Best Smart Speakers in the UK

Review & Comparison, Last Update June 29, 2020
Voice assistants have greatly helped in making much of the technology that we now have in our homes easier to use. If you are wanting to get the best out of using a voice assistant, then you should pick up a set of assistant speakers. Read on for our picks of the top 5 models and find the best assistant speakers for integrating all of your home devices. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2020
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Voice Assistant
Mono / Stereo
Audio Power
Interfaces
Extras
Power Type
Warranty
 
PROS

Three Class D amplifiers, which power two speakers and a subwoofer, provide powerful sound, no worse than large speakers. In this case, the rotary knobs will allow you to fine-tune the speaker according to your requirements.

CONS

The user manual is not very clear.

OUR VERDICT

The Marshall Acton II is a smart speaker with a voice assistant, made in a cult design in the style of retro guitar amps. Bluetooth 5.0 provides superior wireless connectivity so you can listen to music wirelessly. The model supports multi-host functionality so that you can easily switch between two Bluetooth devices in turn, listening to what you want.

detailed parameters
Voice Assistant

Amazon Alexa

Mono / Stereo

Stereo

Audio Power

One 30 Watt Class D amplifier for the woofer

Two 15 Watt Class D amplifiers for the tweeters

Interfaces

Bluetooth 5.0, 3.5 mm aux-in port

Extras

Adjustable bass and treble control, multi-host functionality, Marshall Bluetooth app compatible

Power Type

Mains

Warranty

1 year limited

PROS

The design provides 6 microphones that perfectly capture your voice, even if loud music is being played in the room.

CONS

The programmable buttons are vague and have a response delay

OUR VERDICT

This Bose speaker gives you realistic sound with awesome 360° bass from a fairly compact body. And, thanks to built-in voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, all your favourite music tracks can be quickly accessed.

detailed parameters
Voice Assistant

Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

Mono / Stereo

Mono

Audio Power

2 Watts

Interfaces

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Extras

Apple AirPlay 2, Bose Music app compatibility

Power Type

Mains

Warranty

2 years limited

PROS

The speaker column is equipped with five speakers, which are located on the left, right and central part of the case, and supports Dolby Atmos technology, which makes the sound comprehensive, deep, clear and rich.

CONS

Needs software improvements.

OUR VERDICT

The Echo Studio smart speaker is an innovative gadget that combines the functions of a virtual assistant, speaker system and assistant for managing your smart home. Thanks to Automatic room adaptation, the model can automatically analyse room acoustics and adjust sound filters to optimise sound output.

detailed parameters
Voice Assistant

Amazon Alexa

Mono / Stereo

Stereo

Audio Power

300 Watts

Interfaces

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Combination 3.5 mm/mini-optical line in

Extras

Dolby Atmos technology, Automatic room adaptation, Built-in smart home hub, compatible with smart home devices, multiple layers of privacy protection

Power Type

Mains

Warranty

1 year limited

PROS

The model supports 66 music services, including the most popular streaming services, such as Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Deezer, Internet radio, various podcasts, and audio books. In a word, everything you love to listen to.

CONS

No Bluetooth.

OUR VERDICT

The Sonos One (Gen 2) is a smart speaker with Amazon Alexa's built-in voice assistant and powerful, dynamic sound. If you have several Sonos speakers, you can combine them and play in different rooms or outdoors to get a stereo effect.

detailed parameters
Voice Assistant

Amazon Alexa

Mono / Stereo

Stereo

Audio Power

N / A

Interfaces

Wi-Fi, 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port

Extras

Sonos app, Apple AirPlay 2 compatibility

Power Type

Mains

Warranty

1 year

PROS

This model has several levels of protection for your privacy. Don't want the speaker to hear you? Just click on the microphone mute button (voice pickup system) on the top panel, and the remaining functions of the speaker will work in full.

CONS

Not easy to set up.

