Sonos One review
Smart speakers are the must have gadget this year but many don’t offer the kind of high quality sound you might want for your home. This is the main but not only reason to go with Sonos against rivals. Here’s our Sonos One review.
Amazon might have kicked off the smart speaker era with the Echo but now everyone wants a piece of the pie. It’s easy enough to add smarts to a device but getting it to sound great appears to be a lot harder – the Echo 2, for example, sounds worse than the original.
Price and availability
It’s no surprise that the Sonos One costs a lot more than some rivals in the smart speaker market – especially the Amazon Echo 2 and Google Home. It’s £199 or US$199 which is the same price as the Play:1 before its recent price cut. You are paying for the superior audio quality.
Alternatives from Sony and Panasonic are much more able to compete on sound quality (based on some hands-on time) so are similarly priced.
Design and build
As expected, the Sonos One is essentially a Play:1 but with new controls and features. Build quality, as we’re accustomed to with Sonos, is exceptional.
The Play:1 is Sonos’ smallest speaker and the One looks just like it on the whole. The classy design features smooth and clean curves and will fit it with modern décor. As usual you can choose from black or white colours.
It’s bigger than the likes of the Google Home but compact enough to fit into small spaces like kitchen worktops and bedside tables.
The obvious difference between the One and the Play:1 is the control panel on the top which is flat rather than dipped.
Like new-generation Play:5, it’s got touch sensitive buttons for playback and also a set of 6 microphones for that all-important interaction with the smart assistant – a quick tap will mute the mics for privacy or to stop accidental triggers.
Sound quality and features
One of the main reasons to get the One over rival smart speakers is the sound quality on offer. Cheaper ones might be more affordable but you’re getting much poorer sound.
It’s no surprise that the One sounds the same as the Play:1 with room filling sound that’s rich and detailed. Like previous Sonos devices, the bass is powerful and tight but doesn’t overpower the remainder of the frequency response.
The mid-range is solid so vocals and key instruments are given an appropriate level of importance in the mix. Thanks to a tweeter inside the One, high-end isn’t forgotten and provides brightness resulting into a well-rounded mix that works for a wide range of music.
It’ impressive how good the sound is from such a small speakers and the way it doesn’t sound better when directly in-front. The sound isn’t 360 but it’s close and you can make use of Trueplay to tune the device to the room it’s in. You can also link two into a stereo pair.
So you could buy the Play:1 for less money but this won’t give you all the benefits of a digital assistant. Having Amazon’s Alexa built-in is a real boon, although it’s not perfect.
For starters, setting up the speaker is more complex due to needing to sign in and connect both Sonos and Amazon accounts. We seemed to need to do it all twice before it worked.
Once you’re up and running you can use Alexa to do all sorts of things, include control various smart home products you may have around or plan to get. These include light bulbs, heating systems and more.
You’ll mainly want to use it for music so you can get Alexa to play music and also use your voice to change the volume, skip tracks and the like. You’ll need to be signed up to Amazon Prime Music to play anything that isn’t in your library.
The speaker didn’t launch with support for Spotify voice control but that’s been remedied now. You can also use it for services like TuneIn radio but not Google Play Music.
As well as those basic music playback controls you can also do some clever things if you have multiple Sonos speakers in different rooms. You can get Alexa to do things in specific rooms by using the right name – living room, for example.
The Alexa skill for Sonos is still quite limited for now, though. We hoped we could group rooms together or the reverse but you can’t do anything like that at the moment which is a shame. It can only do speakers already grouped.
Despite these niggles, the One is still brilliant and will get better over time. We’re sure Sonos and Amazon will add more commands such as the ones we mentioned above.
The speaker is set to get even better in 2018 when Sonos will add Google Assistant support. Being able to choose which digital assistant you want will be brilliant.
Sonos One: Specs
- 6x far-field mics
- 3.5in mid-woofer
- Two Class-D amplifiers
- Touch controls
- Ethernet port
SHOULD I BUY SONOS ONE?
There are a few niggles, such as some Sonos specific voice commands we’d like, but we’re hopeful and expectant that some updated will improve things. Even so, the Sonos One is the best smart speaker we’ve tested.
It’s more expensive than rivals but really is worth the extra for a huge difference in sound quality – not forgetting about design and build, too. Things will get even better when Google Assistant comes along.