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.
Editor’s note: this list was updated on November 24, 2020, to replace the Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen) with the Amazon Echo (4th Gen).
The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) is the best Alexa speaker
The best Alexa device is the latest iteration of Amazon’s Echo line. It is a spherical hub for controlling your smart home devices, and it does a great job at registering commands. If you’re ever unsure about if the wake up word was registered, don’t fret, because the speaker has an LED ring around its base that lights up when the microphone is activated. There’s also a button on the top of the speaker for muting the microphone so you can ensure your privacy.
Amazon Echo (4th gen)Full Review
The Amazon Echo (4th gen) produces high quality sound with its two 20mm tweeters and large 76mm neodymium woofer. Its bass response is powerful due to the size of its drivers, and many people will prefer this consumer-friendly sound.
If you want to use Google Chromecast or YouTube, you’ll have to download Alexa’s skills for those applications, and the process is a bit of a hassle. The Echo is more compatible with Spotify, Tidal, and Apple Music, and has Spotify Connect built in for example, but the default on any Amazon device is Amazon’s own services, like Amazon Music. The speaker is meant to be connected over WiFi but it also has Bluetooth 5.0.
What you should know about the best Alexa speakers
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.
How to group Alexa devices for multiroom playback
You can register multiple Amazon Alexa speakers to a single Amazon account and designate them for multiroom listening through the Alexa app. As of now, you can’t mix speaker brands for multiroom playback: for instance, you can have a Sonos group and an Amazon Alexa group, but you can’t have a group with Sonos and Amazon Alexa speakers in it.
To enable multiroom listening via the Alexa app follow the steps below.
- Tap the devices and then hit the + in the top-right corner of the screen.
- Select “multi-room music,” and continue.
- Create a name for your group or select a name preset from the list.
- Select the Echo devices you want to include in the group. If any aren’t compatible, they’ll be greyed out.
- Alexa will then connect the devices and create a group.
- Once everything is grouped together, you can make a command by saying, “Alexa, play [song] on [Echo group name].”
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, which are the technology that transmits audio from the sound source to the listening source. 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.
New to the world of smart speakers? Get the Amazon Echo Dot
Amazon’s Echo Dot takes on a different philosophy: this is for users who prioritize smart home control over audio quality. That’s not to say the Dot sounds inherently bad, but it can’t hold a candle to the larger, pricier Echo Plus or even the standard Echo (3rd gen).
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen)
The fabric covering keeps the speaker from looking too Blade Runner-esque, and its small footprint makes it easy to place in nearly any room. The Amazon Echo Dot is the smart speaker for the every-person. If you’re typically intimidated by technology, fear not: the Echo Dot is a plug-and-play device that streams high-quality audio over your home Wi-Fi. You can also use the Echo Dot to make hands-free calls, or use it as a home P.A. system to announce dinner.
The only thing to keep in mind with the Echo Dot is that, despite its portable design, it requires external outlet power to function.
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 codecs.
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 Bose Home Speaker 300 looks and sounds great
If you’re looking for a sophisticated smart speaker, your search ends with the Bose Home Speaker 300. Just like Amazon-branded speakers, this too emits 360° audio, so you can hear your music from anywhere in the room. The six-microphone array works with your voice to access Alexa or Google Assistant, and you’re afforded four streaming options: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, and an auxiliary 3.5mm input.
Bose Home Speaker 300
On the off-chance you’ve developed laryngitis and are rendered unable to speak to the Bose Home Speaker, you can use the on-board touch controls resting atop the housing. If you want a multiroom experience, the Home Speaker 300 may easily be paired to other Bose Home speakers via Bose SympleSync. A huge drawback to this speaker is that it can’t be used as a hub to control your other smart devices.
If you want an all-in-one solution for that, scroll back up to the Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen).
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, or the drowning out of a desired sound by extraneous noise, 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 the Marshall Stanmore II with Alexa, it 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
- Amazon Echo Show: If you want an Alexa device with a screen, this is the speaker for you. Its sound quality is good, but you can also use it to watch videos, video call with other Alexa devices, and view the lyrics of a song as it’s playing. If you want to get Amazon Music Unlimited, the Echo Show enables you to get a Single Device Plan for $3.99/month.
- Amazon Echo Studio: If you’re looking for a smart speaker that is a speaker first, and smart product second, the Echo Studio is a great buy. It pumps out 360° sound, and it doubles as a Zigbee hub.
- 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.
- UE Megablast: 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.
- Libratone Zipp 2: This portable smart speaker is for listeners who want Alexa integration and AirPlay 2 support from a single device.
- 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
No! So long as you have an Alexa-supported device (this includes a smartphone), you can access it for free.
If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, then the Amazon Alexa will make shopping easy. It's also compatible with more smart home devices and offers more skills. However, in a Digital Assistant IQ test conducted by Loup Ventures, it was found that Google Assistant answered 93% of queries correctly whereas Alexa only answered 80% correctly. Google Assistant smart speakers are the smarter option for anyone who’s already invested in the Google ecosystem.
Smart hubs are used to allow your ecosystem of smart devices to communicate with one another. So, if you only have one smart device, this won't be necessary. Also, if any of your smart speakers have integrated smart hubs, like the Amazon Echo Plus, you won't need to purchase a separate one. But if you are selecting a separate smart hub, you'll want to make sure all of your devices are compatible with it so you're truly able to control all of them from one place. Most smart hubs and smart devices have Zigbee, which is just a technology that enables inter-device communication. And, of course, you'll want to stick with one smart assistant as well as one speaker brand rather than try to juggle more than one in your home.