Smart speakers are everywhere and Amazon is one of the big three competitors with skin in the game. Not only does the company have a line of proprietary smart speakers, but there are also plenty of great third-party options. Read on to learn about which is the best Alexa speaker for you.
The Amazon Echo is the best Alexa speaker
Ok, so the Amazon Echo isn’t just among the best Alexa speakers, it is the best Alexa speaker. Sure, it may seem the obvious choice, but it works and happens to be relatively affordable compared to its competitors. Plus, it allows for comprehensive control of smart home devices, a host of commands, and skills.
Amazon Echo (second-gen)
Just like all the other speakers listed, this includes Wi-Fi integration for 24bit/96kHz streaming. If you want the best audio quality, just connect via the 3.5mm input. The second-gen Echo has a 2.5” woofer and 0.6” tweeter paired with an improved microphone arrangement for more accurate voice recognition. The speakers even include Dolby Atmos support, while not a true rendition of 3D sound, its inclusion is a nice touch.
It supports major streaming platforms like Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, Audible, and more. What’s more, the Echo’s omnidirectional speaker creates an immersive sound that works best from the center of a room. If you’re bored, you can always ask Alexa some trivia questions, request a joke, or play games of which there are hundreds to choose from.
As far as personal assistants go, Amazon Alexa truly makes the little things easier. Although, in order for it to function optimally, you need to download the Alexa app. That said, for just under $100, you get a central device that consolidates smart device management.
What you should know about the best Alexa-enabled speaker
We happen to have a comprehensive rundown of what to look for in a great smart speaker, but if you’re working with a tight time budget, here are the key points to keep in mind when picking out the best Alexa speaker.
Wireless streaming and Bluetooth quality
More and more speakers support Wi-Fi integration, which allows for high-quality streaming over an 802.11b/g, 2.4GHz connection. Wi-Fi integration is useful as it lets you stream over an array of music services for more reliable connectivity and 24bit/96kHz audio.
Although Bluetooth audio can’t outperform wired listening, it can be improved with certain codecs. AAC and aptX are commonly supported by higher end headphones and speakers. The former works best with iOS devices while the latter is great for Android users; both facilitate perceptibly lag-free streaming. If you’re using a speaker that supports AAC, be aware that audio quality varies greatly with Android devices.
Alexa integration affords a wide array of skills
Amazon Alexa supports over 70,000 skills when taking into account the wide scope of the Alexa ecosystem. While this means that your smart speaker is capable of nearly anything, it can get overwhelming. Android Authority has an excellent guide on all things Alexa, but we’ll share a broad overview of commands with you. Alexa can answer general queries, play and control music, find restaurants, create to-do lists, and make purchases via your Amazon account.
Even the best Alexa speaker may have its issues
Yes, unfortunately, the best Alexa speakers aren’t free from technical issues. Often, Alexa can’t immediately locate compatible devices. One of the most common issues is that Alexa activates without being prompted. Fortunately, if this is an issue, you can always change the wake word from “Alexa” to “Amazon,” “Echo,” or “Computer.”
Even the best Alexa speaker isn't perfect; luckily issues are fairly easy to remedy.
Another salient and frustrating issue with smart speakers in general is fickle connectivity. This is something, I’ve experienced all too often: my Wi-Fi is working perfectly and for some unknown reason, my Sonos speaker just stops playing music because of an apparently lost signal. Normally, connectivity resolves itself just moments later. Regardless, it’s an annoying occurrence, especially since many of the best Alexa speakers are rather expensive.
Have a blast anywhere with the UE Megablast
The UE Megablast is another on-the-go speaker by Ultimate Ears that features a recognizable cylindrical design for 360-degree sound. You can go all day with this speaker since it has a 16-hour battery life. Not only will it work for the majority of the day, but it’s durable too with an IP67 rating to prove it.
Beneath the cloth wrap is a pair of passive radiators and dynamic drivers. These work in tandem to produce the beloved bass-heavy response we’re used to hearing from UE. The signature plus and minus buttons are easy to identify and respond quickly to being pushed.
Seeing how it’s a portable smart speaker, it includes Bluetooth connectivity and affords an impressive 45-meter range. This reach is greater when connected over Wi-Fi, allowing for 100 meters of movement.
