Video: Apple HomePod vs. Sonos One

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 20
The smart speaker field is quickly becoming a new battleground for tech companies, with the likes of Amazon and Google going toe-to-toe with Apple. In this video, we take a closer look at how Apple's HomePod with Siri stacks up against the Sonos One with Alexa.





When it comes to selecting a smart speaker for your home, you've got a couple of choices to make.

First off, you should decide what's more important, top notch sound quality or voice assistant functionality. If you chose the latter, and you're looking to save some cash, then you should definitely check out Amazon's Echo and Google's Home smart speakers. If you don't mind dishing out some extra money to add some seriously good sound quality into the mix, then Apple's HomePod and the Sonos One are great choices.

HomePod is mostly limited to the Apple ecosystem, both in terms of setup and streaming audio from Apple Music, iTunes Music purchases, Apple Podcasts, Beats 1 Live Radio or your iCloud Music Library with an iTunes Match subscription. You can stream audio from third-party services over AirPlay, but you have to do so manually. In other words, you can't ask Siri on HomePod to play music from Spotify.

If you're already invested in other services and don't think it's worth making the switch, then the choice is pretty obvious.




When we performed our ultimate smart speaker sound comparison test, we found out that the Sonos One was the only speaker to not support Bluetooth, so we actually had to go into the Sonos app and select Apple Music instead of simply switching the audio output. That said, Sonos plans to bring Google Assistant and Airplay 2 support to its product line in the future.

In comparison to Siri, both Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant are superior, no questions asked. So why would someone buy Apple's HomePod for $349 if they could get a Sonos One for $200, or for a limited-time, two Sonos One speakers for $349?

Even though the HomePod is limited by Siri, a voice assistant that's undoubtedly lacking, it can be improved and updated over time. Airplay 2 is a good example of Apple's dedication to software, and will fix a lot of the shortcomings that came with the HomePod on release.

The Sonos One's software can be improved as well, but one thing that can't be improved on either device, is the hardware.

The HomePod boasts 7 beamforming tweeters, each of which comes with its own amplifier, transducer and acoustic horn that focuses sound to different areas of the room. For example, some tweeters can take care of the vocals and direct them into the center of the room, while the rest reproduce the high and mid frequency ranges of audio, which are then split between left and right channels and bounced off a wall to create ambient sound.




It also comes with a dedicated subwoofer and custom amplifier, as well as a dedicated low-frequency calibration microphone that constantly listens to the bass and automatically corrects it to ensure clean sound reproduction.

The Sonos One, on the other hand, only has one mid-range woofer and one tweeter, so the woofer has to take care of all of the low to mid-range frequencies at the same time, which can cause the sound to become muffled and blended together. The Sonos also has a tendency to raise and lower output volume when playing at maximum levels -- seemingly to avoid distortion, and it's blatantly obvious.

Both smart speakers come with six far-field microphones, but the HomePod utilizes them for a whole lot more than just listening for your voice. On HomePod, the microphones are responsible for automatically analyzing the acoustics of the room, allowing the device to tune the tweeters to create a room full of sound, while getting rid of any echo. So if you place the HomePod in a corner, it won't waste power blasting audio into the two walls.

Even though the Sonos One's speaker grille goes all the way around the device, upon taking it apart, you'll find that the speakers are directed towards the front, so you don't get true 360-degree audio like on the HomePod.

HomePod is powered by Apple's A8 processor, which comes directly from the iPhone 6. Some consider its inclusion overkill, but that processing power is definitely not wasted. The chip takes care of dynamic processing, real-time buffering, real-time woofer modeling and tuning, upmixing of direct and ambient audio, echo cancellation, beamforming, and of course, Siri processing.

All of that hardware in the HomePod doesn't come cheap. A teardown analysis by TechInsights revealed that Apple's HomePod costs an estimated $216 to manufacture, more than the entire selling price of a Sonos One.

So even though Siri is currently lacking, HomePod has the hardware to stay at the top of its class for many years to come.




Let's talk sound quality. When comparing the HomePod to a single Sonos One, volume at full blast is similar, with our decibel meter showing 88db for the HomePod, and 89db for the Sonos One, at about 7 feet away from the speakers. The extra volume is due to louder highs on the Sonos One. When you add another Sonos One, the duo gets much, much louder than the HomePod, showing a reading of 94db. However, with the volume also comes blaring loud highs that dominate the sound, as well as some distortion that can get pretty annoying, forcing you to lower the volume.

