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

Included in this guide:

best smart speaker: Marshall Stanmore II Voice
(Image credit: Marshall)

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 see how your smart display or speaker can help with home monitoring and security, take a look at our ranking of the best video doorbells.

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 2021

Best Alexa speakers

Amazon Echo Studio smart speakerLivingetc badge – tried, loved

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Amazon Echo Studio

Best Alexa speaker for music

Specifications
Platform: 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 

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)

Best 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.

Amazon Echo 4th Gen smart speaker


(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Best budget smart speaker

Specifications
Platform: Alexa
Dimensions: W10 x D10 x H8.9cm
Weight: 3.38kg
Reasons to buy
+Automatic tuning to fit sound with the space+Connect with Fire TV+Voice calling+Low-power mode when idle
Reasons to avoid
-Sound quality still struggles a little

Amazon’s 4th Gen Echo speaker can be used alone as a smart assistant for alarms, reminders, random questions, and a whole lot more, but it really comes into its own when you connect it with other smart-enabled devices around the home.

Not only is the Echo brilliant for calling friends and family completely hands-free when synced up with other Bluetooth speakers around the house, but you can also instantly call members of the household for dinner or anything else you might need to announce. So if you often find yourself with your hands full, then it’s a feature that could transform your family routine.

If you’re busy around the house, it can be annoying to leave music playing in one room but not the others. The Echo solves this by allowing multi-room music. Place a speaker in the rooms you need the most, and you can have a song playing everywhere at once!

Bose Home Speaker 500 smart speaker


(Image credit: Bose)

4. Bose Home Speaker 500

Best sounding smart speaker

Specifications
Features: Clock
Platform: Alexa
Dimensions: W17 x D10.9 x H20.3cm
Weight: 2.15kg
Reasons to buy
+LCD clock display+Good voice command pickup+Control with voice or top buttons+App-controlled pre-sets
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-No Amazon Echo multi-room support

A high-end smart speaker with a stylish design, the Bose Home Speaker 500 claims to fill the room with wall-to-wall stereo sound without needing an entire surround sound system. It also boasts an eight-microphone voice pick-up to ensure it hears you even over loud music, and you can customize the settings more than some competing speakers.

While most of the time, the LCD display on the front of the Bose Home Speaker will display a clock, when playing music, it will pull in album art from your chosen streaming service. This might not be a deal-breaker if you’re more of a background music listener but, for audiophiles, it’s a nifty little feature.

On top of the speaker, you will find numbers 1-6. These are connected to the app and can be set to link to particular music playlists or internet radio stations, so you don’t have to ask every time you want to listen to something specific.

Best Google Assistant speakers

Google Nest Mini smart speaker

(Image credit: Google)

Best Google Assistant speaker

Specifications
Platform: Google Assistant
Dimensions: 1.6 x 3.8 x 3.8in
Weight: 0.4lbs
Reasons to buy
+Small enough to blend in+Lots of different color options+Voice match+Easy set-up
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best sound quality

Google’s Nest range was one of the first to really kick off the smart speaker trend and, despite so many brands coming out with their own options over the years, it’s hard to dismiss the Google Nest Mini. For one, it’s lovely and small, so it can easily sit on a sideboard or coffee table without ruining the vibe, but it can do so many things.

From smart alarms that tell you about the commute and the weather before you even open your eyes in the morning to timers that turn your smart lights on as soon as the sun sets - Google Home does it all. You can set that up if you want your heating to turn on when it reaches a specific temperature outside. The possibilities are almost endless.

We’d recommend the Google Nest Mini for those who are yet to dive into the smart home trend and want to see if it’s for them. One of the great things about this affordable, non-intrusive device is that you can quickly build upon it with additional Nest Minis or other smart speakers when you’re ready.

Livingetc rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | read our full review of the Google Nest Mini

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

Best multi-platform smart speakers

Sonos Roam smart speaker

(Image credit: Sonos)

1. 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
+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

Sonos Move

(Image credit: Sonos)

2. Sonos Move

Best portable smart speaker (runner up)

Specifications
Platform: Alexa, Google Assistant
Battery life: 10 hours
Dimensions: 9.3 x 4.8 x 6.2in
Weight: 6.6lbs
Reasons to buy
+Wireless+Automatic tuning to fit sound with space+Supports both Google Assistant and Alexa+IP56 Waterproof
Reasons to avoid
-On the larger side-Expensive-Somewhat replaced by Sonos Roam (above)

One of the more expensive smart speakers on our list, the Sonos Move gives you a lot for your cash with complete portability, support for both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and access to all the streaming services you could imagine. And it’s waterproof, so you can use it in the bathroom or outside with no problem.

Whether you want to put the Sonos Move in your largest room or your smallest, the onboard microphone will assess what kind of environment it has been placed in and adjust the sound levels to fit. 

The best thing about the Sonos Move is the ability to use it outside, whether that’s for garden parties or just relaxing by yourself on the patio. Though the device is relatively large, it’s not too heavy to carry around with you - the ultimate portable sound system. It even claims to be able to withstand extreme hot and cold temperatures.

Black Friday smart speaker deals

Smart speakers and displays are always one of the first things to enjoy shockingly good offers when Black Friday sales roll around, and this year's event promises to be no different. Whether you're interested in picking up a classic Alexa or Google Home smart speaker, something more portable like the offerings from Sonos, or a smart display for the kitchen, then you will undoubtedly save money.

Black Friday 2021 takes place on Friday 26 November, and we will be hunting down all of the best deals and bringing them to this page and across the site. So, to avoid missing out on that amazing deal on the smart speaker you've had your eye on for months, check back here closer to the day.

How to choose the best smart speaker for your home

woman with Sonos Move sitting on city rooftop with coffee

(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.

Caroline Preece
Caroline Preece

Caroline has been a part of the Livingetc team since 2021, offering expert advice on the best smart tech for your home. Passionate about interiors and how technology can be integrated into daily living without sacrificing aesthetics, in her spare time she can be found shopping for the latest accent pieces for her own space.