Thanks to the arrival of virtual voice assistants effortlessly baked into speakers from tech giants such as Amazon, Apple and Google, wireless speakers have never been smarter.
Amazon's Alexa has led the way for smart products, finding its way cheaply and effectively into a vast array of speakers and smart devices, making it one of the best choices to control multiple devices around your home vocally (unless you're an avid Apple user, in which case you might want to read our Amazon Echo vs Apple HomePod Mini head-to-head to decide which is the best smart speaker for you).
But Alexa's popularity is a double-edged sword. It means there is an almost paralysing amount of choice on the market, as Alexa is integrated into not only Amazon's own wide range of speakers but also in various other audio brands' products. On top of that, based on our experience testing them, not every Alexa speaker is worth your hard-earned cash.
Here to help you pick the right option for your specific needs and budget, we have created this guide detailing the best-performing Alexa-equipped speakers to pass through our testing rooms. From budget brilliance to superb spatial audio, there's an Alexa speaker for everyone these days.
How to choose the best Alexa speaker for you
Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.
There are plenty of Alexa speakers to choose from, including Amazon's own, ever-growing family of Alexa devices led by the Echo Dot, Echo, Echo Show and Echo Studio. But which one is right for you?
The main question is this: do you want something small and unassuming to kick-start a smart system, or do you want a substantial wireless speaker with built-in brains that sounds good to boot? The common assumption is that Amazon's homegrown family of Echos is the only place Alexa can be found, but there are a number of third-party brands such as Sonos and Audio Pro which have given the AI assistant a home within their own respective stables.
That's great news for the consumer, as not only does it mean you have more choice when it comes to picking up an Alexa-enabled item, but you are also much more likely to get great sound from dedicated audio specialists than from Amazon's array of capable, but rather diminutive smart speakers.
Amazon's smart speaker range has become big business in the past decade or so, with Alexa becoming almost synonymous with the whole concept of integrated, domestic AI. The latest addition to this wildly popular series of affordable smart speakers is the Echo Dot (5th Generation), a tempting performer that practically gives itself away thanks to its meagre asking price and five-star quality.
Not that the Dot feels cheap. Whereas once Alexa was a one-note performer capable of answering basic questions about the weather and or what the capital of France is, now she's as filled to the brim with skills and knowledge as Keanu Reeves after he's been uploaded with various handy computer programs (although she doesn't, as of yet, "know Kung fu"). The Dot's cybernetic assistant is more helpful than ever before, stuffed with so many tricks and quirks that you will often find yourself falling into the trap of speaking to Alexa as though it, or rather she, were a real person.
Audio has come a long way, too. We weren't hugely keen on the sound of Amazon's early Echo models, but the trajectory has been very much one of continual improvement courtesy of Jeff Bezos' tireless team of audio tinkerers. Amazon's so-called “best-sounding Echo Dot yet” lives up to its billing thanks to a single 44mm front-firing speaker (4mm larger than the previous gen’s 40mm), offering sound that feels, for the size, weighty, listenable and surprisingly versatile.
Read the full review: Amazon Echo Dot (5th Generation)
Released alongside the superb Era 300 (below), the Era 100 keeps up with its bigger, more expensive brother by delivering a host of streaming playback features within another excellent-sounding speaker. Most of the same smart capabilities are on display here, too, including Sonos's own voice control and integrated Amazon Alexa (but not Google Assistant).
If you’re not keen on forking out the somewhat whopping £449 / $449 / AU$749 asking price for the Era 300, the Era 100 is a perfect option as a smart home speaker. Like its heftier counterpart, the 100 delivers a big, open sound, a lovely sense of rhythmic drive and all the detail and precision you could hope for at this price point. The app is excellent to use, the number of streaming features is, frankly, vast, and it's as well-made and reliable as you might expect.
Again, Sonos rarely delivers what you would call ‘budget’ options in the best wi-fi and smart speakers categories, and we are still not delighted to be forking out extra for an adapter if we want to use the wired connection, but the Era 100 is a terrific, versatile smart speaker that outperforms many of its rivals.
Read the full five-star review: Sonos Era 100
You might not even realise it, but the hugely impressive Beosound A1 qualifies as a smart speaker thanks to its built-in Alexa compatibility. Most smart speakers do tend to come courtesy of Apple, Amazon and Sonos, making it all the more remarkable that B&O's rugged, well-made and superb-sounding Beosound A1 also qualifies for a spot on this list.
