We Pitted the Best Smart Speakers of 2022 Against Each Other

Amazon Echo (4th Gen) Review
John Velasco | SPY

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In 2022, smart speakers continue to infiltrate every part of the home, and we see no signs of this trend slowing down. We’ve recently seen a wave of new product offerings from the likes of Amazon, Google, Sonos and Apple. In addition, the software powering all of these devices continues to receive improvements that make the experience of using the best smart speakers feel less like a novelty and more like something that’s actually helpful.

As we’ve seen this product category expand, we’ve also learned which smart speakers are better suited for specific situations and which are less-than-optimal for others. While some people may be looking for a well-rounded speaker that is the jack of all trades and the master of none, others may be on the hunt for a high-end smart speaker that they can integrate into their home theater setup. Or, they might want a relatively cheap speaker they’ll primarily use as a means to interact with their voice assistant.

James Martin
1 year
All I have to say at this time is WOW!

In general, this is a good thing because you can find the right smart speaker with all the features you want and none of the ones you don’t. But with all that choice, figuring out which speaker to buy can be a bit tricky.

James Martin
1 year
All I have to say at this time is WOW!

To try and make that process a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best smart speakers for your smart home. To make this guide, SPY’s tech editor tested 15+ smart speakers over the last two years, spending time with many of today’s popular options for an extended period of time — with some as long as over a year.

For example, we determined what speakers did a better job of recognizing our voice commands by placing each one at a distance of 10 feet away from us. We’ve even added some background noise, like music from another audio source, to uncover how well they can accurately listen to our voice under noisy conditions.

That said, we have a good feel of how the best smart speakers perform in the real world, as well as which features are truly must-haves.

Best Smart Speaker Review RoundupJohn Velasco | SPY
  

The Best Smart Speakers At a Glance

Smart homes became even more prevalent among consumers thanks to the emergence of smart speakers. That’s because the best smart speakers aren’t just another type of wireless speaker for listening to music. Oh no. They’ve become smart home hubs that not only keep us connected to one another but also let us control all the other devices connected to our network.

Today’s most popular smart speakers offer futuristic features, excellent audio quality, intelligent voice assistants, and accurate voice recognition. Best of all, there’s so much variety to choose from, so whether you’re on a budget or looking to go all out, there’s one right for you.

1. Best Overall: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)$99.99 at Amazon
2. Runner Up: Google Nest Mini$49.00 at Target
3. Best For HomeKit: Apple HomePod Mini$99.99 at Target
4. Best For Alexa: Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)$49.99 at Amazon
5. Best For Google Assistant: Google Nest Audio $99.99 at Target
6. Best For Audiophiles: Amazon Echo Studio$199.99 at Amazon
7. Best Portable Smart Speaker: Bose Portable Home Speaker$399.99 at Amazon
8. Best For Bedrooms: Amazon Echo Dot (4rd Gen) with Clock$59.99 at Amazon
9 Best For Home Offices: Belkin SoundForm Elite$199.99 at Amazon
10. Most Stylish: Marshall Uxbridge Voice$199.99 at Amazon
11. Honorable Mention: Sonos One (Gen 2)$219.00 at Amazon

 

  

Which Voice Assistant Is Best for You?

As you make your way through this list, you may notice that some speakers only work with Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, and you may be wondering if you have to choose one side or the other if you are entertaining the idea of having a whole network of smart home devices. The short answer to that is mostly no… but also possibly yes.

Over the past year or two, most connected devices that work with these smart speakers have become platform agnostic, which is to say that they’ll work equally as well with Google Assistant and Alexa. In most cases, they’ll also work just as well with Siri and Apple’s Homekit platform.

But some products, such as Amazon’s Ring cameras, integrate better with Alexa, and some services, such as Google Maps, mesh better with Google Assistant. If you’re purchasing Amazon smart speakers, then you’ll want to make sure you are comfortable using Amazon Alexa over Siri. If you haven’t settled on one single smart home ecosystem or a voice assistant of choice, then we recommend going with one of the best smart speakers from Sonos or Bose. (Marshall also has a sleek and stylish smart speaker worth considering.)

the best smart speakers for every roomA collection of the smart speakers tested for this review. From left to right: Sonos one, Amazon Echo (3rd Gen) and Google Nest Audio. Courtesy of Amazon

Because you can set up your different smart home products (such as smart plugs, smart lightbulbs and smart door locks) to work with multiple platforms at the same time, you can mix and match speakers from different platforms to get the most out of all your products and still have a smart home that functions seamlessly. Sure, you’ll have to go through the process of configuring those products in multiple apps, but once you get through that, it’s a painless experience.

