Top 10 Best Smart Speakers of 2018: Your Easy Buying Guide

smart speaker, smart speakers, best smart speaker, wireless speakers

The rise of smart devices in our lives has created a serious need for additional control for users.

Today’s devices are highly eager to adapt to our specific needs. Thus, we find ourselves acting as test subjects for a new generation of speakers that listen as well as they sound.

These so-called smart speakers can not only play high quality Bluetooth audio, but also follow voice commands to automate thousands of digital tasks.

These include handy functions like controlling music playback, as well as neat gimmicks like ordering a pizza.

They can’t quite do as much as your smartphone, but this field of technology is rapidly growing.

Currently, there are four different digital assistant platforms vying to become a part of your virtual life: Alexa, Google, Siri, and Cortana.

These services see comparable use across the dozens of Wi-Fi smart speakers made by top names in Bluetooth audio.

And if you’re already having trouble deciding which digital assistant to adopt, then choosing the right smart speaker will be doubly complicated.

That’s why we’ve made things a little easier by testing and comparing the ten top rated smart speakers across all platforms.

Read on below to browse the latest and greatest in smart speaker tech.


1. Best Overall Smart Speaker: Amazon Echo 2nd Generation

amazon echo

Amazon

Compatible Voice Assistants: Alexa
Compatible Platforms: Belkin WeMo, Hue, Insteon, Lutron, Nest, SmartThing, SmartThings, TP-Link, Wink, ecobee, hive, tado
Speaker Size: 2.5-inch woofer, 0.6-inch tweeter
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, aux
Dimensions: 3.4 x 3.4 x 5.8 inches
Weight: 1.8 pounds

The Amazon Echo deserves recognition for being the first speaker built around a voice assistant software. Accordingly, the Echo sets itself apart by having the most polished and robust selection of skills to perform.

Once you connect this cylindrical speaker to your Wi-Fi, it links with Amazon’s cloud-based AI Alexa. Alexa knows over 10,000 commands, and is always learning more through both Amazon and third party developers.

It can open your favorite streaming service; read audiobooks; create a shopping list; gets news, weather, or traffic info; order a pizza; call an Uber or Lyft; control various smart home platforms; and so much more.

You can also ask it questions or just chat with it.

Alexa’s clear and polite voice has a charm that adds personality to each response. She even knows a couple of jokes.

Anytime you want to use one of these services, you need to say a simple wake word, which can be set to “Alexa,” “Echo”, “Amazon,” or “Computer.”

Whatever makes you feel the least awkward.

The Echo picks your voice up effortlessly over loud music and ambient noise thanks to its beam-forming array of seven microphones. This setup spatially locates and eliminates music and background chatter.

This is a welcome feature, as the Echo can get decently loud.

Speaking of the Echo’s audio output, its 360º omni-directional sound is of decent quality, but likely won’t be your first choice for detailed listening.

The single woofer and tweeter sound overly flat, and the second generation Echo has drawn a lot of criticism for not fixing this.

At times, the sound can feel empty or overly dispersed. The bass is present but lacks clarity.

And while other smart speakers allow you to port audio through a higher quality sound system using and auxiliary cable, the Echo does not.

Still, not many other speakers are connected to as many music services as the Echo.

You’ll get over the mediocre sound quality once you get connected to your choice of Amazon Music, Spotify Premium, Pandora, SiriusXM, and more.

Despite its audio downgrade, the Echo Gen 2 is one of the most impressive smart speaker experiences out now. And it’s only getting better with regular updates.

Will the competition be able to keep up with this rapidly growing interface? Only time will tell.

Price: $99.99

Buy the Amazon Echo 2nd Generation here.


Pros:

  • Alexa offers a massive selection of skills and commands
  • Easily picks up your voice over loud music
  • Plentiful music streaming options

Cons:

  • Audio quality was better on the gen 1
  • No way to port audio to another speaker
  • Can’t interact with other Amazon devices

Find more Amazon Echo 2nd Generation information and reviews here.



