Which Amazon Echo or Alexa Speaker Is Best?
Amazon's family of Echoes keeps growing. From the first can-shaped Echo, to the big-screen Echo Show, and even the cute Echo Dot, you can get Alexa into your home any number of ways. These devices can answer your questions, help you order essentials for your home, play all sorts of audio content, and even function as the control hub for your burgeoning smart home. Here are our favorite Echo and Alexa-compatible speakers for every home and budget.
Updated July 2019: We've refreshed this list for Prime Day, with the latest Echo devices. Prices may be lower during the sale. Be sure to check out our picks for Best Smart Speakers, Best Bluetooth Speakers, and Best Google Speakers, as well.
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The Best Overall Echo
Amazon Echo Plus ($150)
The 2018 Echo Plus is the best-sounding Echo. Like the cheaper second-generation Echo, it has a tweeter and subwoofer, but it sounds impressive enough to justify its $50 premium. The newer 2018 version is also a step up from the original, with smoother bass and treble. If music and audio quality are your jam, the Sonos One is still the speaker to own, but the Echo Plus isn't bad, especially if you pair it with an Echo Sub ($130).
It’s also the best version to buy if you own smart home devices, thanks to its Zigbee support. Zigbee allows it to directly connect with products in your home that use that standard form of mesh networking—a network created by daisy-chaining devices together. It has a built-in temperature sensor, too.
The Best Echo Smart Display
Amazon Echo Show ($230)
The Echo Show has come a long way in a short time. The first Show was a blocky chunk of a device to look at, but the new model is much easier on the eyes. It's all screen on the front, with a larger 10-inch display, and the rear speakers also sound better and have a fabric covering them.
It may seem odd to buy an Alexa speaker with a display. After using it you'll understand the appeal. When you ask it for the weather, it tells you and shows you. Alexa’s daily news briefing now has video with it, giving you a quick visual dose of what's going on in the world, and Amazon added recipe and cooking help to it, too. You can also video call other Echo Shows or watch Amazon Prime videos on it. Lyrics for songs on Amazon Music scroll as they play.
The Best Echo for Voice Only
Amazon Echo Dot ($30)
If you want an Alexa speaker, but don’t plan on rocking out with it, the Echo Dot is for you. It’s a hockey puck-shaped speaker that puts out decent spoken audio. The new version has a softer fabric coating its sides and does sound better for music—though still not up to the audio quality of a larger speaker. It’s ideal if you want to double down and add Alexa access in more rooms of your home, or add voice control to your smart home gadgets.
Amazon Echo Show Five ($90)
This isn't our favorite Echo device, but it does fill a particular niche. The Echo Show Five is the smaller, pared down version of its larger sibling the full-size Echo Show. While it is significantly cheaper, it's also a lot smaller which makes it a good choice if you're just looking for an Alexa-enabled alarm clock. It's not useful as its larger cousin, though. Think of it as bedside-table-Alexa more than a dining-room-table-Alexa.
Other Alexa Speakers Worth Considering
Echo speakers are great, but the best way to use Alexa isn’t with an Amazon device at all. Below are three speakers that we like more than the Echo Plus, Spot, Dot, Tap, or Show. Find more recommendations here.
Sonos One ($200)
The Sonos One is the WIRED Gear team’s favorite smart speaker and multi-room speaker (we gave the first generation 8/10 and our WIRED Recommends seal of approval). If you’re going to buy one (or two) speakers for your home, the One is a smart bet thanks to its Wi-Fi networking that lets you string any Sonos speakers together, and robust support for nearly every music and audio app you can imagine. It also features Google Assistant, if you want to betray Alexa for its biggest rival (and you just might).
Sonos Beam ($400)
The Sonos Beam is one of our favorite soundbars. It will seamlessly work with any other Sonos speakers you have, and you can easily play music on it when you aren't binging Netflix. It sounds amazing no matter what audio is coming out of it.
Polk Command Bar ($299)
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The Polk Command Bar isn't flawless, but it's a great value for the price. It's hard to get a regular soundbar and subwoofer for this price, let alone one that basically has an Echo Dot plopped in the center. It's one of the better soundbars you can own.
UE Megablast ($160)
The UE Megablast (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is one of the best-sounding portable smart speakers we’ve tested with one of the longest-lasting batteries. Did we mention that its waterproof, just like UE’s smaller Blast speaker, which is fantastic as well. Be sure to buy the optional charging stand or you'll have to tip them on their side to charge. It's getting a little long in the tooth though, so some of the newer options might have a bit more longevity.
Harman Kardon Allure ($200) for Bass:
If you’re all about that bass, consider the Allure (it earned a 7/10 in our review, a respectable score). It has a huge downward-firing subwoofer that will shake up any party and has Bluetooth support if you get tired of barking orders at it. Don't buy it if it costs more than $200, though. Its price bounces up and down regularly, so wait a few weeks and try again.
What’s WIRED and TIRED About All Echo Speakers?
Here is the good and bad of Amazon's own Alexa speakers, summed up.
WIRED: Amazon’s own Echo speakers with are the easiest Alexa speakers to set up. You just download the Alexa app and you’re good to go. They also have some exclusive features, like screens, audio/video calling, and Zigbee smart home support, which other Alexa speakers don’t have. Amazon’s dedication to low prices also makes them quite affordable.
TIRED: Some Echo speakers don’t sound great, and in our experience Alexa is not as useful as Google's Assistant. The Echo Show is the only Amazon-made speaker we recommend in our list of the Best Smart Speakers.
Is Now a Good Time to Buy?
Yes. The Echo Show Five was recently unveiled and even if your Echo is replaced, it will likely retain its functionality for many years.
We advise against buying a refurbished 1st-generation Echo speaker. Buy one of the 2nd or 3rd Generation Echo or Echo Dots to get a significantly better experience. The mild savings won't justify having an older model that may not get supported as long.