5 Best Smart Speakers for Serious Audiophiles

Audiophiles rejoice, smart speakers are the perfect way to get both top notch audio quality and the convenience of a voice assistant. Which smart speaker is the best for your lifestyle?

Ever since voice assistants invaded (ahem, were invited into) our lives, many of us have enjoyed the ease and convenience of living with them.

But smart speakers shouldn’t just make life easier; they should make it better. For music fans, that means high-quality audio, simplified integration with the top streaming providers, and the ability to play whatever you want, whenever you want it.

Which smart speakers are right for you? 

When it comes to sound quality, not all smart speakers are created equal. It’s fun to be able to command your speaker to play a song just by using your voice, but if the audio isn’t there, it’s a really disappointing experience.

Well, good news: smart speaker brands have responded to your distress call. Many have released smart speakers that were made with sound quality top of mind. These are professional-level speakers, with the added advantage of having a voice assistant built in.

Below we’ve listed our favorite smart speakers for music fans. All of these do much more than simply “play Spotify” when you tell them to. Get ready to enjoy amazing audio and music, all enabled by your favorite voice assistant.

  • Best volume: Google Home Max
  • Best all-around sound quality: Sonos One
  • Best for Apple Music lovers: Apple HomePod
  • Best speaker with a display: Amazon Echo Show
  • Best for portability: JBL Link 20

Google Home Max

The Google Home Max is everything you love about the Google Home speaker, maximized for sound. Of all the smart speakers on our list, this one delivers the best high-fidelity sound at the loudest volume. 

When you consider the technical specs, it’s no surprise. This smart speaker is backed by two 4.5” woofers, and far-field voice control so you can command it from across the room. Plus, it uses machine learning and automatically adjusts sound to the acoustics of your room. Thanks, Google!

With multiple streaming service partners—including Spotify, YouTube Music, iHeartRadio and Pandora—the Google Home Max puts over 35 million songs at your fingertips, with podcasts and radio stations to boot. 

The Google Home Max also stands out for its connectivity and audio input options. You can play music using your home WiFi network or your phone’s Bluetooth connection. For the vinyl fans among you, you can even plug in your record player with a stereo cable. Finally, you can connect other Google Home devices and smart speakers to play music throughout your home via Chromecast Audio. To achieve stereo sound, wirelessly pair two Google Home Max speakers in the same room.

The Google Home Max didn’t leave aesthetics by the wayside, either. It comes in black or a grey/white combo, and you can place it vertically or horizontally—whichever suits your preference. 

Price:

Pros:

  • Includes 3 free months of YouTube Music Premium
  • Auxiliary input options for additional speakers or stereos
  • Supports multi-room audio
  • Supports 1,000 smart home devices from 150 brands

Cons:

  • Expensive

Bottom Line:

The Google Home Max is expensive, but for good reason. This is a top-of-the-line smart speaker that gives you all the power of a voice assistant with the joy of crystal-clear sound—even at high volumes. 

Sonos One

The Sonos One speaker has branded itself as “the smart speaker for music lover.” You can’t get more obvious than that. This is a smart speaker devoted to playing high-quality sound above everything else. The tech specs include two class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, one mid-woofer, adjustable bass and treble controls, far-field microphone array, and a four-core processor. 

Not only does it sound good, but the Sonos One looks good, too. The sleek design helps the speaker blend in to any home, and it comes in two colors (black and white) so you can choose the best one to match your home decor. And since it’s humidity-resistant, you don’t have to stop the good vibes—whether you’re getting ready in the bathroom or listening on your patio.

The Sonos One comes with the Amazon Alexa voice assistant built-in. Using your voice, you can command it to play music, radio, podcasts, or any other audio files. The smart speaker connects via WiFi or through a wired internet connection. 

If you already own an Apple Home pod, good news: with AirPlay 2, the Sonos works with Siri and supports multi-room audio with other Sonos speakers as well as the Apple HomePod. However, there’s still no support for Google Assistant (although Sonos plans on adding it soon).

Sonos currently supports 73 streaming music partners, including Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Pandora, Tidal, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, and more. You can pair multiple Sonos speakers together for audio throughout your home. Once one is set up, you can control any of them from other Sonos or Alexa-compatible speakers. Or, for stereo sound, you can pair two Sonos One speakers together in the same room.

Price:

Pros:

  • Available in black and white
  • Humidity-resistant
  • Supports multi-room audio
  • 73 streaming music partners
  • Supports Apple AirPlay 2

Cons:

  • Only works with the Amazon Alexa and Siri voice assistants

Bottom Line:

With its support for multi-room audio, dozens of streaming providers, and top-notch technical specs, the Sonos One speaker delivers a first-class audio experience any music fan will enjoy. 

Apple Home Pod

The Apple HomePod is an excellent speaker that works seamlessly with Apple products. If you’re a Mac fan, this may be the smart speaker for you. You can even get it in classic Apple white or space grey to match your iPhone or computer. Tech specs include seven tweeters with dedicated amplifiers, six microphones to pick up sound from around the room, and echo and noise cancellation. 

