Choosing a smart speaker: 6 things to consider – Android Authority

Adam Molina / Android Authority

If you’re new to shopping for smart speakers, or getting back to it after a hiatus, the prospect can be a little daunting. The tech industry moves fast, and features that were state-of-the-art a few years ago can be average or even outdated today.

Being in the thick of the smart home industry, we’re here to explain what to look for. Some things will apply to shopping for and choosing between any modern smart speakers, while others may not have even been on your radar.

Audio specs

Naturally, your first consideration should be how powerful a speaker is and the quality it’s capable of.

Match audio specs to your intended use case. Products like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini may be affordable, for example, but they’re not powerful enough to overcome the noise of a party, and even in a quiet space they’re going to lack bass or crisp instruments and vocals. They don’t sound terrible, but they’re really meant for smart home control, news and podcasts, and some occasional low-key music.

Many budget speakers use single drivers to cover all audio frequencies. If you want true quality, then, you should choose a smart speaker that at least has a separate tweeter (for the highs) and a woofer (for the lows). Better still is something that adds one or more dedicated midrange drivers. An example of this is the Echo Studio, which has three 51mm midrange drivers, a 25mm tweeter, and a 133mm woofer.

Products like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini may be affordable, but they’re not powerful enough to overcome the noise of a party.

Typically you’ll want 20W or more of power if you expect a speaker to get loud and cover a large room, but companies don’t always publish wattage, and design tricks can sometimes circumvent limits. In fact, avoid falling for the idea that more power is automatically better — yes, it can improve range, volume, and bass, but past a certain point you’re just damaging your ears and causing an earthquake. The high-end Devialet Phantom I scales up to 1,100W, but at max volume it puts out 108dB — that’s enough to cause serious hearing damage after a few hours. Realistically, Phantom owners probably have their volume set at 50% or less in most cases.

If you’re an audiophile, you’ll want to keep an eye out for features like room tuning (e.g. Sonos Trueplay) and Dolby Atmos. The former matches equalizer settings to room acoustics, while the latter immerses you in 3D surround sound. You may want to link multiple Atmos speakers to get the full effect.

Voice assistants and platforms

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

A speaker doesn’t necessarily need a voice assistant to be “smart” — it can simply support automation-related standards like AirPlay and Google Cast — but that’s what people tend to think of. There’s an undeniable convenience to asking your speaker to play a song, turn on the lights, or tell you the weather forecast.

There are three major voice assistants, each linked to a smart home platform: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri (which is linked to HomeKit). Alexa is the most popular, as well as the best-supported in terms of speakers and compatible smart home accessories. Google Assistant …….



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