HomePod does a great job of separating instruments and frequencies and balancing them, whereas the Sonos One boasts loud vocals and highs, but the mid to low range of frequencies get blended together. At 50 percent volume, HomePod is very well balanced and the bass is even more pronounced. Even with two Sonos Ones, the bass on the HomePod is louder and deeper.

HomePod has extremely clean and clear vocals, but you get the feeling that they're not loud enough.

The two Sonos Ones produce louder vocals which were missed when we switched back to HomePod. The two Sonos Ones benefitted from true stereo sound which was extremely pleasant to listen to. You'll be able to pair two HomePods with Airplay 2, but it'll cost you twice as much.

In conclusion, if you want the highest level of sound quality with no distortion, go with HomePod. If you prefer highs and vocals that are louder, and don't care that much about distortion, then the Sonos One will do the job for you.

HomePod undoubtedly tops a single Sonos One, but when you can get two Sonos ones for the price of a single HomePod, the combo is definitely worth it. When Sonos One gets updated to support Google Assistant and Airplay 2, it'll be the best choice for flexibility and functionality.

If you're tied into the Apple ecosystem, and really care about sound quality, then go with the HomePod. If you've got the cash to spare and want the best possible sound quality in a smart speaker, then get two HomePods. With all the advanced processing technology built into the HomePod, there's no doubt the tweeters and woofer will maintain their sound quality for many years without degrading over time.

Siri definitely needs some work, but with quality hardware and an A8 chip loaded into HomePod, there's lots of room for software improvements.
jahbladealbegarc
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 64
    To be fair you should compare it to two sonos speakers because that’s how many you get for the price of one HomePod.  
    Solicornchipbitmod
  • Reply 2 of 64
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    LordeHawkwatto_cobraaegeanlolliver
  • Reply 3 of 64
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 2,347administrator
    rynoyes said:
    To be fair you should compare it to two sonos speakers because that’s how many you get for the price of one HomePod.  
    From the video and article: "HomePod undoubtedly tops a single Sonos One, but when you can get two Sonos ones for the price of a single HomePod, the combo is definitely worth it. When Sonos One gets updated to support Google Assistant and Airplay 2, it'll be the best choice for flexibility and functionality."
    rynoyesfirelockSoliwlymmuthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMacalbegarcvonbrick
  • Reply 4 of 64
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,265member
    @genovelle ;Here's one real life example:
    My wife tends to turn her volume all the way down on her phone. No matter how often I ask her not to since it makes it very hard to get hold of her she says it's her phone. Well, she's correct of course.

    So on the way to work last week I found that construction had (finally!) started on a railroad crossing on my route. It took 10-15 minutes of detour to get around it, time I could have saved by just taking a different way to begin with.  My wife uses that same route about a half hour later in the morning and I wanted to warn her about the closure. OF COURSE her phone was turned all the way down. Again.

    No problem tho: 
    Using my cellphone I said "Hey Google Broadcast the railroad crossing is closed". What did that do? It sent the announcement "the railroad crossing is closed" in my voice to every one of my Google Home units at the house miles away. She heard it, and saved herself from aggravation and being late to work. 
    edited February 19 firelockadm1muthuk_vanalingamkcammie7
  • Reply 5 of 64
    As a Sonos One owner (I've got three of 'em) who is extremely curious about the HomePod, and one who has rather voraciously read everything he's found on this subject, I must say your analysis is the best I've seen to date. Couldn't hear the difference in quality through my tiny Macbook Pro speaker. But everything you said makes sense. The Sonos sounds great to my ears and it's plenty loud enough. My wife would kill me if I played it louder. At the same time, I'm a big fan of really well designed products and Apple makes a number of 'em. If they ever open the platform to Spotify and Amazon Music, I'll find a place for one. The Sonos I'm listening to right now, in my home office, as I write this, would probably get demoted to the master bathroom in favor of the HomePod. I've got yet another system in the master bedroom, a couple of AudioEngine A5+ speakers driven by an Echo Dot. Can't really go wrong in terms of music quality with any of these setups. We live in abundant times.
    edited February 19 friedmudjahbladewatto_cobraadm1albegarc
  • Reply 6 of 64
    The Sonos One, on the other hand, only has one mid-range woofer and one tweeter, so the woofer has to take care of all of the low to mid-range frequencies at the same time, which can cause the sound to become muffled and blended together

