Review: Sonos One brings high fidelity to smartspeakers

Posted:
in iPhone
The Sonos One may be the best smartspeaker you can buy -- and with its pricetag and upcoming features, will probably pose a serious threat to Apple's HomePod.




Just about anyone familiar with gadgets has heard of the Amazon Echo line and knows that it's absurdly popular. It helps of course that the Echo Dot, meant to connect to an external speaker, costs less than $50. Competition is only now beginning to heat up, thanks both to the upcoming HomePod and an expanded line of Google Home products.

One thing most smartspeakers have lacked until this point though is sound quality. The standard Echo is certainly good enough for casual listening, but it's not meant for audiophiles or home theater integration.

Enter the Sonos One, which adds Amazon's Alexa voice assistant to the template of Sonos's high-end Play:1 speaker. The main hardware changes are six far-field microphones, and new touch-sensitive buttons such as a mic mute.




Setup is largely similar to any other Sonos speaker, handled through the company's iOS app. After connecting the One to Wi-Fi you'll probably do Trueplay tuning, which involves walking around a room with an iPhone or iPad while the One emits a series of pulses. You'll also want to connect as many music services as possible, like Apple Music or Spotify, since while the app can play local files it's really meant to serve as a kind of universal remote.




Making things a little more complicated is the need to configure Alexa. You'll have to have an Amazon account and the Alexa iOS app, making sure Alexa likewise recognizes which music services you use.




At the moment, the One's music-related Alexa commands apply only to a small subset of services: Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and SiriusXM. No Apple Music. And while the speaker supports most other Alexa functions, such as smarthome control and IFTTT integration, some exceptions include calling and messaging, setting reminders, grouping rooms, or moving music to another room. For the last two you'll need the Sonos app once again, though naturally you can always start music fresh anywhere you choose.




In testing we found that the speaker was fairly adept at hearing and interpreting us, and actually a little snappier in wake-up and reply than an Echo Dot. There was an instance when it failed to hear us when we were facing the opposite direction, but that didn't repeat.

More importantly, the One sounds like the Play:1: fantastic. It's a single-channel speaker, but even on its own it's balanced and clear with punchy bass. You can pair it with a second unit for stereo, and with a Playbase, Playbar and/or Sub as part of a home theater setup. The catch is that every speaker has to come from Sonos, and a One can't do stereo pairing with a Play:1.

Limitations & the future

Any further downsides are the same ones that affect other Sonos and Alexa products. There's no Bluetooth receiver or 3.5mm jack, which is inconvenient and ultimately feels like a cash grab. And while Alexa is easily the industry's best-supported voice assistant, it has its quirks. Its "skill" system and iOS app are awkward, and unlike Google Assistant, it has trouble with some knowledge-based questions.

Speaking of which, the One will eventually support Assistant, and even Apple's Siri and HomeKit by way of AirPlay 2. Those will make it truly unique -- but don't hold your breath, since Sonos has only promised those upgrades sometime in 2018.

Conclusions

Most people using an existing speaker system -- from Sonos or otherwise -- should probably just connect an Echo Dot. The One is better than many other mono speakers, but it won't replace any "serious" audio gear on its own.

It's also best to steer away from the product if you're paranoid about privacy, and in the short term, if you're counting on Siri support. We don't yet know how well that will work.

If you're looking to dive into the Sonos ecosystem however or only need enough juice for a small room, the One is tough to beat. During much of our testing we had the speaker sitting on an office desk, and it filled the space with extremely pleasing sound -- in some ways surpassing a mid-range, 2.1-channel Logitech setup.

It's so good that at $199, it's bound to divert some people away from the $349 HomePod. Sure, the HomePod will likely sound even better, but a $349, Siri-only speaker that's biased in favor of Apple Music will face an uphill climb.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

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Where to buy

The Sonos One is available at B&H for $199.00 with free shipping and no tax on orders shipped outside NY and NJ. Alternatively, Best Buy and Amazon have the Sonos One for the same price, although sales tax will be collected in all applicable states.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 59
    The Sonos One is $299 here in Australia - the HomePod is likely to be between $600-$700 here, so I can have two Sonos speakers for the same or less money. I don't use Apple Music, so that's not a problem.
  • Reply 2 of 59
    dachardachar Posts: 330member
    I have been using various Sonos products since 2009 including more recently two Sonos Play 1s and have now purchased a One. Set up was slightly more complicated than the usual smooth Sonos ways as it involved switching between both Sonos and Amazon software. The One seems to be able to respond even when music is loud. As the price of the One is the same as a Play 1 l did wonder if the sound quality might be lower with the One. I have not noticed any difference. Unless the HomePod’s sounds much much better l agree that the One could give Apple serious competition. If Apple Music is added to the One’s  services l would give it 5 out of 5. 
  • Reply 3 of 59
    rumblestriprumblestrip Posts: 3unconfirmed, member
    Before you drop money on a Sonus go check out and listen if you can, to the Riva Audio Arena and Festival. FAR better than Sonos.
    cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 59
    I really can’t see how Apples Pod can compete if Apple continues to close all its services to third parties. It’s unreal that Siri can’t control
    Spotify.
    xzumavemufccornchipadm1
  • Reply 5 of 59
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,616member
    kkqd1337 said:
    I really can’t see how Apples Pod can compete if Apple continues to close all its services to third parties. It’s unreal that Siri can’t control
    Spotify.
    Isn’t it up to Spotify to write an interface to Siri?

    cornchipapplepieguypscooter63watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 59
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,249member
    At thanksgiving I got two SONOS ONEs for $175 a piece.   The music sounds great in stereo.  I wish I Could listen to podcasts through them but that's ok.  Looking for AirPlay 2 to enable that.

