(Pocket-lint) - The smart speaker space is as competitive as ever. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-powered devices lead the way.
Apple's been selling its Siri-powered HomePod on sound quality first and foremost and our HomePod review showed that it's clearly better to listen to than the entry-level smart speakers such as Amazon's basic Echo. But Amazon's stepped its game up since then, with the Echo Studio showing remarkable value for money.
So if you want a smart speaker with premium sound, let's check out the top smart speakers to buy today.
Our pick of the best premium smart speaker
Amazon Echo Studio
Amazon's Echo speakers have been getting better and better in sound quality over the last couple of years, but with the brand-new Echo Studio it's taken a real leap forward.
This is proper, high-fidelity sound performance, with 3D audio more than just a nickname for an overrated feature. If you pair the Studio with lossless music, you'll hear just how well-tuned this speaker is.
It comes at a bit of a price, but still undercuts the HomePod by a major margin, and frankly knocks it out of the park. Added to that, you get the relative competence of Alexa, compared to the often hamstrung Siri.
With five speakers housed within the unit, you get balanced sound from all angles, bass with some actual oomph and an all-round great experience. The Echo Studio will take some beating.
Google Home Max
The Google Home Max isn't exactly a budget option given its price, and with such a large footprint it's a entirely different prospect to the easy-to-place Home and Home Mini.
It's clearly a speaker for those who are married to Google and its ecosystem - who want Google Assistant, not Amazon Alexa - and need premium sound. That latter point offers a clear reason to plump for it rather than an Echo device.
But can Google really demand Sonos-level pricing on its first large-scale outing? It sounds good, sure, but we think would need to undercut on the price front to be a true rush-out-and-buy-it-now speaker - the good news is that, a couple of years after its release, you can often find the speaker for decent discounts.
Sonos entered the Alexa-enabled speaker market with the excellent Sonos One. As you'd expect, it sounds fantastic and looks just as good too. And it's another on this list with a price point significantly lower than that of the Apple HomePod.
It has the same design as the Play:1 except for on the top, where there is a new control panel in place of the volume button on the Play:1.
If you want one of the best sounding speakers around, with multi-room capability and Alexa built-in, look no further. For music fans seeking a smart speaker that delivers excellent sound quality for its size, the One is unrivalled.
If we were grading the HomePod on its sound performance alone it would be a slam dunk. Apple has produced a small speaker that produces a sound way above its stature, in a way that is enjoyable to listen to whatever music you're in to. It is a natural sound that's nicely balanced rather than one that is too tinny or too bass-heavy, and the more we listen to it, the more we realise just how good it sounds given its size. But the Siri integration isn't that powerful and the lack of support for services like Spotify really detract.
Libratone Zipp 2
The Libratone Zipp 2 is a fantastic-sounding portable speaker with interchangeable jackets, a design that simply stands out from the competition.
The physical size lends well to stomping bass and audio output considering its price point. 360-degree sound is fired out all around and the overall profile can be adjusted using the companion app.
The new version supports Alexa and Google Assistant too, meaning you can speak to it, whether it be to change the music that's playing, or turn your kitchen lights off. The fact it's portable also means you can take Alexa with you wherever you go with the use of a nice handle.
Sonos has stepped up its game in the last few months, launching new products left, right and centre. Perhaps its new jewel in the crown is the superb Move, a speaker that blends the best of home smart speaker setups with full portability and booming sound.
The Move has a charging cradle to sit on when in everyday, indoor use, but whenever you need to you can simply lift it off and take it away for up to 10 hours of Bluetooth playback. It's got Alexa and Google Assistant support, and sounds sublime, with automatically adapting sound profiles based on its surroundings.
For only a little more than Apple's HomePod, the Move does a heck of a lot more, and can do it on the go. That's a persuasive package.
UE Boom 2
The UE Boom 2 is one of our all-time favourite Bluetooth speakers. It offers a sound that belies its size, which just so happens to be perfect for taking with you wherever you go. It's fully waterproof and you can pair it with another UE speaker to create a stereo pair.
The addition of Amazon Alexa makes it even more desirable, although you do have to press the Bluetooth button each time, rather than it being in an always on mode.
It's worth noting that you can only adjust music playback settings such as volume and track playing. It can't control your smart home products and it's only supported by Android devices. Sorry iPhone users.
After gifting the UE Boom and Megaboom Alexa capabilities at the press of the Bluetooth button, UE has returned with the Megablast (and smaller Blast). The Megablast takes things one step further by having always-on Alexa voice-control, that's always listening out for your voice. The only caveat is that you naturally need a Wi-Fi connection for Alexa, so it can only be used at home.
Being a dedicated speaker first and foremost, the UE Megablast sounds fantastic. We already had high expectations of it after hearing the Megaboom, but the Megablast can go even louder and remain distortion-free while doing so.
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