2. Google Home

google home

Google

Compatible Voice Assistants: Google Assisstant
Compatible Platforms: Anova, August, Belkin WeMo, D-Link, Emberlight, Geeni, Google Assistant, HomeSeer, Honeywell, Hue, IFTTT, Insignia, Iris, LG, Leviton, LightwaveRF, Logitech, Lutron, Nanoleaf, Nest, NuBryte, Rachio, Ring, SmartThings, TP-Link, Universal Power Bus (UPB), Vivint, Wink, iHome
Speaker Size: 2-inch speaker
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Dimensions: 3.8 x 3.8 x 5.6 inches
Weight: 1.05 pounds

Though the plainly named Google Assistant AI doesn’t have as much inherent personality as Alexa, the Google Home speaker that it powers does.

This smart speaker is functional and attractive, sitting on an interchangeable base that looks like a vase. It has a compact form factor that easily blends into the room’s décor.

The Home connects to your Wi-Fi so that Google’s digital assistant is only ever a short invocation away.

Simply say “OK Google” or “Hey Google” around the speaker and you’ll have access to the Home’s full selection of media controls, task management, and general trivia.

This speaker can’t quite do everything that the Echo does, but it excels at certain tasks that you’d expect a Google device to excel at.

For instance, the home can sync with multiple Google accounts to provide personalized information for everyone in your household.

The Home is also better at answering verbal queries.

When Statista recently asked each voice assistant software 5,000 common knowledge questions, Google Assistant answered them 68.1% correctly — the highest percentage out of any option.

It still struggles to grasp context in conversation, though, meaning you will have to fully repeat commands that would make perfect sense to another person.

And many commands are simply things that Google Assistant doesn’t know how to do yet. For example, you can tell Google to play a TV show, but not a specific episode.

Otherwise, it performs the regular suite of smart speaker tasks competently.

It has more limited smart home compatibility, but its options will only improve once Google opens up its platform to third party developers.

When it comes to audio options, the Home already outperforms the Echo. It offers streaming from YouTube Music, Google Play, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, and more.

You will be able to enjoy this music in decent quality, even though audio fidelity is still an afterthought to the design.

The Home’s mids are nice and present, but the system suffers from muddy lows at higher volumes.

If you want the best sound, you can port its audio to a more high-end speaker via Bluetooth, aux cable, or Chromecast.

The Google Home only packs two microphones for listening to commands, so it won’t pick up your speech quite as clearly as the Echo does.

A nice bonus feature is a set of controls on the top. There is also a dedicated mute button that turns the microphone off for private conversations.

The Google Home still has some learning to do, but it is already proving to be one of the most useful smart speakers.

Considering how well it competes with the Echo, which has had two extra years of development, the Home is a device to look out for.

Price: $99.00 (23 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Google Home here.


Pros:

  • Plentiful music streaming options
  • Better able to answer general knowledge questions
  • Remote media streaming with Chromecast

Cons:

  • Fewer smart home compatibilities
  • Doesn’t always pick up your voice commands
  • Full skill set is still growing

Find more Google Home information and reviews here.



3. Apple HomePod

smart speaker, smart speakers, best smart speaker, wireless speakers

Apple

Compatible Voice Assistants: Siri
Compatible Platforms: All HomeKit compatible devices
Speaker Size: 7x horn-loaded tweeters, 1x high-excursion woofer
Inputs: Bluetooth, AirPlay
Dimensions: 5.6 x 5.6 x 6.8 inches
Weight: 5.5 pounds

Even though Apple’s entry into the smart speaker arena is the newest smart speaker to the arena, it is already poised to be a top pick for iOS users and audiophiles alike.

Unlike other smart speakers, the HomePod puts audio quality first, with an impressive array of acoustic technology to enhance your listening.

The HomePod’s most exciting feature is its seven beamforming tweeters. This speaker array works in conjunction with six internal microphones to detect its location in a room.

It then automatically adjusts its audio for the most balanced and stereo-rich sound. This ensures you can enjoy the sounds of this compact speaker even if you place it in the corner of a room.

We’ll have to wait and see how it ends up sounding in person, but hopefully it justifies the speaker’s $350 price tag.

So far, Apple Music is the only music service that the HomePod supports, which could be a hindrance to those already invested in Spotify or Pandora.

However, Apple Music has become an encyclopedic powerhouse, with the ability to learn your musical taste and provide fresh suggestions based on your interests.

The app also received some upgraded features specifically for the HomePod.

You can ask the HomePod (which uses Apple’s signature AI Siri) who is the vocalist or guitarist of a particular track, or which artists sounds similar.

