Jun 11th, 2019

Speakers have come a long way since C.W. Rice and E.W. Kellogg invented the electrodynamic loudspeaker in the 1920s.  In this day and age, most electronic devices have built-in speakers including TVs, PCs, and mobile devices.  With the recent rise of digital assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and Apple Siri, speakers are now much more capable than just being a one trick pony of delivering sound.

Smart speakers are the current trend and the market will only continue to be saturated as more and more devices continue to come out.  There are already dozens of smart speakers out there but we have narrowed it down to the top 5.  Ultimately, your personal choice will come down to your preferred digital assistant, price, and features.

Sonos One (Gen 2)

The Sonos One is considered by many to be the best smart speaker of 2019.   With a compact design, this device can fit in most spaces.  It’s perfect for putting on your kitchen countertop, on your bookshelf, and even in the bathroom since it’s humid resistant!  It includes Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and can also be controlled by your voice, the Sonos app, Apple Airplay 2, and more.  By itself, the sound is rich and room-filling but pair it up with another Sonos One in the same room, and you can experience stereo separation and more detailed sounds.

  • Price: $199.00
  • Rating: 3.8/5 (51 reviews)

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RIVA Concert

The RIVA Concert was named best speaker of 2018 by Digital Trends.  With the patented Trillium audio technology, this device can produce sound without distortion at any volume.  Like the Sonos One mentioned above, the RIVA Concert also has a compact design.  However, whereas the Sonos One advertises itself as humid resistant, the RIVA Concert features splash resistance.  This gives you the freedom to bring this device to the pool, beach, kitchen, and any other places where water might be a factor.  Other features include an optional lithium-ion battery, the ability to mute the built-in microphones for total privacy, and Amazon Alexa built-in.

 

  • Price: $199
  • Rating: 3.9/5 (121 reviews)

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Amazon Echo (2nd Gen)

Since the Echo is an Amazon device, it should not come as a surprise that Alexa is already built-in.  With Alexa, you can instantly play music, ask questions, make calls, send and receive messages, and much more!  Some of the music you can play from includes Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and SiriusXM.  Other features include the ability to voice control your home such as lights, locks, switches, thermostats, and even turning on your coffee maker.  The Amazon Echo may be much cheaper than either the Sonos One or the RIVA concert but the sound quality is surprisingly well for the price.  You will experience crisp vocals and dynamic bass response with Dolby processing which should be more than adequate for most people.  If you are looking for a device to get your feet wet with the smart speaker lifestyle, you can’t go wrong with this device.

  • Price: $64.99
  • Rating: 4.5/5 (43,984 reviews)

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Marshall Stanmore II Voice

Marshall is a company that is more well known for its high-powered guitar amps so it might be surprising to some that they are listed on here.  However, Marshall has recently started making the jump to speakers over the last few years.  With their pedigree, sound performance is a very high expectation and the Marshall Stanmore II more than delivers.  This device allows you to control the bass and treble to find your ideal sound and the sound is powerful with a rich bass depth and crisp highs.  Other features of the Stanmore II Voice are your ability to choose support for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands, voice mute button, and the ability to use either Alexa or Google Assistant to support multi-room audio to wirelessly play different songs in each room.  With that said, probably my most favorite thing about this smart speaker is the design.  Compared to most speakers that mostly closely resemble each other, the Stanmore II Voice is very stylish, handsome, and very unique.  With a price tag of $399.99, this smart speaker isn’t for most people.

 

  • Price: $399.99
  • Rating: 4/5 (54 reviews)

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Google Home Mini

The Google Home Mini is not only the most affordable device on this list but it is also the smallest with a measurement of 3.86 inches in diameter and 1.65 inches high.  Because of its size, this device has no ports, no 3.55 mm output jack, or even a standard Bluetooth connection.  However, you can still play music with voice commands of through any music app on your phone which uses the Google Cast functionality. With that said, most people probably wouldn’t want to use this as a standalone speaker since the drivers are only measures at 40mm which produces tinny and harsh sounds.  Despite missing these features, the Home Mini allows you to tap the sides of the speakers to change volume and the bottom has a microphone off switch. With Google Assistant already built in, this device will give you most of the perks of owning a smart speaker.  But if you value sound quality for listening to music, then this device probably isn’t for you.

  • Price: $29.00
  • 4.6/5 (28,480 reviews)

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Polk Command Bar

 

The Polk Command Bar is the only device on this list that is a soundbar rather than the typical smart speaker you are accustomed to seeing.  The best way to describe it is a simple black soundbar with Amazon Echo Dot built into it with an accompanying wireless subwoofer.  Weighing at just under 5 pounds, the Command bar measures at 2 by 43 by 4 inches.  Like an Echo Dot, the top of the panel has a circular control disc that holds four buttons—volume up/down, microphone mute, and Alexa.  The back of the soundbar has ports for optical audio input, two HDMI inputs, an HDMI output that works with any TV’s ARC HDMI port, a USB port, and a connector for the power adapter.  The soundbar has a stereo configuration which features two sets of 1.25-by-3.25-inch oval midrange/woofers and 1-inch tweeters.  The subwoofer, on the other hand, uses a 6.5 inch downward-firing driver and has an output of 100 watts.  Because of this subwoofer, the Command Center produces a powerful bass when listening to music or watching a movie.  At a reasonable price of $249, the Polk Command Bar is a great value if you have been looking for a soundbar with a wireless subwoofer that also has smart speaker capabilities.

  • Price: $249
  • 3.5/5 (394 reviews)

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