There's no getting away from Alexa: Amazon's assistant has its smart little fingers in all manner of devices. But without an Alexa smart speaker, that integration is mostly for naught; you could use Alexa on your phone, we suppose, but you wouldn't really be getting the full experience. The best Alexa speakers connect you to your smart home kit and your voice assistant's capabilities with nothing more than a wake word.
But what kind of Alexa speaker do you need? The best smart speakers come with a big range of focuses. It's a question of your own priorities; if you're looking for a speaker which can get the most out of music, you'll want to buy a certain way, and if you need an Alexa speaker for smart home control first and foremost you might make a different pick. If you don't know, and don't care to know, what a Zigbee hub is or does, we certainly wouldn't advocate spending extra specifically to get its capabilities.
Cheap Alexa speakers have their place, extending Alexa's web into new rooms into your house and, if you go with a first-party speaker, offering room-to-room communication for very little money. Portable Alexa speakers are a thing too, granting you easy access to smart assistant functions wherever you may be.
And if you're still not sold on why you'd need an Alexa speaker in the first place? Privacy shouldn't be a great concern, since Alexa speakers only listen for the wake word when they're not in active use; in theory their two circuits are completely separate. And if you're happy to have one around, you get access to music, to podcasts and radio, to note taking and list making, to direct control of your smart home appliances and triggering of multiple-step routines, to calling between rooms and much more. You can even ask Alexa inane questions – and there are stacks of Alexa easter eggs to discover.
Presuming you're now sold on the benefits, let's work on answering that most critical question: which Alexa speaker is right for you?
- Find the current best Amazon Echo deals
- And the best Amazon Echo Show deals
- Want to go beyond Alexa? Here are the best smart speakers
How to choose an Alexa speaker
When choosing the best Alexa speaker for you, you'll need to consider three key factors: money, room size, and capabilities. We'd wager you won't need too much help selecting a speaker on the basis of its price. If you know your budget, you'll know what to go for. The Echo Dot is a bargain even at its full £50/$50, and it's regularly under £30/$30, and you can climb up from there.
The Dot is also great for smaller rooms, being a smaller speaker, and the version which includes a clock is perfect to put beside your bed. Not that the larger Echo (or a third-party speaker) won't suit tighter spaces - though putting a Studio in a box room might be overkill, depending on how loud you like your tunes.
Then there's the capabilities. Amazon's own-brand kit doesn't tend to veer too far from the plug-in single speaker form factor, although its smart screens are worthy of mention and could be more useful in the long run even if you're only looking for a speaker. It's the third party Alexa speakers that offer more - if you want an Alexa soundbar, a portable Alexa speaker, or a totally waterproof example which is happy to work even in the shower, we've picked some of our favourites below.
We should point out, though, that the Alexa you get will not always be full-fat Alexa. The full experience can only be found in devices from Amazon's own Echo line - on third party devices, you won't be able to use the drop-in, announcements or calling functionality, though everything else should work just fine.
If you want to know more about Alexa, we've got our guide to Alexa vs Google Assistant so you can assess the two biggest smart assistants. We've also got our guide to the best Alexa Skills that you can add to your Alexa device to power it, we've got our guide to Alexa easter eggs and tips to help you have more fun with it, and if things go wrong we've got our Alexa troubleshooting guide.
Best Alexa speakers: the Echo family
If you're going Alexa, selecting an Amazon device may be the best choice for you. There's a long list of Alexa-supporting devices available from Amazon, including curiosities like the Echo Auto, things more meant for Alexa functions than speaker functions (the Echo Flex and Echo Input, to name two), and Amazon's smart screen Echo Show line, which will happily play back audio at a decent quality. Those aren't for this list: here come the best Echo speakers you can buy.
For so long we looked at the Echo Plus as the pinnacle of the Echo line. It sounded great, it looked good, and its Zigbee hub was a big plus. Amazon has sunsetted that older speaker now, and merged it with the main-line Amazon Echo. The Echo (4th generation) arguably looks better, and it definitely costs less - plus that DNA passed down to it means it has a Zigbee hub: this is the perfect central node of an advanced smart home, and pretty darned amazing even if you're never likely to use Zigbee.