    I was going to get a Pair of HomePods originally but not now because of ThrottleGate.
    I'm pissed I got an iPhone 8 too. 


    williamlondon
  • Reply 7 of 59
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,360member
    The Sonos One is $299 here in Australia - the HomePod is likely to be between $600-$700 here, so I can have two Sonos speakers for the same or less money. I don't use Apple Music, so that's not a problem.
    Obviously all devices that support Alexa will support all the major music streaming services (including Apple Music) so at this point I'm going to assume that HomePod will support other music services, too, just as iOS, tvOS, and macOS do. My take it that its simply not something they're advertising at this point, and if they're severely HW-lmited (and possibly with incomplete SW) when they finally start to sell they may even not have initial support out of the gate, but I'm certain will come.

    Before you drop money on a Sonus go check out and listen if you can, to the Riva Audio Arena and Festival. FAR better than Sonos.
    I'm not seeing any support for Alexa in this press release.

  • Reply 8 of 59
    Thanks for the review, much appreciated.

    With this product out there, it doesn’t make a lotta sense to me to buy the Homepod, especially since Apple is boycotting Spotify through Siri. After years(!) I still can’t tell Siri (which by itself is a pretty terrible voice assistant) to play song X in Spotify. They should be sued for blocking competition on their platform. 

    williamlondon
  • Reply 9 of 59
    k2kw said:

    I was going to get a Pair of HomePods originally but not now because of ThrottleGate.
    I'm pissed I got an iPhone 8 too. 
    Yeah right. Cool story bro. When should we let you in on a secret? HomePods aren’t even out nor is there a release date. 

    Why dont you just sell your iphone, pick up a knockoff, load it up with removable batteries and external storage, yet still replace it more often due to the shorter useful lifespan of its hardware and software, and stop whining about Apple on an Apple site? Sounds reasonable, right?

    But you won’t. 
    edited December 2017 hammeroftruthmacplusplusirnchrizGeorgeBMacericthehalfbeewilliamlondonapplepieguypscooter63watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 10 of 59
    "Paranoid about privacy"? Shouldn't that be "concerned"? Paranoid is defined as "unreasonable or obsessively anxious". I believe most would think it's very reasonable to distrust internet-connected listening devices.
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobrajony0beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 11 of 59
    Don't see the big deal in no Bluetooth receiver or Headphone jack, This looks like a really good speaker, and $150 cheaper than the HomePod, Alexa is better than Siri as well, Bet Apple are really kicking themselves that they had to delay the HomePod!
    cornchipmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 12 of 59
    The lack of bluetooth forces you to use the Sonos app for everything but I had numerous wifi networking problems with the Sonos Play 1s speakers via an Apple Time Capsule hub.    Can't use the speakers for ad hoc use, for example visitors who want to play their music as well.

    Returned the units for a refund.
    pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 59
    dsddsd Posts: 172member
    Happy I got an iPhone 8 and am going to buy a pair of HomePods next year in spite of TrollGate.
    cornchiplkruppwilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 59
    Do you need to press any buttons on the Sonos before playing music or is it ready to play all the time like airplay? Only thing wrong w Bluetooth speakers is having to power them on. I like being able to pull up to my house and as as soon as I’m on WiFi I can have music playing when I walk in the door. 
  • Reply 15 of 59
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,249member
    k2kw said:

    I was going to get a Pair of HomePods originally but not now because of ThrottleGate.
    I'm pissed I got an iPhone 8 too. 
    Yeah right. Cool story bro. When should we let you in on a secret? HomePods aren’t even out nor is there a release date. 

    Why dont you just sell your iphone, pick up a knockoff, load it up with removable batteries and external storage, yet still replace it more often due to the shorter useful lifespan of its hardware and software, and stop whining about Apple on an Apple site? Sounds reasonable, right?

    But you won’t. 
    While HomePods aren’t out they were announced at WWDC to arrive by the end of this year.   And whether you like it or not Apple pulled “used car salesman” move with the Throttling.   Now if I could get a full refund for my iPhone7 or iPhone8 I would get a Pixel 2 (Not the XL).

    I don’t expect that we will know the full truth about these lemon phones’ batteries considering Apple impressive secrecy -
    Such is the state tech journalism even with some of the extremely knowledgeable guys that write for AI.

