Smart speakers can stream music and podcasts, retrieve information and trivia online, control wireless-enabled lights, place online orders, get the weather forecast and so much more. Before springing for one, however, think about three key features: 1) Does it include audio and listening enhancements? 2) Does it offer flexible AI connections? 3) Does it have controls to prevent AI invasions of privacy? If you’re attached to Siri or have a deep, meaningful relationship with Alexa, you’ll need a speaker that can communicate with your favorite virtual assistant, but of course, you don’t want it to overhear everything.
It’s resistant to both moisture in the air and eavesdropping (no mic!), and can be paired with another device for surround sound, voice control and Siri compatibility. Sonos
Thanks to internal microphones, smart speakers can eavesdrop on private conversations when they’re turned on, so look for an easy-to-find off switch for the mic, or a device that’s mic-free but can be connected to a voice-controlled device when needed. Helpful tip: If more than one person will be using it, get a speaker with multi-user support so it can recognize different voices.
Offering 360-degree sound with power bass, it can connect to Google Assistant, Amazon Music, Spotify and Pandora, and a handle makes it easy to carry. Bose
To assess the sound of a speaker, find out both the size and number of its drivers and whether it uses woofers for bass and tweeters for treble. A speaker with a three-way design adds midrange drivers to the mix, while some two-way designs substitute midrange drivers for woofers. Bigger size generally means better audio, but many smaller devices can be connected to other ones for enhanced surround sound.
Unlike the SL model, this one comes with an internal mic, and there’s a button to turn it off when you’re not communicating with the device. Sonos
Getting a speaker that’s compatible with the electronic devices you already own is especially important when it comes to your preferred AI technology. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are each efficient and dependable in their own way, but if you already chat with one of them on your phone, having a compatible speaker means you can continue your comfortable connection. Compatibility also means maintaining a smooth ongoing relationship with your favorite browser, calendar, email service provider and apps. You won’t be able to link Spotify—or any other app, for that matter—to a speaker that works exclusively with a competing app.
Its eight-mic design offers excellent pick-up so it can hear you even when loud music is playing. Bose
The popular sound system now comes with voice assistant integration that allows communication with Siri and Google. JBL