The major smart home companies, Google, Amazon, and Apple, have all made important strides in their speaker systems in the last couple of years. This has seen updates to Amazon’s Echo, the first smart speaker system to go mainstream. Beyond that, however, the success of the Echo inspired everything from the Apple Homepod to the Google Home Max. Smart speakers help automate a variety of activities in the home. For example, you can turn on lights in your home by speaking a command which the smart speaker picks up. Below, we survey the top smart speakers.
Apple HomePod - Top Apple Smart Home Speaker
The Homepod first made its appearance in early 2018, providing Apple with a premium device to compete with other digital assistant systems. At a retail price of around $299, the Apple HomePod is on the pricey side of smart speakers, however, it merits a second look. For an Apple fan, this is the smart home speaker of choice. It plays well with Siri and Apple Music, while showcasing impressive sonic capabilities with its deep bass sound profile.
Amazon Echo - Top Alexa Speaker
Amazon’s Echo smart speaker is, arguably, the device that started the adoption of smart speakers by consumers willing to automate their homes. It has undergone numerous software updates since its appearance in 2014. The hardware in the Echo underwent an upgrade in 2017 which has led to improved speech recognition. At $99, the Echo is affordable and yet packs immense capabilities. It ties in well to Amazon Alexa, with over 50,000 skills for everything from playing movies to shopping and hailing an Uber.
Google Home Max - Top Google Home Speaker
If you are using Google Assistant and other Google home automation tech, then the Google Home Max is the smart speaker you will want. While the Google Home is cheaper at $129, the $399 Google Home Max packs even more sonic power and features. Its Class-D amplifiers place it leagues ahead in sound quality. It includes integration with Google Assistant, making possible everything from controlling home lights to your TV via the speaker.
Sonos Play 5 - Best All Round Smart Speaker
The Sonos Play 5 is hands down the best smart speaker on the market for those who don’t mind shelling out to get the ultimate experience. Its $499 price tag is high, even for a committed audiophile. However, the Sonos 5 packs much more in terms of sound and smart features than just about any other smart speaker. A total of 6 amplifiers in the Sonos Play 5 delivers superior sound, while the smart speaker supports Amazon Alexa skills out of the box.
To Consider Before Your Purchase
Pay attention to interoperability of your smart speaker and the digital assistant you intend to use. While it’s possible to mix and match between the digital assistant providers (Google, Amazon, Apple), it’s not always optimal. The Sonos Play 5, for example, works best with Alexa. The Apple HomePod works best with other Apple devices such as the iPhone.
- Amazon Echo: Noise cancellation technology enables it to hear you even when music is playing.
- Apple HomePod: It uses 6 microphones in the HomePod to pick up voice commands without needing to raise your voice to be heard.
- Google Home Max: Its Smart Sound feature optimizes the sound based on the sonic characteristics of the room or space.
- Sonos Play 5: With some set up you can also get Siri and your iPhone working with it. However, Google Assistant will pose problems.
What Do They Say on Other Sites
“As I set up the second and third Echos the first unit that had been set up for 10 minutes or so said, ""I'm updating, I'll be available shortly"". One by one each speaker received an update from Amazon and I have no idea how but after updating they sound ""AMAZING""” (Fiber Medics on Amazon)
“Welcome to the Amazon bait and switch. It’s called the Echo. I was a preorder and I had one of the first units and then added 3 more to my house. I used the Amazon Music Match service to get all my ITunes onto Alexa. All was well and I used it regularly. Then disaster struck. Amazon suddenly cancelled the Amazon music match service in an attempt to get you to pay a monthly fee for Amazon Music subscription service.” (Mac75 on Amazon)
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