OUR VERDICT

The Amazon Echo is a compact smart speaker with high build quality. The speaker can be connected to an external speaker system via a 3.5 mm jack, as well as to a smartphone or player via Bluetooth and used to listen to music as you like.

detailed parameters
Voice Assistant

Amazon Alexa

Mono / Stereo

Mono

Audio Power

15 Watts

Interfaces

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5 mm aux-in port

Extras

Compatible with smart home devices, multiple layers of privacy protection

Power Type

Mains

Warranty

1 year limited

Marshall Acton II

The Cool Kid

The Marshall Acton II is that cool kid that hangs more with loudspeakers than with smart speakers. The reason probably has to do with the fact that this is as much the former as it is the latter, especially considering the company behind it. Still, this device has not just the brawn but also the brain to match the smart crowd and even outclass that crowd at times.

Now, before that, this unit might be commanding a small footprint, but its output is large. Between the two 15-watt Class D amps behind the tweeters and one 30-watt Class D amp powering the sub, this device produces punchy, mighty audio, keeping the sound balanced yet detailed.

Atop the unit, easily accessible, you will find volume, bass, and treble dials. Using these dials, you can fine-tune and customise the sound, matching different needs and preferences. Setting these analogue controls aside though, the product also lets you use the Marshall Voice app, with its easily digestible UI, straightforward controls, accessible tools, and intuitive resources.

Not unlike most smart speakers, the Acton II comes fitted with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modules. Even more than that though, the device offers multi-host access, so you can connect and switch between two Bluetooth devices, all while having the unit connected to the Wi-Fi network. Invite friends and take turns playing what you want, all without sharing not one device but this speaker.
Review of Marshall Acton II Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa

Claiming Its Rightful Place

This is Marshall we're talking about, the odd man out where the assistant speakers' crowd is concerned, except, as we have established above, this one is not moving out. Still, with its iconic Marshall design, the unit is separated from its contemporaries, delivering the hard-hitting sound that's synonymous with the company but also sporting the signature retro look that so many have tried and failed to replicate.

Removing everything that the Marshall brand entails from the equation, this product lands among smart speakers owing to the integrated Alexa module. As always, using this module, you'll be able to control all smart devices at home and let Alexa do the heavy lifting on the road, playing and controlling music hands-free.

The instructions are not easily digestible, something that people have been complaining about before (with different Marshall products). But, even considering this little mishap, the Marshall Acton II easily claims its rightful place among the best assistant speakers for audiophiles.

Marshall Acton II Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


 

Bose HS300

Playing Music And Following Commands

The Bose HS300 plays music and follows commands with matching efficiency. At first glance, this futuristic-looking device does not necessarily appear like something that will let you enjoy awesome-sounding music yet this is precisely what this device is offering. With its 360-degree setup, the speaker produces room-rocking bass, but we are not quite going there yet.

No, first come the looks. Stretching 6.3 x 5.6 x 4.0 inches (HWD) and measuring 2.1 pounds weight-wise, this compact device can easily make a portable claim, except that it comes without an internal battery, meaning that the device remains portable as long as it is moving towards a location with an AC socket.

On the front, the speaker introduces a thin little LED strip, displaying its status. Above that, the device hosts touch-sensitive controls, including volume, play, pause, the usual suspects.

Apart from the usual suspects, flanking these buttons are the Action button, summoning the voice assistant (the product works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant), the mic/mute button, the AUX button that lets you switch to the wired, 3.5-mm input, and the Bluetooth button, controlling the BT module. With the last one, you can switch to Bluetooth streaming.

Wrapping the lineup are the 6 numbered preset buttons that you can assign to respond to different radio feeds from the Bose Music app. Opening the app, you're greeted by multiple shortcuts leading you to various feeds, podcasts, radio streams, Internet radio stations, and more.
Review of Bose HS300 Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa

Google Assistant Compatible

Performance-wise (talking about playback), this device uses a mono speaker with a down-firing driver dispersing the audio through a reflector. According to the folk at Bose, this product's DSP (digital signal processing) unit utilises proprietary logic, making sure that hard-panned left and right data is not disappearing from the mix. Despite the room-rocking bass remark that we have made earlier, tracks with considerable sub-bass content will have some small-time distortion at top volumes, subtle but noticeable. Nevertheless, the DSP unit will make sure the bass is not distorting, even when the volume has been dialed to the max. Depth-wise, the unit does not disappoint too, even though occasional rattle and vibrations will prove unavoidable.