Some of Siri’s other new functionalities are still under wraps, but we have a pretty good idea of what this AI is capable of based on how it works with iOS devices.

Simply call out “Hey Siri” and you can ask your smart speaker to read the news, play media, and set reminders. Siri doesn’t always do exactly what you want it to, but it will usually make a decent effort.

For example, neither Siri nor Alexa will currently answer when you ask “can I machine wash silk?”, but Siri at least pulls up a Bing search.

As far as smart home peripherals, the HomePod will only link with HomeKit, Apple’s solution for controlling third-party smart home accessories.

Bluetooth connectivity hasn’t been announced yet, but we know that the speaker will employ the AirPlay 2 protocol for multi-room speaker setups.

In terms of form factor, the HomePod looks clean and compact, standing less than 7 inches tall.

At five pounds, it is twice as heavy as the next heaviest smart speaker, the Echo. But this shouldn’t matter as it is meant to remain stationary.

The speaker has integrated touch controls on the top like the Google Home. With a somewhat limited ecosystem, the HomePod really has to blow us away to make the price tag worth it.

Price: $349

Buy the Apple HomePod here.


Pros:

  • Audio dynamically adjusts based on spatial position
  • AirPlay 2 and Homekit compatibility for Apple homes
  • Easily picks up your voice or touch controls

Cons:

  • Limited music streaming options
  • Only compatible with Apple peripherals
  • High price tag

Check back for more Apple HomePod information and reviews here.



4. Harman Kardon Invoke

harman kardon invoke

Microsoft

Compatible Voice Assistants: Cortana
Compatible Platforms: Nest, Hue, Lifx, Ecobee, Honeywell Lyric, Honeywell Connect Comfort, TP-Link Kasa, Geeni, SmartThings, IFTT
Speaker Size: 3x 0.5-inch tweeters, 3x 1.75-inch woofers
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Dimensions: 4.2 x 4.2 x 9.5 inches
Weight: 2.3 pounds

The Harman Kardon Invoke smart speaker combines the audio technology behind renown speaker brands like JBL and AKG with Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant.

While every other smart speaker seems to compromise one function for another, this partnership appears to produce a device that is built on equal parts sound quality and digital assistant skills.

Microsoft’s AI Cortana brings the Invoke to life when you say “Hey Cortana.” But you can reassign Cortana’s wake word to anything you want, allowing you to live out whatever sci-fi fantasy floats your boat.

If you’ve used an XBox One or Windows 10 computer recently, you know that Cortana is perfectly capable of performing the basic digital assistant tasks.

You can draft an email, perform unit conversions, look up sports scores, schedule appointments, and the likes. The one downfall of Cortana is that it will default to Microsoft software like windows maps, Bing, and Microsoft Edge. And how many of those do you ever actually use?

For music, this is the fairly new Groove service, though the Invoke will supposedly allow you to change the default app for this one category.

Like other AIs, it completely fails at context. You can ask Cortana “What will the weather will be like tomorrow?”, but you can’t ask it “what about in Los Angeles?”

One feature unique to the Invoke is its ability to send and receive voice calls to Skype users, cellphones, and landlines.

The Invoke will have a seven-microphone far-field listening array that should match the highest of volumes, allowing you to talk to Cortana over some serious racket.

As would be expected from this partnership with Harman Kardon, audio quality should be a big focus for this speaker. This is backed up by its specs: three woofers and three tweeters will fill the room with sound no problem.

Ultimately, the Invoke sounds great, but the Cortana platform has lots of catching up to do compared to other smart voice assistants.

If you want the HK signature sound in a more accessible form factor, the Harman Kardon Allure is the Alexa-supporting alternative to the Invoke.

But for the sake of giving Microsoft’s ecosystem a chance to flourish, we’ll keep our eye on the Invoke.

Price: $117.43 (49 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Harman Kardon Invoke here.


Pros:

  • Three tweeters and three subwoofers for full sound
  • Sends and receives calls on Skype and phone lines
  • Easy setup

Cons:

  • Cortana has a limited skill set (for now)
  • US-only release
  • Defaults to less popular Microsoft software

Find more Harman Kardon Invoke information and reviews here.



