Alexa is great, she can control all manner of smart home products, answer any questions you may have and play you music she thinks you'll love. But that last one can pose a problem if you have the Amazon Echo, because it isn't the greatest sounding speaker ever. It's great for voice feedback, but if music is a priority, you're better off looking elsewhere.
Yes, Amazon has recently announced the Echo Plus which aims to combat the not-so-powerful speaker in the regular Echo, but fortunately, several speaker manufacturers have embraced Alexa and installed her in their own devices. This not only gives you a smart assistant that can respond to various commands and control smart home products, but a speaker that sounds great too. Here are some of the best.
KitSound Voice One
See it on Amazon UK
The KitSound Voice One is essentially an Amazon Echo, but with some serious audio grunt. It has been made in collaboration with Amazon, so you get the full Alexa experience, meaning it can answer questions, play music from various sources and control smart home devices. It's capable of hearing you speak from the other side of the room and up to eight Voice One speakers can be connected together for multi-room playback.
The Libratone Zipp is a fantastic sounding portable speaker with interchangeable jackets. Sound is fired out in 360-degrees and the overall profile can be adjusted using the companion app. It's now been updated to support Amazon Alexa too, meaning you can bark commands at 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.
See it on Amazon UK
The Onkyo P3 was first shown off at IFA 2017 and is now available to buy. We haven't been able to give it a proper listen, however, with dual full-range drivers, dual passive bass radiators and DSP switching amplification, not to mention the Onkyo name, we have no doubts it will sound great. Throw in full Alexa support and you've got yourself the making of a fine Amazon Echo alternative.
Sonos has truly entered the Alexa-enabled speaker market with the Sonos One. Later in 2018 it will offer Google Assistant too, making it one of the most capable smart speakers around. As you'd expect, it sounds fantastic and looks just as good too. It has the same design at 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 capabilities and Alexa built-in, look no further.
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.
The UE Megaboom offers much of the same experience as the Boom 2, but a much, much bigger sound. You also get a longer battery life and a dedicated Megaboom app that lets you adjust the equalisation settings. As with the Boom 2, you can only control music playback using Alexa and again, you'll need to press the Bluetooth button to activate it.
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 need a Wi-Fi connection, 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.