The Best Smart Speakers With Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri
Smart speakers are quickly becoming a must-have piece for your home, as they provide much more than just a regular speaker can. What makes a speaker “smart?” As homes are quickly adopting more “smart technology,” smart speakers are becoming another facet of the home, as they can play tunes, answer your questions through virtual assistants, and help coordinate smart products within your home.
While the market is growing for these technologies, there are only a few notable makers of smart speakers currently on the market. However, with the big names vying for their place in your home, finding the right smart speaker for you is no simple task, as many products are only compatible with one or two companies, and buying the wrong one might mean headaches setting it up or using it down the line. At Rank-it.ca, we have made it our mission to help Canadians find the products they need, and so we have put time into finding the best smart speakers on the market, to help you find the one that fits your home best, including products from top brands such as Amazon, Apple and Google.
Our Top Picks
How to Choose a Smart Speaker
There are many smart speakers on the market, but “smart” may mean different things between companies. If you are looking for a smart speaker, you should consider the following, so you can know what you need to look for:
- Sound: When shopping for any speaker, the sound is going to be a large factor. It is expected that the speaker will be used for audio, whether for music, podcasts or to accompany videos. The sound quality that smart speakers generally provide ranges from passable to impressively immersive, so you may be willing to shell out for the sound quality. However, some of the best sounding speakers may sacrifice other important factors, like smart compatibility or smart features that other speakers include.
- Compatibility: As people are implementing more and more smart technology in their homes, companies are competing more and more for their place in your home. A negative result of this competition is that smart technologies between brands are often not fully integrated or compatible. If you have smart technologies in your home, knowing how they will interact with a new Smart Speaker is important, and may inform your decisions.
- Utility: Consider how you may use a smart speaker or smart setup in your day-to-day life. A smart assistant like Google Assistant or Alexa can provide answers to questions you may have, find recipes for you on the fly, or play music on cue. Virtual assistants can also be used in sync with your other smart tech around the home, allowing you to lock doors, turn off lights and change the thermostat via voice commands. However, if these things do not sound necessary or enticing to you, you might be able to save money by opting for a regular speaker.
Why Trust Us
With Smart speakers that have different compatibilities and functionality, finding the right smart speaker for you could be difficult. In order for us to help you find that smart speaker perfect for your uses, we spent over 20 hours researching smart speakers on the market for Canadians. We based our reviews on certified user reviews, as well as online reviews from trusted websites such as Wired and TechRadar.
Best sound quality in a smart speaker
Sonos One (2nd Gen)
If the sound is the number one quality you are looking for in a smart speaker, Sonos has you covered. Sonos has a reputation for sound, and the Sonos One is easily one of the best sounding smart speakers on the market.
The Sonos One frequently tops the list for sound quality in smart speakers, giving room-filling sound with great lows, mids, and highs in either solo or paired setups. Some users are disappointed with the lack of Bluetooth, however as this is not a standard feature in smart speakers, you should look at the next entry if Bluetooth is a necessity in your speakers.
The Sonos one features built-in Amazon Alexa, with compatibility with Google Assistant and AirPlay 2, synergizing well with all 3 of the major virtual assistants. However, the range of actions that these speakers can perform is limited: they cannot function as an intercom,
Everything needs to be done through the app, which some find easy and straightforward and some find tedious and difficult.
As a smart device, some users are not convinced of how smart these Sonos speakers really are. Multiple users reported difficulties with the speakers dropping connections, only to find setting them back up a hassle. Some users found set up incredibly difficult, yet others found set up easy. While the user experience seems to vary, one thing does not: everyone agrees this might just be the best-sounding smart speaker on the market.
- One of the best sounding smart speakers on the market.
- Compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Airplay 2.
- Set up and operation have been frustrating for some users.
- Connections sometimes drop in pairs.
Best affordable smart speaker
Echo Dot (4th Generation)
Alternate Version: Echo Dot (4th Generation) with Clock
Hey, Alexa! What is Amazon’s most popular smart speaker? The answer is the Echo Dot, which Amazon has updated and upgraded in its 4th Generation. This small orb has surprisingly impressive sound on top of Alexa built-in as your smart assistant. Listen to your tunes, set up timers or reminders, or shop online with this handy virtual helper.
In its 4th Generation, Amazon switched the shape of the Echo Dot to spherical, giving the speaker a wider angle of sound diffusion, improving the sound quality and loudness of this device from the previous model. The dot still has a small footprint with its redesigned shape, so it can fit anywhere in the house you need music.