5. Amazon Echo Dot

amazon echo dot

Amazon

Compatible Voice Assistants: Alexa
Compatible Platforms: Amazon Alexa, Belkin WeMo,ecobee, Harmony, hive, Honeywell, Hue, Insteon, Nest, Ring, Schlage, SmartThings, Sonos, tado, TP-Link, Vivint, Wink
Speaker Size: 0.6-inch speaker
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, aux
Dimensions: 3.3 x 3.3 x 1.3 inches
Weight: 0.36 pounds

The Echo Dot is Amazon’s stripped down version of the Echo. It is quite a bit smaller, but packs the same impressive functionality as its predecessor.

At only 1.3 inches tall, the Echo Dot is about the size of a hockey puck. Yet, because smart speaker AIs are cloud-based, the Echo Dot still grants you the full range of features from Alexa.

This includes adding tasks to your to-do list, ordering items on Amazon, and finding your lost phone — all on top of features I’ve already highlighted.

The one department in which the Echo Dot truly suffers is its audio. The small single speaker is left to drive the whole range of audio without a woofer to carry the lows, and the sound ends up tinny and weak.

The Echo Dot makes up for this by allowing you to port your audio to a better speaker or sound system via Bluetooth or the unit’s aux port.

This is a really nifty feature, as you can use anything from a hi-fi setup, to PC speakers, to a wireless Bluetooth speaker. It just makes me even more frustrated that they couldn’t include this feature on the mediocre-sounding Echo.

If you have a high-end speaker set, the Echo Dot is a useful and economic choice for a smart speaker. The same applies if you only ever listen to alarms, timers, and news radio.

Price: $39.99 (20 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Amazon Echo Dot here.


Pros:

  • Does everything the Echo does at a lower price
  • Can port audio to a hi-fi speaker via Bluetooth or aux
  • Plentiful music streaming options

Cons:

  • Low audio quality
  • Can’t interact with other Amazon devices
  • No microphone mute button

Find more Amazon Echo Dot information and reviews here.



6. Sonos One

sonos one

Amazon

Compatible Voice Assistants: Alexa
Compatible Platforms: Amazon Alexa, Belkin WeMo,ecobee, Harmony, hive, Honeywell, Hue, Insteon, Nest, Ring, Schlage, SmartThings, Sonos, tado, TP-Link, Vivint, Wink
Speaker Size: 1x tweeter, 1x 3.5-inch mid-woofer
Inputs: Wi-Fi
Dimensions: 4.7 x 4.7 x 6.4 inches
Weight: 4.08 pounds

If you’ve demoed a Sonos sound system before, then the Sonos One will look very familiar. It can easily be mistaken for the original Sonos PLAY:1, as the two are the exact same size, with the same matte finish, and the same top quality sound.

The biggest thing that sets the Sonos One apart is that it is fully integrated with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant.

The Sonos One connects to your home network wirelessly or via an ethernet cable. From there, it gains the support and personality of Alexa.

This speaker also connects to a number of smart home systems, including the Sonos Home speakers, which have used Wi-Fi for multiroom audio since well before it was cool. It does not, however, have Bluetooth.

It will also connect to any smart home system that is Alexa compatible, including WeMo bulbs, Next thermostats, Wink Home hubs, and more.

The Play One is at its best when it works as a part of a multi-speaker setup, but you don’t need extra speakers to enjoy a clear and detailed sound.

The speaker sounds great on its own, with clear and expansive highs and a present midrange. A downward firing 3.5 inch woofer gives the sound a rounded low end to catch low bass notes and kick drums.

The Sonos app allows you control EQ in three bands, and there are capacitive touch controls for volume control, tracking, play/pause, and microphone mute.

The Sonos One sports a far-field six-microphone array with adaptive noise suppression. This is able to pick up sound from considerable distances, but it has a hard time fighting against loud music. One nice touch is that an LED will come on anytime the microphone is active, which helps quell surveillance paranoia.

Setup is simple, but it is admittedly tedious to link all of your paid streaming accounts. And this speaker supports plenty of them.

The Sonos app give you voice control over a huge number of streaming services, including Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Internet radio and more.

The app is required but it is free and available on all platforms, including iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac.

One downside of this device is that Amazon hasn’t enabled the full list of smart home features on third party products, so you won’t be able to perform more advanced functions like grouping your smart devices or using voice controlled playback commands.