    Please find someone who knows something about speakers to review them. Two way speakers is a very common design. Speakers costing many thousands of dollars use this design. See here for some that are $3500 each.
    larryapscooter63
  • Reply 7 of 64
    genovelle said:
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    A few examples that Google Home gets right and all other smart devices (including Alexa) fail:

    Me: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _my_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: (while Spotify is playing) Hey Google add this song to my library
    Google Home: Ok, I added that song to your Spotify music library

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _her_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _my_ personal calendar

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _her_ personal calendar


    I could keep going... but I don't need to.  Apple completely forgot that many people in this world are not single people living by themselves.  They also completely forgot that _Millions_ of people like Spotify...
    adm1muthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMacvonbrick
  • Reply 8 of 64
    It's almost as though Apple is trying to commit suicide by putting out products that fall short of rival's products. Already the HomePod is being called a flop because Apple is leaving out so many features that other smart speakers come with. Does it even make sense for Apple to do something like that when it knows reviewers are going to compare the HomePod to established smart speakers on a feature by feature basis? Apple is practically begging to be put on the bottom of the totem pole. Doesn't Tim Cook realize the HomePod is going to get the thumbs down, don't buy, sign?
  • Reply 9 of 64
    friedmud said:
    genovelle said:
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    A few examples that Google Home gets right and all other smart devices (including Alexa) fail:

    Me: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _my_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: (while Spotify is playing) Hey Google add this song to my library
    Google Home: Ok, I added that song to your Spotify music library

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _her_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _my_ personal calendar

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _her_ personal calendar


    I could keep going... but I don't need to.  Apple completely forgot that many people in this world are not single people living by themselves.  They also completely forgot that _Millions_ of people like Spotify...
    Now that you reminded them, I'm sure they'll fix it in the next update.  Unless, Apple didn't "forget" those things at all.  My theory is that Apple doesn't have the AI chops to do the former, and they don't give a crap about supporting Spotify.
    jahbladewatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 64
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,735member
    Great video. Covered pretty much all the pros and cons I experienced with the current HomePod setup. I hope that WWDC brings major "PodOS" changes, PodKit and an upcoming App Store.

    One thing I'd add that about the HomePod HW is that the far-field mics work better than with the Sonos, Echo Dot (2G), Echo (1G), and Echo Plus. While I'd describe how well the far-field mics working on those other products as great, with the volume turned up you do have to raise your voice a bit, especially if you're across or out of the room. With the HomePod, that's not the case for me. Maybe it's better mics but it may simply be better processing to remove the sound it's outputting so it can hear you across or in another room without raising your voice. I'd even describe how well this works as magical.

    genovelle said:
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    Really? You've seen claims and yet no one has once ever given you a single example of what they can request Alexa or Google Now to do with these home-based smart speakers? :sigh:

    How about the oft mentioned, ubiquitous use of an iPhone, where you're coming back Inside either after a jog listening to music or a podcast, or on the phone with someone as you come into the house and you simply say "Alexa connect" to have the audio automatically switched to your home device so you do other things without breaking your stride. You can't even do that with the HomePod unless you manually go into Control Center, force(?) press the audio icon, and then manually switch the audio. I'd have thought this simple and common function which we've been using for a decade in our vehicles would be available, but that's another topic altogether; your comment is that no one has ever given you a single fucking example of how a voice command can be useful on these devices. To paraphrase Emma Gonzalez, "I call bullshit."
    edited February 19 adm1gatorguykcammie7
  • Reply 11 of 64
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,735member
    friedmud said:
    genovelle said:
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    A few examples that Google Home gets right and all other smart devices (including Alexa) fail:

    Me: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _my_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: (while Spotify is playing) Hey Google add this song to my library
    Google Home: Ok, I added that song to your Spotify music library

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _her_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _my_ personal calendar

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _her_ personal calendar


    I could keep going... but I don't need to.  Apple completely forgot that many people in this world are not single people living by themselves.  They also completely forgot that _Millions_ of people like Spotify…
    Based on your markup I have to wonder if you're a heavy Slack user.
    pscooter63
  • Reply 12 of 64
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 18,265member
    friedmud said:
    genovelle said:
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    A few examples that Google Home gets right and all other smart devices (including Alexa) fail:

