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
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.
Best Value: Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
The little speaker that could
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.
Best Bass: Google Home Max
Google Home Max
Bigger is better
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.
Best Form Factor: Google Nest Mini
Google Nest Mini
Put it anywhere
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.
Best Portable: Bose Portable Home Speaker
Bose Portable Home Speaker
Take it wherever you want
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.
Best Connectivity: B&O Beoplay M3
B&O Beoplay M3
Use it your way
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.
Best Design: Marshall Acton II
Marshall Acton II
A work of art
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.
Best Overkill: Bose Home Speaker 500
Bose Home Speaker 500
Go all out
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.
Best Audio Quality: Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i
Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i
Treat your ears to something nice
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.
Best Soundbar: Polk Audio Command
Polk Audio Command
Your TV needs this
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.
Best Amp: Amazon Echo Link Amp
Amazon Echo Link Amp
Modernize your stereo
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.
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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 email@example.com
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