More of us are integrating smart technology into our homes. One gadget that’s particularly popular is the smart speaker. Navigating the endless options of today’s smart market can be overwhelming. We’ve found the best smart speakers based on expert opinion. Want to hear a song? Just ask your smart speaker to play it. How about the news or weather? Yep, it can do that too.
One study even found that your smart speaker can help you overcome public speaking jitters. Researchers from Penn State have developed a program that turns Amazon’s Alexa into a public speaking coach. It teaches users cognitive restructuring exercise, a psychological technique designed to alleviate anxiety while recognizing and changing negative thought patterns. The program was given a test run during the study, and it successfully alleviated participants’ pre-speech anxiety.
However, there can be downsides to smart speaker ownership, especially if you have kids. Research from the University of Cambridge found that smart devices which include a voice assistant could hinder a child’s social-emotional development, and critical-thinking skills. Additionally, the devices don’t teach kids how to behave politely because there’s no expectation of a “please” or “thank you” and no need to consider the tone of voice. Privacy issues have also arisen in respect to the recording of private conversations, the study authors say.
After taking the pros and cons into consideration, if you are looking to buy your first smart speaker or upgrade your existing one, StudyFinds has you covered. We’ve compiled a list of the five best smart speakers, from ten expert websites. As always, we’d like to see your own recommendations in the comments below!
The List: Best Smart Speakers, According to Expert Reviews
1. Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
For $99.99, this smart speaker “is a cute ball of sound that brings the same bold bass and wide soundstage as the previous model, but with more room-filling sound than ever before,” according to Wired.
Released in 2020, this redesigned Echo works with Alexa and has “a built-in Zigbee smart hub, and more potential under its new 100 percent recycled hood. You don’t need an especially keen eye to realize that Amazon has started from scratch for this fourth-generation Echo,” adds What Hi-Fi?
“While its default sound profile is a bit boomy and veiled, you can adjust its bass and treble levels using the adjustments in the Amazon Alexa app. There’s also a mute microphone button, so you can control when the speaker is listening to you,” points out RTINGS.com.
2. Sonos One Smart Speaker
The Sonos One is more expensive, at $219, but it works with both Alexa and Google Assistant.
“While not much larger than the Amazon Echo, the Sonos One churns out tunes that you would swear were coming from a much larger device. Like other Sonos devices, you can pair two of the Ones for true stereo sound, or link them with other Sonos speakers for whole-home audio,” according to Tom’s Guide.
Engadget adds, “it simply sounds great, especially if you tune the speaker to your room using the Sonos iOS app. It takes just a few minutes and makes the One sound lively, with punchy bass and clear highs.”
3. Apple HomePod Mini
This $99 Apple smart speaker comes in some fun colors like yellow and blue, along with the standard varieties. Consumer Reports calls it the “best speaker for Apple fans” noting, it “has sleek, spherical styling and is a solid option for controlling Apple HomeKit smart home products and services such as Apple Music.”
“Features like intercom, audio handoff and stereo pairing make this little smart speaker quite practical. It looks good and sounds great, too,” points out CNET.
“This is the smart speaker for Apple users, and specifically for Apple users who turn to Siri instead of Alexa or Google Assistant for everything they need. If you have an iPhone and have been careful to make sure all of your smart home devices are HomeKit-compatible, this is ideal,” according to PCMag.
4. Google Nest Audio
If you are a fan of Google products, at $99.99, Google Nest Audio is worth a look. “It’s got a compact, pillow-like shape and great sound that will easily fill small and medium-sized rooms,” notes Wired.
“The subtle and unassuming design should blend in well with any home decor, and in addition to its audio skills it’s also a surprisingly intelligent smart home hub. It hooks into some of the largest platforms now available by including Nest, Philips, and Samsung’s SmartThings,” adds TechRadar.
“Not only is it one of the best smart speakers in terms of sound — thanks to on-device processing, Google Assistant gives speedy responses, which comes in handy when searching for music or getting a morning rundown while you’re in a rush,” according to Tom’s Guide.
5. Amazon Echo Studio Smart Speaker
Music lovers will truly enjoy how the $199.99 Amazon Echo Studio performs. “It comes with support for the Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio standards, so it’s capable of filling a room and then some with rich, vibrant acoustics. Three 2-inch mid-range speakers, one 1-inch tweeter, and one 5.25-inch woofer are fitted inside,” points out T3 Smarter Living.
“Whether you’re listening to the classics or the latest pop hits, you enjoy clear reproduction of voices and instruments thanks to the speaker’s balanced frequency response. If you want a different sound, you can switch it up using its bass and treble adjustments in the Amazon Alexa app,” notes RTINGS.com.
TechRadar names it the “best smart speaker for home cinema set-ups”: “If you buy two Amazon Echo Studio speakers you can set them up in the Alexa app to create an immersive home cinema system. We’ve tested that configuration too, and while it’s not as immersive as a dedicated surround sound system it’s still very impressive as well as impressively loud.”
- What Hi-Fi?
- Tom’s Guide
- Consumer Reports
- T3 Smarter Living
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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.