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Comparing Smart Speakers from Apple, Amazon, Google and Sonos

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Now that Apple is about to release the HomePod, we wanted to take a look at if it's worth the $350 asking price. We'll break down the specs on the major smart speakers and explain what they mean to you in practical terms. Apple has not yet released the Apple HomePod but we do know some stats. So let's get those out the way first in a simple to read table.

Speaker Woofers Tweeters Microphones Music services Can be paired for stereo
HomePod 1 - 4" *          7            6 1. Apple music Yes
Google Home Max 2 - 4.5" *          2            6 Many Plays in Stereo
Sonos One 1 - 4" *           1            6*** Almost all Yes
Amazon Echo 1 - 2.5" **          1            7 Many No
* Has a high-excursion woofer
** Has Dolby sound
*** Note that the Sonos One uses either Google or Alexa as it's AI.

But specs never, ever, tell the entire story. Let's dig into what the specs really say and what really matters to you.

Woofers. How many does each smart speaker have and does it matter?

One big distinction with the Google Home Max is that it has two woofers that play in stereo. This matters less for stereo since bass is pretty non-directional than it does for the amount of air 2 woofers will move vs. one.

High excursion woofers.
What? is the reaction most of you are having on this term. The more air a woofer can move, the deeper and impactful it's bass response will be.  High excursion simply means the speaker moves a greater distance than a typical woofer might move. This is important because the greater distance it moves, the more air it can move (theoretically) and that is important to create good bass response. 

Woofer size.
Size does matter for woofers due the previously mentioned air movement. The larger the woofer the more air it moves. 

Dolby sound
I'm not sure how it does it but Dolby sound does seem to have improved the bass response on a the new Amazon Echo. It's not thumping but Amazon's AI, Alexa plus the gazillion skills it knows make up for the lack of deep bass. It does however provide a satisfying balanced sound and it great for everyday, non-critical listening. 

Tweeters. How many does each smart speaker have and does it matter?

Only two of these speakers has multiple tweeter's, the Google Home Max and the Apple HomePod. The Google Home Max uses this to play in stereo while the Apple HomePod does it to project the high frequencies to 360 degrees. The HomePod has an advantage here mostly if you're placing it in the middle of a room. Otherwise it's nice but not a game changer.


While all have really nice microphones, how many matter less than how well the software can listen and how smart the AI, (Alexa, Siri, Google) is that the speaker is using. Each has it's strong suit but we'd prefer Alexa and Google over Siri in most cases. As noted before Google or Alexa supply the smarts for Sonos, depending on which version you purchase. 

Music services

In this space Apple falls way behind. Unless your invested in Apple Music and never listen to a Pandora station or other music service this it going to be a non-starter for you. With the exception of Google not having Amazon Music and Amazon Music not have Google Play Music, all the other smart speakers offer multiple music services including Spotify. 

Can it be paired for Stereo playback?

While the Google Home Max is the only speaker in the bunch that plays in stereo natively the speaker are too close together to really give you any sense of a soundstage. The only speaker here that does not offer a stereo option is the Amazon Echo. 

Which Smart Speaker is the best one is best for you? Here are our thoughts

Speaker Bang for buck -Background music Robust smart home Audiophile Music service options
HomePod  ? X
Google Home Max XX X X
Sonos One X  X XX* XX
Amazon Echo X XXX X
*Given you can get two Sonos Ones for the price of one HomePod for true stereo separation, we give the Sonos 2 checks. The Sonos also has the most robust selection of music services. Note the Sonos does not have all the smart home tricks the Google or Echo have if that is important to you.
Pictures. Just so you can visualize what these speakers look like internally, which might help some of you. Here they are. 

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