top tips for buying the perfect smart speaker

Let's face it.

The trend of moving away from traditional audio systems in favour of all-in-one smart speakers shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. 

More of us are turning to smart speakers as popularity for streaming services continues to surge year after year. 

Easy to place, simple to use and enjoyable to listen to, today’s market for smart speakers is an overwhelming minefield of specifications and price. 

With an abundance of features for buyers to consider, here are five of the most significant factors to think about when purchasing a smart speaker. 


1. WiFi vs Bluetooth smart speakers?

Choosing between a wireless speaker that connects to your selected device by Bluetooth and another that connects to a Wi-Fi network can make for a hard decision. 

Both forms are suited to different users, which is why we have detailed the pros and cons for you to decide which is best for you. 

Bluetooth speakers

Bluetooth technology allows users to pair two separate devices to function together seamlessly for a shared purpose. Initially designed for wireless data transfer between two devices, Bluetooth can also be used to transmit audio between a storage device and a Bluetooth-compatible player. 

Many of us have considerable music collections stored on our smart devices. And as larger data bundles allow for streaming more tracks on the go, Bluetooth is the most convenient option when playing music on stereos or speakers. 

Unlike Wi-Fi, Bluetooth is ideal if you want to take a smart speaker out with you. Whether it's around to friends or down to the park, Bluetooth speakers enable you to continue the party wherever you go. 

Bluetooth does suffer from limitations though when it comes to sound quality as audio is compressed for smoother wireless transmission between your chosen player and a receiving smart speaker. 


On the other hand, recent developments in Bluetooth technology have seen a select number of smart speaker manufacturers, including Bluesound, adopt the vastly improved aptX-HD Bluetooth codec.

Delivering up to 24-bit audio playback, and a superior signal-to-noise ratio, the aptX-HD codec means you can now enjoy hi-res music on the move in all of its lossless glory. 

A Bluetooth smart speaker places the majority of its control in the device from which you are playing music. As a large number of us will use a mobile phone to play music from, the audio transmission will be interrupted if you receive any incoming calls or notifications. 

While a Bluetooth smart speaker allows you to enjoy your music wherever you like, you will need to keep your playback device nearby for reliable performance. 

If you are looking for a seamless performance, however, where you aren’t tied to be near your smart speaker, the Wi-Fi smart speaker could be for you. 

WiFi speakers

Wi-Fi enabled smart speakers can use reliable wireless technology, which the majority of us have in place around our homes and workplaces.

Control of your tracks usually takes place in the dedicated app from your chosen smart speaker brand, making for seamless control. The distinct advantage in this situation is that the app on your phone or tablet controls the music choices, instead of streaming audio to the receiving smart speaker.

If your device receives a call or notification, the music will remain uninterrupted because a smart Wi-Fi speaker does not rely on an external player for audio.


Faster download speeds made commonplace by internet providers now means that we can stream hi-res audio libraries available from subscription services like Tidal and Qobuz

For those wanting to stream audio instantly to a smart speaker on the WiFi network, the inclusion of Apple Airplay 2 on some smart speaker brands makes them all the more convenient. 

Although WiFi smart speakers offer excellent audio quality and superb reliability, one of the more significant drawbacks is that they are not a portable solution.

The Best of Both Worlds

If you still cannot decide whether Bluetooth or WiFi suits you better, thankfully some models are offering both connection methods for greater versatility. 


Both the newly announced Sonos Move and the Bluesound Flex 2i can offer high-quality sound on WiFi, with the ability to switch to Bluetooth for music playback with no boundaries. 

Shop Sonos Move

2. How do you want to Control your Smart Speaker?

Smart speakers are effortless to operate by anyone. No longer is there a need to press hundreds of buttons or access reams of menus to hear the songs you want. 

Instead, the two most common ways of controlling smart speakers are possible through tailored apps for your particular smart player, or in some cases by the power of your voice. 

Control by App

Manufacturers of smart speakers have spent many hours researching and developing intuitive apps to allow users to search, find and play their favourite tracks. 