All things considered, the Bose HS300 has an awesome overall sound signature, making the drums sound full and round, the bass deep and intense, and the highs practically distortion-free. Its mic is also quite good at recognizing voice commands.
Bose HS300 Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Amazon Echo Studio

From The Original Smart Assistant

Amazon was one of the first to create a smart assistant for the home with their Alexa service, and this service from the very beginning has included its own Echo line of speakers. Since that first introduction, Amazon has been able to improve their Alexa service to become one of the most trusted and best known smart assistants in the world. However, we aren't reviewing the Alexa service; we are reviewing the Amazon Echo Studio Voice Assistant Smart Speaker as the device that people directly interface with, and needless to say, those who like using the Alexa service will find this voice activated smart assistant speaker to be more than capable of giving you what you want from it.

To start with, this speaker sounds quite nice wherever you put it, with crystal clear audio that won't leave any mistakes as to what is being played from it. This is helped a great deal by its Automatic room adaptation technology, which can analyse the acoustics in whichever room it is placed in and automatically adjust its sound filters to give you the best quality audio reproduction and playback. This means you won't have to worry about the room acoustics having a negative effect on the speaker, something which many people have struggled with when it comes to various smart assistant speakers.

Review of Amazon Echo Studio Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa

Excellent Sound Reproduction

Unlike some other smart assistant speakers, which were made mainly for providing voice playback, Amazon has paid special attention to the design of this unit in order to ensure that all kinds of audio sound great coming from it. The speaker column features five different speakers that are situated on the left, right, and centre of the column, ensuring that the audio sounds crisp and clear from any direction. On top of that, the speaker also supports the Dolby Atmos technology, which gives you extremely rich sound ranging from clear highs to rumblings lows, with astonishing sound quality all around.

Regarding the speakers interfaces, there is virtually nothing left out here, as the speaker supports both Bluetooth and WiFi for wireless connectivity with your other devices in your home, and even includes a standard 3.5mm audio jack if you need to connect a device without wireless capabilities. If there are any faults to be found, it would be that the software driving the speaker's capabilities could use some improvement, but this is something that can be easily fixed by Amazon. Overall, this smart assistant speaker gives you some of the best sounding audio that you will find from such a setup.

Amazon Echo Studio Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa in the use

 

Sonos One (Gen 2)

Customise Your Sound

Amazon's Alexa voice assistant service is certainly one of the most popular services available, so it should come as no surprise that there are quite a few different assistant speaker setups available for it. Although Amazon does provide their own Echo speakers, sometimes people would like some additional capabilities that Amazon's own speakers don't provide. The Sonos One (Gen 2) Voice Assistant Smart Speaker is one of those speakers made for working with Alexa that helps give users a great choice.

First of all, anyone who opts for this speaker won't be missing out on sound quality. The Sonos One includes a powerful driver that gives you excellent sound quality with a high dynamic range, making it a great choice for all kinds of audio playback. Of course, some people may not find just one speaker to fit their needs, which is where this model really shows its strength. You can purchase additional Sonos One speakers and have them linked together to provide extremely powerful audio from whichever room or rooms they are located in, ensuring that you won't miss out on this excellent speaker's capabilities from any part of your home. Even if you just opt for one speaker, though, you certainly won't be disappointed with its sound quality and capabilities.

Review of Sonos One (Gen 2) Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa

Supports Dozens of Streaming Services

Speaking of this speaker's capabilities, they certainly aren't just limited to the basics of a voice assistant. In addition to the standard Amazon Alexa-compatible services that are provided, this smart speaker includes support for 66 different music services, including the most popular streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube Music, Deezer, Internet radio, various podcasts, and audio books. In essence, there is very little in the way of audio streaming or playback services that you won't find directly compatible with this smart speaker.