Unfortunately, the Echo Dot’s has a few issues relating to its operation, and perhaps design philosophy. Amazon’s virtual assistants have a range of apps/skills that users can use, tailoring the experience to fit what you need. However, many useful apps or skills are unavailable in Canada, with no alternatives available. Skills can be programmed by third-party groups or users, but for most people who do not have a programming background, certain aspects of Amazon speakers are unavailable in Canada, and most non-US countries as well.
Users like the Echo Dot for its improved sound quality. However, users have voiced frustration with the AI, finding set up frustrating and the software sometimes buggy. While the Amazon Echo Dot is not without its major flaws, it is also worth noting that the Echo Dot is the cheapest smart speaker on this list, making it an inexpensive option if you are planning on utilizing smart speakers throughout the house or in a stereo set-up. For those in need of an alarm clock or wanting to improve on the Echo Dot’s utility can opt to get the version of the Amazon Echo Dot with a built-in clock display.
- Improved sound quality.
- Amazon Alexa integration.
- Some apps/skills remain unavailable to Canadians.
Best Alexa speaker
For users looking for an Alexa smart speaker with powerful sound, they should check out the Echo Studio.
Inside, there are 5 direction speakers, perfect for filling a room with loud, high-quality sound, with impressive bass. The Echo Studio analyzes the acoustic of the room it is playing in, subtly adjusting its settings to optimize the sound quality. The Echo Studio marks a collaboration between Amazon and Dolby, as this speaker incorporated Dolby Atmos technology, perfect for playing music mastered in 3D or Ultra HD. Or it would be if Amazon offered this service in Canada. Region-locked aspects of Amazon smart speakers are by far the biggest detriment for Canadians looking to go with Amazon for their smart speaker of choice.
Just like the unavailability in Canada of certain apps/skills, the Amazon Echo Studio has many issues that are in line with all Amazon speakers. Alexa is a passable virtual assistant, but its language recognition is problematic, and its search engine is Bing for crying out loud. This means that Alexa might not understand a basic query or provide you sub-optimal results when it does. Many users have found Alexa unresponsive in the Echo Studio to boot.
Users enjoy the Echo Studio for the sound and set-up, but users reported that they found that this speaker does not hold a candle to the sound quality Sonos speakers that are in this speaker’s price range. Some users are ecstatic with the quality of the Echo Studio, in terms of sound and as a virtual helper. We just wish all of the features Amazon has packed into this speaker (and their other speakers too) were available to Canadians.
- Loud sound with strong bass.
- Users find set up and connecting this device easy.
- 3D Music is not available for Canadians.
- Other apps/skills are unavailable to Canadians.
Best Google Assistant speaker
Google Nest Audio
Coming in from the other side of the smart home war is Google with their Google Nest line of smart speakers and smart home hubs. Google Nest Audio is their new standard smart speaker, which features a taller design, better speakers and the ever-helpful Google Assistant.
One of the biggest issues with the Google Home predecessor was the muffled sound quality, as it was designed to be a virtual assistant over a quality sound system. Google sought to remedy these complaints with Nest Audio, trying to get premium sound quality in bigger Google virtual assistants in a smaller footprint. Google more or less hit this mark, with much better sound quality including more defined bass and clear highs. In a paired set up, Nest Audio works brilliantly as a stereo speaker. With media EQ, Nest audio monitors and finely tunes the EQ and volume as you listen.
In terms of virtual assistant, Google Assistant is by far the best virtual assistant currently on the market. It is much less specific and much more comprehensive in terms of understanding your requests and delivering upon them than the other virtual assistants offered. Setting up is intuitive and easy through the Google Home app.
Overall, users were happy with the sound of these speakers. The main downside to this speaker is that you can only cast audio through certain apps, so a user who tried to get his audio from his Chromecast and Google TV was not able to set up audio. While this is limiting, if you do not mind playing music off of only Youtube, Spotify or other compatible streaming services, this will be no issue.
- Improved speaker quality.
- Google Assistant is our favourite assistant for its ease of use.
- Incompatible for TV setups.
Best smart speakers for music
Bose Home Speaker 360
Bose is renowned for quality speakers, offering top of the line sound quality. While it might not be the smartest speaker on the list, Bose’s Home Speaker 360 is a great option for a smart speaker if you are after solid sound quality.
One thing we have gathered reading through hundreds and hundreds of comments on smart speakers is that many do not realize the limitations of these devices. While smart speakers include virtual assistants, many are designed to connect to other smart devices through the internet, not older technologies like Bluetooth. However, Bose’s Speaker 360 not only offers Bluetooth but an auxiliary port as well. No matter how you want to listen to music, the 360 fills rooms with 360-degree sound with strong bass.
The Bose Home Speaker 360 includes both Alexa and Google Assistant virtual assistants out of the box, and features Apple Airplay 2 compatibility, meaning this speaker is compatible with the major smart home companies. However, the Bose Home Speaker is great for users who do not want to commit to a smart home ecosystem as well.