The speaker is fairly compact, making it easy to find a discrete spot to house it. It is not battery powered, but it is humidity resistant, so you can take it outside or into the bathroom if you wish.

If you really just want the fullest functionality of Alexa’s speakers, then you are basically pigeon-holed into getting an Echo, but if you need a smart speaker that sounds top notch, then the Sonos One is still a solid pick.

Price: $199.00

Buy the Sonos One here.


Pros:

  • Plentiful music streaming options
  • Clear and accurate audio
  • Alexa offers a massive selection of skills and commands

Cons:

  • No Bluetooth
  • Alexa not fully integrated for 3rd party speakers
  • Doesn’t always pick up your voice commands

Find more Sonos One information and reviews here.



7. Fabriq Chorus

fabriq chorus

Amazon

Compatible Voice Assistants: Alexa
Compatible Platforms: Amazon Alexa, Belkin WeMo,ecobee, Harmony, hive, Honeywell, Hue, Insteon, Nest, Ring, Schlage, SmartThings, Sonos, tado, TP-Link, Vivint, Wink
Speaker Size: 2x 2-inch full-range drivers
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Dimensions: 3.2 x 3.2 x 6.3 inches
Weight: 3 pounds

The Chorus is Fabriq’s answer to Amazon’s own Echo Tap. While there are reasons to like both, we’re going to throw our weight behind Fabriq mostly for the sake of not having to review another Echo device.

The Chorus definitely stands out from the competition with the stylish patterns you’ll find on its fabric grille. The speaker has a small LED ring at the bottom of the speaker, which looks nice, save for the fact that there’s no way to turn it off at night.

This is a rechargeable speaker with a charging cradle, so you may want to leave it at your bedside. The cradle allows you to leave it in place without worry, but you also have about six hours of battery life for on the go use. Just keep in mind that you still need Wi-Fi connection to access Alexa’s features, otherwise the Chorus is just a portable speaker.

Once the device is connected to the Amazon Alexa service, it can be used to stream a wide variety of streaming services like Amazon Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, and more. You can use the Fabriq app to connect multiple Fabriq speakers for multi-room sound as well.

Most of the basic features you would use Alexa for are available, but since Amazon has been slow to roll their API out to third parties, this speaker has some glaring gaps in its knowledge base.

For instance, you cannot use Alexa voice commands to open Spotify or adjust volume. You can still do these things through the web UI, or in the case of the volume issue, the onboard controls, but they are a ways out from being supported.

The speaker itself makes up for this shortcoming, as the Chorus sounds far better than its primary competition, the Echo Tap.

This speaker is clear across the sound spectrum, even at full volume. Bass heavy songs can overload the low end somewhat, but the lower sound frequencies are mostly tight and clean.

The mids come through very well, and really drive the sound. Its sound travels well, but careful listeners will notice that the speaker has a somewhat directional sound, providing the clearest audio to those standing at the business end of its two full range drivers.

That said, the Chorus is still one of the best sounding portable smart speakers around, and once it is updated for full Alexa functionality, it is a sure pick over the competition.

Price: $99.99

Buy the Fabriq Chorus here.


Pros:

  • Clear and balanced sound
  • Plentiful music streaming options
  • 6 hours of battery life plus a wireless charging cradle

Cons:

  • Alexa not fully integrated for 3rd party speakers
  • No way to turn off LED
  • Sound is overly directional

Find more Fabriq Chorus information and reviews here.



8. JBL Link 500

jbl link 500

Amazon

Compatible Voice Assistants: Google Assistant
Compatible Platforms: Anova, August, Belkin WeMo, D-Link, Emberlight, Geeni, Google Assistant, HomeSeer, Honeywell, Hue, IFTTT, Insignia, Iris, LG, Leviton, LightwaveRF, Logitech, Lutron, Nanoleaf, Nest, NuBryte, Rachio, Ring, SmartThings, TP-Link, Universal Power Bus (UPB), Vivint, Wink, iHome
Speaker Size: 2x 0.8-inch tweeters, 2x 3.5-inch woofers
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
Dimensions: 7.9 x 6.2 x 14.6 inches
Weight: 7.7 pounds

The JBL Link 500 is one behemoth of a smart speaker. The only other speaker in its weight-class is the Google Home Max. And interestingly enough, both use the Google Voice Assistant, making them fairly easy to compare.

