Best smart speaker: the best smart home speakers to help automate your life

The best smart speakers to upgrade everyday tasks, play music and get a (digital) helping hand

best smart speaker: Sonos Roam on bedside table
(Image credit: Sonos)

Smart assistants are the ideal helping hand, whether you're a complete newcomer to smart home technology or an expert. The best smart speakers will upgrade your home to become more organized, streamlined, and just plain easier to live in.

The days of your heating, lights, alarms, and music streaming needing to be manually controlled are way behind us, with these clever devices now allowing you to control pretty much everything in your home using just your voice (or a couple of taps on your phone if you prefer).

Choosing the best smart speaker for your household will depend on what you want out of it, whether that's excellent audio quality for playing music or just something sleek that fits into your existing home aesthetic. We know that there's sometimes nothing worse than technology that sticks out like a sore thumb on the mantelpiece, so we've included a few different design options on our list.

And if you want to narrow your search to one type of assistant, take a look at our ranking of the best Alexa speakers.

To help make the buying process easier, we've ranked seven of the best smart speakers available right now. Keep scrolling to see what we thought.

The best smart speakers in 2022

Amazon Echo Studio smart speakerLivingetc badge – tried, loved

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Amazon Echo Studio

Best smart speaker overall

Specifications

Assistant: Amazon Alexa
Dimensions: 8.1 x 6.9 x 6.9in
Weight: 7.7lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Great sound quality
+
Dolby Atmos
+
Stylish design

Reasons to avoid

-
Far more expensive than other Amazon Echo products

One of people's main complaints about smart speakers when they first launched was that companies hadn't prioritized audio quality. Amazon has rectified this oversight with the Echo Studio, however, which is a speaker that combines all the usual Alexa smarts with a sound that should meet an audiophile's standards.

The larger device creates a more three-dimension soundscape with five interior speakers and Dolby Atmos getting you the closest to surround sound you'll get without a complete multi-speaker sound system. The Echo Studio also senses the acoustics of its space automatically, optimizing its output.

As with other Alexa speakers, there are also lots of features designed to make it more useable. For example, you can turn the microphone off with a switch when you don't want it to be listening, and users can network multiple Alexa speakers to create an at-home intercom system.

Livingetc rating: 5 out of 5 stars 

Sonos Roam smart speaker

(Image credit: Sonos)

2. Sonos Roam

Best portable smart speaker

Specifications

Platform: Google Assistant, Alexa
Battery life: up to 10 hours
Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.3 x 2.4in
Weight: 0.93lbs

Reasons to buy

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Wireless
+
Automatic tuning to fit sound with space
+
Supports both Google Assistant and Alexa
+
Rugged and waterproof

Reasons to avoid

-
Bluetooth connection can be tricky when away from Wi-Fi

A significant upgrade from Sonos' former portable smart speaker - the Move - the Sonos Roam is fantastic value with support for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, an intuitive and user-friendly app, and a small and lightweight design that makes it truly possible to take it anywhere.

Using it outside, while doing the dishes, or just by the bath is completely plausible as the speaker is totally dust and waterproof. It can be placed vertically or horizontally without losing sound quality and, unlike the bulky Sonos Move, the Roam is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.

The design is functional and clean, though there are more attractive speakers out there (including from Sonos). 

Streaming can be done over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and we were seriously impressed by the audio quality from such a small speaker. TruePlay adapts the sound to the acoustics of the environment, and you can connect multiple Sonos speakers together for multi-room listening.

We used it with our Google Assistant account, and integration there is completely seamless. The microphone actually picked up our voice better than our Google Home Mini, which is a bonus.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Marshall Stanmore II Voice smart speaker

(Image credit: Marshall)
Best stylish smart speaker

Specifications

Platform: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 7.6 x 13.8 x 7.2in
Weight: 10.5lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous chic design from classic brand
+
Multi-room listening

Reasons to avoid

-
Large and bulky
-
Quite expensive

Classic rock fans will get a kick out of the design of this Marshall Stanmore II smart speaker, which packs all sorts of modern tricks inside a decidedly retro package. Given the popularity of smart speakers, it makes sense that classic brands would want to upgrade their own tech, and this is a great example.

Marshall sent us a version with integrated Google Assistant, but you can also purchase the Stanmore II Voice with Alexa.

The device is a multiroom speaker, so you can hook it up to other smart speakers around the home and use it as a standard Bluetooth speaker if you want to play music or a podcast. Of course, you'll also have all of the features of Google, such as the ability to control your smart devices, heating, and more.

The speaker is nothing short of stunning, with its bulkiness adding to the quality feel. It looks fantastic on a bookshelf or side table and, as most people drawn to it will be so because of its classic aesthetic, that's a massive point in its favor. 

The audio offering is better than most Amazon or Google-branded speakers (except maybe for music-focused releases like the Echo Studio and Nest audio). We especially love the physical dials on top, allowing you to customize bass, treble, and volume.