Unsurprisingly, as an Apple product, it works best with Apple partners for audio, like Beats, Podcasts, and iTunes. The Apple HomePod is designed for Apple Music, first and foremost. Although, the Apple HomePod does support additional music and radio streaming partners, including Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, and iHeart Radio.

If you own multiple Apple products, the Apple HomePod will fit right in. The smart speaker is instantly recognized by any of your iOS devices for easy setup. It supports multi room audio with AirPlay 2. You can create stereo sound if you purchase two, or set up multiple Home Pods throughout your home and control them from anywhere using just your voice and the power of Siri. 

To reiterate, since it uses AirPlay to work, the Apple HomePod only works with other iOS devices. You won’t be able to stream music from your Android phone. 

Price:

$349, or you can save with these Apple promo codes.

Pros:

  • Painless setup
  • Access to 50+ million songs with Apple Music
  • Three months of Apple Music included
  • Supports multi-room audio

Cons:

  • Only works with Apple Siri
  • Only supports Airplay and iOS devices
  • No audio inputs
  • Expensive

Bottom Line:

The Apple HomePod is a quality smart speaker with a voice assistant built-in. While it works with some other services, it’s really designed for people who use Apple Music for their music and Siri as their voice assistant. If you prefer another music library or voice assistant, the high price isn’t quite worth it. 

JBL Link 20

What if you could enjoy amazing sound and a knowledgeable voice assistant, all while you’re floating in your pool? That dream comes true with the JBL Link 20. At 3 inches wide by 8 inches tall, you can carry this smart speaker with you anywhere.

Hands down, this is the best audio quality we’ve seen from a portable smart speaker. Currently, the JBL Link 20 only works with Google Assistant, but you can quickly set it up using the Google Home App on either iOS or Android phones, which earned it our portable speaker pick for those on either side of the Google/Apple divide. 

You can play music or audio using a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection, and since the JBL Link 20 is waterproof, you can play it anywhere. Using the built-in Google Chromecast, you can enable multi room audio by connecting your JBL speaker to other Google or Chromecast speakers. 

You can command the JBL Link 20 using your voice with Google Assistant, or by streaming to Chromecast through compatible Android or iOS apps, like YouTube or Spotify. The speaker also includes buttons for volume control if you’re in the mood to go old school. 

Tech specs include 24 bit/96kHz sound, two full-range drivers, and two microphones for far-field voice recognition. Battery life is 10 hours, which includes up to 5 hours of continuous playtime. 

Price:

$199.95, or you can save with these JBL promo codes.

Pros:

  • Portable smart speaker with 10 hour battery life
  • Includes 3 months of Google Play music
  • Waterproof
  • Wi-FI and Bluetooth-compatible
  • Supports multi-room audio

Cons:

  • No support for Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa

Bottom Line:

The JBL Link 20 is the best sound quality you’ll get with a portable smart speaker—and a waterproof one at that. The quality isn’t on par with the Google Home Max or Sonos One, but for a portable speaker that includes Google Assistant, it’s an excellent deal.

Amazon Echo Show

With Echo and Alexa, Amazon may deserve the credit for making smart speakers popular. Unfortunately, until recently, most of their Echo products have seriously lacked in sound quality.

With the Amazon Echo Show, that’s starting to change. This has the best speaker of the current line of Amazon Echo products—with the added benefit of a touchscreen display. Tech specs include premium Dolby speakers, a passive bass radiator, eight microphones for far-field voice recognition, and a 10.1-inch HD screen. 

The HD display enhances all kinds of audio experiences. Play Amazon Music, and the Echo Show can display the lyrics of the song you’re listening to or just the album art for a nice visual touch. Turn on a YouTube video playlist, and you’ll pair sound with a visual performance from your favorite artists. You can even read along on the screen as you listen to an audiobook. 

The Amazon Echo Show also shines for its wealth of features and functionality. You can make video calls, watch live TV, and set it up to work with your other smart home devices, such as the Ring video doorbell.

However, because of its unique design (it has speakers on the side and back of the touchscreen, as opposed to the 360-degree design of the other smart speakers on our list), the Amazon Echo Show does need to be placed strategically or the sound quality can sound quieter or more hollow. 

Price:

$229.99, or you can save with these Amazon Echo promo codes.

Pros:

  • Touchscreen display
  • Supports multi room audio
  • Extensive smart home device support
  • Makes video calls
  • Supports WiFi and Bluetooth

Cons:

  • Only supports Amazon Alexa

Bottom Line:

The touchscreen of the Amazon Echo Show is exciting, but as an Amazon product, this smart speaker tends to support their products better. That makes the Amazon Echo Show a better fit for those who prefer Amazon Music for music, Amazon Prime Video for their entertainment, and Audible for their audiobooks.

If you’re an audiophile, you don’t have to settle for subpar sound quality. Today, you have your choice of smart speakers that make music, audiobooks, and podcasts come to life in your home. Just choose any of the smart speakers we’ve featured here!

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Posted on Dec 9, 2018