In fact, the Besound A1 is something of a Jack-of-all-trades, master of many. Sonically, the well-made and portable model offers a pleasingly comfortable yet authoritative performance that you should be happy listening to all day, complementing your musical catalogue with broad, full sound and confident presentation. Sound performance is authoritative and expansive with a weighty, pleasing bass feel, and there's even a convenient strap for ease of transport for what is still a primarily portable unit.
It's expensive, sure, but if you have money to spend, the smart Beosound A1 is a rather remarkable all-rounder.
Read the full review: Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Gen)
Right now, smart speakers don't come much more impressive than the Sonos Era 300. Ever since Apple's HomePod 2 landed early in 2023 with the ability to deliver spatial audio, the race has been on to see who could challenge the biggest dog on the block when it came to integrating the much-vaunted tech into their own speaker designs. With the Era 300, Sonos has delivered a smart speaker capable of voice integration alongside revolutionary sound and an embarrassment of cutting-edge features to rival the best that Apple has to offer.
Smart features are courtesy of Amazon Alexa and Sonos's own voice control, the latter of which you can use to control music playback only.
With its unique, “cinched hourglass” shape, there’s no question that the Era 300 is a bit more of an acquired taste than most of the brand’s rather more conservative designs, but what isn't up for debate is how superbly the five-star Era 300 manages to perform. In short, it is absolutely excellent.
Music-wise, throw whatever you like at the Era 300, chances are it has it covered, filling our testing rooms with cohesive, spacious sound without a hint of a struggle. Big choral numbers feel broad and immersive thanks to spatial audio, but the Era 300 excels seemingly with all genres; hip-hop, classic rock, movie soundtracks, it’s all covered with ease. Yes, it’s expensive, but the Era 300 more than justifies its high asking price.
A truly five-star performer, and one of the best smart speakers you could hope to find right now.
Read the full five-star review: Sonos Era 300
If you want to get fully ensconced with the world of the digital assistant – and by that we mean with both audio and video – this is as good a starting point as we’ve come across.
Where most Alexa-enabled kit on the market is audio based, the Echo Show 5 embraces both sound and video to communicate across various mediums. As well as playing music or reading out information, you can access video content on the Echo Show 5's 5.5-inch LCD touchscreen, while an HD camera lets you make Skype calls (for example) or else view images from cameras in other rooms of the house.
Sound quality is solid considering what it is, even if the Echo Show 5 can be beaten by more audio-focused rivals at this level. Still, given that this is a bulging £80 ($90) box of tricks that opens up the world of the digital assistant to a whole new audience for both audio and video, middling audio can just about be forgiven. If you want sound, screen and a virtual companion all in one, this is about as good as you’ll get for under £100 / $100.
Read the full review: Amazon Echo Show 5
The Audio Pro Addon C5A is almost identical to the Addon C5, which was our wireless speaker Product of the Year in 2017, a bright, hugely likeable product that earned its stripes as one of the finest examples of its kind in the market at that time.
The big addition brought in by the C5A was the integration of Amazon Alexa (hence the 'A'), adding some voice control-flavoured icing to an already Award-winning cake. Available for the price of an Addon C5 plus the cost of an Amazon Echo product bolt-on, the C5A brings the whole package into one tidy, easy-to-set-up box.
The C5A's audio performance is its biggest draw, firing our tracks not only with supreme confidence but with an impressive level of musical understanding. With that same Award-winning sound and Audio Pro's unerring commitment to dynamic sound presentation in a neat package, the C5A is the ideal combination for those who want an alternative to the usual suspects but still desire an excellent Alexa wireless speaker that can be expanded into a full-blown multi-room system.
Read the full review: Audio Pro Addon C5A
How we test Alexa speakers
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London, Reading and Bath, where our team of experienced, in-house reviewers test the majority of hi-fi and AV kit that passes through our door.
What is important in our reviewing process is that each product is compared to the best in its price and class – whether that's one standout smart speaker or a few we favour the highest among the scores we listen to each year for reviews and What Hi-Fi? Awards judging. What Hi-Fi? is all about comparative testing, so we keep our Award-winners nearby to enable unbiased comparisons between new products and ones we know to have performed highly in the category.
We are always impartial and do our best to make sure we're hearing every product at its very best, so we'll try plenty of different types of music and give each one extensive listening time – including time to run in. It's not just about sound quality, of course. If a product has noteworthy features (including smart skills via Alexa voice control) we'll ensure part of our testing involves trialling the claims made by its makers.
All review verdicts are agreed upon by the entire team, rather than an individual reviewer, to eliminate any personal preference and to make sure we're being as thorough as possible. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdicts or star ratings in our reviews.
At What Hi-Fi? we are proud to consistently deliver honest, unbiased reviews – something we have been doing for over 45 years.
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