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 January 18, 2022, to include the Bose Portable Smart Speaker and Marshall Uxbridge Voice to the Best list, and add the Bose Smart Speaker 500, Sonos Beam 2, Marshall Stanmore II Voice, and Polk Audio React Sound Bar to Notable mentions.
The Amazon Echo (4th Gen) is the best Alexa speaker
The best Alexa device is the latest iteration of Amazon’s Echo line, the Echo (4th Gen). 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 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 and an aux input, so you can take full advantage of high-resolution streaming.
As of June 19, 2021, the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) features a promotional price of $74 USD, making it an absolute bargain when it comes to feature-packed smart speakers.
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 mix certain speaker brands for multiroom playback but not others: for instance, you can have group with Sonos and Amazon Echo speakers, but you can’t have a group with Bose and Echo speakers in it. You can always have separate groups that only contain speakers of one brand, though; for example, you can have a Bose group and an Echo group in your house.
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 or 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 Amazon Echo (4th gen). When the Echo was redesigned, the Echo Dot was too, and it’s essentially just a smaller version of the Echo. The new Echo Dot has front-firing speakers now rather than the 360-degree sound of the older models.
Amazon Echo Dot (4th 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.
Upgrade your home entertainment system with the Sonos Arc
Ready to take your home entertainment system to the next level? The Sonos Arc is a premium soundbar with support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple AirPlay 2. Advanced microphone technology ensures that your voice assistant never misses a command. And its Speech Enhancement feature will help you pick up dialogue in the midst of an action scene. The Arc is one of only two Sonos speakers that supports Dolby Atmos for truly immersive sound.
The Sonos Arc’s upward-firing speaker drivers will reflect sound off of your ceiling, adding more dimension to the soundscape. You can dynamically tune this soundbar to your room’s acoustics using Trueplay (iOS only). If you’re concerned about your neighbors or kids sleeping in the house, you can engage Night Sound, which effectively reduces dynamic range by quieting loud noises and raising the volume of softer noises.
The Sonos Arc clocks in at 45 inches wide and is designed for TVs bigger than 49 inches. You can place it on your furniture or mount it to the wall; a wall mount is available separately. Note that it requires a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection and doesn’t support Bluetooth.
If the Sonos Arc would blow your budget or your TV is smaller than 49 inches, consider the Sonos Beam 2; it’s also one of our notable mentions below.
Your home is on the go with the Bose Portable Smart Speaker
Those looking to have an all in one Alexa smart speaker can pick the Bose Portable Smart Speaker for its 12 hour battery and solid 360-degree audio for audio anywhere. You can link it to one other Bose speaker from the Smart Speaker line too using the Bose SimpleSync function in the Bose Music app.
Bose Portable Smart Speaker
Onboard you get multiple points of connection: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or Airplay 2. If you want a wired audio connection, however, you’re out of luck. For seamless listening, the Portable Smart Speaker comes equipped with native support for platforms like Spotify, Amazon Music, SiriusXM, Deezer, and plenty more with continued updates.
See: Best Bose speakers
Tactile buttons for playback, volume, mic, and Bluetooth sit atop the speaker for instant control. It supports both Alexa and Google Assistant. An IPX4 rating doesn’t exactly make the speaker waterproof, but it means the Bose Portable Smart Speaker survive if you throw it in a bag with your used yoga mat. You can choose to purchase a charging cradle for the speaker when left for at home use, ensuring it’s always juiced. You may want to do this, because Bose didn’t imbue this speaker with a quick charge and it takes 4 hours to fully charge.
Get smart, sound good with the Marshall Uxbridge Voice
Clothed in a vintage vibe vinyl, the Marshall Uxbridge Voice is a compact speaker with Alexa or Google Assistant compatibility. You’ll have to choose which one you want though, because Marshall offers separate models for each smart assistant. Its discreet size means you can use it as a hub in one room and connect other, larger models in the Marshall collection for an integrated system.
Marshall Uxbridge Voice with Alexa
Handily, you can do a little equalizing using the top panel, as well as access buttons for playback controls and push-to-talk or mic mute. The Uxbridge is the only Marshall speaker in the current line-up with a dual far-field microphone array and noise cancellation so the Uxbridge can pick up your voice over loud music. It has a specific Marshall Voice app as well to set-up your preferences, including more granular EQ abilities for different kinds of audio.
It houses a 30W Class D amp with woofer and tweeter. The Uxbridge is mono, but that’s why you add something like the Stanmore II to get some stereo in the mix, as it’s intended to be one element in a multi-speaker system. For audio your options include Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or a 3.5mm input. Intended as a home use speaker, the Uxbridge doesn’t have a battery. For portable options check out the Marshall Kilburn II which doesn’t have voice assistant capabilities, but you can link it to your Marshall speaker system.
Best Alexa smart speaker: Notable mentions
- 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-degree sound, and it doubles as a Zigbee hub.
- Bose Smart Speaker 500: Are you looking for a hub with an integrated screen for your home smart solution? This thoughtful solution has stereo sound and oodles of compatibility with voice control, touch screen, or app. It has Alexa built-in, and you can link it to other Bose speakers.
- Marshall Stanmore II Voice: Though technically discontinued, you can still find the voice compatible version of the Stanmore II with its heftier 50W power on sale. If you don’t want a multi-room system, this is the one to grab for music.
- Polk Audio React Sound Bar: This is one of the cheapest ways to get an Amazon Alexa compatible soundbar with HDMI ARC and home theatre expandability. It’s outfitted with Dolby and DTS 3D sound and even a USB input if you don’t feel like fussing with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for music.
- Sonos Beam 2: For smart home enthusiasts who want an all-in-one solution, the sleek Sonos Beam 2 is a versatile solution that looks great on a TV stand or mounted against the wall. It’s also the only other Sonos product with Dolby Atmos.
- Sonos Move: You can take this premium speaker from room to room with ease. It even sports an IP56 build, and is ready to tackle any adventure.
- Sonos One Gen 2: This compact smart speaker provides clear sound quality at loud volumes and connects to other Sonos speakers for multiroom listening. It also supports Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay 2. Bluetooth Low Energy, a faster processor, and increased memory make it superior to the previous generation.
- 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a monthly fee for using Alexa?
So... is Alexa better than Google Assistant?
Do I need to buy an external smart hub?
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.