It’s also worth mentioning that while we think the speakers we’ve picked below will give people the most bang for their buck in each use case, these are mere suggestions to help you think about how to use these different products. If you want to set up a soundbar in your kitchen, go for it. Or if you want to use an Echo Dot as a TV speaker, live your life. We are not the boss of you.

Keep reading to see the best smart speakers for your home.

  

SPY Smart Speaker Reviews: Comparing The Best Smart Speakers of 2022

It’s one thing to read a laundry list of curated items, but it’s another when the chosen models have actually been tested in real-world situations. That’s exactly how we chose the best smart speakers for SPY readers. All of these products have been tested for a minimum of four weeks inside our own homes and evaluated for sound quality, ease of use, voice recognition and special features. Most importantly, however, we’ve found all of them to be reliable smart home companions that justify their price tags.

It’s no surprise that our top three options come from the companies that make the top three voice assistants, so if you strongly prefer Siri, Alexa or Google Home, then choose your smart speakers accordingly.

  

1. Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

BEST OVERALL

Best For: People that love good-sounding audio paired with a charming design that can blend in anywhere.

Why We Chose It: In our testing, we’ve found that Amazon makes the best smart speakers, and this is the company’s top speaker for 2022. Simply put, it’s the complete package. Plus, it’s priced modestly.

Amazon updated the design of its 4th generation smart speaker in a big way, and we couldn’t be more thrilled by the results. Seriously, it’s one of our favorite designs because the orb-shaped design makes for a more inviting demeanor.

Every time we say the wake word “Alexa,” we’re always mesmerized by the glowing LED light ring around its base. Small details like this help to establish the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) as having the best design yet in the series.

Music lovers will also be smitten by its excellent audio quality. It’s not too bass-heavy either, so it combines enough of the ranges to fill spaces both big and small with pleasant audio. Even better, we found it simple to set up two Amazon Echo smart speakers for stereo support, which is a great hack for a wireless stereo speaker setup for a home theater on a budget.

Full Review: What’s New With the Amazon Echo (4th Gen)?

Amazon Echo (4th Gen) Review, best smart speakersJohn Velasco | SPY

  

2. Google Nest Mini

RUNNER-UP

Best For: Anyone on a tighter budget who wants to bring Google Assistant to all corners of a home.

Why We Chose It: Don’t let its small size fool you because this is one of the smartest smart speakers around.

At first glance, it didn’t look like the design of the Google Nest Mini didn’t change all that much from its predecessor. However, the small notch on the underside gave us creativity on where to place it. We enjoyed how wall mounting it could make it invisible in a room.

Beyond the design, the Google Nest Mini is backed by the intelligence of Google Assistant. We frequently found it handy for making dinner reservations or ordering a pizza by just simply asking Google Assistant. You may never need to call yourself ever again, it’s that convenient.

Since it’s affordably priced, it’s the sort of thing you can buy and add to nearly every room in your home without spending a fortune. Voice control from anywhere in the home can be a reality with this smart speaker.

Google Nest Mini in bathroom, best smart speakersJohn Velasco | SPY

  

3. Apple HomePod Mini

BEST FOR HOMEKIT

Best For: Apple users that want access to Siri without having to use their iPhone or iPad.

Why We Chose It: Despite its diminutive size, we’re impressed by how it analyzes the acoustics of a room and optimizes its sound quality.

Apple’s second smart speaker proved to be far more successful than its first. Not only is its price point a lot easier on the pockets, but its computational audio technology left a big impression on us. That’s because its Apple A5 chip provides real-time tuning by analyzing the sounds it’s going to be playing and the room’s acoustics, to deliver perfectly balanced audio.

We experienced this first hand after pairing two speakers to an Apple 4K TV to stream a movie. Nothing’s worse when dialogue is overwhelmed by the sound of explosions going off in a scene. With the HomePod Mini, we were blown away by how it toned down the sound from explosions while there was dialogue between two characters. The best smart speakers need stellar audio quality, and Apple’s HomePod Mini delivers big sound.

It’s also one of the few smart speakers that are available in a variety of bright colors, so there’s one to match your style and decor.

Apple HomePod Mini ReviewJohn Velasco | SPY

  

4. Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

BEST FOR ALEXA

Best For: Diehard Amazon users that religiously use services like Prime Shipping, Prime Music, and Kindle.

Why We Chose It: You won’t find an easier (and more affordable) way to bring Alexa into the home.

Sharing the same exact design language of its big brother, the smaller Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) is a better fit for tighter spaces — such as nightstands, cramped desks, or small shelves. It’s the sort of thing that can discreetly blend into its surroundings because it’s more compact.

We also love how it’s tied to our Amazon account, much like how it’ll play a notification tone whenever Amazon packages are delivered. It’s features like this that showcase the end-to-end experience of shopping with Amazon.

