The best smart speakers of 2020/2021
Although many people often use lamps as a starting point for their smart home, the smart speaker probably functions as a better gateway to a modern home. It is a smart device that is always connected to the internet, so you can often ask all kinds of questions via Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Siri. In addition, you can also play music on it, without having completed a pairing process first. Is the speaker connected to the same network as a smartphone or laptop? Then you send your music there with the push of a button. In short, enough reasons to give you an overview of the best speakers of the moment.This article is continuously updated to give you an overview of the best speakers of the moment. The last update was done in December 2020.
What should you pay attention to?
Purchasing a smart speaker can be a very easy process, especially if you have already chosen a specific ecosystem or a specific voice assistant. Nevertheless, you should always ask yourself which voice assistant (s) the speaker supports: are you going for the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or Siri from Apple? That usually depends on other products in the house. If you have many products that work with Google Home or Apple HomeKit, for example, you often have to rely on the Google Assistant or Siri. Amazon Alexa offers a somewhat broader view, but for this you have to rely on so-called Alexa skills that the products must support.
If you want to use the speaker to operate equipment in the house, it is therefore worth checking which platforms / voice assistants are supported by these products. Do you use the speaker more for playing music and asking a question every now and then? Then you have a little more freedom of choice. It is increasingly common for smart speakers to support two or more voice assistants. Unfortunately, you do not operate those devices with two or more assistants at the same time, but you set one as the default. Not ideal yet, but at least you have the choice and you can switch at any time.
Although you can easily compare smart speakers on sound quality, the place in the house also affects the audio reproduction. Sometimes you have some small adjustment options with an equalizer (especially with more expensive models), but in general you mainly influence the audio reproduction with the placement. And do you really use the smart speaker for actively listening to music? Then choose a model higher in the line-up that is really made for good music reproduction. Small speakers like the Google Nest Mini or Amazon Echo. These are more made for the occasional voice control or asking questions.
Finally, you have to remember that voice assistants cannot do nearly as much in the Netherlands as in other, English-speaking countries. If you choose voice assistant x and therefore smart speaker y because of a nice video or American site, it may just be that you will be disappointed when you start using the speaker at home. So first read about the possibilities for Dutch users or choose to set up the English-speaking speech assistant. And, keep in mind that Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant still doesn’t speak Dutch.
Google Nest Audio
With the Google Home and the Nest Mini, Google focused on accessibility to smart speakers, but with the Nest Audio it is clear that Google also values sound quality and design. The outside is made of fabric, so you don’t have to place it out of sight. The chosen colors ensure that the speakers also fit well in all kinds of furniture styles. The device is equipped with – how could it be otherwise – the Google Assistant, as well as a slide with which you switch off the microphone.
Design is very important for a smart speaker, as well as basic functionality, but of course the audio quality also plays a big role in the experience. And unlike the two aforementioned Google speakers, we can now really say that the sound quality is also good. You don’t have separate sound modes or calibration options, but you do have a system that adapts to the content. Keep in mind the price of the product, which has a suggested retail price of 99 euros around the launch.
JBL Link Portable
The JBL Link Portable is a bit of an odd man out on this list, but that does not detract from the fact that it has its qualities. This is a compact smart speaker with support for the Google Assistant, one that has a built-in battery. Since we don’t find that more often with similar speakers, this can be a good recommendation for people who travel often, for example. This speaker also has a beautiful, fabric casing, so it is no punishment to put it in sight.
The JBL Link Portable also supports quite a few platforms. In addition to the Google Assistant, Google Cast and Apple AirPlay 2 is also present, so you can easily include it in an existing speaker network. Furthermore, you can use the bluetooth functionality, making it no problem to play music – wherever you are. The built-in battery lasts for several hours and is fully charged within 2.5 hours. Charging is done via a supplied stand, where it is always on standby.
Harman Kardon Citation Oasis
A product of a completely different caliber is the Harman Kardon Citation Oasis. The Citation series is characterized by its typical design and accessibility. The Oasis is slightly different from other smart speakers. It is a smart clock radio with support for a large number of platforms. For example, you receive music via many internet radio stations or dab + and there is support for both Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Cast. This allows you to make this device part of any existing network.
The compact device also has bluetooth available. A slightly less clever feature, but it can be useful to have as a backup. Furthermore, the Harman Kardon Citation Oasis has a number of unique functions that we do not easily find on other devices. Think of a wireless Qi charger for your smartphone, at the top of the colossus, or the LED screen at the front, so that you always see what you are listening to. Add to that the sleek design and you have a very cool, perhaps somewhat niche, product.
Harman Kardon Citation 200
We are not finished with this brand yet, because the Harman Kardon Citation 200 is also discussed. This is a smart speaker with a large built-in battery, so you can also take it into the garden, for example. The built-in battery lasts up to eight hours. The Citation 200, like many other Citation products, further basically resembles the Oasis when we look at the things that are supported. Think of bluetooth, but also of Google Cast, Apple AirPlay 2, Google Assistant and radio via TuneIn.
Because the Harman Kardon Citation 200 is a relatively expensive product – but was marketed slightly cheaper than competitor Sonos Move – it is very important that the sound quality is good. And fortunately that is the case. For example, the bass is much less absent than with its predecessor Citation 100, but there is still enough Punch to enjoy. The warm sound is much more balanced than was the case with the 100, so you can now also play many more types of music on your Harman Kardon Citation speaker.
Google Nest Mini
The aforementioned speakers are quite expensive. If it’s all an ounce less, we can still recommend the Google Nest Mini. This is a compact smart speaker from Google, which of course works with the Google Assistant and can be included in a Google Cast network. The strong point of the Nest Mini is probably not its sound quality, but the fact that it is so nice and small and can therefore be placed anywhere in the house. The Assistant has never been so accessible.
You also have little to complain about in terms of design. The fabric appearance ensures that you can best place it in sight, although that is not a must. You understand the microphone on board perfectly, even when you place the speaker out of sight. The audio reproduction is, just like the format, quite compact, but already sounds better than what the first Google Home ever presented. So there is certainly something to be said for that. Furthermore, the Nest Mini offers basically everything that other Google Assistant speakers also offer, but for a less high price tag.
The Sonos Move, which appeared on the market at the end of 2019, is still a good choice if you are looking for a portable, smart speaker. Especially for the people who have already invested heavily in the ecosystem for the company. This is the first Sonos speaker with support for bluetooth, but you can of course also connect it to your WiFi network. This way you can ask him to put on a certain song via Spotify, for example. You can ask the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa – you can do that yourself.
The Sonos Move is a pretty versatile speaker that is able to fill a room with warm sound. This makes it possible to listen to a wide variety of music styles; especially music styles that emphasize bass sound very pleasant. Add to this that the speaker can also be set quite loudly, without distorting the audio, and you have a great candidate for any room in the house. The fact that you can move the speaker from room to room is icing on the cream cake.
These are just a few of the selection of smart speakers that are worthwhile. Such products are always extremely valuable for a variety of reasons. For example, we have the Teufel Musicstation disregarded as this device only supports Amazon Alexa. Alexa is not yet officially available in the Netherlands, which means that Teufel’s product also loses some value. But otherwise it is a handy and cool system with which you can play music in many different ways.
The same actually applies to all smart speakers from Amazon: the Echo line. Recently the online tech giant released a few more new versions of existing products and we read that the sound quality has improved enormously. So if you don’t mind speaking to your voice assistant in English, you can also opt for an Echo. Furthermore, the HomePod and HomePod Mini interesting options are for Apple users, but unfortunately it is also true that these speakers are not officially for sale in the Netherlands.