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 to decide which is the best smart speaker for you).
But Alexa's popularity is a two edged sword as it means there is a paralysing amount of choice on the market at the moment. 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've created this guide detailing the best performing Alexa speakers to pass through our labs that are still on the market.
How to choose the best Alexa speaker for you
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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 smarts that sounds good to boot? Oh, and does the idea of spying on your cat while you're out pique your interest? It does? Good – check out the fifth product on this list. But even if you don't, there are plenty of great Alexa speakers to buy. Here's our pick of the best.
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The question of which smart speaker to introduce to your home is largely a personal one, but the Echo Dot (4th Generation) makes a compelling case by offering advanced skills at an affordable price.
Regardless of the Marmite aesthetic (yes, it looks like a little Magic 8-Ball) Alexa's responses are on the money, extremely clear, and well presented. The fourth-gen Echo Dot also boasts a low power mode when idle to save on energy consumption, which is a nice touch.
Amazon’s entry-level smart device has come a long way in terms of sound quality and this 4th Gen iteration boasts plenty of zeal and agility. Apple's HomePod Mini betters the Dot for overall sound quality, but it's also double the price.
If you're looking for the best Alexa speaker, the Echo Dot (4th Generation) is a superb choice. There's also the 5th Gen Dot, which Amazon unveiled recently. We'll bring a full review shortly.
Read the full Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation) review
Amazon has given its original smart speaker a futuristic makeover and added a built-in Zigbee smart hub. In other words, Amazon went back to the drawing board – and the spherical, fourth-generation Echo is all the better for it.
Alexa feels present and useful but not imposing, the Alexa app support makes placement and multi-room configurations a breeze, and the sound quality, while a step down from superb, easily passes the sound-per-pound value test for a smart home hub of such modest price.
There's an impressive selection of third-party support, too. Once you’ve linked your streaming service accounts, the Echo will play music from Apple Music, Spotify or Deezer over wi-fi. Even if you don’t link any music-provider subscriptions, the Echo will play from Amazon Music by default.
If you like what the Dot has to offer, but want some extra oomph, this is a fantastic budget smart speaker to buy.
Read the full Amazon Echo (4th Generation) review
B&O's output could reasonably be described as "premium" and "innovative" – and the Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) wireless speaker is no exception. It works a treat, delivering a pleasingly comfortable yet authoritative performance that you'd be happy listening to all day.
Throw in its classy, well made design, easy to use operation and Alexa support (as long as your smartphone is nearby and connected to wi-fi), and you're looking at top-drawer smart speaker.
Better still, the A1 supports Qualcomm’s latest aptX Adaptive Bluetooth 5.1 codec, so you can really make the most of its rich, weighty sound. Battery life is a reasonable 18 hours at normal listening volume, or up to 48 hours at a more conservative level.
If you're after a great-sounding, ultra-portable Alexa speaker, this bargain B&O number should be high on your list.
Read the full Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Generation) review
If you want a compact Alexa speaker that combines sound and vision, the budget-friendly Echo Show 5 is hard to beat. The responsive 5.5in LCD touchscreen brings an added dimension to Alexa, allowing you to play YouTube videos, stream audio files or check on Ring doorbells with a quick voice command. There’s also an HD camera, allowing users to make Skype calls, for example
Sound quality is a limited by its compact size, but the Echo Show 5 is so much more than a standard wi-fi/Bluetooth speaker. And it's still a pleasant, enjoyable listen, offering a warm midrange that lends itself well to vocals and dialogue alike.
For the money, the Echo Show 5 is a clever box of tricks that manages to merge the worlds of audio, video and virtual assistants in one easy-to-live-with package that continues to evolve and gain new skills.
Read the full Amazon Echo Show 5 review
The Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Generation) is one of the company's pricier smart devices. But when you consider that its 10.1-in Full HD screen can now tilt and twist to follow you around the room, and that both the speaker and camera performance have been significantly improved from the previous-generation model, that price starts to look pretty reasonable.
Physically, it's a bit of a beast (think CD-sized speaker barrel with tablet attached) and it needs some room to rotate, but the headline grabber is of course is its ability to track around so you can always see the screen. At first, it is a little disconcerting, because the Echo Show 10 locates you via its camera as well as sonically, but this neat perk also enables features such as 'dropping in' while you're out, to pan around your room (or simply spy on your cat).
Although the Echo Show 10 isn't about to become your new sound system (we expected a little more sonically) if it's one of the best Alexa speakers with a touchscreen you're after, we enjoyed this one very much indeed.
