Best Alexa speakers 2021: Amazon-powered smart speakers for all budgets

Fill your home with the best Amazon Alexa speakers, from the living room to the kitchen to the garden

Best Alexa speakers
(Image credit: Bose)

Alexa speakers are everywhere these days, but answering the (admittedly leading) question 'what is the best Alexa speaker' means working out what your priorities are.

Are you looking for a great-sounding Alexa speaker for music, or will a smaller and cheaper option do? Do you need a speaker with a smart home Zigbee hub built in, or do you not know/care what that means? 

Might you even need a portable Alexa speaker, one which can double up as a boombox while you're out and about, or accompany you into the bathroom and bang out a podcast while you're in the tub? Whatever you need, we'll make it easy to find the best Alexa speakers for you.

Perhaps you're wondering why you'd want an Alexa speaker in the first place. An Alexa speaker can play music, audiobooks, podcasts and radio stations without any external audio source. It can take notes, make lists, set timers and answer inane questions. And if you're the smart home type, there's more gear out there that works with Alexa than anything else.

Most Alexa speakers are good speakers, too. Some even have gimmicks you'll rarely find elsewhere; the 3D audio and Atmos chops of the Echo Studio, for example, make it a pretty unique device. But let's answer that most critical question: how do you pick? Well, it's all about what works for you...

How to choose an Alexa speaker

When choosing the best Alexa speaker for you, you'll need to consider three key factors: money, room size, and capabilities. We'd wager you won't need too much help selecting a speaker on the basis of its price. If you know your budget, you'll know what to go for. The Echo Dot is a bargain even at its full £50/$50, and it's regularly under £30/$30, and you can climb up from there.

The Dot is also great for smaller rooms, being a smaller speaker, and the version which includes a clock is perfect to put beside your bed. Not that the larger Echo (or a third-party speaker) won't suit tighter spaces - though putting a Studio in a box room might be overkill, depending on how loud you like your tunes.

Then there's the capabilities. Amazon's own-brand kit doesn't tend to veer too far from the plug-in single speaker form factor, although its smart screens are worthy of mention and could be more useful in the long run even if you're only looking for a speaker. It's the third party Alexa speakers that offer more - if you want an Alexa soundbar, a portable Alexa speaker, or a totally waterproof example which is happy to work even in the shower, we've picked some of our favourites below.

We should point out, though, that the Alexa you get will not always be full-fat Alexa. The full experience can only be found in devices from Amazon's own Echo line - on third party devices, you won't be able to use the drop-in, announcements or calling functionality, though everything else should work just fine.

If you want to know more about Alexa, we've got our guide to Alexa vs Google Assistant so you can assess the two biggest smart assistants. We've also got our guide to the best Alexa Skills that you can add to your Alexa device to power it, we've got our guide to Alexa easter eggs and tips to help you have more fun with it, and if things go wrong we've got our Alexa troubleshooting guide.

Best Alexa speakers: the Echo family

If you're going Alexa, selecting an Amazon device may be the best choice for you. There's a long list of Alexa-supporting devices available from Amazon, including curiosities like the Echo Auto, things more meant for Alexa functions than speaker functions (the Echo Flex and Echo Input, to name two), and Amazon's smart screen Echo Show line, which will happily play back audio at a decent quality. Those aren't for this list: here come the best Echo speakers you can buy.

Best Amazon Echo speaker

Amazon Echo (4th gen)

(Image credit: Amazon)

1. Amazon Echo (4th generation)

The main-line Echo that does it all

Reasons to buy
+Smart hub functionality+Cool new design+Great microphone array
Reasons to avoid
-Long in the tooth

The Amazon Echo (4th generation) has elbowed the second-gen Echo Plus aside at last: this is now the leader of the Echo line, and it's perfect for just about any room. Amazon has drastically upped the audio specs, with a vaguely front-firing speaker array doing some wonderful things with music and podcasts. Yes, it's beaten by higher-tier Alexa speakers, but this sounds better than it has any right to. 

The spherical design will be polarising, we expect, but there's no denying that the fourth-gen Echo is a well designed piece of kit, with a choice of cloth coverings which make it able to blend in with most decor. 