One note - be careful before you purchase, as Marshall also produces a Marshall Stanmore II speaker that is strictly Bluetooth, without an integrated smart assistant.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the Marshall Stanmore II Voice

Google Nest Hub Max

(Image credit: Google)

4. Google Nest Hub Max

Best Google smart speaker with display

Specifications

Platform: Google Assistant
Features: 10 inch screen, 6MP camera
Dimensions: 7.1 x 9.8 x 3.9in
Weight: 2.9lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Good sound quality
+
Auto-framing tracks you on video calls as you move around
+
Built-in Nest security camera

Reasons to avoid

-
Nest Cam doesn't support night vision
-
No wireless option

The top-tier smart display from Google, the Nest Hub Max is a fantastic smart speaker for everything from video calls to home security. The device works with common brands like Nest, Arlo, Philips Hue, and Ring, and also has a bunch of built-in features of its own.

The Hub Max works in all the same ways as other Google Assistant speakers, but the presence of both a 10-inch screen and 6.5MP camera adds a lot more potential uses. When making video calls, for example, the camera will automatically reframe the picture as you move around, giving you far more freedom.

There's also the benefit of built-in Nest security features which means you will get motion and sound alerts without needing to add a secondary camera. As always there's a catch in that the Hub Max's camera doesn't support night vision, so it won't be much good overnight.

Still, this is our top pick smart speaker display for a reason, with features galore and a nice design.

Livingetc rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)

(Image credit: Amazon)

5. Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)

Best Alexa smart speaker display

Specifications

Platform: Alexa
Features: 10-inch display
Dimensions: 9 x 6.7 x 5.6in
Weight: 5.6lbs

Reasons to buy

+
Smart display perfect for video calls and streaming
+
Motion sensor moves with you

Reasons to avoid

-
No wireless option
-
Quite bulky compared to other models

The original Amazon Echo Show has had a massive update in the form of this 3rd Gen model. The Echo Show 10 display boasts all of the brilliant features of other Amazon smart speakers, but with a 10" HD screen that follows your movement to boot.

This makes the Echo Show particularly good for those who use their devices in the kitchen to follow recipes (or listen to music and watch YouTube for entertainment) and makes calling friends and family that much more straightforward. All of this, completely hands-free.

We particularly love smart displays for their ability to integrate with any home security devices you have around the house. So, for example, security cameras or smart doorbells can beam their footage to your Echo Show 10, where you can choose to speak with the person at the door without ever leaving the room.

Before you know it, you'll have automation set up for your heating, music, TV, air conditioning, and anything else you'd rather not spend time thinking about every day.

How to choose the best smart speaker for your home

best smart speaker: Sonos Roam on kitchen top next to person cutting lemon wedges

(Image credit: Sonos)

How do smart speakers work?

Smart speakers are devices for the home that users can activate with a simple term like ‘Alexa’ or ‘Hey Google’ before being asked to perform a task. This could be anything from answering a general knowledge question, checking the weather forecast, pausing music, or streaming without searching for the remote.

Because they’re also billed as speakers, many people use them as their primary device to stream music, play podcasts, or, in some cases, enhance their home theater setup. How you use yours is totally up to you.

Will my smart speaker be able to hear me over loud music?

Most smart speakers claim to hear a voice command over even the loudest background noise, but it doesn’t always work in practice. However, we will say that Google Assistant can turn up sensitivity, and voice recognition goes a long way to making your smart speaker more compliant.

Google or Alexa? Which is the best smart assistant?

This very much depends on personal taste, with many sticking with whichever assistant they encountered first. If you are new to smart speakers, it's helpful to look at what you already use. If you're a devoted Amazon Prime user, for example, then Alexa-enabled speakers may have a few more features for you.

Similarly, if you are an Apple devotee who doesn't mind being tied to Apple Music, you could go for a Siri device like the Apple HomePod Mini.

We'll note that should you be interested in hooking your smart display or speaker up with a Ring doorbell, Alexa is the way to go. 

Will my smart speaker spy on me?

It’s a totally legitimate question and one that many have asked since it became common knowledge that smart speakers from the likes of Amazon and Google are effectively ‘listening’ to every word you say, just waiting for a command they can fulfill.

Of course, these companies quickly assure everyone that this data does not actually get stored long-term, and everything is done to ensure your privacy is not compromised. In any case, many speakers have switches that turn off the microphone when you don’t want it listening in on your conversations.

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Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline is the smart homes ecommerce editor for Livingetc, covering everything tech for the home, from smart speakers to air purifiers and everything in between. She is passionate about the role that technology and smart devices can play in daily life, enhancing the home without sacrificing personal style and carefully chosen interiors. In her spare time, she can be found tinkering with bulbs, soundbars, and video doorbells in an effort to automate every part of her small home. Previously, she lent her expertise to the likes of Expert Reviews, IT Pro, Coach, The Week, and more.