The best smart speaker 2021: Premium home speakers

(Pocket-lint) – The smart speaker space is as competitive as it’s ever been. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-powered devices lead the way.

Amazon’s stepped its game recently with the Echo Studio and the standard Echo giving remarkable value for money. Google also has its new Nest Audio, while Apple’s HomePod mini has been a success. 

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

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Sonos One

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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 in a class of its own.

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Amazon Echo Studio

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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.

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Google Nest Audio

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The Nest Audio is a replacement for the original Google Home speaker. It’s designed to be compact enough to slip into any room, but deliver a bigger experience than the popular Nest Mini.  

Google has clearly positioned Nest Audio to be a natural rival to the Amazon Echo. The competition from Amazon is still fierce, but in the Nest Audio, Google now has a speaker that can hold its own.

Google also now has a speaker that’s more appealing than its previous efforts. The Nest Hub is great, the Nest Mini is great, and the Nest Audio plugs that gap – fitting easily into the home to provide music, information and voice control whenever you want it.

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Apple HomePod mini

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A move in the right direction for Apple’s HomePod range. The smaller HomePod sounds great for a speaker of this scale. It will appeal to many Apple users, but against Amazon’s Echo series it feels like it still fails to understand that people are more than happy with cheap and cheerful when it comes to kitchen-based listening.

For an affordable speaker the HomePod mini sounds fantastic looks great and the microphone experience is great. For the Apple user who rarely goes out of the Apple ecosystem, you’ll love it.

But for most, the cheaper Amazon Echo and Echo Dot devices deliver a better experience. 

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Amazon Echo (4th generation)

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The Amazon Echo range has various price points covered, but the standard Echo is the pick of the range for most people, though the above Echo Studio is the best-sounding. 

This version of Echo improves the offering with new technology, a faster Alexa, and better sound.

We’re not totally sold on the new design, but it does give the Echo range a good freshen up and makes it even more distinctive. 

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Sonos Move

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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.

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Audio Pro G10

Audio Pro isn’t a well-known name, but this is the Swedish company’s first speaker with Google Assistant. As such, it’s a great smart speaker out of the box. Setup is easy and it’s simple to transfer audio to the speaker using Chromecast or Apple’s AirPlay 2 as well as Spotify Connect. 

The Audio Pro’s only disadvantage is its price, because it lags behind the Sonos One and Echo Studio in terms of its sound while there’s also a hefty price premium over Audio Pro’s own A10 speaker. That speaker is similar yet doesn’t have the Google Assistant integration. 

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Libratone Zipp 2

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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.

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Google Home Max

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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.

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Apple HomePod

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The larger HomePod has now been discontinued but is still available at present. 

If we were grading the HomePod on its sound performance alone it would be a slam dunk.

Apple has produced a 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. 

Writing by Dan Grabham. Editing by Max Freeman-Mills.





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