While they’re called smart speakers, many people think of them as just digital assistants versus actual speakers. However, smart speaker sound quality matters if you want to make your home sound like a concert. The problem is, how do you know which ones sound best while still giving you a great experience otherwise?
A knee-jerk reaction might be to just go with whatever speaker is largest. It’s not a bad strategy, but bigger doesn’t always equal better. If sound quality is your top priority, make sure you’re buying a smart speaker that delivers.
Despite both Amazon and Google releasing smart speakers long before Apple, the Apple HomePod has some of the best sound quality you could ask for. One feature that really makes it stand out is its ability to adjust the sound automatically to sound great no matter what room you’re in. Naturally, you can override this, but surprisingly, the HomePod does a great job.
However, that great sound comes at a price. Apple doesn’t allow you to use other streaming services, and you can only control smart devices that are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit. If you want more flexibility, then you might want to opt for an Alexa- or Google-enabled speaker. If you already love Apple products, then you can’t go wrong with the HomePod.
A very close second, or you could honestly call it a tie, is the Sonos One. This smart speaker sound quality is unbelievable, especially for less than $200. It’s one of the most affordable smart speakers for achieving this level of audio. While it’s not an official Amazon or Google speaker, it does have both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built in, so simply choose which one you like best.
Since Sonos is focused more on sound quality, you get a few extra features, such as:
- Pairing them together for stereo-quality sound throughout a room or home
- Using them as part of a surround-sound or home theatre system
- Providing amazing sound in the bathroom (humidity-resistant design)
Google Home Max
The Google Home Max is one of Google’s higher-end smart speakers. However, it does come with a noticeable improvement in overall sound quality. While the Google Home speaker sounds okay, the sound can be a little distorted when you crank things up. Plus, the bass isn’t all that impressive. No one wants a great song ruined by poor bass.
However, Google changed everything with the Google Home Max. It’s designed to be more of a speaker versus a smart speaker, so the main focus is on how it sounds. Surprisingly, Google delivered, and this smart speaker is a serious competitor to Sonos and Apple. The sound quality is still clear, as you turn it up. Additionally, the bass is admirable for a smart speaker. Plus, it can auto-adjust the sound based on the acoustics of your room.
There are two main downsides: first, it’s huge in comparison to other smart speakers. Second, there’s no way to mount it, so you’ll have to make space for this behemoth on a table or large shelf.
Amazon Echo Studio
If you love Amazon Alexa, you might want to consider the Amazon Echo Studio. So far, Amazon hasn’t been able to compete with the quality of the Sonos One or Apple HomePod. Granted, Amazon has kind of been a pioneer in the smart speaker field, so it’s forgivable that the company might have sacrificed audio quality for other features.
However, Amazon is looking to change all that. The Echo Studio features Dolby Atmos technology and five internal speakers. It also auto-adapts to the room, just like the HomePod and is made to play 3D audio. The speaker is still new, just having been released in November 2019. Some reviewers love it, but other say it still fails to live up to stereo-quality sound.
Smart speaker sound quality may not be Amazon’s strength, but the standard Amazon Echo (3rd gen) does a good job of offering good quality at an affordable price. If you’re looking for a compromise between price and sound quality, this speaker is a good choice. While it doesn’t quite compare with the Echo Studio, it’s half the price.
This latest version does support much better bass than its predecessors. One con is the speaker only supports pairing with other speakers over Wi-Fi versus Bluetooth.
The Winner Is …
For overall smart speaker sound quality, Sonos and Apple win. However, the Sonos One is the overall winner when it comes to compatibility, sound quality, and price.
A runner up would have to be the Google Home Max. It’s a great addition to a Google-powered home, but the size and higher price hold it back a bit.
Amazon’s offerings are nice but still can’t come close to the other three on this list. However, the Echo Studio is still ideal if you want both an official Amazon Alexa device and decent sound quality.