The latest buzz in the world of technology is digital assistants: Alexa, Siri, the Google Assistant... all the major tech companies now offer a voice-controlled digital assistant in some form. Now, though, it's not just for your smartphone or tablet, where these automatons used to live. If you're looking for a way to turn your home into a smart home, your first step is a control system. Now, you have a wide range of options for smart home speakers with digital assistants, allowing you to manage your home and devices, listen to and request music, and even search questions and queries simply by utilizing voice commands. With the range of options and features offered now, there's sure to be something that fits your interests, needs, and budget perfectly.
Alexa is quickly becoming the "Kleenex" of digital voice-recognition assistants, and the most popular Alexa-based home speaker is probably the Amazon Echo. You've probably heard at least some of the buzz around this state-of-the-art technology, but what is it that makes the Echo so popular? Well, it's simply the highest quality digital assistant, compatible with some pretty cool Alexa commands you need to know. Controlled entirely with strikingly reliable voice recognition and voice control, you can play music, make phone calls, google things, check the weather... basically, if your smartphone can do it, the Echo can do it, but entirely through voice assistance. It's bluetooth compatible, Wi-Fi compatible, and able to be connected with other devices for multi-room use. If you're just looking for in-home, all-purpose smart speakers, this is certainly one of your best bets.
Amazon Echo Dot
The biggest drawback to the Amazon Echo is simply that it's not very portable; so if you'd like the ability to carry your smart home speakers with you, whether from room to room or across the country, the Echo Dot might be the speaker for you. The trade-offs are pretty simple: both the Echo and the Echo Dot can perform all of the same functions through Alexa, but the Dot is smaller, making it more portable. This also means that its speaker is much smaller. While the Echo is, in and of itself, a pretty high quality speaker, the Dot is not quite as well equipped for blasting music at the highest quality. However, it's easy to connect to bluetooth speakers or 3.5mm connections surely make up for the inconvenience of not being able to blare your music.
Amazon Echo Show
The Amazon Echo Show is something like an Alexa-based tablet with a fantastic speaker. It has all the same features as the Amazon Echo, revolving primarily around voice-recognition with Alexa, but additionally has a visual screen, so you can take further advantage of the technologies of smart displays. This includes communication options like video chatting, content like videos, Amazon Video options, song lyrics, and even news and recipes. It's not just a voice-activated screen, either: The Echo Show comes equipped with adjustable, high quality speakers, so you get all of the benefits of the Echo, plus those visual options.
Now, we get to the ultra-portable Amazon offering: Amazon Tap. The tap is designed primarily with music-listeners in mind; so if you're leaning towards an Alexa-enabled device, but mostly just want something to play your jams through, this might be the best smart home speaker for you. It's easily portable, with a strikingly high sound quality and extremely long battery life, so you can take your music anywhere. You can easily connect to your favorite streaming services, including iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and more. All you need is a Wi-Fi connection or a hotspot. It gets its name from its easy-to-use design: Just tap it, and ask it to play the music you want.
Not everyone is a committed fan of Amazon and Alexa. Though the buzz about it is generally lower, the Google HomePod is a fantastic alternative smart home speaker, with the familiar voice of Siri taking on the role of digital assistant. The HomePod's major claim to fame is its ability to sense its location, outdoors or within a room, and automatically adjust its sound settings to best suit the environment. In addition to music-listening capabilities, of course, the HomePod is designed to coordinate all of your home devices so you can control your lights, temperature, and more with just your voice, making it the perfect smart home hub.
Google Home Max
The Google Home Max is much like the HomePod, but more. It has all the features you may want to listen to your music and control your smart home, and is also designed to maximize sound quality, so it's all you need to hear your music at the best quality, anywhere in the house. It's bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled, but also compatible with a stereo cable, so you can customize and further maximize your listening experience. This is perfect for those with a heftier budget, who want to invest in great sound quality without sacrificing any of the digital assistance or smart home features.
The original Google Home is perfect for people who want or need something in between the Home Max and the HomePod. It's a high quality speaker, but fits easily in any room, and allows you to manage your home and daily tasks, listen to music, and get answers to any of your questions by voice recognition. The speaker offers a bit more than the HomePod, but a bit less than the Home Max, making this the perfect option for casual music listeners who want the full range of offerings: a smart home hub, digital assistance, and, of course, audio streaming and playback.
Sonos Beam Soundbar
For the minimalists out there, the Sonos Beam Soundbar is the perfect, sleek home speaker for you. Of course, by minimalists, I mean design—not function. Enabled with Alexa as an easy-to-use digital assistant, the Sonos Soundbar is an ideal speaker that takes up very little space, and looks fantastic in any room. It's equipped with five Class D digital amplifiers and four full-range elliptical woofers, so if it's good sound you're going for, you've got it here. This is the ideal smart home speaker for audiophiles everywhere, ignoring the bells and whistles of a complex system for easy use and set-up, but incorporating only the best in sound production. It's one of the best sound bars to buy!
Google Home Mini
This is the ideal option for Google Assistant fans who want more portability and versatility out of their smart speakers. Again, it has all the basic functions of a smart speaker; including home management, digital assistance, and music playback, but in a tiny, portable package that's easy on the budget ($39 from Best Buy). It's small enough to carry around with you everywhere, room to room or when you're traveling, so you can have Google handy wherever you go, as well as all the other features of a Google smart speaker.
Insignia Voice Smart Speaker
Another budget-friendly option is the Insignia Voice Smart Speaker. It has the Google Assistant built in, with all the handy features that come along with it. You can listen to music by connecting via bluetooth or Wi-Fi to any compatible device, and ask the Google Assistant any questions you might want to google. The most important element of the Insignia Voice smart speaker, before all the neat smart speaker functions, is a small, sleekly-designed alarm clock, perfect for students and professionals alike, so you don't need to have multiple devices for your clock and speaker.