If you use a smartphone, tablet or a computer, brands like Sonos and Bluesound provide their free control apps to set-up your smart speakers and operate them. 


And with seamless integration with your chosen music provider’s platform, for access to their libraries in one place, controlling your smart speakers is easy as child’s play. 

But for those of us wishing to be less dependable on our tablets and phones, then the following method of control will make for operating your smart speakers a more natural experience. 

Control by Voice

The notion of controlling a device from your voice at one time seemed wildly space-age. However, that futuristic dream has now firmly become something of the here and now with the likes of Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa becoming commonplace.

A voice-activated speaker makes for a more natural alternative to scrolling menus for songs and opens up a whole world of possibilities when controlling other smart home devices.

As more smart home devices are coming to the market to make our lives easier, why not ensure your chosen smart speaker can embrace this technology?


With our recent review of the Philips Hue smart lamps integrating with the Sonos One at Smart Home Sounds, a smart speaker with voice activation proves to be the vital key to controlling your smart home. 

As mentioned earlier, the Sonos One is one of our most popular smart speakers with speech recognition, closely followed by the Sonos Beam soundbar. Both of these devices can work with Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant, for your preferred choice of voice control. 

Don’t forget, the entire Bluesound 2i range can similarly respond to voice commands via Alexa when synced with an Amazon Echo Dot. 

3. do you want Multi-Room Audio?

The beauty of the smart speaker is that great audio no longer has to be enjoyed in one room of the house. With stronger Wi-Fi routers guaranteeing more reliable networks in our homes, why not expand your sound system with multi-room audio? 

Wi-Fi smart speakers can be dotted around the home so that you can listen to your favourite songs and radio stations without being confined to one listening point. 

And with a few wireless speakers around the home, you will be able to play different music through each, or group them when you want to get the party started.


But when you want to get the party started, you can group all your speakers so that everyone can enjoy the music wherever they chose to mingle. However, it is worth remembering that most smart speakers will only share their audio with same-branded speakers elsewhere in your home. 

For example, if you have a Sonos system in place, then you won’t be able to add smart speakers from another brand to integrate into the same set-up. 

With smart speakers offering control by apps for your chosen phone, tablet or desktop device, or through voice control, friends and family can get on board and make their music requests to bring everyone closer together. 

4. Which Music Subscription Service do you want to use?

Most consumers now choose to stream their music from a subscription service, saving themselves from the clutter of CDs and the expense of buying individual albums.

Including the increasingly popular Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music platforms, there are hundreds of services waiting to offer you vast audio libraries which are always expanding. 

The majority of subscription services can be accessed and played through your smart speakers, with song choices made in your smart speaker’s app. And in the case of voice commanding your song choices through your smart speaker, many music services can be linked to your preferred voice assistant for simple playback control. 

If sound quality is a priority, hi-res streaming options from the likes of Amazon Music HDTidal and Qobuz are ready to present your tracks with stunning clarity. But be sure your preferred smart speaker has the ability to playback hi-res audio, as not all devices on the market are ready to do so. 

Many streaming services tend to offer free trials or reduced-cost subscriptions, giving listeners a chance to decide on which provider best suits their needs. 

5. Which Smart Speaker is right for you?

Thankfully there are many options to choose from when shopping for your smart speaker. And aside from what we’ve already talked about, there are few factors you may wish to consider. 

It is worth establishing if you want to use your smart speaker for general background listening, or more critical audio performances. Also be mindful of the budget you have to play with, whether choosing one smart speaker or several units for multi-room audio potential. 


Smart speakers like the Sonos One and the Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i offer great sound in a smaller form factor. But larger models like the Sonos Play:5 or the Bluesound Pulse 2i provide effortless performance.

But for those looking for a premium smart speaker, then the Bowers & Wilkins Wedge delivers music lovers with the ultimate immersive sound experience. 

If you are still unsure as to which smart speaker is best for your needs, then don't hesitate to get in touch with the friendly team at Smart Home Sounds.

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By Tom, Sales Team Member

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