Not that you should really be thinking that way: the hub that's built in here (without an appreciable bump in price) is enough to replace, for example, a Hue Bridge, or one of any number of similar hubs
Sound quality, coming from a front-firing three speaker array, is surprisingly strong whether you're playing music or speech. It's not as good as an Echo Studio, sure, and many third-party Amazon speakers beat it too. But for an Amazon's-own speaker - which brings with it the full subset of Alexa's capabilities, which aren't always available on third-party devices - it sounds pretty great.
You'll probably be able to find a cloth covering that'll work with your decor, and as long as you're happy with alien-esque spheres this will fit right in anywhere. It's just a really good smart speaker, made by a company that truly knows what it's doing by now.
The Amazon Echo Dot is not, even in this fourth-generation dressing, the best speaker around. Don't get us wrong, it does a surprisingly good job of filling a kitchen or bedroom with passable sound, and its single speaker has seen upgrades over the years. But it's no audiophile device. Instead, it's an almost throwaway-priced way of getting Alexa (and, with it, in-home communication) in the next room over. It's small, it's easy, it's perfectly capable of hearing what you have to say, and it's just as responsive as the rest of the line.
The Echo Dot comes in a number of different disguises. There's the standard version, with its customisable cloth; there's a kids version, which tacks a little on the price in exchange for animal-print cladding and a specially kiddified version of Alexa as long as you're in a region where it's sold; and there's the version with a clock which, well, tucks a clock behind the cloth, making it perfect for your bedside table.
Whether you're expanding your existing Alexa lineup or just want to dip a toe into the water to see if it's something you'd like, the Echo Dot is a superb choice. Just keep an eye out for a sale, because the trend with previous versions was for them to be half price more often than not.
Amazon clearly got itself very excited when designing the beefy Amazon Studio. It crammed in five individual speakers, pointing them this way and that; it doled out 330W of power to them, and self-calibration capabilities. The result is a bass-heavy smart speaker that audiophiles will, if not love, at least not hate.
The Studio's sound is massive, leaning heavily on its bass end, with upgraded drivers and smarts which make it capable of pumping out hi-res audio. There's 330W of power in there, including an up-firing speaker which gives it support for the (currently very limited) library of Dolby Atmos Music on Amazon's Music HD service as well as Sony's 360 Reality Audio.
The Echo Studio is by far Amazon's most versatile smart speaker, offering up the option of Atmos movie playback when stereo paired to a Fire Stick 4K and, technically, looking like a good option for rear surround too. For all that it can do, the Studio is impressively priced, too.
It's too much if all you want is Alexa, and others can pull off movie sound and audio fidelity better. But you won't find full-blown Alexa on a speaker more bombastic than this one, and it has a Zigbee hub built in too.
If all you want is voice control in a far-flung corner of your home, the Echo Flex could well be a far better choice than a full-fat speaker. It plugs straight into a socket, so there are no cables to trail, no need to find a spot on a surface for the speaker to sit - and, frankly, fairly low expectations.
So yes, you don't get strong audio quality. But you do get access to the full range of Alexa features in a very compact package, and given that it's frequently discounted from even its low RRP, a sale might be a good convincer that this is a better choice than an Echo Dot - unless the Dot itself is reduced, of course..
Here's the thing: the third-gen Echo Dot may be just as viable, perhaps even more so, as its fourth-gen successor is for many people. Why? Well, it's less spherical for a start; Amazon's new designs don't appeal to absolutely everyone, and the classic puck shape of the older Dot does make a lot less of a song and dance of itself. It's also pretty much identical to the fourth-gen in terms of its sound quality, which is surprisingly decent considering how small and cheap it is.