Alexa’s extremely handy at keeping us connected with loved ones, especially family members who live far away. One extremely useful feature we religiously use is Alexa’s announcement feature, which allows us to make announcements simultaneously on all Alexa speakers in our home.

Full Review: Amazon Echo Dot Offers Value in a Small Package

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) Review, best smart speakersJohn Velasco | SPY

  

5. Google Nest Audio

BEST FOR GOOGLE ASSISTANT

Best For: People who are reliant on using Google Calendar, Gmail, and Google’s many other services.

Why We Chose It: It’s the best Google Assistant smart speaker with exceptional audio quality.

After retiring its first smart speaker, the Google Nest Audio came roaring onto the scene not too long ago boasting an updated design and beefier audio components, resulting in the best Google Assistant-powered smart speaker you can buy.

Anyone who religiously uses Google’s services will truly appreciate the Nest Audio’s package. For example, it always amazes us that Google Assistant is always on point with informing us about upcoming events on our calendar by just asking the question.

However, Google really invested in making the Nest Audio a powerhouse in the sound quality department. Its bass output is noteworthy because it can still churn out some deep-sounding bass, while still maintaining the mids and highs. The result? It’s music to the ears.

Read More: Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home – Which Is Better?

Google Nest Audio ReviewJohn Velasco | SPY

  

6. Amazon Echo Studio

BEST FOR AUDIOPHILES

Best For: Music lovers that crave superb audio.

Why We Chose It: No other speaker offers 3D spatial audio that adapts to any room or conditions. On top of that, it can make for an impressive home theater speaker setup.

No other smart speaker comes close to matching the unparalleled power of the Amazon Echo Studio. We’ve placed it in many different rooms, and with each new placement, we’re impressed by how it adapts to its surroundings.

Even from across the hallway in another room roughly 15 feet apart, we were still astounded by how crisp and clear it sounds while playing music. At higher volumes, too, the Echo Studio has never once faltered or crackled in the time we’ve had it.

Every room is designed and laid out differently, which is why you have to appreciate the intelligence of the Echo Studio’s ability to adapt with the help of its Dolby Atmos technology. Best of all, it’s the only Alexa-powered smart speaker that supports tracks that are mastered in spatial audio and Ultra HD.

Related: The Best Alexa Devices for 2022

Amazon Echo Studio ReviewJohn Velasco | SPY

  

7. Bose Portable Home Speaker

BEST OUTDOOR SPEAKER

Best For: Even with the high price tag, this is the best outdoor smart speaker for your home. It’s ideal for parties, outdoor events, family get-togethers, and whenever the weather’s great outside.

Why We Chose It: You’ll never have to worry about the weather ruining your fun because this smart speaker is water-resistant.

Big things come in small packages. Don’t let its size fool you because the Bose Portable Smart Speaker is built to come with you on all of your adventures. For its size, it produces incredible bass that reverberates through the air no matter where it’s used.

Sure, we typically keep it connected to its power source at home, where we can access Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa while it’s connected to our Wi-Fi network. However, its built-in rechargeable battery allows us to use it outdoors as well because of its IPX4 water-resistant design. In fact, we were charmed by how it still managed to play music clearly when there was so much ambient noise around.

There are tons of great portable Bluetooth speakers for parties and outdoor events, but the Bose Portable Home Speaker deserves to be your go-to outdoor speaker. Like all of the best smart speakers, its great sound quality, features and attractive design justify giving it pride of place.

Bose Portable Smart Speaker ReviewJohn Velasco | SPY

  

8. Amazon Echo Dot (4rd Gen) with Clock

BEST FOR BEDROOMS

Best For: Instantly being able to tell the time while in bed, without having to rely on your phone.

Why We Chose It: Nightstands or bedside tables can be pretty cramped, but this smart speaker takes up minimal space.

This variant of the popular Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen) shares the same compact design, but its inclusion of an LED clock makes it perfect for bedrooms. You’ll be able to easily tell the time, even when you’re suddenly awoken in the middle of the night and half awake.

When it’s time for bed, we really can’t tell you how much we rely on Whisper Mode. There’s no more worry of disturbing your partner in bed because you can still ask Alexa anything by simply whispering the command. It’s even handy for turning down the lights right when you’re calling it in for the night. If you’re searching for the best smart speakers for bedrooms, you won’t find a better option in 2022.

Amazon Echo Dot (4rd Gen) with Clock, best smart speakersCourtesy of Amazon

  

9. Belkin SoundForm Elite

BEST FOR HOME OFFICES

Best For: When you need to concentrate while working from home, while also doing double duty as a charger.

Why We Chose It: It’s one of the few models that boasts wireless charging for your mobile phones.

Belkin’s SoundForm Elite may appear odd at first, but don’t let its angled top cut out distract you from its purpose. If you’re into heavy bass tones, then you’ll love the sound performance out of this beefy smart speaker.

