to have. The Sonos One Smart Speaker is best overall for quality, design, and rating, but it can get a wee bit pricey. No matter what option you choose, we hope you're able to jam out to your favorite album in one way or another!
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Cella Lao Rousseau is a music lover and dedicated iMore writer who loves playing with tech (and listening to Leonard Cohen on repeat while doing so!)
Christine Romero-Chan is a Sonos speaker expert and knows everything you need to know about crystal clear tunes.
Jeramy Johnson is proud to help to Keep Austin Weird and loves hiking in the hill country of central Texas with a breakfast taco in his Fitbit-covered hand. When he's not outdoors, he's tinkering with his various Apple and Amazon devices. You can follow him on Twitter at @jeramyutgw
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