The big differentiator between the Echo and Echo Plus previously was the Plus' smart hub; here, with the Plus now dead and buried, that hub trickles down to the standard Echo without forcing a bump in price. It means this isn't just a quality speaker, it's a solid base for the rest of your smart home, with a Zigbee hub which can (if you're running compatible hardware, such as Philips Hue bulbs) entirely replace individual control hubs for those products.

Best value Echo speaker

Amazon Echo Dot

(Image credit: Amazon)

2. Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation)

Expand your Alexa setup, or just try it out

Reasons to buy
+Tiny form factor+Cheap as chips+Plenty responsive
Reasons to avoid
-Standard sound

The Amazon Echo Dot is not, even in this fourth-generation dressing, the best speaker around. Don't get us wrong, it does a surprisingly good job of filling a kitchen or bedroom with passable sound, and its single speaker has seen upgrades over the years. But it's no audiophile device. Instead, it's an almost throwaway-priced way of getting Alexa (and, with it, in-home communication) in the next room over. It's small, it's easy, it's perfectly capable of hearing what you have to say, and it's just as responsive as the rest of the line. 

The Echo Dot comes in a number of different disguises. There's the standard version, with its customisable cloth; there's a kids version, which tacks a little on the price in exchange for animal-print cladding and a specially kiddified version of Alexa as long as you're in a region where it's sold; and there's the version with a clock which, well, tucks a clock behind the cloth, making it perfect for your bedside table.

Whether you're expanding your existing Alexa lineup or just want to dip a toe into the water to see if it's something you'd like, the Echo Dot is a superb choice. Just keep an eye out for a sale, because the trend with previous versions was for them to be half price more often than not.

Best high end Echo speaker

Amazon Echo Studio

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Amazon Echo Studio

Amazon's big boy is a hefty speaker indeed

Reasons to buy
+Hi-res audio capabilities+Atmos compatibility+Loud, lively sound
Reasons to avoid
-Too expensive for simple Alexa use

Amazon clearly got itself very excited when designing the beefy Amazon Studio. It crammed in five individual speakers, pointing them this way and that; it doled out 330W of power to them, and self-calibration capabilities. The result is a bass-heavy smart speaker that audiophiles will, if not love, at least not hate. 

The Studio's sound is massive, leaning heavily on its bass end, with upgraded drivers and smarts which make it capable of pumping out hi-res audio. There's 330W of power in there, including an up-firing speaker which gives it support for the (currently very limited) library of Dolby Atmos Music on Amazon's Music HD service as well as Sony's 360 Reality Audio.

The Echo Studio is by far Amazon's most versatile smart speaker, offering up the option of Atmos movie playback when stereo paired to a Fire Stick 4K and, technically, looking like a good option for rear surround too. For all that it can do, the Studio is impressively priced, too. 

It's too much if all you want is Alexa, and others can pull off movie sound and audio fidelity better. But you won't find full-blown Alexa on a speaker more bombastic than this one, and it has a Zigbee hub built in too.

Echo Flex

(Image credit: Amazon)

4. Amazon Echo Flex

Okay, the speaker part's not up to much...

Reasons to buy
+Cheap as anything+No surface required+Very compact
Reasons to avoid
-Not a great speaker

If all you want is voice control in a far-flung corner of your home, the Echo Flex could well be a far better choice than a full-fat speaker. It plugs straight into a socket, so there are no cables to trail, no need to find a spot on a surface for the speaker to sit - and, frankly, fairly low expectations.

So yes, you don't get strong audio quality. But you do get access to the full range of Alexa features in a very compact package, and given that it's frequently discounted from even its low RRP, a sale might be a good convincer that this is a better choice than an Echo Dot - unless the Dot itself is reduced, of course..

Best Alexa speakers: Third-party

Hopefully by now we've established that Amazon's own offerings are great choices. In third-party speakers, Alexa often comes as a bonus – a smart little extra cherry on cake which would be delicious without it. But there are some cases where you might look for Alexa specifically: those rooms where only one speaker makes sense, those times when you want to take Alexa somewhere other than its anchored spot, and so on. And that's where third party speakers shine: they're extra Alexa. And here are the best you can get.