Users find this Bose speaker great-sounding, however, there are a few minor issues users had. When paired with another Bose 360, the speakers will disconnect if they go in sleep mode, and the Bose 360 is incompatible with other Bose speakers.
- Quality 360-degree sound
- Bluetooth and aux enabled.
- Built-in Alexa & Google Assistant, with Airplay 2 compatibility.
- Limited smart features.
Best smart speaker for iPhone
Apple HomePod mini
For those already in the Apple ecosystem, Apple’s HomePod mini is the smart speaker to beat. If you are not an Apple aficionado, skip it. This seems to be the consensus on the Apple HomePod mini, a powerful mini speaker that comes loaded with Siri.
Sound-wise, the Apple Homepod mini surprisingly produces good results, with solid bass and robust sound despite its smaller size. The spherical construction produces 360-degree sound, filling a room independently or in a stereo set up with another HomePod – but just note that the HomePod mini can only create a stereo pair with another HomePod mini. Also, you will only be able to play non-Apple Music audio through your HomePod mini by AirPlay, so consider what types of gadgets you have at home.
The Apple HomePod mini is great if your phone and other smart technology are already from Apple, due to the impressive brand synergy that Apple’s smart home framework Homekit enables. However, frustratingly, HomePod Mini does not work with TV audio, even if you have Apple TV. Yet, this newer tech is not entirely synergistic with apple products, as the Homepod mini does not work with HD Apple TV. While the strict xenophobia of Apple’s products is frustrating, it makes sense from a business perspective. However, if this is going to be your business model, at least make it so all your products will be compatible with each other.
- Smooth synergy between itself and other Apple products.
- Easy to set up.
- Good sound quality.
- Does not work with non-Apple devices.
- Siri is behind other smart assistants.
Best Alexa smart hub
Echo Show (2nd Generation)
To call the Echo Show just a speaker is not doing the device justice: the Echo Show is a smart home hub that in addition to its screen, built-in camera and smart home controls, features premium speakers. An Echo Show is a great addition to a kitchen to help you cook, or as a central hub to control the smart technology within your home.
The 10-inch screen is a much-needed improvement over the much smaller ones previously available. The screen quality is reportedly solid, which is important now that this device is finally Netflix-compatible. Users enjoy the screen of this device for video calling and keeping track of visual updates, but despite what you would expect, you cannot cast your screen from other devices to the Echo Show’s screen. As for the speakers, users are reportedly mixed, with some enjoying the quality, and others finding the sound boomy. We would not recommend the Echo Show if you are mainly looking for a speaker device, but for Smart hub, this is a strong choice.
The browser of the Echo Show is hugely stripped down, which limits the range of things this device can accomplish – and you can only accomplish one at a time. While multitasking might not be necessary for some uses, like for video calling or controlling different aspects of your smart home, but you can forget to put on a timer while watching a recipe video. The virtual assistant, Alexa, is still spotty at times, with Alexa having difficulties picking up or understanding voice commands at times with this hub.
Users find this device very handy for accomplishing basic virtual assistant tasks or video calling others. Many users used the Echo Show to connect with others, especially elderly people, throughout the pandemic, and have been impressed with the results. While Alexa can be improved upon, for Alexa-orientated houses, this is a strong offering as a smart home hub. However, if sound quality is important for you, this device will probably not be the audio solution in your home.
- Bigger, clearer screen.
- Can connect your Alexa-orientated devices in your smart home.
- Built-in camera.
- No screen casting.
- Multitasking on this device would be nice.
Best Google Assistant Hub
Google Nest Hub
If you are looking for a hub for your Google Assistant-based smart home, Google Nest Hub is the answer. While the Nest Hub has a built-in speaker, what makes the Google Nest Hub a great smart home hub is the bevy of other features it includes and the ease of the device’s operation.
Like most hubs, the difference between this and other smart speakers is the presence of a screen, which can help users find recipes, monitor the weather, or look at special pictures when the device is in sleep mode. However, the Google Nest Hub does not have a camera built-in. You can still video call with another screen device – but you will not be able to send video, only receive it. You can cast certain other devices to this screen, which is certainly useful for sharing pictures and videos with others who may be visiting. The built-in speakers of the Nest Hub are decent, but if you are looking primarily for a speaker, you can get better sounding smart speakers for the same price.
Using Google Nest Hub as a smart home hub is solid for the smooth performance of Google Assistant. However, users might be frustrated with the lack of customizable options available with this Google device.
Users are big fans of how easy the Google Nest Hub is to use and setup. If your smart home is aided by a Google Assistant, this is a great smart home hub in the ecosystem. However, the speakers within this hub could be better.
