Sunday, October 8, 2017

Google, Amazon, Apple, Sonos: What Smart Speaker Should You Buy | Liisten by Tyler Hayes

First, technology companies came for your ears with headphones and earbuds, now they’re coming for your home. Whole home wireless audio and smart speakers are the next big business target.

Let’s look at the smart speaker choices and things to consider when picking one.

In the matter of a few months, choosing a connected speaker—one that connects through wi-fi directly to the internet, unlike Bluetooth—got really tough and confusing. The reason it just got a lot tougher is because you’re not just picking the speaker that sounds the best, you are buying into a web of music services, voice assistants, and mobile operating systems.

 Speaker options to consider:

  • Sonos speakers - Sonos One, Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, Playbar, Playbase
  • Amazon Echos - Echo, Echo Plus
  • Google Home Max
  • Apple HomePod

There are other choices available, but these options are the most mainstream, most likely to be the most supported long-term, and are of a certain audio calibre—minus the Echo.


Understanding your priority for this speaker is ultimately the only way you’re able to finally pull the trigger and make a decision.

Rating on each section will be 1-3 with 1 being low or poor, and 3 being high or great.

  • Audio quality - do you want the best sounding speaker possible?
  • Voice assistant - are you looking for a robust voice assistant that will answer all your questions and execute your commands?
  • Most connected - Is it important to have the most services and extentions available as possible?
  • Variety - whole home audio means being able to add speakers around your home, so are you planning on buying multiple ones?

 Entry level:

If you know you want to get a connected speaker for you home, but don’t want to spend much initially.

  • Amazon Echo - $99 (Echo Plus $159)
    Audio quality: 1
    Voice assistant: 3
    Most connected: 3
    Variety: 2 [There are a bunch of Alexa-enabled devices, but few dedicated speaker Echos.]

  • Sonos One - $199
    Audio quality: 2
    Voice assistant: 3
    Most connected: 3
    Variety: 1 [So far Sonos only has one speaker with Alexa built directly in. But Sonos does have a line of different speakers for many different rooms and placements.]

  • Sonos Play:1 - $199
    Audio quality: 2
    Voice assistant: 1 [You need to own an Echo device to give a Play:1 voice capabilities.]
    Most connected: 2 [More than 80 audio services available.]
    Variety: 2 [Sonos connected speakers are available in different sizes and price points.]


 High end

These options are typically at least a few hundred dollars and are high end, consumer-level speakers.

  • Google Home Max $399
    Audio quality: 3
    Voice assistant: 3
    Most connected: 2
    Variety: 1 [There’s a big gap between Google Home and Google Home Max both in price and audio quality. Even if you love the Max, buying multiple units at $399 each might be prohibitively expensive.]

  • Apple HomePod - $349
    Audio quality: 2 [Only select reporters have heard the HomePod in person so far, but those opinions have been very positive citing multi-directional sound and large sound for its size.]
    Voice assistant: 1
    Most Connected: 1
    Variety: 1

  • Sonos Play:5 - $499
    Audio quality: 3
    Voice assistant: 1 [You need to own an Echo device to give a Play:5 voice capabilities.]
    Most connected: 2 [More than 80 audio services available.]
    Variety: 3 [From $199 to $699, Sonos speakers cover a variety of price points.]




Here are the recommended choices based on which different area is the most important to you.

Audio quality: Sonos Play:5, Google Home Max [The Play:5 is a compact powerhouse. Google Home Max is a little smaller in size, but has Smart Sound to automatically calibrate the sound for placement based on built-in mics]

Voice assistant: Sonos One, Google Home Max [Alexa and Google assistants built-in directly makes these the 2 best choices.]

Most connected: Echo, Sonos Play:1, Sonos Play:5 [Echo has all the voice assistant connections for smart home and a bunch of music services, while Sonos has 80+ audio services available.]

Variety: Sonos [If you want whole home audio, there’s really only one option at this point. Sonos spans from $199 to $699 for different speakers, adapts to a home theater set up, and includes add-ons like a wireless subwoofer. If Google, Apple, and Amazon continue to find success in this market you can bet they will expand their speaker varieties, but for now, it’s Sonos.]



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