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[cheesy jokes]The Esquire Expert Guide to the Best Smart Speakers of 2021

  Best Apple smart speaker

  Apple HomePod mini Smart Speaker

  

  Apple

  Apple

  johnlewis.com

  £99.00

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  Apple aficionados will want to check out the HomePod Mini, which is the sole Siri flag-waver on this list. Apple used to make a bigger version of this, but have discontinued it in favour of the Mini, which still packs an audio punch.

  It pushes out sound from its seven tweeters in a 360-degree soundstage so you can plop it anywhere in the room to keep the music going. It’s surprisingly loud considering its size, but it’s not really bass-y enough if you’ve got a house party with more than 20 people.

  Only consider this one if you’re on Apple Music’s service, as that’s what will work best. You can get Spotify but it’s only through a complicated AirPlay process that’s just a little too annoying to deal with. Also works great if you’ve got an Apple TV box, as you can hook this up to be a soundbar replacement.

  Key specifications:

  Voice assistant: Siri

  Voice-controllable music services: Apple Music

  Connections: Bluetooth and Airplay

  Power supply: Mains power

  Dimensions: 9.79 x 9.79 x 8.43 cm

  Weight: 345g

  Best smart speaker for Alexa

  Echo Studio

  

  Echo Studio

  Amazon

  amazon.co.uk

  £189.99

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  Amazon’s best smart Echo device in terms of performance, the Echo Studio is bass-rich, loud, and well-equipped to keep the audiophiles happy.

  It’s a big, cylindrical model that’s one of the heaviest on this list thanks to the wealth of tweeters and subwoofers driving noise around it.

  It works with all the top streaming services, but will be most at home playing from Amazon Music, which has a new HD feature for premium subscribers. It basically upgrades the audio to play with greater clarity and more nuance. This is most obviously shown if you sit it in the centre of the room and hear the emphatic crash of cymbals or a heavy kick-drum from different parts of the room.

  We liked that when we set ours up, it did a series of tests to figure out its own equaliser, calibrating the sound to suit the size of the room and the material we placed it on. It’s currently sitting on our kitchen countertop and offers decent bass – enough to interrupt our girlfriend’s cooking if we play a particularly heavy song.

  Key specifications:

  Voice assistant: Alexa

  Voice-controllable music services: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn

  Connections: Bluetooth, 3.5mm and optical

  Power supply: Mains power

  Dimensions: 20.6 x 17.5 x 17.5 cm

  Weight: 3.5kg

  Best Smart Speaker Under £200

  Sonos One (Gen 2)

  

  Sonos

  Sonos

  johnlewis.com

  £189.00

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  If we could have picked Sonos’ Five we would have (as it’s one of the best speakers we’ve ever used) but that one doesn’t have any voice controls, so instead, we’d recommend the Sonos One, which is a brilliant substitute if you want top-end audio reproduction.

  It’s small enough to fit on a shelf or coffee table, but powerful enough to fill the room with loud, expressive sound. The stylish, monochromatic design fits well into the corner of the party, and it has manual buttons (play, pause, skip, volume) on the top if you get tired of barking orders to Alexa or Google.

  Sonos has a large catalogue of high-quality speakers that you can pair up with, giving you that multi-room experience if you want it, or even a surround-sound cinema system to improve your movies.

  Key specifications:

  Voice assistant: Alexa and Google

  Voice-controllable music services: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn

  Connections: Bluetooth

  Power supply: Mains power

  Dimensions: 16.15 x 11.97 x 11.97 cmWeight: 1.85kg

  Best portable smart speaker

  Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 (2nd Generation)

  

  Bang & Olufsen

  Bang & Olufsen

  johnlewis.com

  £199.99

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  Need a decent speaker to take on your travels? Have you been given the key role of DJ at the company away day? Then pick up B&O’s rugged BeoSound A1, as it’s one of the best portable devices we have used.

  We took this on a camping trip to the Lake District this summer and enjoyed chucking it in our bag to play music as we struggled up Scafell Pike. It is sturdy so can survive being knocked around a bit, and delivers decent sound, though the bass is not fantastic unless you put it on a table or hard surface. It’s battery powered though, up to 18 hours, so great for taking around with you.

  Key specifications:

  Voice assistant: Google and Alexa

  Voice-controllable music services: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn

  Connections: Bluetooth, USB-C

  Power supply: Battery

  Dimensions: 13.3 x 4.6 x 13.3 cm

  Weight: 560g

  Battery life: 18 hours

  Best portable smart speaker for Google Assistant

  JBL Link Portable

  

  JBL Link Portable

  JBL

  jbl.com

  £129.99

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  If you’re after an affordable speaker to kick back with you on the balcony or take with you to the beach, then you should check out JBL’s offering.

  Yet another cylindrical speaker, this one is a bit taller and thinner, but still offers top-performing range, especially in high-treble music. The brains behind it are all in the Google Home app which you’ll have on your smartphone, whether you’re rocking an iOS or Android device.

  The main speaker sits on a small little plinth that acts as it’s charging station, but you can take it with you on your travels once it’s at 100% (it’ll last for around eight hours), and it’s waterproof so can be chucked into the pool or taken out into the dreary British weather with no stress.

  Key specifications

  Voice assistant: Google Assistant

  Voice-controllable music services: Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn, YouTube Music

  Connections: Bluetooth

  Power supply: Rechargeable battery

  Dimensions: 17 x 8.8 x 8.8 cm

  Weight: 735g

  Battery life: 8 hours

  Bose Portable Smart Speaker

  

  Bose

  Bose

  amazon.co.uk

  £289.99

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  In our opinion, Bose’s speakers are among the best options if you want to take your AI voice assistant with you to a party.

  The Portable Home speaker is fairly lightweight, weighing just over a kilo, but it comes with a strap to help you carry it around, and it’s capable of surviving a few bumps, drops and a little bit of rain if you’re battling this great nation’s unpredictable weather.

  It uses a similar setup to the SoundLink Revolve and Revolve+ and can last around 12 hours on a single charge. And if you’ve got other Bose products, you can sync them all up together to spread the party around the house.

  Key specifications

  Voice assistant: Google and Alexa

  Voice-controllable music services: Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn, YouTube Music

  Connections: Bluetooth, USB-C

  Power supply: Rechargeable battery

  Dimensions: 19.15 x 11.9 x 10.4 cm

  Weight: 1.06kg

  Battery Life: 12 hours

  Echo Dot (4th generation)

  

  Amazon

  Amazon

  amazon.co.uk

  £49.99

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  If you’re after a more personal smart speaker that is best suited to a small room away from the party, you can’t go wrong with Amazon’s 4th-gen Echo.

  The spherical device is unobtrusive and small enough to stick in the corner to stay out of the way, but when you need the music to play, it can fill the room. Alexa helps us to manage our lighting at home, and it’s always quick to respond to our demands.

  We’ve also been listening to Stephen Fry’s Mythos audiobook through our Echo these past few weeks, and the speaker manages to reproduce his bass-y, relaxing tones rather well.

  It won’t blow your mind with its audio quality compared to some others on this list (especially the Studio above), but does a great job of keeping things a bit more low-key in a smaller, more relaxed environment.

  Key specifications:

  Voice assistant: Alexa

  Voice-controllable music services: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, TuneIn

  Connections: Bluetooth and 3.5mm

  Power supply: Mains power

  Dimensions: 10 x 10 x 8.9cm

  Weight: 0.328kg

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