Both speakers offer a great sound and a rounded feature set, but the Link 500 is a little more focused on its sound while the Google Home Max is a little more focused on its feature set.

The Link 500’s sound signature is mostly balanced, with a slight emphasis in the midrange. Vocals and keys sound clear and driven, while the bass delivers a nice punch with its two 3.5-inch woofers behind its fabric grille.

The Google Home app for iOS & Android has some basic EQ controls to further tweak the sound. The speaker sounds great at volumes up to 80%, but it does distort noticeably at high volumes.

In addition to using the app and voice commands, the speaker also has a button array on top with controls to connect via Bluetooth, mute the microphone, invoke the voice assistant, raise or lower volume, and play/pause.

The Home Max has far fewer controls, and is noticeably missing a voice assistant button. This can be important if you don’t want to wake up every Google device in your whole house with the wake phrase “OK Google.”

The speaker has LED notification lights that blink when it is listening, or glow amber when it is muted. The speaker has far-field voice recognition, which can pick up your voice from a considerable distance.

This speaker performs the expected suite of actions, from checking the news or weather to connecting to Google Home supported smart devices. You have access to a great number of audio streaming services, including YouTube Music, Google Play, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, and more.

Because this is a third party speaker, some of Google Voice Assistant’s features aren’t fully supported. For instance, you cannot make phone calls or send text messages with the voice assistant.

You can still do this over Bluetooth, and the same goes for playing any audio sources that aren’t natively supported. The Link 500 is also a Chromecast device, which means you can stream compatible sources over Wi-Fi for improved playback.

Ultimately, we don’t blame you if you want to stick to Google branded products so that you always have support for the latest features. But if you want a better sounding alternative that still mostly everything you’d want, then the Link 500 remains a solid pick.

Price: $399.95

Buy the JBL Link 500 here.


Pros:

  • Clear and bass-heavy sound
  • Better able to answer general knowledge questions
  • Remote media streaming with Chromecast

Cons:

  • Sound distorts at high volume
  • Google not fully integrated for 3rd party speakers
  • Fewer smart home compatibilities

Find more JBL Link 500 information and reviews here.



9. Libratone Zipp

libratone zipp

Amazon

Compatible Voice Assistants: Alexa
Compatible Platforms: Amazon Alexa, Belkin WeMo,ecobee, Harmony, hive, Honeywell, Hue, Insteon, Nest, Ring, Schlage, SmartThings, Sonos, tado, TP-Link, Vivint, Wink
Speaker Size: 2x 1-inch tweeters, 4-inch woofer
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, AirPlay, aux
Dimensions: 4.8 x 4.8 x 10.2 inches
Weight: 4 pounds

Danish audio company Libratone is fairly new to the audio manufacturing world, but they have already proven their keep with high quality products like their Zipp portable speaker.

Its name comes from its zip-off speaker cover, which gives it a unique aesthetic when compared to more conventional looking speakers. But that’s not what earned the Zipp a place on this list.

That would be its high quality sound and interconnectivity across your favorite streaming platforms.

It is, of course, Wi-Fi compatible through the Libratone app, which also supports multi-room setup if you have multiple Libratone speakers. It is also Bluetooth aptX compatible, so you can play audio from sources that aren’t Wi-Fi accessible.

It also works with AirPlay, and for simpler use, an aux port as well.

You can set up all of these services in minutes. The most time consuming part is having to log in to all of them. From there, it’s smooth sailing.

Once you connect this speaker to the Alexa service, you’ll be able to use it for most all of Alexa’s compatible skills.

The voice assistant can be used to control Amazon Music, Spotify Premium, Pandora, SiriusXM, and more. You can also set alarms, get news updates, and ask it general knowledge questions.

There is also a capacitive touch panel to control playback, connectivity, and volume. You also get a button to cycle between five stored Internet radio stations.

And I’ve said it before but here’s another disclaimer: third party speakers don’t yet support every Alexa feature, so they will be a little slower to gaining new skills.

But for this speaker, you can think of its smart home compatibilities as more of a bonus. The Zipp is truly all about its sound.

The Zipp is maybe one of the best sounding speakers in its price range, giving the Sonos One a run for its money. Its bass is tight and detailed, and its mids are clear, making for an overall warm tone.

