Sonos took the best wireless, multi-room speaker and added Amazon Alexa
Sonos has long been a leader in wireless, multi-room audio. Arguably prices for their speakers are not on the cheap side, but its products do offer up some incredible audio, are easy to use, and great multi-room audio experiences. And now, the company has debuted its first Alexa-enabled speaker, in the Sonos One. Now it is very, very similar to the PLAY:1 that has been available for quite some time. The biggest difference actually comes in the black color of the One, where the grille is also black instead of gray like on the PLAY:1. The Sonos One is joining a rather stacked lineup of Alexa speakers, so how well does it fare? Let's find out.
The Sonos One specs include two Class-D digital amplifiers, One tweeter, one mid-woofer, with adjustable bass and treble controls. There is also a six far-field microphone array for using your voice with Alexa. The One is actually fairly compact, with dimensions of 6.36-inches tall, 4.69-inches wide and 4.69-inches deep. This weighs in at 4.08 pounds. So while it is compact, it is definitely heavy. The top of the Sonos One houses the touch panel for play/pause, volume control and toggling the microphone. There is a power supply here, since this does not have a battery, and the only other port is an ethernet port. It connects over WiFi instead of Bluetooth, and supports 2.4GHz networks only (WiFi 802.11 b/g).
In the Box
Sonos have kept things in the box pretty light. So you'll get the Sonos One, as well as a power cord, a flat ethernet cable, as well as paperwork. Which includes the Sonos One QuickStart Guide as well as Warranty information on the speaker.
The Sonos One is made of metal, and it looks great. It's a short, almost cylindrical speaker. It's basically a hybrid of a cylinder and a cube, with rounded corners. It looks good sitting on a book shelf, or on a desk. On the black color of the Sonos One, you'll see that there is one Sonos logo on the front in a dark gray, which is almost tough to notice from across the room. So you wouldn't even know it was a Sonos speaker if it weren't for the iconic design here.
Sonos have kept things pretty simple on the One. There's just two ports, one for power and one for ethernet. If you have fast internet, you likely won't even need to use the ethernet cable, but Sonos does include one in the box. It's a flat cable as well, making it easier to hide the cable, if you have it against a wall or on a stand, or something like that. There is a button on the back, which is really only used for setting up the Sonos One the very first time. The rest of the buttons are on the top. In the center you'll find the play/pause button. Towards the back is the microphone toggle, so you can tell Alexa to stop listening all the time. And then there are volume buttons on the left and right. And that's about it.
There's a grille that goes all around the Sonos One, which allows it to technically be a 360-degree speaker. Now if you're worried about this filling an entire room with sound, don't be. It'll do that and a bit more. The Sonos One can output a ton of sound, which we'll get to a bit more in the Audio Quality section. But this is a great looking speaker to add to your living room or entertainment center. While you can't use it as a sound bar or external speaker for your TV (that's what the Sonos PLAYBAR and PLAYBASE are for), you can use it to play music and such.
Typically, when a speaker comes into the office for us to review, and it has its own software, it'll get used once to see what it can do, and that's about it. However, with the Sonos One, that is not the case. We actually almost exclusively used the Sonos app (which is available on both iOS and Android). With the app, you can obviously do things like adjust the bass and treble, as well as add more Sonos to your account and so forth. But Sonos has made the app a one-stop shop for everything you need. You can group speakers together into one room, so you can choose to play music in a single room, or on a single speaker. If you have multiple Sonos speakers in different rooms, you can also see what's playing on each speaker. Finally, and perhaps the most useful part of the app, is the Music tab.
Under the Browse tab, you'll find all of your music services. This includes music on your device, as well as streaming services, which Sonos supports most of the services out there. This includes Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, 7Digital, AccuRadio, Amazon Music, Anghami, Apple Music, Audiobooks.com, Bandcamp, Calm Radio, CBC Radio & Music, and so much more. Basically any service you can think of, is supported here. Which is important since it does stream over WiFi and not Bluetooth, so support is needed. In the Browse tab, you'll see those music services, and you can jump right in and find some music for you to stream. This was rather impressive. As I was able to access all of my music from Spotify right here in the Sonos app. Even right after I created a new playlist, it was already available in the Spotify app.
Sending music to the Sonos One from the Sonos app is pretty simple. Just hit a song and it'll start playing. Now this works through other music apps like Spotify, however, with Spotify, you would need to connect via Spotify Connect to that speaker. With the Sonos app, it doesn't need to connect, it is always connected. Which just makes things so much more seamless, and easier to use. As an example, before I started writing this review today, I went to start a playlist on Spotify through the Spotify app, to play on the Sonos One. It would not connect over Spotify Connect. After several attempts, I went to the Sonos app and was able to stream music flawlessly without any issues at all. So it's good to see that Sonos has a great app here for everyone to use.