As for the speaker's various connectivity options, the speaker includes built-in WiFi support as well as an Ethernet port should you prefer a wired connection with your home network. Unfortunately, the device doesn't include built-in Bluetooth support, but those with very fast home networks probably won't find this to be an issue. With the vast array of different music services that it supports, as well as its compatibility with Apple AirPlay 2, we are sure that this smart assistant speaker will provide anyone with the best in home voice assistant capabilities, as well as with exceptional audio quality to go along with it.

Sonos One (Gen 2) Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa in the use

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


 

Amazon Echo (3rd generation)

Stable, Full, Resonance-Rich Sound

The 3rd generation Amazon Echo basically mirrors Echo Plus except that the ZigBee hub has been removed and the device has been made more affordable. Nevertheless, despite the affordable price, this speaker offers respectable sound. In fact, the model's acoustically identical to its more expensive relative, packing the same 3-inch sub, 0.8-inch tweeter, all without forgetting the Dolby Audio unit.

Considering its size, the unit can produce considerable bass, not quite shaking the walls, no, but the unit might rattle loose objects sitting on the same table. Most bass-heavy tracks will sound deep and thumpy, even though not quite reaching into sub frequencies. The drums might start flirting with distortion when the volume is cranked all the way up but, generally speaking, the sound will remain stable and full.

From the balance angle, the device does a laudable job separating lows from mids and highs. The acoustic plucks will usually sound resonance-rich, with some strong high-frequency string texture, while the bass will be coming at you punchy and forceful.

Nevertheless, this Amazon Echo iteration makes sure that the vocals have enough presence, staying in the centre and occasionally inviting the bass and drums to take centre stage but without compromising the vocals.

Review of Amazon Echo (3rd generation) Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa

Multiple Privacy Protection Layers

In the appearance department, the 3rd generation Amazon Eco has not received noteworthy changes. Measuring 5.8 x 3.9 inches, the cylinder preserves the line's almost iconic look. On the top panel, you're offered the usual 4 buttons, including mic mute, Alexa, and volume controls. The translucent light ring surrounding them will be glowing blue when the device's listening and talking, orange when you're playing with its settings, and red when the mic is muted.

Because this is Amazon Echo and not some third-party product with an embedded Alexa module, there's not much that the unit cannot do with compatible smart devices, including countless smart locks, thermostats, outlets, lights, most home automation solutions. You can even establish complex routines, with one voice command controlling multiple devices.

Alexa's syntax and language requirements remain awkward and stiff at times compared to its more laid-back Google Assistant contemporary. But, after receiving some flak years ago, Alexa security protocols have remained excellent, with multiple privacy protection layers and the glowing light telling you when the mic is listening and when it's not.

Bottom line, the Amazon Echo is an awesome alternative to Echo Plus, reducing the price and removing unnecessary bells and whistles yet keeping the solid sound.

Amazon Echo (3rd generation) Voice Assistant Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa in the use

 

What Are Assistant Speakers?

Life can be a little hard nowadays. So much to do, so much to see (no, we're not quoting Smash Mouth, you are). So, what's wrong with taking the backstreets (alright, you got us)? The last thing you want to do when you get home is managing different devices, tweaking the settings, fiddling with various controls, etc.

Instead, home assistant speakers let you come home, get on the couch, say: "Alexa/Google Assistant, adjust the thermostat 3 degrees, play my Spotify playlist, and lock the doors". Equipped with virtual assistant modules, these speakers can do much more than that, provided you have compatible smart solutions at home. But they're also speakers, meaning that they can play music. They're usually pretty good at that, even though you would expect otherwise.

Some models are even portable, so you can have them controlling smart devices at home and blasting music at the beach, not unlike Bluetooth speakers. The difference here is that, in addition to manual controls on the body and app settings, these models can recognize and execute voice commands, enabling hands-free interactions. Most people have privacy concerns but you can always turn off the microphone, so these speakers are not as invasive as people think. Regardless, the voice control that these speakers afford is more than a little appealing to many people.

What Features to Compare

Voice Assistant Module

Assistant speakers get the "assistant" part from the virtual assistant module, usually Amazon Alexa, sometimes Google Assistant (we're not discussing those fringe AIs that nobody uses here). These modules have their strengths and weaknesses. Generally speaking, Google Assistant's syntax and language requirement sound less forced, stiff, and awkward than Amazon Alexa's. At the same time, Alexa is compatible with more home automation solutions than Google Assistant, so most people will usually benefit more from the Amazon tech.