- Google Assistant is easy to operate with this hub.
- You can cast device screens to this hub.
- Easily sets up.
- Not very customizable.
- No camera.
How We Picked the Best Smart Speakers
For this buying guide, we focused on aspects that people looking for smart speakers generally need, including brand synergy, smart home functionality and speaker quality. We generally recommend choosing one or two smart assistants that your smart devices should be able to be compatible with. We tried to include a range of smart systems and prices so everyone should be able to find a speaker perfect for them.
Frequently Asked Smart Speaker Questions
What is a smart speaker?
Smart speakers are speaker systems that have integrated voice assistants and can connect with other smart technology in the house. Some of the things a smart speaker can do include picking up voice commands to change the song, search the web for what the weather will be, or control other smart home devices.
How do smart speakers work?
Smart speakers feature voice recognition technology that can understand commands and then complete them. Most smart speakers have a “wake word,” that will activate the voice recognition technology and receive the message following the wake word and complete that request, if possible. Smart speakers access the internet to find the information you may be looking for or access other smart devices it is connected to.
What are the benefits of a smart speaker?
Smart speakers can streamline your home life and add hands–free control over your devices. Alone, a smart speaker can be able to pick up voice commands to find information on the web, or change the song, but in combination with other smart technologies, the speaker provides voice control throughout the house, dimming smart lights or locking smart locks, for example.
What is Amazon Echo?
Amazon Echo is a line of smart speaker offered by Amazon, that is powered by Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant.
What is Alexa? What can Alexa do?
Alexa is Amazon’s virtual assistant AI, which commonly is found within Amazon products, but often found in or compatible with other products as well. Alexa can answer questions, give you information on the weather, play music, communicate with other smart devices in your home and order products from Amazon, among various other tasks.
What is Google Home?
Google Home is Google’s smart speaker and smart app, that utilizes Google Assistant in its smart speakers. Google has changed the naming convention to Google Nest in their more recent products, yet the Google Home app still functions with these products.
Amazon Echo vs Google Nest: Which one is the best?
We prefer Google Assistant over Alexa, due to Google Assistant’s ability to pick up a wider range of commands, as Alexa requires more precise language. Additionally, Google Assistant’s access to Google as a search engine improves the system’s answers to any questions you may have. However, these smart speakers are very comparable, and we think you cannot go wrong with either, with each doing different things better than the other.
Which Sonos should I buy first?
Currently, Sonos only offer two Smart Speakers: the Sonos One and the Sonos Move. While the Sonos One is a favourite among many due to its sound quality, the Move is battery powered so it is more portable. The Sonos One is our personal choice for being half the price of the Move, but we think you should the one you want, as Sonos are premium products and can be more expensive than other speakers. If you want a top of the line sound quality, either will do.
Alexa vs Google Assistant: What are the main differences?
Beyond the differences in brands that each are operated and created by, the main difference is how these AI helper’s function. Google is easier to communicate with, as Alexa often needs more precise syntax. When asking for information, Google will access the search engine’s comprehensive database where Alexa will tend towards accessing Wikipedia. Both can answer questions, set timers or calendars, and communicate with and control other smart technologies.
Which Alexa speaker has the best sound quality?
For Alexa systems, our recommendations on Sound quality are the Sonos One and the Amazon Echo Studio. These two speakers boast excellent sound quality and can run Alexa.
Can Google speakers play Apple Music?
Since December 2020, Google Nest and other Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers are compatible with Apple Music, using only their voice to put on music.
Where to buy a smart speaker in Canada?
Any tech store or online retailer will more than likely carry smart speakers. However, due to Amazon being a major player in the Smart Home / Virtual Assistant race, Amazon Canada does not seem to carry either Google or Apple smart speaker products.
What’s the average price for a smart speaker?
On average, a smart speaker can cost between $70 and $250, depending on which make and model you are looking at.
What are the cons of smart speakers?
Smart speakers and virtual assistants are a relatively newer technology, and despite the tech almost being 10, some issues have not been perfected. One such issue is that the voice recognition is not perfect, and syntax or slang can throw the system for a loop.
A big con that might turn off users is security concerns. Throwing a microphone into your house may seem innocent, but if you are not careful, this can be detrimental to your cybersecurity.
Should I be concerned about privacy?
As with lots of tech devices today, there are cybersecurity concerns when it comes to Smart Speakers. The use of smart speakers could put users at the risk of voice hacking, where a hacker records or mimics a user’s voice and hijack their accounts. Some automatic speaker verification systems cannot detect recorded speech vs. natural speech, but improvements on this tech are being made all the time.
It is recommended that before you integrate a smart speaker into your home setup, you should first ensure that your Wi-Fi network is secure and that all items on your WiFi have robust, unique passwords.
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