Read the full Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Generation) review
One of the biggest speakers in Amazon's Echo line-up, the Echo Studio delivers lashings of bass and 330W of power. Its upgraded internals are fit for CD-quality and hi-res audio (which are both now available from Amazon's streaming service) and there's the option of 3D audio via tracks encoded in Sony's 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos.
Producing immersive, directional audio is always going to be difficult, but doing it from a single speaker source is even more challenging. Nevertheless, it’s an open, airy presentation that suits the 3D environment well. The speaker sits you in the jaws of a tall soundstage, where there's a good amount of detail to percussion and high frequencies.
We wouldn't exactly call it audiophile quality, but for the money, the Echo Studio has a lot going for it and can be used as part of an Alexa-powered Dolby Atmos-supporting home cinema set-up.
Read the full Amazon Echo Studio review
The older, 2018-released Echo Dot still doubles as a simple (and now ultra-affordable) wireless speaker. The puck-shaped design endures and it remains supremely simple to set up, either over wi-fi or Bluetooth.
The sound isn't as lean and thin as its (discontinued) predecessor, and we really don’t mind the Echo Dot (3rd Generation) as a background music device. Of course, your main hi-fi system should be something better if possible, but for the kitchen or kids’ room, or for the occasional convenience, it's a perfectly adequate budget speaker.
Even though this model has been superceded by the newer, spherical entry-level Echo Dot (4th Generation) and Echo Dot (5th Generation), it's hard to fault at the price and remains the best Alexa speaker for those on a tight budget.
Read the full Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation) review
Note: the Sonos One will soon be replaced by the Sonos Era 100, but it remains on sale while stocks last.
One of the best all-round smart speakers you can currently buy, the Sonos One sounds superb for the money and has all the functionality you're likely to need. Alexa is particularly well implemented, in that you can talk to the One exactly as you would Amazon’s own Echo, so instead of having to say “Alexa, play Bowie on Sonos”, you simply say “Alexa, play Bowie”, and one of his classics will spring forth.
The Sonos One launched only supporting Amazon Music with voice control but has since added Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn, YouTube Music, Apple Music and Audible into the voice control mix, which is very welcome. There's also support for 24-bit files via Qobuz (subscription required).
Sound is weighty, full-bodied and loud – not traits you’d generally expect from an Alexa speaker of this size. The soundstage is spacious and impressively organised, with vocals given plenty of breathing room, making them instantly more engaging. Treble is crisp and clear, but treads a fine line between excitement and harshness
If you want an Alexa speaker that straddles both the Amazon and Sonos ecosystems, this is a cracking choice.
Read the full Sonos One review
The Audio Pro Addon C5A is almost identical to the Addon C5 – which was our wireless speaker Product of the Year back in 2017 – except that it adds Alexa voice control to the already Award-winning package
The Addon C5A retains the Addon C5’s driver configuration: a 10cm woofer flanked by a pair of 18mm tweeters. Though Audio Pro has recently changed tack with its cylindrical A10 speaker, it has opted not to tamper with the consummately class-leading performances of this Addon range.
Set-up is simple via the Audio Pro app and sound is impressive. Rhythms snap in time, with instruments expertly organised and dynamics effortlessly contoured. We’re not talking hi-fi, of course, but as far as wireless speakers of this size and price go, the C5A performs admirably.
If you’re already sold on the idea of talking to your speakers, and want an excellent Alexa speaker that can be expanded into a full-blown multiroom system, the Alexa-capable Addon C5A ticks all the boxes.
Read the full Audio Pro Addon C5A review
The Megablast is Ultimate Ears’ smartest speaker yet. With Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant built in, you can ask it to dim your home’s smart lights, set a cooking timer or play your favourite power ballad – just as you would when using one of Amazon's own Echo speakers.
Say the wake word ‘Alexa’ and a white LED strip on top of the Megablast glows bright, then blinks when replying to you. It’s a nice, unobtrusive way of knowing Alexa has heard you, and the speaker is responsive and swift to relay commands. You can also mute Alexa – indicated by a tiny red LED.
The Megablast retains the same rugged, durable build quality that makes Ultimate Ears speakers perfect for outdoor use. It’s waterproof as well (IP67 rated), so will survive being dunked in the pool or splashed in the rain. Battery life is a respectable 16 hours.
More crucially, the Megablast joins the brand’s portfolio of five-star Bluetooth speakers that are fun to use and capable of filling a medium-sized room with spacious, detailed sound.
Read the full Ultimate Ears Megablast review
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) 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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