What Is Alexa (and What’s the Best Alexa Speaker)?

What Is Alexa (and What’s the Best Alexa Speaker)?

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Our pick

Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

Amazon Echo (4th Gen)

The best basic Alexa speaker

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo lets you play music, order pizza, and get answers to questions, and it can control popular smart-home devices and 10,000-plus other things.

Buying Options

$70 from Amazon

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo speaker, released in October 2020, is the one most people should think of when they consider an Alexa voice-controlled speaker. The sound quality is good for casual listening and for small to medium rooms. The Alexa platform has the most comprehensive range of skills of any smart speaker. And the addition of Zigbee technology built into the new model allows easier connection with a greater range of smart-home devices. This Echo is slightly bigger than the previous version, with a grapefruit shape rather than the last version’s can look. But the larger size has made room for a driver design, which also gives this version a volume boost and improved soundstage. The button layout is simple and easy to use, and the Echo can work as a Bluetooth speaker, if you want to play something directly from your smartphone. The multi-microphone array the Echo depends on for listening to commands can usually hear you when music is playing at a moderate level or when you address the device from across the room. Because it’s produced by Amazon, the Echo will get all updates, new features, and device compatibility before non-Amazon Alexa devices. Although third-party speakers require multiple smartphone apps for setup, the Echo needs only the Alexa app, which smoothly guides you through the process.

If you’re more interested in finding a smart speaker with a screen—for searching recipes or making video calls, for example—check out our guide to the best smart displays, which includes both Alexa and Google Nest choices.

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Budget pick

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

Amazon Echo Dot (4th Gen)

A good Alexa speaker (if sound quality isn’t as important)

The Echo Dot sounds good enough to use as a nightstand speaker or even as a small kitchen speaker, and it includes all the standard Alexa features, for about half the price.

Buying Options

$50 $30 from Amazon

ships December 5-13

$50 $30 from Best Buy

You save $20 (40%)

The fourth-generation Amazon Echo Dot is a mini version of the Echo, and it’s the best Alexa speaker for people who don’t want to spend a lot. It doesn’t sound as good or get as loud as the Echo, but it’s fine for talk radio and even for music (if you’re not looking for a speaker that fills the room). And since it includes an audio-out port and Bluetooth, you can connect the Dot to a Bluetooth speaker or to a larger audio system if you want better sound. Even more important: It listens for voice commands just as well as the full-size Echo. A Dot is great for cheaply expanding Alexa smart-home control around your house. Unfortunately, the new version of the Dot is nearly double the size of last year’s model, so it’ll take up more room on your nightstand. If you’re looking for something more compact, the smaller, third-generation Dot is still available.

Upgrade pick

Sonos One

Sonos One

The best Alexa speaker for whole-house music

The Sonos One sounds great and is easy to use, and it works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as with more music services than any other Wi-Fi speaker.

Buying Options

$200 from Sonos
$200 from Amazon

If you want a better-sounding Alexa speaker than the Echo, as well as a much larger selection of music services and easier multi-room setup (and you don’t mind paying twice the price), the Sonos One is the smart speaker to get. Like the Echo, it has built-in far-field microphones and Alexa support. But it also works on the Sonos platform, which gives you access to a large selection of music services (though only the Alexa-compatible services allow voice control). For a much better soundstage, you can configure two of these speakers to play in stereo. In addition to the Amazon assistant, Sonos One also works with Google’s voice platform.

Also great

Ultimate Ears Megablast

Ultimate Ears Megablast

The best Alexa speaker for backyards

This speaker sounds good, is ruggedly built and waterproof, and runs on battery power for 12 hours, but the microphones aren’t the best.

Buying Options

$190 from Amazon
$250 from Best Buy

For those who want to take their Alexa speaker outside without having to search for a place to plug it in, an Ultimate Ears Megablast is a good choice. It sounds great, and it’s IP67-rated for weather resistance, so a shot from a Super Soaker or a quick drop in a pool won’t silence it. And the rechargeable battery runs for 12 hours. When you’re out of Wi-Fi range, you can use the Megablast as a regular Bluetooth speaker. The charge port is inconveniently located on the bottom, but you can get a wireless charging base separately. Unfortunately, the Megablast’s built-in microphones aren’t nearly as sensitive as those of the Echo, so you might find yourself reaching for the command button a lot to get the Megablast to pay attention.

Also great

Marshall Stanmore II Voice

Marshall Stanmore II Voice

The best-sounding speaker

This speaker has a cool rock ’n’ roll look, sounds great, and includes classic volume and control knobs, for when voice commands aren’t convenient.

Buying Options

$250 from Amazon
$300 from Best Buy

If you like the retro look of Marshall guitar amps, you’ll really like the Marshall Stanmore II Voice. It’s the best Alexa speaker for sound quality, with more volume and defined bass than the Sonos One provides, but it lacks support for the Sonos platform. Although this model’s far-field microphones performed decently in our tests, they aren’t as good at picking up your voice while music is playing as those of the Echo are. The Marshall also looks great, but it takes up more space on a shelf or counter than any other Alexa speaker we tested.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The NY Times
Keyword: What Is Alexa (and What’s the Best Alexa Speaker)?

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