Best Sonos Alternatives Android Central 2021
Now more than ever before, speakers are more than just a singular tool for listening to your favorite music. Modern speakers often have built-in ways to play songs from your preferred streaming service, talk to digital assistants, and connect to other speakers in your home for multi-room audio. Sonos has become one of the most popular brands in the current speaker world, offering a multi-room system that's proven to be among the best out there. However, if you're ready to move beyond Sonos, there are a ton of options out there — including the Amazon Echo Studio — that are just as good.
- Best Overall: Amazon Echo Studio
- Best Value: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
- Best Bass: Google Home Max
- Best Form Factor: Google Nest Mini
- Best Portable: Bose Portable Home Speaker
- Best Connectivity: B&O Beoplay M3
- Best Design: Marshall Acton II
- Best Overkill: Bose Home Speaker 500
- Best Audio Quality: Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i
- Best Soundbar: Polk Audio Command
- Best Amp: Amazon Echo Link Amp
Best Overall: Amazon Echo Studio
Amazon's kicked out a ton of Echo speakers over the years, but the Echo Studio is the first one that's really taken audio quality seriously. For the price, this is easily one of the best-sounding speakers you can buy.
The Echo Studio sounds every bit as good as the similarly-priced Sonos One, with its three 2-inch mid-range speakers, front-facing 1-inch tweeter, and bottom-facing subwoofer creating a sound profile that's rich, full of life, and is especially great with vocals. The Studio also utilizes its seven microphones to tweak and adapt its sound output based on the room that it's in. The 3D upmixing that's enabled by default sounds pretty bad, but at least it's easy enough to disable it before you start jamming too hard.
Being an Echo speaker, Alexa is built-in so you can use the digital helper for asking about the weather, controlling smart home devices, or whatever else you want. Through the Alexa app on your phone, you can create speaker groups for your various Alexa-powered speakers and have seamless playback throughout your entire home.
- Wonderful sound that packs a punch
- Microphones work great for Alexa commands
- 3.5mm auxiliary jack
- Acts as a Zigbee smart home hub
- Great price
- Amazon's 3D upmixing is bad
The Amazon Echo Studio makes it easy to part ways with Sonos, offering outstanding sound quality at a great price.
Best Value: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Sonos gets a lot of things right, but something that's not ideal with the company's offerings is that it doesn't sell "cheap" speakers. If you're trying to build a multi-room audio system on a budget, one of the best speakers you can get is the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen). This is Amazon's most affordable Echo speaker, and while it has to cut some corners compared to the more impressive Echo Studio, you're getting a ton of bang-for-your-buck.
The Echo Dot obviously doesn't sound as good as the other speakers on this list, but for the price, it does a darn fine job. If you're a casual listener and just want something to play music/podcasts in the background, the Dot is an exceptional speaker. The current 3rd Gen model is the best yet in these regards, offering a surprising amount of bass for such a small package.
You can group the Echo Dot with other Alexa speakers just as you can with the Echo Studio, and if you have a burning question or command, Alexa is at your beck and call to assist in any way that it can.
- So tiny and cute
- Good sound for its size
- Full access to Alexa
- 3.5mm jack
- Obviously not a good choice for audiophiles
The little speaker that could
It's cheap, compact, and the best speaker you can buy for building a multi-room audio system on a budget.
Best Bass: Google Home Max
Released back in late-2017, the Google Home Max is no longer a spring chicken. However, even with a couple of years under its belt, it still stands out as one of the best-sounding smart speakers on the market.
As you'd expect from a speaker of this size and price, the Home Max sounds really, really good. It keeps mids and highs nice and clear, but as you dive into the low-end with bass-heavy songs, the two 4.5-inch subwoofers allow your music to hit right in your gut in the best way possible. Similar to the Echo Studio, the Home Max has a "smart sound" feature that uses its microphones to sense the room it's in and adapt its playback accordingly.
Google Assistant is present on the Home Max to help with whatever you need it to, and using the built-in Chromecast function, you can easily send music from your phone to the Home Max. Even if you're cranking the music as loud as you can, the Assistant does a great job at hearing the "Hey Google" hot word. And, of course, you can create multi-room speaker groups for other Assistant-powered speakers that support the feature.
- Loud, bass-heavy sound
- "Smart sound" feature
- Microphones work well through blaring music
- Google Assistant and Chromecast support
- Easy multi-room pairing
- Cumbersome design
Bigger is better
Your neighbors won't be thrilled if you pick up the Home Max, but its powerful sound and excellent microphones make it worth it.
Best Form Factor: Google Nest Mini
Where Amazon has the Echo Dot for its affordable smart speaker, Google has the Nest Mini. This is the sequel to the popular Google Home Mini, and it's a seriously outstanding little gadget.
