The 8 Best Alexa and Alexa-Enabled Speakers of 2021

Play your music with the help of a smart assistant

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The Rundown
"This round, globe-like device features a bigger, angled speaker driver that provides a much fuller and richer sonic response."
"You get all the features you can expect from a dedicated Echo Dot built into a room-filling Bose home speaker."
Best for Compatibility:
Sonos One (Gen 2) at Amazon
"This unit allows you to buy into a system that doesn’t lock you into one specific smart ecosystem."
Best for TV & Entertainment:
Polk Audio React Sound Bar at Amazon
"The Polk Audio React sits nicely just below your TV, working to pick up where your TV’s sub-par built-in speakers lack."
"If you want to save a few bucks, you can still get incredible performance from the third generation Echo Dot model."
Best Sound Quality:
Amazon Echo Studio at Amazon
"You get solid sound quality and the convenience of a voice assistant all in an Amazon-built device."
"With tons of richness across the spectrum, plenty of coverage from bass to treble, and a nice design, the Acton is a great option."
Best for Portability:
Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST at Amazon
"This durable, full-featured speaker lets you bring Alexa on the road with you."

As far as smart assistants go, Amazon’s Alexa is arguably the most well-known. That’s largely because the Echo lineup of smart speakers has remained one of the most affordable options for smart home functionality.

Since their release a few years back, this category of smart speaker has come a long way. We’re now on the fourth generation of the small-format Echo Dot, and there are a host of other Amazon-made options out there.

But there are also a slew of third-party speakers that include Amazon-certified Alexa functionality with them. Whether sound quality, portability, or compatibility is your priority, we’re breaking down the best options for you.

Best Overall: Amazon Echo Dot with Clock (4th Gen)

What We Like
  • Seamless Alexa integration

  • Bright, LED clock

  • Decent front-firing sound

What We Don't Like
  • Still pretty small and a little quiet

  • Not as unassuming as older Dots

The Echo Dot line primarily began as a dedicated voice assistant to call up information, schedule calls, check the weather, and other typical day-to-day stuff. But the original Dots weren’t particularly great speakers for music listening. That’s where the fourth-generation Echo Dot, with a clock display, comes in.

This round, globe-like device features a bigger, angled speaker driver that provides a much fuller and richer sonic response. Amazon achieves this by angling the speaker upward and toward the front, pushing the sound in the direction of your room, rather than just upward like earlier generations. This makes it an ideal speaker for listening to tunes in the morning or while you’re doing chores.

This particular configuration comes with a bright digital clock face, shown through the mesh on the front, which makes it perfect for nightstands. You can, of course, complete all the expected Alexa tasks, such as smart home control, asking questions, etc. This really is Amazon’s best foot forward for most people, and it comes at a reasonable price.

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Both | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa | Battery Powered: No | Water Resistance: No

Best Bose: Bose Home Speaker 300

What We Like
  • Excellent sound quality

  • Sleek design

  • Tons of connectivity options

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly expensive

  • Not as seamless as an Amazon-manufactured Dot

For general sound quality and user-friendliness, Bose is really one of the best audio brands around. The Home Speaker 300 is its answer to in-home audio with built-in Amazon Alexa functionality. This means you get all the features you can expect from a dedicated Echo Dot built into a room-filling Bose home speaker.

The larger drivers give you a much bassier sonic response, and the round-firing speakers give you a more 360-like sound. Beyond sound quality, you can connect your speaker to your home Wi-Fi system to communicate with your in-home audio system, but you can also use Bluetooth connectivity to connect the speaker to a phone or computer more instantaneously.

Using Bose’s SoundTouch functionality gives you fuller control over any Bose speaker in your system. Simple capacitive touch controls and the classy Bose design round out an incredibly solid option for a smart speaker. At about $200, it is on the expensive side of our list, so that’s a major consideration here.

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Both | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant | Battery Powered: No | Water Resistance: No

Best for Compatibility: Sonos One (Gen 2)

Sonos One (Gen 2)
What We Like
  • Tons of compatibility

  • Intuitive app control

  • Great sound quality

What We Don't Like
  • Pretty expenisve

  • No Bluetooth

One of the other big names in the smart speaker game is Sonos, and the Sonos One is an excellent choice for those who want a fully integrated smart speaker system. This unit allows you to buy into a system that doesn’t lock you into one specific smart ecosystem. That’s because the Sonos interfaces entirely via Wi-Fi through the Sonos app.