If you have multiple Megablast or Blast speakers, you can connect them for an even louder sound. They can even be configured for stereo listening, creating a more realistic sound. Its multiple microphones use beam-forming technology and noise cancelling to lessen background noise and ensure clear voice transmission when speaking to Alexa.
Home audio enthusiasts should get the Sonos Beam soundbar
One of the most competitive smart speaker companies is Sonos and its Beam soundbar merits its place as a best Alexa speaker. The presence of physical buttons seems quaint seeing as most listeners will end up relying on Alexa to skip tracks or adjust the volume; however, the option is appreciated.
Beneath the grill are four drivers, a tweeter, three passive radiators, and five class D amplifiers. The radiators rest toward each end of the bar, which helps create a more enveloping sound. You can connect it to other Sonos products to sync up music playback. It supports AirPlay along with Amazon services, giving you the liberty to choose how to listen. As far as playback is concerned, the Sonos Beam supports PCM stereo, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Digital 5.1.
The soundbar includes five far-field microphones, so the Beam should register commands even if you’re across the room. If you’re feeling suspicious, you can always mute the microphones.
On the back is an optical and HDMI ARC input; the latter reduces cable clutter and grants the Beam permission to control your TV, so long as it’s CEC-supported. iPhone users can use the company’s Trueplay app to calibrate playback according to the room. Although the Sonos Beam is one of the more expensive of the best Alexa speakers, it’s an easy solution for home audio.
The Libratone Zipp 2 has a quirky, customizable design
The Libratone Zipp 2 is a portable smart speaker for listeners who want Alexa integration and AirPlay 2 support from a single device. As the name implies, the Zipp 2 features a zippered design which lets you clean or swap out the cloth covering. It emits 360-degree sound and lets you take calls via the noise-isolating microphones.
Libratone Zipp 2
For those unfamiliar with Libratone’s speaker lineup, the difference between the Zipp and Zipp 2 is minimal: the latest model includes complete Amazon Alexa integration, whereas the first-generation required an Echo or Echo Dot.
This is one of the best Alexa speakers because of its versatility. You can connect via Wi-Fi, which is great when listening from home, and you can use Bluetooth when taking the Zipp 2 to a friend’s place. It supports aptX for high-quality, lagless streaming. Heck, you can even use the 3.5mm input if you have a compatible phone.
Sound quality isn’t forgone just because it’s has a fun design, though. No, the Zipp 2 houses a 4” neodymium woofer, soft dome tweeter, and a low-frequency radiator. Those on the hunt for a fashionable smart speaker will thoroughly enjoy the flexibility that the Libratone Zipp 2 Alexa speaker affords.
Get smart, sound good with the Marshall Stanmore II Voice
The Marshall Stanmore II Voice features the classic vinyl design and reproduces excellent sound quality, something we’ve come to expect from the renowned amplifier company. Its bass-reflex system mitigates auditory masking and produces clear bass frequencies. What’s more, EQ-ing your music can be done within the Marshall Voice app or analog brass controls protruding from the top panel.
Marshall Stanmore II with Alexa
It houses a 50W Class D amplifier and two 15W Class D tweeters for impeccable sound quality. In order to use it, the Marshall Stanmore II with Alexa must be plugged into an outlet, which may be a bummer for some. However, if you want something truly portable, check out the Marshall Kilburn II.
Aside from audio quality, this earned the title of best Alexa speaker due to its far-field, dual-microphone array that effectively registers commands. Accuracy will decline in loud rooms, but more often than not it should still pick up your voice. What’s more, there’s a myriad of connectivity options. You can choose between Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3.5mm input, or RCA input. If you want the best wireless quality, make sure to connect to your Wi-Fi network.
You may like the Marshall Stanmore review
- Sonos One: This small smart speaker provides clear sound quality at loud volumes and connects to other Sonos speakers for multiroom listening. It also supports Apple AirPlay 2.
- Polk Command Bar: This is a slightly cheaper alternative to the Sonos Beam. It includes a subwoofer and is outfitted with an HDMI ARC input.
Related: What makes a great smart speaker
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