Best multi-room Alexa speaker

Sonos One

(Image credit: Sonos)

4. Sonos One

One speaker that sounds like many - and works with many, too

Reasons to buy
+Also supports Google Assistant+Incredible sound+Can be networked in many ways

All things taken into consideration, the Sonos One should probably be in the conversation of the best Alexa speakers, and indeed smart speakers since it also supports Google Assistant: it sounds absolutely remarkable for the money, it's packed with functionality, it plays nice with Spotify and Tidal (with hi-res audio now present too) and it's compatible with both Sonos' multi-room protocols and Apple's AirPlay 2. That's quite the package, all crammed in a beautiful enclosure that is (not coincidentally) highly reminiscent of Sonos' Play:1 speaker. Pair one up with the cheaper Sonos One SL, which omits the smart assistant controls, and you've got a very credible stereo combination, too. 

We'd recommend you watch closely when, as there are two generations of Sonos One on offer; the Gen 2 boosts the processor and RAM, so it's more responsive - the Gen 1 works fine, and most area likely to be gone from the market by now, but it's worth being wary. 

Best Alexa soundbar

(Image credit: Sonos)

5. Sonos Arc

A superior soundbar with Alexa built-in

Reasons to buy
+11-speaker Atmos audio+Great sound for movies or music+Multi-room ready
Reasons to avoid
-Only one HDMI input

However you might feel about its single solitary HDMI input (see what we thought in our full Sonos Arc review) the Sonos Arc is an otherwise very flexible and feature-rich soundbar, which complements its built-in Alexa functionality with the option of Google Assistant if you lean on the other side of the smart speaker spectrum.

The Sonos Arc sounds predictably fantastic, with 11 individually-amplified speakers firing sound up and around; Atmos support is present and correct, but its poise translates to other sources too. When you're not adding an extra dimension to your movies, the Arc is a musical powerhouse, perfect for making the most of Alexa's audio streaming capabilities. All in all, it's one of the best soundbars on the market.

It's as multi-room friendly as you'd expect a Sonos speaker to be, and it can be expanded by installing (say) a pair of Sonos One SLs to act as wireless rear speakers or Sonos' descriptively-named Sub for a little more bass meat. That's an expensive upgrade path, and the Arc isn't cheap by itself, but you'll get some prime Alexa sound whether you expand it or not.

If you like the idea of an Alexa soundbar, but this is too steep (or large – it's for TVs of 55 inches and up only), Sonos still has you covered. The Sonos Beam is a brilliant smaller soundbar, and it's less than half the price of the Arc. Here's our full Sonos Beam review.

Best portable Alexa speaker

Bose Portable Home Speaker

(Image credit: Bose)

6. Bose Portable Home Speaker

Carry top-quality Alexa sounds wherever you go

Reasons to buy
+Long lasting battery+Pleasant sound+Bluetooth compatibility
Reasons to avoid
-Quite expensive

The bucket handle is a not-so-subtle clue that Bose wants you to drag this around wherever you go, and you'll probably want to do as instructed. It's a brilliant speaker, with a warm sound and Bose's typical EQ expertise making the most of its 360-degree design. Even if you're not taking it out and about, plunking the Portable Home Speaker in the middle of the room is easy enough when there are no wires to worry about. 

Batteries will, on a good day, last you a solid 12 hours. Like Sonos' competitor, you can set it up to use either Alexa or Google Assistant, depending on your preference, which makes streaming sounds very simple. Obviously you'll need to be in Wi-Fi range for the smart features to work, but it's equally valuable as a Bluetooth speaker too.

Best waterproof Alexa speaker

Ultimate Ears Megablast

(Image credit: Ultimate Ears)

7. Ultimate Ears Megablast

Boom! A hugely powerful Alexa speaker you can drop in the pool

Reasons to buy
+Exciting sound and design+Basically everything-proof+Perfect for a party
Reasons to avoid
-Perhaps a bit brash

If you want to go loud, you can't beat the UE Megablast. Its audio balance is, as you might expect from its name, on the aggressive end, with a party's worth of power packed into its tight cylindrical design. It's about as far from a reference speaker as you can get, but if you like things bouncy and punchy, this is the one.

It's dustproof, dropproof and also IP67 waterproof, meaning it can take full submersion for up to half an hour. The latter will either come in very handy or rarely come into play at all; we suppose you could take the Megablast into the shower with you, if you really need a dose of music to sing along to.

And yes, this portable speaker includes the full range of third-party Alexa support, which is to say not quite the top-to-bottom Alexa experience but enough of it to suit a device like this.