One of our favorite parts about the Nest Mini is its design. It's small enough that it can fit just about anywhere, and thanks to the homey fabric cover that's available in a few different colors, it can work with virtually any aesthetic. You can place the Nest Mini on a table, or take advantage of the wall mount on the back and expand the possibilities of where to put it.
The Nest Mini delivers good sound for its size, with the volume and bass being especially impressive. The touch controls also work well for controlling music playback, and between the Assistant, Chromecast, and multi-room speaker support, all of the smart features you could ask for are present here.
- Great for casual listening
- More bass and volume than you'd expect
- Built-in wall mount on the back
- Useful touch controls
- Very affordable
- Similar to the Echo Dot, it's not ideal for serious music fanatics
Best Form Factor
Put it anywhere
Whether you want to place it on your table or mount it to the wall, the Nest Mini can go just about anywhere in your home.
Best Portable: Bose Portable Home Speaker
All of the speakers on this list are great for listening to music when you're at home, but what if you want to take your tunes somewhere else? Enter the Bose Portable Home Speaker. You can plug it in at your home and listen to it that way, or grab it by the built-in handle and enjoy up to 12 hours of truly wireless playback.
The Portable Home Speaker works via your Wi-Fi network when you're at home, and once you move away from it, acts like any other Bluetooth speaker. It offers voice control via Alexa and Google Assistant, and using Bose's SimpleSync technology, you can use the Portable Home Speaker with other Bose devices for multi-room audio.
Bose promotes 360-degree audio thanks to the cylindrical shape of the Home Speaker, it has physical buttons on the top for playback controls, and it's IPX4 water-resistant so that it stays safe when at the beach or by the pool.
- Can be used at home or wherever you go
- Built-in handle for transportation
- 360-degree sound
- Up to 12 hours of use per charge
- Connects with other Bose Home speakers
- Isn't easy on the wallet
Take it wherever you want
Thanks to its 12-hour battery life, the Bose Portable Home Speaker goes with you for awesome sound everywhere.
Best Connectivity: B&O Beoplay M3
Bang & Olufsen (also known as B&O) is another prominent name in the audio market. Its connected speakers don't have the same notoriety of Sonos ones, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth a look. A prime example of why B&O should be on your radar is the Beoplay M3.
This is one of B&O's more affordable speakers, even though the steep price tag doesn't necessarily suggest that. The Beoplay M3 has a gorgeous minimalistic design that's available in this inviting Natural finish or the more utilitarian Black style. B&O says its use of natural materials, such as aluminum, kvadrat fabric, and soft polymer, allow for better acoustics than what you'll find in competing speakers.
Sound quality is top-notch on the M3, kicking out warm and inviting tunes that go above its small form factor. You can pair the M3 with other B&O speakers using Beolink Multiroom, or stream your music using Chromecast, Apple's AirPlay, or Bluetooth. No matter how you want to listen, the Beoplay M3 has you covered.
- Minimalistic design
- Compact size
- Excellent sound quality
- B&O's multi-room playback
- Chromecast and AirPlay support
- Not for budget-minded shoppers
Use it your way
From Chromecast, AirPlay, and B&O's own multi-room playback system, the Beoplay M3 allows you to listen however you want.
Best Design: Marshall Acton II
None of the speakers on this list have a bad or unattractive design, but I think we can all agree that none of them compete with the beauty of the Marshall Acton II. The retro design makes a statement, and the attention-to-detail Marshall has on display is second to none.
Outside of the good looks, the Acton II has the power to back it up. This isn't the largest speaker is Marshall's arsenal, but it still sounds incredible. Marshall touts a well-balanced listening experience that's "nothing short of large." Using the physical control knobs on the top of the Acton II, you can manually adjust the speaker's volume, bass, and treble.
In regards to the Acton II's smarts, it's powered by Alexa. In addition to asking Alexa any random question that pops into your head throughout the day, you can also group the Marshall Acton II with other Alexa-powered speakers for home-filling sound in every room.
- One of the best-designed speakers out there
- Physical control knobs for bass and treble
- Doesn't take up too much space
- Well-balanced sound
- Alexa built-in
- Doesn't handle bass the best
A work of art
The Marshall Acton II makes a statement with its bold, retro design — even including physical knobs for its bass and treble.
Best Overkill: Bose Home Speaker 500
Yes, that's a display on the front of the Bose Home Speaker 500. Is it necessary? No. Is it a cool little addition that helps the 500 stand out from its competitors? Yes. The display on the 500 is certainly unique and does things like show the time and what song is currently playing, but that's not the only reason to buy it.
