As voice assistants continue to penetrate the speaker market, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when Sonos would bring voice control to its products. Well, the company answered that question earlier this month when it announced the $199 Sonos One. And, in typical Sonos fashion, they found a way to completely one up the rest of the market, and quite possibly themselves. The Sonos One will ship with support for Amazon Alexa, but over the course of the next year, the company will add Google Home and Apple AirPlay functionality to the speaker.
So, basically, you’re getting an Echo, a Google Home speaker, and Apple’s HomePod all rolled up into one compact package that looks and sounds better than anything Amazon, Google, or Apple could hope to create.
As I went through the review with this speaker, I found myself having to look at it under three different lenses. The first being the performance of the speaker itself. Then there’s the Alexa angle. And lastly, the future potential of the speaker. So let’s run through each.
Plain and simple, there isn’t a better sounding—and possibly better looking—smart speaker on the market right now than the Sonos One.
Essentially, the One is a carbon copy of the Sonos PLAY:1, with a few aesthetic changes, and of course the integration of Alexa. On the surface, the two pretty much have the same physical dimensions. You do notice, though, that the One comes in an all black or all white option, while the PLAY:1 has a slightly nicer-looking brushed aluminum casing around the speaker. The tradeoff here, though, is that you give up on the more industrial-looking speaker for one that blends in easier with decor, and the ability to have Alexa voice control right through your device.
Additionally, the top of the Sonos One looks more like what you’d find on an Echo, compared to the physical buttons on the PLAY:1. And you lose the wall-mounting screw in the back on the speaker, which I don’t think is a big deal because the use case for the One is more likely to be a kitchen gadget (or some other main household thoroughfare) as opposed to a home theater anchor piece. Though, you can pair two together and link it up with a PLAYBASE or PLAYBAR for a higher-powered TV experience.
In either case, I’ll take the One over the PLAY:1 any day of the week.
If there’s one thing that Sonos is missing out on right now—and it’s a major revenue opportunity for the company—is a battery base. That’s one thing I’ve seen and heard from tons of consumers who’ve invested in or are considering Sonos—they’re looking for a way to make these products a little more portable or a little less wired. Right now, the power cable plugs nicely into the bottom of the speaker. That port is almost too perfectly set up to support a battery pack base that could seamlessly plug into the bottom of the device. For now, though, this is all just wishful thinking, but it’s one area I think Sonos could make a huge splash.
Internally, you have all of the workings that you’d expect out of a Sonos speaker. The audio tech is exactly the same as whats inside the PLAY:1, though Sonos did pack in a six far-field microphone array for Alexa. Audio comes through exceptionally crisp, and one speaker is certainly enough to fill a room. Through the Sonos app, you can adjust the sound settings to optimize the speaker for the space it occupies.
Bottom line: This is a Sonos speaker, and if you’re familiar with Sonos or know anything about Sonos, you already know that you’re getting high-quality product that comes at a more-than reasonable price.
One Smart Speaker
The big differentiator between the Sonos One and every other speaker in the company’s lineup right now is the integration of a voice assistant. It’s a very obvious next step in the progression of its products, following the wider trend in the speaker industry. But the One is not without it’s issues in the smart speaker department that you’ll find with other digital voice assistants.
First and foremost, though, getting Alexa integrated with the Sonos One is a bit of a cumbersome process. There are a lot of steps involved. Once out of the box, you have to set up your Sonos system, add the speaker to that system, add all of your music services to the Sonos app, link the speaker to your Amazon Alexa account, and then you’re brought over to the Alexa app where you have to link all of those same music services to Alexa, before having Alexa discover your Sonos One. And then you’re good to go.
After the initial setup, you’ll be good to go. Though, I did experience some wonkiness with Alexa not recognizing commands or telling me she didn’t know what went wrong when I tried to ask her to do something. But those turned out to be issues with Alexa herself. A simple refreshing of the link between the Sonos and Alexa fixed those problems.
When she’s set up, there’s no denying how simple and enjoyable it is asking Alexa to play a certain song, give me weather and news updates, and more, and to hear it read back in beautiful clarity. And there’s the added bonus of being able to control other smart home devices right through the Sonos speaker. That Westinghouse Fire TV we reviewed, I don’t even have to pick up the remote anymore. Alexa understands commands to switch inputs and channels right through the Sonos One.
If there’s one thing missing right now from the experience it’s the lack of Spotify support, but Sonos has said (there’s a note on their website even) that Spotify will be added to the mix in due time.
A Bright Future
What’s truly exciting about this speaker, from a connected device standpoint, is what Sonos has in store over the course of the next few months. The Sonos One ships with support for Amazon Alexa, but through software updates they plan to add support for Google Assistant and Apple’s AirPlay service. That’s makes the Sonos One the one speaker to rule all other voice assistant audio devices out there. You’ll eventually have access to all of those services in a product that pumps out higher-quality audio than anything else on the market.
At the end of the day, this is easily the best standalone, consumer-grade speaker—smart or otherwise—that we’ve had the opportunity to look at.