While the sound quality will be best if you buy a pair of Sonos Ones to use as a stereo set, a single speaker fits nicely on an office shelf or in a kitchen. Alexa is built right in, allowing for the same smart control you’d expect from the Echo line of smart speakers. But there’s also AirPlay 2 and a host of other services supported through the Sonos app, such as Spotify and Pandora.

There’s a lot of digital signal processing and sound research that has gone into Sonos’ technology, meaning that this speaker sounds just plain great.

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant | Battery Powered: No | Water Resistance: No

Best for TV & Entertainment: Polk Audio React Sound Bar

What We Like
  • Seamlessly integrates into entertainment setups

  • Six drivers for full sound

  • Compatible with Alexa

What We Don't Like
  • Not great for bass response

  • Controls can be a little clunky

While a dedicated Echo Dot is a great device to have around the house, and many of the models work well in a pinch if you want to listen to music, these gadgets don’t work for rounding out your overall entertainment setup. That’s where a soundbar comes in. The Polk Audio React sits nicely just below your TV, working to pick up where your TV’s sub-par built-in speakers lack.

The React gives you six dedicated drivers, some focused on mids and bass, with tweeters focused on the higher end of the frequency spectrum. Polk has even loaded in some DSP that targets the vocal part of the frequency spectrum to help isolate and accentuate it—perfect for watching dialog-heavy shows.

Then, of course, there’s the Alexa functionality, allowing you to call up Amazon’s voice assistant right from the soundbar itself. This versatile, Wi-Fi based unit works well for movies and entertainment setups.

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Both | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa | Battery Powered: No | Water Resistance: No

Best Budget: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)

Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
What We Like
  • Budget-friendly price point

  • Tons of music platform compatibility

  • Small, unassuming design

What We Don't Like
  • Sound quality is still a bit flat

  • Lacks loudness and bass

One of the best aspects of Amazon’s dedicated hardware is that you can get a great deal on a great device. The fourth generation of the Echo Dot does provide better sound quality, but if you want to save a few bucks, you can still get incredible performance from the third-generation model. Available in Charcoal, Heather Gray, Plum, and Sandstone, these little circular devices are meant to sit on a table or shelf, blending seamlessly into your decor.

And with the release of this third-generation line, Amazon amped up the sound quality with bigger, better-tuned drivers that provide a fuller sound than older options. And because it’s compatible with Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and more, it’s actually a pretty capable music machine.

There’s all the smart functionality you could want from an Alexa speaker, such as checking your calendar, calling up the weather, and teaching hundreds of skills dedicated to Alexa. And the best part is because it’s just one generation old, you still get reasonably modern performance at a price that sits under $40 (and can often be had for even less on sale).

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Both | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa | Battery Powered: No | Water Resistance: No

"Even with its minimal design and tiny form factor it’s still very aesthetically pleasing, and you can easily see its light ring indicator from across the room." — Benjamin Zeman, Product Tester

Best Sound Quality: Amazon Echo Studio

What We Like
  • Immersive, 360-degree sound

  • Tons of bass with a down-firing port

  • Seamless Alexa functionality

What We Don't Like
  • Fairly expensive

  • Bulky cylindrical build

A lot of the sound features in the Echo Studio might be rather surprising for an Amazon-designed smart speaker. The five-speaker array offers pretty immersive sound for a comparatively small footprint, and the presence of Dolby Atmos tech means this speaker is making the most of the sound quality that's there.

The speakers are laid out in a really interesting way, with three main drivers pointing in three directions, some tweeters to cover the higher end of the spectrum, and a larger subwoofer pointing down with an open port to project. Amazon has also built in some room-reading tech that tries to adapt to the acoustics of the room, further optimizing the sound quality.

There is also the Alexa-based functionality inherent in smaller Echo products. You can call up Alexa to ask questions or set up scheduling for your day, or you can teach Alexa skills through the Echo network. There’s smart home control as well, provided your smart home devices are Alexa-compatible. This all means that you can get solid sound quality and the convenience of a voice assistant, all in an Amazon-built device.