What makes the Belkin SoundForm Elite so different is that it features a wireless charger, perfect to top off your phone while you’re working from your home office. We can’t tell you how it helps to lessen the clutter on our desk. There have been plenty of times when we would sit down to do work and just leave our phone sitting in its cradle.

Beyond that, we’ve used this Google Assistant-powered smart speaker to set alarms, check up on the weather, and set reminders.

Read More: About the Belkin SoundFrom Elite 

Belkin SoundForm Elite ReviewJohn Velasco | SPY

  

10. Marshall Uxbridge Voice

MOST STYLISH

Best For: People that don’t want the typical speaker design.

Why We Chose It: Who says speakers have to look so boring? The Marshall Uxbridge Voice flaunts the stylish designs the company is known for with its line of amps.

This portable smart speaker powered by Google Assistant looks oh-so-good just sitting wherever and playing music. Marshall’s iconic design is hard to miss with this one, just because every minor detail has been thought out.

It’s the kind of thing we enjoy placing in a centralized area inside of our home, mainly because its timeless design deserves to be seen. We also appreciate the ability to fine tune its audio performance by simply pressing on the corresponding physical buttons on the top of the speaker.

Not only does it look good, but it also has the intelligence of any other Google Assistant-powered smart speaker to control our smart home.

Marshall Uxbridge Voide ReviewJohn Velasco | SPY

  

11. Sonos One (Gen 2)

HONORABLE MENTION

Best For: Users that want choice in what voice assistant they want to use.

Why We Chose It: You can easily build a network of wireless speakers all throughout your home with Sonos’ line of speakers.

We’re also giving the Sonos One an honorable mention because there’s a range of other speakers users can buy to bring music to all corners of the home. With this specific model, it’s notable for offering both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant — so you’ll have the choice on which smart assistant to use.

Over on the audio front, the Sonos One proves to be a champ in this department as well with its crystal clean audio. Did you also know it’s humidity resistant? That makes it perfect for kitchens and bathrooms so that the moisture in the air won’t adversely affect its day-to-day use.

And finally, Sonos speaker owners can quickly pair this smart speaker with their existing setup to simultaneously play music everywhere in their home.

sonos one gen 2 on dresser, best smart speakersCourtesy of Sonos

  

How We Chose The Best Smart Speakers

Smart speakers come in all shapes, sizes, and voice assistants, to provide consumers with variety in what to choose. While they all fundamentally can play music and access voice assistants, some of them do a better job of it than others. There’s also the aesthetic quality we have to take into consideration because design plays a critical role in making them blend with the surrounding decor.

It’s also worth pointing out that we spent a minimum of two week using each smart speaker. We also made sure to associate them with our respective accounts. That way, we can also see how they work as smart home hubs to communicate with other smart devices in our hone. It takes more than just sounding god to be considered the best smart speakers around.

  • Design: Speakers don’t need to look like speakers. It’s even better when they utilize materials that make them adaptable to the surrounding decor. While they all vary in size, we think the best looking speakers are the ones that have stylish qualities that don’t make them look like the typical speaker.
  • Sound quality: Superb audio makes for great music listening, so we’re looking for crisp mids and highs that are accompanied by a bit of bass for a robust audio performance. Although, excellent sound quality can vary person to person. Some users may prefer the bass heavy tones that some speakers produce, but other times it can cause audio in the mid and high range to drown out.
  • Voice recognition: Can they accurately respond to voice commands? Including noisy environments? We put each speaker at one end of the room and speak a command 10 feet away, both when it’s quiet and when music from another audio source is playing.
  • Smart home controls: What’s the support like with controlling other smart home devices? We look at the amount of supported smart home devices each smart speaker supports. Google Assistant and Alexa speakers support more smart home devices than HomeKit smart speakers.
  • Extra features: All smart speakers play music and access voice assistants, but are there other unique features that can set them apart? We give extra points for extra features that bring other functionality into the mix. For example, battery powered smart speakers automatically have an advantage since they can be used anywhere.
  

About The Author: John Velasco

John Velasco is the Tech Editor at SPY.com, and he has tested hundreds of smart home products during his decade-long career reviewing gadgets. Since joining SPY.com, he’s reviewed the best home security cameras, flagship smartphones, and Amazon’s first smart TV. Previously, John worked as the smart home editor at Digital Trends. He’s also worked for Android Authority covering Android-related news as the editor-at-large, and at PhoneArena as the senior editor. John has been covering mobile and smart home tech for over a decade, and he is also passionate about virtual reality, drones and electric bikes. Currently, he resides in New Jersey with his fiance and cats.

  

*Adrian Covert contributed additional writing to this review.

  

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