Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past 5 years, you have probably heard of the rise of the smart assistant. Apple, Amazon, Google and more have all created their version.
But now, something new is taking place. These smart assistants are moving on from their place in our phones and laptops and are finding a home – well, in our homes. Largely, these assistants are being integrated into talking speakers.
It Started With Home Radio in the 30’s
Ever since the invention of the home-radio, we have been obsessed with having audio in our homes. We love the convenience of having information read aloud to us or music played in the place we are most comfortable – it’s a luxury.
It’s a natural progression that we would want to integrate new technology available with the audible tech we are already familiar with. Most notably, this trend is recognized in the integration of smart assistants into our home audio systems.
Apple, Amazon and Google have all recently come out with a device, or devices, that employ their smart assistant technology into a home-audio system. The most common form is as a Bluetooth or other portable speaker that happens to double as a smart assistant.
The complicated part now is not understanding the concepts behind a smart speaker, it is identifying which is the best smart speaker for you. The Google Home Mini vs Echo Dot, the Apple HomePod vs Amazon Tap, it can all get very overwhelming.
That’s what this guide is for. We’ll help you determine the best budget speakers, the highest quality speakers, and which smart speaker is right for your needs.
1. Amazon Echo Dot
The Amazon Echo Dot is one of our favorite smart speakers on the market today because it is insanely affordable but still has a wide range of functionality.
The Echo Dot is not meant to serve as a standalone smart speaker, as the sound is produced at a low volume, but is meant to be connected to other, larger Amazon smart speakers. The device can, however, act alone and works great for small rooms or a starter smart speaker. The Echo Dot does have an auxiliary output so it can easily be plugged into most other portable speakers for additional volume.
The Amazon Echo Dot is about $40 so it is by far the easiest way to add Amazon’s Alexa to a room in your home. Alexa is a smart assistant with tons of capabilities. Alexa can manipulate features of your smart home, take notes, play music, dictate personalized weather and news, and do almost anything that an in-person assistant could do for you.
2. Google Home Max
PC Mag’s review of the Google Home Max states, “Finally, there’s a smart speaker where the ‘speaker’ part is as important as the ‘smart.’” And, we agree; that is certainly the case with the Google Home Max.
The Google Home Max is larger than the Amazon Echo Dot and is much louder. The unit has a very sleek design that will look fantastic in your home. The front exterior is cloth that flows seamlessly into the smooth, contoured rear exterior. The Google Home Max doesn’t feel like a smart assistant hub that happens to have a loudspeaker, but more like a high-end Bluetooth speaker that has additional smart assistant integration.
The Google Assistant platform is different than the Amazon Alexa interface. While Amazon Alexa has a plethora of third-party apps available to you, the Google Assistant largely relies on other Google programs such as Google Calendar, Gmail and Google Drive but also has access to some popular third-party apps like Spotify and Pandora. One awesome feature of the Google Home Max is that it recognizes voices and automatically associates audible commands with the appropriate Google account.
The Google Home Max is priced considerably higher than the Amazon Echo Dot but is arguably worth it. Its features are more limited but the design and high quality of audio are exclusive to the Google Home Max. The retail price of the Google Home Max is about $399.
3. Sonos One
The Sonos One is a pioneer on the smart speaker market. It is currently equipped with Amazon’s Alexa assistant but Sonos staff confirmed Google Assistant functionality is coming soon. This would make the Sonos One one of the first “platform-agnostic” talking speakers.
The Sonos One is fantastic as is. One of the most attractive features of the Sonos One, or any Sonos speakers for that matter, is the support for multi-room playback through an app by Sonos. This app also allows you to stream audio from 49 streaming services. The Alexa integration allows the Sonos to use it’s built-in speaker and microphone to request almost anything included lighting changes on your Phillips HUE system, a pizza from your favorite online ordering app, or an alarm for your morning run. The audio quality is also fantastic.
The Sonos One is reasonably priced at $199.
It Doesn’t Cost a Lot to Have A Voice Activated Speaker in Your Home
The functionality that today’s voice activated speakers offers is quite impressive, especially considering it can be brought to your home for well under $500. In many cases, it’s well under $100.
With the wide array of voice activated speakers on the market today there is no doubt you’ll find something that meets your needs precisely. Whether you need high-quality audio streaming, a wide array of apps, or maybe some combination of several features, we hope our guide got you started in the right direction towards finding a voice activated speaker that will fit into your home.