Best Home Speakers 2020: Reviews of Bose, Sonos, Amazon Echo - Rolling Stone
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The Best Home Speakers for Room-Filling Sound

These standalone speakers deliver surprisingly powerful audio for their size

best home speakers

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It used to be that the only option for a surround sound setup to fully fill your space with warm, enveloping sound required a central receiver, with connecting wires running around the room, and multiple speakers in every corner. But these days, speakers are smaller, sleeker, smarter, and can deliver a surround sound experience while only occupying a minimal footprint.

Not only that, but unsightly, tangled wires aren’t required now either, as most of the best home speakers have wireless Bluetooth capability for you to take it from room to room, or even outside. Some, such as the the Echo Studio, can “feel out” the acoustics in a room, in order to deliver a tailored sound, perfected for whatever space you’re in. They’re also usually pair-able with other similar speakers, to instantly double (or even triple) up your audio output.

Voice command isn’t an afterthought either. All of the best home speakers have AI assistant abilities, especially with Amazon Alexa, which responds to hundreds, even thousands, of commands, from asking the weather or what’s in the news, to playing music, or making a call, where the unit automatically becomes a speakerphone. Their capabilities really come in handy in the kitchen, where AI assistants can quickly do measurement conversion math, and even look up and read you recipes – especially helpful when your hands are busy.

Most new home speakers are water-resistant, but if you do plan on using these units around water (such as in the kitchen, bathroom, or poolside) pay attention to the IPX rating – the lower the rating, the less water it can handle. Light splashes are okay for an IPX4, but for a completely waterproof speaker, the scale goes up to IPX8, which can be totally submerged up to three meters without damage.

The latest home speakers also sync up to your other smart home devices too, allowing you to have an all-in-one voice command center that can do things like dim lights and lock doors, and even alert you to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

Any one of these units are an excellent addition to your living space, providing much more than just great sound for your home. If you’re looking for an easy and fuss-free way to upgrade your room or studio, these are the best home speakers to get.

1. Bose SoundLink

Anyone familiar with Bose knows that they’re masters of engineering big, rich sound out of compact speakers. The SoundLink is no different, and provides booming, room-filling sound anywhere in your house.

The buttons on top are clearly defined with plenty of space, and easy to figure out for any new user, while a MicroUSB port on the side charges it up. A 3.5mm output lets you connect headphones or an auxiliary cable.

Pairing with Bluetooth is especially easy, as a voice prompt guides you through the entire process, and gives you even greater control with the Bose Connect app. Once connected, the Bose home speaker doubles as a speakerphone with a 30-foot range, and lets you access your phone’s AI assistant hands-free. You can even pair two SoundLinks together for a doubly-powerful output.

The exterior is made from a soft silicone, but still solid, which gives you more grip with less chances of slip, while also reducing potential damage from drops. It’s also water and splash-resistant up to IPX4. A fully-charged battery lasts about eight hours.

Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker II

Amazon

2. Echo Studio

The Echo Studio is more than just a speaker. In fact, it’s actually five speakers disguised as one.

Built-in Dolby Atmos technology sends sounds in all directions, providing an immersive experience that instantly enriches any audio. The unit automatically feels out the acoustics of a room, and pumps out the best dimensions of sound to fill the space.

The Studio is also the only Echo smart speaker that plays new music mastered in 3D and Ultra HD. An Amazon Music subscription takes it up a notch too, with a collection of tunes in these new formats, at up to ten times the bitrate of other streaming services.

Aside from excellent sound, the Echo Studio responds to hundreds of voice commands, like creating calendar events, or getting real-time news and sports scores.

Privacy can be a concern for many users, and the Echo keeps that in mind with a mic that can be muted at any time, as well as the ability to view, hear, and delete your own voice recordings. The same goes for safety, as the Echo can literally echo sounds like smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, even glass breaking, alerting you as soon as it hears something.

The unit itself is a bit bulky at around eight pounds. But, as with anything Amazon, setup is straightforward and simple for the most part: just download the most updated Alexa app, plug the speaker in, and it’ll guide you through the rest. It’s also easily connectable with other Amazon products, and pairs well with the Fire Stick, Echo Sub, or another Echo Studio somewhere else in your ever-growing smart home.

Echo Studio Smart Speaker

Amazon

3. Sonos One (Gen 2) Speaker

Sonos users who are familiar with the company’s other products won’t be disappointed with the sound that this sleek four-pound speaker cranks out. The quality is crisp, clear, and detailed.

This is an ideally-sized speaker that’s versatile enough for any space, from family room, to kitchen, and even the bathroom since it’s humidity-resistant (but not waterproof, though).

Setup is similar to the others: download the Sonos app, and plug in and power on the speaker, while the app guides you through the process and even lets you select what room the speaker will be in. Voice commands can control almost everything, and it’s also possible to pair with an additional One, along with other Sonos devices like the Beam and PlayBar via WiFi in different rooms.

There’s an Ethernet port on the back too, which other standalone speakers have removed in recent years. This also works with Amazon Alexa, as well as Apple AirPlay and HomeKit, which is a really nice perk for Mac and iPhone users.

Sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker

Amazon

4. OontZ Angle 3 PRO: Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

Don’t be dissuaded if you’ve never heard of OontZ – the brand is owned by Cambridge Soundworks, a 30+ year veteran in the speaker manufacturing game, and legendary contender when it comes to precise audio engineering.

At only 1.32 pounds, this is the lightest of the bunch, but can still get loud. The Neodymium drivers are 40% larger than previous models, giving it a boost of up to 21 watts and 50% more output. Inside, there’s double the airspace for acoustics, and a 30% larger passive bass radiator, allowing you to safely turn it up without the music crackling. You can also pair two (or more) speakers together for even bigger sound, and the unit is IPX7 waterproof, meaning it can be fully submerged up to a meter for 30 minutes.

The speaker is compatible with voice command AI, the Bluetooth 5.0 is a breeze to set up, and the speaker has an impressive, unobstructed 100-foot range that swiftly connects to other devices like Echos, smartphones and tablets. Or if you prefer to stay wired, there’s a USB port and a 3.5mm jack for auxiliary (a cable is included) or headphones. Battery strength is noteworthy too, as this can play for up to 15 hours on one charge.

OontZ Angle 3 PRO: Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

Amazon

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