Smart speakers mean you can stream music from Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music and other services. You need only to invoke the speaker’s virtual personal assistant.
As well as playing music, smart speakers can also answer questions, tell jokes, pass on messages, and turn compatible lights on and off, for instance. Some are better at these elements than playing music anywhere near hi-fi quality, but others go big on the audio.
In this testing, audio quality has been put to the fore. After all, the personal assistant bit of the equation is being improved all the time through increasingly smart software. But the woofers and tweeters in the speaker are set, so you need them to be the best they can be from the off.
We also checked how good the speakers were at answering questions. Could you only ask a question one way? Could it handle follow-up questions? Was it able to compare two people, for instance, to know whether Donald Trump is taller than Boris Johnson? He is 5.5 inches taller, Alexa says. We also tested how well the speaker could hear us asking it a question when music was playing at the same time.
Most, though not all, are mains-powered: the speakers are constantly listening to hear their wake words and batteries would deplete quickly.
Similarly, most have a dedicated button to quell the microphone so you needn’t have any worries about being listened to when you don’t want to. Some smart speakers have screens and cameras, in which case a microphone and camera cut-off system is included.
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