Sound

Assistant speakers are still speakers, meaning that the product's sound still largely determines its worth. First, you have monophonic and stereophonic speakers (more known as mono and stereo), the difference between which is something that most people probably already understand without us. Then, you have the output.

Normally, these speakers are ranging anywhere between 2 and 40+ watts but these numbers can be deceiving. On paper, more always means better but, in reality, different devices are not always as good (or bad) at utilising that output, so you can have speakers not going above 10 watts yet sounding louder, clearer, and overall more impressive than models with an output above 30.

Of course, that's because audio is more complicated than that and, aside from speakers and the output, there are multiple elements contributing to the speaker's sound, including the driver(s), subwoofer(s), tweeter(s), sound processing engine, and more. The more expensive models will even let you adjust the bass output, treble, you name the setting. There are also details like the radiators determining how much noise and distortion will be present in the music coming from these speakers.

Interfaces

Most smart speakers come equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modules, with the first connecting them to the network and controlling smart devices at home and the second enabling pairing the speakers with smartphones so that you can blast music. Besides these two, at times, these speakers will include an AUX port, offering a wired connection between the device and different electroacoustic transducers.

Power Source, Compatibility, and More

There are wired and wireless assistant speakers, so you'll be choosing between models that come adopting an integrated rechargeable battery and those that connect to the mains. They're all compatible with some app, usually a proprietary one from the same company. There are many little details that separate different models, from controls to construction.

Smart Speakers: Pros and Cons

Pros:

1. Keeping the home safe. Assistant speakers can be connected to smart home security devices, so you can keep the premises safe without adding extra security solutions. Connecting, say, security cameras with virtual assistants, you can use voice commands and tell the assistant to arm the home security system, even when you're not there.

2. Reducing energy bills. Smart speakers are able to manage and manipulate various smart home devices, not excluding the next-gen lighting solutions. Hooking up the smart thermostat to the virtual assistant and telling the assistant to turn off heating when you leave the house should reduce energy bills by ~16%.

3. Saving money on flights. Monitoring different deals and sales across countless platforms takes time and effort. Asking the assistant how much the flight to an X airport/city costs right now takes no time and no effort. Using search engines (not like SkyScanner), these devices can easily find bargain tickets without you spending hours looking for these tickets manually.

4. Paying Uber less. When you set up a default pick-up location, smart speakers let you hail a cab from home. When you ask the device to do that, they will usually tell you how close the closest available vehicle is, letting you change the pick-up location when necessary. Also, before you book the ride, the assistant will tell about surge pricing, so you can choose the best possible price.

Cons:

1. The savings do not come from the get-go. Even though these devices always provide time and cash savings down the road, the initial cost will be outweighing these savings at least the first few months, maybe even years. That being said, with virtual assistants becoming less and less expensive nowadays, this issue is becoming almost nonexistent.

2. Security can be an issue. Sure, the companies behind these assistants are swearing that they don't do anything questionable with your data, like selling it to advertisers. Nevertheless, they do store your personal data in the cloud, which can make the information vulnerable to hacks. Besides that, make sure that the Wi-Fi network at home is secure, keeping the password strong and the updates frequently installed.

3. Voice recognition is still iffy at times. Again, the tech has seen tremendous improvements and what was a questionable gimmick only ~10 years ago is now a reliable method of issuing commands. Having said that, even the more expensive smart speakers from brands like Amazon, Google, and Samsung will not process commands at times, so you will have to repeat them 'till the device recognizes the command. Do not fret though since AI-based assistants are learning and adapting to your voice as you go along, so this issue will become less frequent with time.

4. An always working microphone. Assistant speakers do not start recording and sending the voice command to the system 'till you say the Wake word, but a microphone listening to you the entire time is not something that excites most people anyway. This is not an issue though because you can always turn the mic off and can review and delete each and every voice command you have issued beforehand.

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Publish Date: 2020-06-29 11:41:14