The highs sound bright, though you will occasionally hear some errant harshness in cymbals and horns. The speaker gets decently loud but is just shy of filling a room on its own. It has a solid 360º sound, and sounds good from all directions.

This speaker has a rechargeable battery that offers a max ten hours of playback, so you can easily take this speaker with from room to room.

Price: $298.99

Buy the Libratone Zipp here.


Pros:

  • Clear 360º sound
  • Plentiful connectivity options
  • 10 hour battery life

Cons:

  • Alexa not fully integrated for 3rd party speakers
  • High frequencies are sometimes harsh

Find more Libratone Zipp information and reviews here.



10. Sony LF-S50G

sony s50g

Best Buy

Compatible Voice Assistants: Google Assistant
Compatible Platforms: Anova, August, Belkin WeMo, D-Link, Emberlight, Geeni, Google Assistant, HomeSeer, Honeywell, Hue, IFTTT, Insignia, Iris, LG, Leviton, LightwaveRF, Logitech, Lutron, Nanoleaf, Nest, NuBryte, Rachio, Ring, SmartThings, TP-Link, Universal Power Bus (UPB), Vivint, Wink, iHome
Speaker Size: 1.8-inch tweeter, 2-inch woofer
Inputs: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, NFC
Dimensions: 4.3 x 4.3 x 6.4 inches
Weight: 1.7 pounds

Sony’s LF-S50G has seemingly slid to the wayside in the smart speaker arena, and that just doesn’t make sense to me.

After all, it’s a pretty impressive speaker that delivers a clear and powerful sound with the helpful addition of the Google Voice Asssistant technology.

If you’ve been paying attention as you read along, you should know by now that because this is a third party speaker, it won’t receive Google’s latest and greatest features as they come out, but it will still get them nonetheless.

For instance, it cannot currently make calls or send texts, though it should be able to do so sometime in 2018.

This shortcoming aside, the LF-S50G works great as a smart speaker, and once connected to the Google Home app, you can call the assistant up with a voice command to answer queries and start music services.

The speaker supports a unique gesture control scheme that works surprisingly well too if you don’t feel like constantly talking to your speaker. Swipe up over the top of the speaker to play/pause, swipe down to open the Google Voice Assistant, swipe left and right to change tracks, and make circles to adjust volume.

This leaves it with only a few physical buttons. There is a Bluetooth connection button, a microphone mute button, and a button to dim the LED clock display embedded in the mesh grille. While we’re talking about physical elements of the speaker, it is also IPX3-rated for resistance against water splashes, making it a great kitchen companion.

It supports Bluetooth and NFC pairing if you want to use it as a more conventional speaker, but a common issue with numerous smart speakers is that it does not have an aux port.

Finally, on the subject of the LF-S50G’s sound, you won’t be disappointed. The sound is powerful and balanced from any listening angle, thanks to its 360º sound.

Its lows, mids, and highs are tuned great out of the box, but you do have EQ controls if you want to bring out a certain aspect of a song. The speaker gets louder than the similarly sized Google Home, and arguably sounds better too.

Going with a third party brand will leave you a step behind on the latest smart features, but if you care about a high quality sound, then it is a worthwhile trade-off to make.

Price: $149.99 (25 percent off MSRP)

Buy the Sony LF-S50G here.


Pros:

  • Clear 360º sound
  • Gesture based controls
  • Easy setup

Cons:

  • Google not fully integrated for 3rd party speakers
  • Short power cable
  • Fewer smart home compatibilities

Find more Sony LF-S50G information and reviews here.



Heavy, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to Amazon. Our product recommendations are guided solely by our editors. We have no relationship with manufacturers.

2 Comments

2 Comments

Marissa

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Jack Smith

It is not really the number of skills. Skills create silos and lack the ability to do something called composition. Basically the ability to have everything work together.

Our brains are not silos but rather we use composition. I do not have one area to think about food and another to think about chess. This was search a long time ago and then Altavista and now Google fixed it. I go to the same search text box for everything.

Google has done the same with Google Home. I purchased the Echo as part of the preview in late 2014. Learned all the commands playing with it for hours. Loved it. But I could never get my family to really use it. It remained my toy.

Now we have several Google Homes. They handle natural speech so no commands to memorize like the Echo.

That was the friction remover that made all the difference in the world. My family use the Google Homes daily and they are well integrated into our home life.

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