    Me: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _my_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: (while Spotify is playing) Hey Google add this song to my library
    Google Home: Ok, I added that song to your Spotify music library

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _her_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _my_ personal calendar

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _her_ personal calendar


    I could keep going... but I don't need to.  Apple completely forgot that many people in this world are not single people living by themselves.  They also completely forgot that _Millions_ of people like Spotify...
    Now that you reminded them, I'm sure they'll fix it in the next update.  Unless, Apple didn't "forget" those things at all.  
    Remember is another of those simple yet really helpful commands. "Remember I put the spare spring in the top drawer of the old toolbox". I can ask "Where did I put the spare spring" months from now, and it will remember and tell me. 
    edited February 19 adm1
  • Reply 13 of 64
    k2kwk2kw Posts: 1,184member
    Vadim,
         Thanks for the comparison.    Maybe the following questions/items could generate other video reviews.

        1.   I would greatly appreciate it if you could do this comparison with both a Play 3 (which is still less than the HomePod) and the Play 5 (which costs more but gives you a aux 3.5 mm in port)

        2.   All the reviews have focused on using these products through either Apple Music or Spotify.    Are they playing MP3s or LossLess music?    Could you test playing FLAC files either from a PC or iPhone?

        3.  Also I have not seen how well the HomePod and Sonos One handle a heavy, busy network or just operating on only either the 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz bands.

    HP seems like a revolutionary product.   But the revolutionary work isn't over on it.   Apple still has lots to deliver and we are yet to see how well they have been able to patent it.

  • Reply 14 of 64
    gatorguy said:
    friedmud said:
    genovelle said:
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    A few examples that Google Home gets right and all other smart devices (including Alexa) fail:

    Me: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _my_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: (while Spotify is playing) Hey Google add this song to my library
    Google Home: Ok, I added that song to your Spotify music library

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _her_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _my_ personal calendar

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _her_ personal calendar


    I could keep going... but I don't need to.  Apple completely forgot that many people in this world are not single people living by themselves.  They also completely forgot that _Millions_ of people like Spotify...
    Now that you reminded them, I'm sure they'll fix it in the next update.  Unless, Apple didn't "forget" those things at all.  
    Remember is another of those simple yet really helpful commands. "Remember I put the spare spring in the top drawer of the old toolbox". I can ask "Where did I put the spare spring" months from now, and it will remember and tell me. 
    That's a cool example, but I expect that 99% of the time it wouldn't work in practice.  First you have to remember to ask your device to remember every random thing (which personally I would be very unlikely to do) and then you have to phrase things the same way you will "months from now."  Then when you (or someone else) actually uses that thing, you have to remember to tell your device about it again.  No thanks, but if it works for you, that's cool.
    ericthehalfbeewatto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 15 of 64
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,735member
    gatorguy said:
    friedmud said:
    genovelle said:
    So, what commands are you using on these other devices that makes them more useful. I’m really curious here. I’ve seen lots of claims but no proof. In fact when Siri has been compared I feel it is more useful in real use situations. 
    A few examples that Google Home gets right and all other smart devices (including Alexa) fail:

    Me: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _my_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: (while Spotify is playing) Hey Google add this song to my library
    Google Home: Ok, I added that song to your Spotify music library

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google play my Morning Tunes playlist
    Google Home: Plays _her_ Spotify Morning Tunes playlist

    Me: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _my_ personal calendar

    My Girlfriend: Hey Google what's on my calendar today?
    Google Home: What's on _her_ personal calendar


    I could keep going... but I don't need to.  Apple completely forgot that many people in this world are not single people living by themselves.  They also completely forgot that _Millions_ of people like Spotify...
    Now that you reminded them, I'm sure they'll fix it in the next update.  Unless, Apple didn't "forget" those things at all.  
    Remember is another of those simple yet really helpful commands. "Remember I put the spare spring in the top drawer of the old toolbox". I can ask "Where did I put the spare spring" months from now, and it will remember and tell me. 
    That's a cool example, but I expect that 99% of the time it wouldn't work in practice.  First you have to remember to ask your device to remember every random thing (which personally I would be very unlikely to do) and then you have to phrase things the same way you will "months from now."  Then when you (or someone else) actually uses that thing, you have to remember to tell your device about it again.  No thanks, but if it works for you, that's cool.
    People put effort into finding a s piece of string, cutting it, and then tying it  around a finger to remember things, so I think that having a thought and then stating that thought outloud the exact same way you'd ask someone to remind you to do something later isn't going to need any additional brain power or training.