And that's the real key here. We expected stocks of the third-gen Echo Dot to quickly dry up, but instead it seems to be hanging around at an even more affordable price point. It's still capable of everything the newer model can do, which makes it a wholly reasonable choice.
Best Alexa speakers from other makers
Hopefully by now we've established that Amazon's own offerings are great choices. In third-party speakers, Alexa often comes as a bonus – a smart little extra cherry on cake which would be delicious without it. But there are some cases where you might look for Alexa specifically: those rooms where only one speaker makes sense, those times when you want to take Alexa somewhere other than its anchored spot, and so on. And that's where third party speakers shine: they're extra Alexa. And here are the best you can get.
All things taken into consideration, the Sonos One should probably be in the conversation of the best Alexa speakers, and indeed smart speakers since it also supports Google Assistant: it sounds absolutely remarkable for the money, it's packed with functionality, it plays nice with Spotify and Tidal (with hi-res audio now present too) and it's compatible with both Sonos' multi-room protocols and Apple's AirPlay 2. That's quite the package, all crammed in a beautiful enclosure that is (not coincidentally) highly reminiscent of Sonos' Play:1 speaker. Pair one up with the cheaper Sonos One SL, which omits the smart assistant controls, and you've got a very credible stereo combination, too.
We'd recommend you watch closely when, as there are two generations of Sonos One on offer; the Gen 2 boosts the processor and RAM, so it's more responsive - the Gen 1 works fine, and most area likely to be gone from the market by now, but it's worth being wary.
However you might feel about its single solitary HDMI input (see what we thought in our full Sonos Arc review) the Sonos Arc is an otherwise very flexible and feature-rich soundbar, which complements its built-in Alexa functionality with the option of Google Assistant if you lean on the other side of the smart speaker spectrum.
The Sonos Arc sounds predictably fantastic, with 11 individually-amplified speakers firing sound up and around; Atmos support is present and correct, but its poise translates to other sources too. When you're not adding an extra dimension to your movies, the Arc is a musical powerhouse, perfect for making the most of Alexa's audio streaming capabilities. All in all, it's one of the best soundbars on the market.
It's as multi-room friendly as you'd expect a Sonos speaker to be, and it can be expanded by installing (say) a pair of Sonos One SLs to act as wireless rear speakers or Sonos' descriptively-named Sub for a little more bass meat. That's an expensive upgrade path, and the Arc isn't cheap by itself, but you'll get some prime Alexa sound whether you expand it or not.
If you like the idea of an Alexa soundbar, but this is too steep (or large – it's for TVs of 55 inches and up only), Sonos still has you covered. The Sonos Beam is a brilliant smaller soundbar, and it's less than half the price of the Arc. Here's our full Sonos Beam review.
The bucket handle is a not-so-subtle clue that Bose wants you to drag this around wherever you go, and you'll probably want to do as instructed. It's a brilliant speaker, with a warm sound and Bose's typical EQ expertise making the most of its 360-degree design. Even if you're not taking it out and about, plunking the Portable Home Speaker in the middle of the room is easy enough when there are no wires to worry about.
Batteries will, on a good day, last you a solid 12 hours. Like Sonos' competitor, you can set it up to use either Alexa or Google Assistant, depending on your preference, which makes streaming sounds very simple. Obviously you'll need to be in Wi-Fi range for the smart features to work, but it's equally valuable as a Bluetooth speaker too.
If you want to go loud, you can't beat the UE Megablast. Its audio balance is, as you might expect from its name, on the aggressive end, with a party's worth of power packed into its tight cylindrical design. It's about as far from a reference speaker as you can get, but if you like things bouncy and punchy, this is the one.
It's dustproof, dropproof and also IP67 waterproof, meaning it can take full submersion for up to half an hour. The latter will either come in very handy or rarely come into play at all; we suppose you could take the Megablast into the shower with you, if you really need a dose of music to sing along to.
And yes, this portable speaker includes the full range of third-party Alexa support, which is to say not quite the top-to-bottom Alexa experience but enough of it to suit a device like this.