    I’ve learned to ignore the koolaide drinkers.


    williamlondon
  • Reply 16 of 59
    davepbass said:
    Do you need to press any buttons on the Sonos before playing music or is it ready to play all the time like airplay? Only thing wrong w Bluetooth speakers is having to power them on. I like being able to pull up to my house and as as soon as I’m on WiFi I can have music playing when I walk in the door. 
    I have a Play 5. I don't need to press any sort of power switch on it to use it but it requires running their controller app to use. Any software not supported by the Sonos app can't play to the speaker unless you select line-in from the app and feed a analog signal using AirPlay or BlueTooth. A few months ago they claimed they were opening up the API so maybe won't have to use the Sonos app eventually.
  • Reply 17 of 59
    BluntBlunt Posts: 198member
    Thanks for the review, much appreciated.

    With this product out there, it doesn’t make a lotta sense to me to buy the Homepod, especially since Apple is boycotting Spotify through Siri. After years(!) I still can’t tell Siri (which by itself is a pretty terrible voice assistant) to play song X in Spotify. They should be sued for blocking competition on their platform. 


    All your posts are negative about Apple. You should switch.
    applepieguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 59
    k2kw said:
    k2kw said:

    I was going to get a Pair of HomePods originally but not now because of ThrottleGate.
    I'm pissed I got an iPhone 8 too. 
    Yeah right. Cool story bro. When should we let you in on a secret? HomePods aren’t even out nor is there a release date. 

    Why dont you just sell your iphone, pick up a knockoff, load it up with removable batteries and external storage, yet still replace it more often due to the shorter useful lifespan of its hardware and software, and stop whining about Apple on an Apple site? Sounds reasonable, right?

    But you won’t. 
    While HomePods aren’t out they were announced at WWDC to arrive by the end of this year.   And whether you like it or not Apple pulled “used car salesman” move with the Throttling.   Now if I could get a full refund for my iPhone7 or iPhone8 I would get a Pixel 2 (Not the XL).

    I don’t expect that we will know the full truth about these lemon phones’ batteries considering Apple impressive secrecy -
    Such is the state tech journalism even with some of the extremely knowledgeable guys that write for AI.

    I’ve learned to ignore the koolaide drinkers.
    What lemon phones batteries? You're inventing a new narrative -- that the peak power draw throttling was devised to prevent the exposure of defective batteries. It's a completely stupid narrative -- why would Apple execs choose to risk their reputation w/ a conspiracy rather than simply cover the bad batteries, as they've done with other bad batches in the past? (see Apple Watch and even iPhone 6 batteries). 

    There's no "used car salemans" scheme here -- I'm not even sure you know what that phrase means, as it would imply Apply was trying to get people to buy more junk, when in fact the peak power draw throttling of expired, used-up batteries only serves to further extend the lifespan of iPhones, not shorten them. So you're really not making any sense. 

    iPhones have the longest useful lifespan of any smartphones, and the highest resale values. These are facts. Meanwhile your knockoffs, even the Google flagships, don't get updates after a short window of time, making them essentially useless junk to stuff into a drawer. 

    Why can't you sell your brand new iPhone 8 and get the knockoff you're eyeing? What's stopping you, specifically?
    edited December 2017 GeorgeBMacericthehalfbeeRayz2016williamlondonapplepieguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 59
    Would appleinsider writers please stop using the words "High Fidelity" unless they fully understand what the term means. There is no way on Earth this Sonos One speaker nor an Apple HomePod will ever produce High Fidelity audio. Never, never, ever...

    Audio is governed by the laws of physics, so no small container filled with loudspeakers will ever produce low frequencies at high amplitude  A human ear (commonly) hears wavelengths down to 20Hz, a listeners body can feel frequencies lower than 20Hz but they cannot hear them.

    I would hazard a guess from each Sonos One or HomePod enclosure (speaker) size (as seen) they will have crossover circuitry which will roll off steeply at 120-100Hz...they may reach 80Hz but the amplitude will be considerably lower (quieter) than those above the crossover rolloff frequencies aforementioned.

    A High Fidelity loudspeaker will produce a flat frequency response across the entire audible range of 20Hz - 20kHz. That is, for a given level of amplification no part of the frequency range will appear to be or indeed will be louder or quieter than preceding or succeeding frequencies.

    As sound is simply modulated heat, it will take until some genius manages to create the technology to sufficiently heat coincident focal points in the air of your living-room directly with lasers in such a way the heat can be modulated to produce even amplitude sound from the lowest discernible frequencies to the highest. That tech will be a long time coming.

    Meanwhile appleinsider contributors STOP LYING TO YOUR READERS and TREAT THEM AS INTELLIGENT CONSUMERS.
    unbeliever2williamlondonrattlhedrattlhed
  • Reply 20 of 59

    Blunt said:
    Thanks for the review, much appreciated.

    With this product out there, it doesn’t make a lotta sense to me to buy the Homepod, especially since Apple is boycotting Spotify through Siri. After years(!) I still can’t tell Siri (which by itself is a pretty terrible voice assistant) to play song X in Spotify. They should be sued for blocking competition on their platform. 


    All your posts are negative about Apple. You should switch.
    Perhaps you should inform the Führer about this poster and his negative comments? We can have no negative comments here.
    CheeseFreezewilliamlondon
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