    Hell, I've been doing this with Siri since it came out and even before then with my Notes app on my iPhone—I think of something, I write it down or dictate it into one of many Notes itms that are then sectioned off with various groupings which themselves are often categorized further. If you use a Reminders app or the Timer you're already doing that. You've never once put change into a parking meter, saw how much time it gave you and then said, "Hey Siri set timer for x-minutes"?
    edited February 19
  • Reply 16 of 64
    It's almost as though Apple is trying to commit suicide by putting out products that fall short of rival's products. Already the HomePod is being called a flop because Apple is leaving out so many features that other smart speakers come with. Does it even make sense for Apple to do something like that when it knows reviewers are going to compare the HomePod to established smart speakers on a feature by feature basis? Apple is practically begging to be put on the bottom of the totem pole. Doesn't Tim Cook realize the HomePod is going to get the thumbs down, don't buy, sign?
    iPhone X get thumbs down, don’t buy due to price. AirPods got no buy due to its strange look, Siri & price but now everyone says it’s the best Bluetooth buds out there. Nothing is new here concerning the criticism which is always overblown. HomePod hardware is great already. Sound is great. The setup is easy, almost Plug & Play. Software & Siri will be evolved, I hope. It’s a must for Apple. 
    It will be like Apple Music. At first launch it lagged behind Spotify in term of features but now you can run listening to it without a phone while you can’t with Spotify. HomePod will be the same. No one buy speaker for use only 1 or 2 years. We will use it for years & years afterward. 

    What I find “fall short” is distribution. Why won’t Apple release it all over the world, with Siri in all supported countries & without in unsupported? I could have bought a couple today but I have to wait for God knows how long. 
    edited February 20 watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 64
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,011member
    or for a limited-time

    Hmmmm...


  • Reply 18 of 64
    SoliSoli Posts: 6,735member
    cornchip said:
    or for a limited-time
    Hmmmm…
    It's not a huge discount. It's $25 off a $200 item when you buy two. People are saying that it shows just how overpriced Sonos and/or that they're running scared, but it's a 12.5% discount which means it's surely a lot less what retailers buy them at, inline with many student discounts for CE, and considerably lower than what we saw nearly out of the gate for the hard to find iMac Pro which had up to $1000 off the $5000 model.

    That discount will probably stay where it is or they may just lower the price for an individual Sonos One by $25 so that each come in at $175. 
  • Reply 19 of 64
    It’ll be like Final Cut Pro X;

    Release a product that has some really cool innovation going on, but lacks features people consider to be essential.
    People then gradually move to another solution (Adobe Premiere, Blackmagic Resolve, etc) while Apple takes years to add the needed features without providing a roadmap or a clear idea of whether the software is going to stay supported.
    Now having a negative product perception with its user base, they don’t come back despite the product turning out to be actually quite good. 

    I think people will buy the HomePod, then move to something that supports Spotify, multi account support and a useful assistant, with the HomePod gathering dust and leaving a stain on the TV cabinet.
    sirozhakcammie7
  • Reply 20 of 64
    gatorguy said:
    @genovelle ;Here's one real life example:
    My wife tends to turn her volume all the way down on her phone. No matter how often I ask her not to since it makes it very hard to get hold of her she says it's her phone. Well, she's correct of course.

    So on the way to work last week I found that construction had (finally!) started on a railroad crossing on my route. It took 10-15 minutes of detour to get around it, time I could have saved by just taking a different way to begin with.  My wife uses that same route about a half hour later in the morning and I wanted to warn her about the closure. OF COURSE her phone was turned all the way down. Again.

    No problem tho: 
    Using my cellphone I said "Hey Google Broadcast the railroad crossing is closed". What did that do? It sent the announcement "the railroad crossing is closed" in my voice to every one of my Google Home units at the house miles away. She heard it, and saved herself from aggravation and being late to work. 
    Did you ever try “Find my iPhone?” Apple should have called this feature “Ping my wife”. This is the only way I can speak on the cell phone with my wife. I stopped calling her years ago because she never answers. I ping her phone via “Find my iPhone” and she calls me back within a few seconds. 
    watto_cobrarandominternetpersonlolliver
Sign In or Register to comment.