Behind that display is an outstanding product in just about every which way. It offers phenomenal sound that does justice to any song you play, supports both Alexa and Google Assistant, and it even works with AirPlay 2. The microphones used for invoking Alexa/Google Assistant are outstanding, as is the aluminum body the two custom drivers are housed in.
You can use the Bose Home Speaker 500 on its own and be just fine, or pair it with other Bose speakers for multi-room audio that'll knock your socks off.
- Striking design
- It sounds fantastic
- Alexa and Google Assistant
- Great microphones
- Cover your wallet's eyes
Go all out
Your wallet might hate you, but your ears will endlessly thank you for picking up the Bose Home Speaker 500.
Best Audio Quality: Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i
With Sonos having such a large presence on the multi-room audio market, we don't blame you for not realizing just how many competitors it actually has — one of which is Bluesound. It's similar to Sonos in the sense that it creates high-grade speakers that support multi-room playback, and one of the most noteworthy is the Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i.
This is basically Bluesound's version of the Sonos Play:5, and it checks a ton of boxes. The dual acoustic chamber kicks out fantastic sound that's bigger and more powerful than what you'd expect from a mid-sized speaker like this. The Pule Mini 2i also supports a ton of wireless audio codecs, including aptX HD.
You can stream music to the Pulse Mini 2i using AirPlay 2, Alexa is built-in, and Bluesound has its own multi-room speaker system called "BlueOS." It's not a cheap journey to invest in the Bluesound ecosystem (let alone one speaker), but for self-proclaimed audiophiles, it's one of the best Sonos alternatives that exists.
- Top-notch build quality
- Bigger sound than its size
- Supports a ton of audio codecs
- Bluesound's multi-room system
- Alexa and AirPlay 2
- No Chromecast support
- Very expensive
Best Audio Quality
Treat your ears to something nice
Assuming you don't have a tight budget, the Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i is an outstanding speaker that deserves a spot in your home.
Best Soundbar: Polk Audio Command
The Sonos Beam is one of the best soundbars you can buy, but if you're trying to give yourself a Sonos detox, a great alternative is the Polk Audio Command. This is a two-part system, including the main soundbar and a wireless subwoofer that goes along with it.
As a whole, the soundbar and subwoofer create for superb room-filling sound. You can customize the EQ based on what you're watching or listening to, and the 6.5-inch driver in the woofer brings everything to life in a way the Beam can't touch. Setup for the Command is also very simple, which is something we always like to see.
This is another Alexa-powered device, meaning you can talk to the assistant for help with questions/commands and use it for multi-room playback with other Alexa speakers. Factor all of that together with the competitive price, and Polk has a winner on its hands.
- Wonderful sound
- Comes with a wireless subwoofer
- It has Alexa
- Easy multi-room playback
- Simple set up process
- Bland design
Your TV needs this
Whether you're watching a movie or listening to your favorite song, the Polk Command is the soundbar you should have.
Best Amp: Amazon Echo Link Amp
The Sonos Amp is a powerful piece of hardware that gets a lot right, but that doesn't mean it can't be replaced. In fact, Amazon has a pretty fantastic alternative with its Echo Link Amp.
With the Echo Link Amp, you get a built-in 60W two-channel amplifier that allows for exquisite sound quality — especially at this price. You'll find digital and analog inputs/outputs on the back, the body is fairly compact, and the entire system can be controlled via Alexa. Being an Echo device, you can also pair the Link Amp with other Alexa/Echo speakers and tie your entire home audio setup together in one seamless system.
It may not be quite as impressive as the amp Sonos offers, but if you're looking for a replacement that sounds good and supports multi-room audio, the Echo Link Amp is what you'll want to get.
- Powerful amplifier
- Clean design
- Large volume knob
- Supports multi-room audio groups
- No microphone for built-in Alexa
Modernize your stereo
If you have old stereo equipment you want to use with multi-room Alexa groups, the Amazon Echo Link Amp is an easy recommendation.
Although you may not think so at first, there are plenty of options out there when it comes to Sonos alternatives. While any of the picks on this list are deserving of our recommendation, the speaker that stands out the most is the Amazon Echo Studio.
Being Amazon's first attempt at creating a genuinely great-sounding smart speaker, the Echo Studio far surpassed our expectations. It's a pure joy to listen to, the multi-room playback system is easy to use, and it pulling double-duty as a Zigbee hub for smart home devices is just icing on the cake.
Whether you're already invested in Echo/Alexa speakers or this is your very first one, the Echo Studio is a prime example that there's plenty of room for other players in this space.
Credits — The team that worked on this guide
Joe Maring is Android Central's News Editor and has had a love for anything with a screen and CPU since he can remember. He's been talking/writing about Android in one form or another since 2012 and often does so while camping out at the nearest coffee shop. Get in touch with him on Twitter @JoeMaring1 or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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