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Both | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa | Battery Powered: No | Water Resistance: No

Best Splurge: Marshall Acton II Alexa Voice Wireless Speaker System

What We Like
  • Classy design

  • Rich, full sound

  • Multi-room functionality

What We Don't Like
  • High price tag

  • Limited on-board controls

Marshall is a brand most known for half stacks and classic tube amps, but in recent years, the guitar giant has taken strides toward consumer-focused Bluetooth speakers. The second-generation Marshall Acton looks every bit as quintessential as Marshall’s classic amps, with the gilded grill cover and metallic gold accents and knobs. The Acton is actually advertised as a multi-room speaker, meaning that if you pair it in the Marshall app with other compatible speakers, you can control audio between this speaker and others.

There are several means of connecting, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and some hardwired inputs. And, of course, the Acton is Alexa-compatible right out of the box, meaning it will operate much like an Echo Dot. With tons of richness across the spectrum, plenty of coverage from bass to treble, and a really nice design, the Acton II is a great option if you can afford the $300 price tag. 

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Both | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa | Battery Powered: No | Water Resistance: No

Best for Portability: Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST Smart Portable Speaker

What We Like
  • Rich, 360-degree sound

  • Colorful design

  • 16 hours of battery life

What We Don't Like
  • A little heavy

While most Alexa-enabled speakers are meant to be left plugged in on a bookshelf or in your entertainment setup, a lot of the top battery-powered, Bluetooth speaker brands have taken the time to work Alexa into their offerings. The Ultimate Ears MEGABLAST is an excellent option if you want to bring Alexa-based smart functionality on the road with you.

Of course, you’ll need to get the speaker connected to your phone via Bluetooth for Alexa to have access to the internet, so it’s an important consideration if you’re trying to use smart functionality. Then there’s the design, convenience, and sound quality. Ultimate Ears is one of the top portable speaker brands for a reason.

The 360-degree audio is afforded by its cylindrical shape, so you can plop the speaker down onto a table and fill a space with music on demand. The on-board battery also provides about 16 hours of listening on a single charge, which is pretty solid considering how portable the speaker is. And, like most of the UE Bluetooth speaker range, there’s water resistance built in, this time to the tune of IP67. Overall, it’s a durable, full-featured speaker that lets you bring Alexa on the road with you.

Bluetooth or Wi-Fi: Both | Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa | Battery Powered: Yes | Water Resistance: Yes

Final Verdict

It makes sense that our best overall pick comes directly from Amazon, and the fourth-generation Echo Dot (view at Amazon) with a digital clock interface really does give you the most bang for your buck: seamless performance, a handy clock visualization, and improved sound in a small package.

If you don’t mind straying from Amazon, you can find a ton of merit in options from Bose or Sonos. Our pick from Bose (view at Amazon) gives you the brand's truly incredible sound quality and smart assistant functionality for a slight premium.

There are plenty of Amazon-direct speakers to choose from though, and we were really impressed with what’s offered by Amazon’s flagship Echo Studio speaker (view at Amazon).

About Our Trusted Experts

Jason Schneider is a writer, editor, copywriter, and musician with almost ten years' experience writing for tech and media companies. In addition to covering tech for Lifewire, Jason is a current and past contributor for Thrillist, Greatist, and more.

Benjamin Zeman is a business consultant, musician and writer based in southern Vermont. When he’s not reviewing tech products for Lifewire, he’s getting nerdy fixing them or solving complex problems for businesses in need of an outside perspective.

FAQs

Are there Alexa speakers not made by Amazon?

While most speakers that are explicitly Alexa-compatible are made and sold by Amazon, many of the top smart speaker and audio brands have taken the time to get Alexa certification to use Alexa with your speaker. Look for the “Amazon-certified” badge on the Amazon listing page.

Do you need the internet to use Alexa?

Because Alexa functionality often requires information pulled from the internet, it stands to reason that your speaker (or the device it’s connected to via Bluetooth) should be connected to the internet. That way, when you ask Alexa a question or to pull your calendar appointments, she’ll have access to the information.

What to Look For in an Alexa Speaker

Sound Quality

One of the drawbacks of going with an Echo Dot is you’ll lack a big enough driver to give you truly impressive sound quality. If you want better sound, you’ll have to go with an upgraded pick or something from a more audiophile-centric brand, such as Bose or Sonos.

Size and Design

Your Alexa-enabled speaker will likely be sitting out in the open, right on your shelf, or next to your TV setup. As such, a low profile or elegant design might be important to you. It will likely come at the expense of loudness and bass response, however.

Connectivity

Most smart speakers connect to your devices via Wi-Fi, giving them most of their smart home and multi-room functionality. Some speakers, including most in the Echo line, also give you Bluetooth functionality for easily connecting to a single phone or device.

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