Best all-round smart speaker

Bose Portable Smart Speaker


While Amazon and Google compete at the affordable end of the voice control market, Bose has catered for all users. At just 19cm tall, this grown-up design is portable (12-hour battery), rain-proof, boasts 360-degree sound and can stream music using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so you can use Spotify Connect, AirPlay2, Amazon Music etc. It also has both Alexa and Google Assistant built in. You can set up the speaker through the Bose Music App, where you also get to choose your voice assistant.

The microphones picked up my voice easily, even when the music was loud, and I was pleasantly surprised by its recognition of artist names. Admittedly, a request for Max Bruch gave me Max Bygraves, but I found that anglicising my pronunciation helped. Neither Google or Alexa does a great job finding specific recordings, but that isn’t a criticism of the speaker, which boasts a warm, accomplished and likeable sound.


Best smart speaker for sound quality

Amazon Echo (4th generation)

I’m genuinely impressed by the sound this 13-by-14cm cloth-covered ball produces. The 76mm woofer and twin 20mm tweeters, despite the obvious size restrictions, manage to be impactful, organised and enjoyable. Sadly, Alexa still struggles with classical pronunciations but as a genuinely useful smart home assistant and cheap multi-room audio system, it’s impressive, especially given the number of compatible devices now available.

Alexa echo_cmyk

Best smart speaker with smart features

Google Nest Audio

With the vast knowledge of Google’s search engines to call upon, Google Assistant is currently the most efficient and reliable voice service. This understated cloth-covered speaker houses a 19mm tweeter and 75mm woofer and sounds good in a small room – although the Echo is more refined. Google’s ability to understand classical composers is marginally better, although it still isn’t perfect.



Chris HaslamAudio and Tech Specialist, BBC Music Magazine

Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.