This is a speaker geared towards audiophiles, or at least those that are starting to become audiophiles, since you don't get full control over the EQ, only the bass and treble. But the sound out of the Sonos One is very impressive, particularly for its size. Remember this is a fairly small and compact speaker, but it still puts out a ton of sound. During my time with the Sonos One, I only kept the volume to around 50% or so, and it was still plenty loud and filled me entire apartment. Which is impressive, compared to other speakers this size that we've reviewed recently.
The bass on the Sonos One is perhaps the most impressive part of this speaker. Once you turn up the bass in the settings, it really makes everything bump. I turned it up a bit during the review, but not all the way, and it really made the whole room bump, particularly on bass-heavy songs. The bass is even better than Sony's EXTRA BASS Bluetooth speakers, which are all about the bass anyways. Now when it comes to mids and highs, the Sonos One still does not disappoint. Despite having incredible bass, it also has crystal clear mids and highs. That's something that not every speaker is able to accomplish, so it's really good to see that happening here.
Basically, if you want a speaker with good sound, you don't want to play around with the sound settings too much or at all, then the Sonos One is a great speaker to grab. It'll provide rich audio for you, and part of this is due to the fact that it streams over WiFi versus Bluetooth. You see, by streaming over WiFi, the Sonos One is able to utilize more bandwidth and use higher-resolution audio files, versus Bluetooth which has a lot less bandwidth so these files get compressed and the audio doesn't sound as good. Which is why WiFi audio streaming is becoming a big thing these days, but Sonos was one of the first to actually do it.
Before we get into Alexa, there's a clarification we need to make. The Sonos PLAY:1 does have Alexa support, and the Sonos One has Alexa inside. The differences here is that the PLAY:1 has an Alexa skill, allowing you to tell Alexa to play music on your PLAY:1 (or another Sonos speaker) if you have an Echo Show or another Alexa device around. Meanwhile the Sonos One acts as an Echo, think of it as an Echo with even better sound quality. It's a bit confusing, but that's the main difference here. Both of these are sold at the same price as well, which is going to confuse customers even more.
Alexa sounds different on the Sonos One, and that's due to the audio quality here on the Sonos One. If you put the Sonos One next to an Echo, you'll notice the difference in Alexa, but if you only have a Sonos One, you won't notice it. This is because it's not a huge difference, but it is definitely noticeable. Alexa actually works largely the same as on an Echo. You can ask Alexa to play music on Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora and other services. You can ask Alexa for the weather today, for your agenda from your calendar, and a ton of other things. Basically anything you can ask Alexa on an Echo, you can do here on the Sonos One. There's really no difference, other than audio quality.
However, we have noticed that Alexa is a bit more sensitive than it is on an Echo. For context, we have the Sonos One on a shelf next to the TV. When watching TV, sometimes Sonos will start listening, like if you had given the trigger word "Alexa." Even when nothing said Alexa (or sounded close to Alexa, at least in our opinion). This is actually something we've noticed on a number of third-party Alexa speakers. So we're unsure if this is something that is done in the software to make the Echo better at only being triggered when you actually want it too, or not. But you'll want to keep that in mind. Otherwise, Alexa in the Sonos One works really well.
Since the Sonos One doesn't have a Bluetooth connection, and there's no battery, the only connectivity to go over is WiFi. And it works as advertised. When you initially set up the Sonos One, you'll connect it to your WiFi network and you're good to go. We never had it disconnect from WiFi at all, nor did we have any issues and need to plug it into our router for faster WiFi. Keep in mind that it does only support 2.4GHz and not 5GHz WiFi, so you will likely see slower speeds on the Sonos One (not that you can do a speed test on it anyways) than on something like your smartphone. The reason for using 2.4GHz is likely for the coverage. 2.4GHz offers wider coverage than 5GHz, which allows you to move the Sonos One further from the router and not worry about it being out of range.
The Sonos One is going to get a lot of comparisons to the Echo and Echo Plus from Amazon, which are also cheaper. But the main thing to keep in mind here is that the Sonos One is a great speaker first, and Alexa comes second. While the Echo lineup is more about giving you a great experience with Alexa first and being a great speaker second. Therefore, if you are looking for a good smart speaker, that can give you some incredible audio, but also be able to give you the weather, or play a song via your voice, the Sonos One is going to be your best option.