We regularly test the latest smart speakers. In this list, you will find all tested speakers with Alexa, Google Assistant & Co. Click on the model name to get to the product data sheets with all important information.
Our 1st place: Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Balance (with Google Assistant).
The Beosound Balance from Bang & Olufsen looks good. Above all, it impresses with its unique sound control technology and excellent quality. Thus, music sounds much more natural and pleasant than with the much cheaper competitors with a similar build. In addition, there is a good automatic calibration, and the sound can also be adjusted to the user’s taste very intuitively in the app. There are also built-in microphones for Google Assistant. However, we would rather use this speaker for listening to music than for chatting.
Our 2nd place: Teufel Holist S
The new Teufel speaker is easy to operate via app, touch control on the device or by voice. Alexa obeys to the word and ensures that all important music services are ready. The Holist M sounds good, but a bit muffled. Thanks to deep and clean bass, it outperforms the Echo Studio in the listening test, and it is on par with the HomePod. Teufel’s bass sounds more precise, but the mids and trebles are less balanced than Apple’s speaker.
Our 3rd place: Amazon Echo (4th Gen)
The new Amazon speaker clearly stands out visually from the old models – it looks more modern, chicer and still compact. The Echo 2020 also narrowly outshines its predecessor in terms of sound: Music sounds with a lot of bass and a bit more volume through the room. A sound miracle is not to be expected, but the Alexa ball sounds decent for the price of just under 100 Euros. Useful: The integrated smart home hub, which saves the Hue Bridge for Philips Hue lamps, for example.
Ok Google, Alexa and Siri: Smart speakers in the test
Alexa, Siri or the Google Assistant: Three big voice assistants have been competing for the customers’ favor on the market for quite some time. They started with smartphone assistants, but Google, Apple, Amazon and other manufacturers now also offer smart speakers. With the small speakers, you can check appointments and recipes at home, play music or dim the lights throughout the house – all conveniently by voice control. The best smart speakers start at around 100 euros. The more the speakers can do, the more expensive they usually are.
Smart speakers from Google and Co. in comparison
The smart speakers with voice assistant are clearly more than a useful object – smart speakers embody a lifestyle and ideally find multi-room use, i.e. each room in the entire house is equipped with one box each.
It is all the more surprising, then, that the topic of design has been little exploited so far.
Most smart speakers come in plain black, white or silver, as a roll or square box, as small as an ashtray or the size of a radio.
Only the Ultimate Ears brand offers more colorful models, and Sony’s BSP60, for example, shows up in a funny sphere shape with different colored LEDs. Apart from the design, the best smart speakers in the test can also score with the following things:
- Sound: As with conventional speakers, the sound is the focus of tests. Due to the compact design, most smart speakers cannot keep up with full-grown speakers, especially in terms of bass. However, there are a few smart speakers with an integrated subwoofer, and models from Sonos, for example, sound reasonable when two speakers are used in stereo. Tip: If you can try out or “test listen” to the smart speakers in advance, you will quickly notice which speakers (according to subjective perception) sound better than others.
- Microphones: Smart speakers should not only play music, but also listen to it. Here, there are sometimes big differences in the sensitivity of the microphones in the models from Google, JBL, Teufel and other brands. While some smart speakers already perceive a whisper and are still controllable via voice even with loud music, you have to stand very close to other speakers and/or speak very loudly.
- Operation and casing: All smart boxes can be controlled via a voice assistant, but there are differences in the assistant’s activity display. Individual LEDs or light rings are used here. Hardly any models have an on/off switch, and the only additional buttons are usually for (de)activating the voice control. Smart speakers with an extra display are (still) rather a rarity.
- Power supply: A majority of smart speakers are supplied with power via a classic power adapter. The alternative is the power supply via a USB port. Many speakers from Apple, Sonos and others are also equipped with a rechargeable battery, so you can take the smart speaker with you to listen to music in the garden, for example. The best speakers have a battery life of around eight hours.
- Connectivity: Most smart speakers are WLAN models that are also Bluetooth-enabled, but there are also pure Bluetooth speakers. In both cases, you simply connect the smartphone or tablet directly to the speakers and then access various apps. Some models also support NFC to establish a connection.
- Feature set: Besides the “classic” features for smart speakers, many models also come with supplementary features, for example Internet radio, a calendar and alarm clock, a multi-room party mode and smart home control. The latter makes it possible, for example, to switch lamps on and off throughout the house via voice command.
The heart: Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri
Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri are the three major voice assistants on the market. Basically, they differ only slightly in their operation. However, the choice of voice assistant partly already gives some direction in the choice of smart speakers. For example, Google limits the number of microphones to a maximum of two per speaker, which leads to weaker voice control ratings for almost all speakers, regardless of the brand. Google speakers simply do not listen as well as speakers with Alexa, because Amazon hardly sets any specifications for the hardware.
However, Alexa models tend to react hastily to supposed commands from time to time. If you want to be sure, you can turn the smart speaker completely off or at least mute it. Overall, Amazon and Google are relatively open to using their assistants on other devices – Sonos, Sony, Teufel or JBL offer smart speakers with Alexa and Google Assistant. Apple is more selective. As with many other devices, Siri can only be used via manufacturer-owned smart speakers. Once you have decided on an Apple device, you usually stay in this (operating system) world.
By the way, Telekom is planning its own smart speaker, the Magenta Box, which will be available with both Alexa and Google Assistant. During development, special attention was paid to the issue of data security – a point for which smart speakers are repeatedly criticized. In the case of the Magenta Box, for example, user data is to be deleted automatically after 30 days.
Questions before buying: How to find the right smart speaker
Amazon’s Echo series, Google Home or rather a model from a third-party manufacturer, such as the Onkyo G3 or JBL Link 20? The range of smart speakers is getting bigger and bigger, making it harder and harder to decide on a model. Answering a few questions can help you find the best smart speaker.
What kind of smartphone and/or tablet do I have?
Apple device owners should also go for Apple’s HomePod, while Android users have more choice.
What do I mainly want to use the smart speakers for?
If you want to listen to a lot of music, you should go for speakers with a strong sound, for example, a model with an integrated subwoofer. The possibility to use the speakers in the multi-room version can also be important. Those who mainly want to use the voice assistant for their smart home should pay attention to powerful microphones and possible additional control elements.
What other functions do I want to use?
There are mainly differences in the additional functions, for example, an alarm and calendar function.
How important is the design to me?
Depending on where you want to place the smart speakers, the appearance of the boxes plays a more or less important role. Visually fancy models are still relatively rare.
Where do I want to use the speakers?
If you want to take the smart speakers to the garden or the park, make sure that the models support Bluetooth and can be operated via a battery.