Review of the Sonos One, the first Sonos speaker with voice control via Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri. That gives you a lot of extra choice, but it also has some limitations. What can you do with this new speaker? You can read that in our extensive Sonos One review!
For years, the Sonos One was the cheapest way to get a Sonos speaker. With the arrival of the IKEA Symfonisk speakers you now have the opportunity to enjoy Sonos quality for € 99. Does it still make sense to opt for a ‘real’ Sonos One? In this renewed review of the Sonos One we look at our experiences in 2020. This speaker has the special feature that it works with all well-known music services and voice assistants. Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant: they are all here. In this review we look at the differences with the IKEA speakers, but also at its predecessor, the Sonos Play: 1.
Introduction Sonos One
The Sonos One was the first smart speaker that works with Alexa as well as Sonos and Google Assistant. It took a while before the support was arranged, but now you can use all these voice assistants on it. This makes the Sonos One more versatile than Apple’s HomePod , which is not yet available in the Netherlands and which only understands English Siri commands. To use Alexa, you’ll need a detour: you’ll need to set your account to the correct region (United States) for it to work. You don’t have to take that trouble for Google Assistant.
The special thing about the Sonos One is that this is one of the first smart speakers that was made by audio experts. The speakers from Google and Amazon are made by computer companies and are mainly intended as an ’emergency phone’ with which you can also play music. The audio quality leaves much to be desired with many of these speakers, unless you buy the much more expensive versions.
When purchasing the Sonos One, make sure that you have the second generation. This ‘Gen 2’ appeared in March 2019 and has a faster processor and more memory. This means you are better prepared for new functions that are still to come, because Sonos regularly brings software updates with innovations to the existing speakers. As a relatively new model, the Sonos One often has an advantage. Also present in Sonos One ‘Gen 2 ″ is support for Bluetooth Low Energy, making it easier to connect the speaker.
The audio quality has also remained the same. The second generation Sonos One can be recognized by the text ‘Gen 2’, both on the packaging and on the speaker itself. On the first generation you only see the text ‘Sonos One’.
Design Sonos One
The Sonos One looks like a Play: 1 with a few adjustments. The gray grille has been replaced by pure black or white, but the shape and dimensions are almost the same. The new design makes the speaker even less noticeable. At the top, the three buttons have been replaced by a completely flat touch-sensitive panel, which is more usable than the ‘invisible’ touch panel on the Play: 5 that we previously tested . The touch-sensitive part can be recognized by a circle with a number of symbols and LEDs. We like this better than on the Play: 5 , where it is more difficult to know where to tap.
With the Sonos One you can play and pause, there are context-sensitive buttons and there is a microphone button for voice commands. White LEDs show when the voice assistant is active. By pressing the microphone symbol you can turn this off, so you can be sure that the speaker is not listening (well, everything is relative …). On the positive side, Sonos has added a special pairing button on the back, just above the Ethernet jack.
The connection for the power cable is nicely concealed at the bottom. We did notice that the screw hole on the back is missing, with which you could attach the Sonos Play: 1 to a wall bracket. Wall mount manufacturers have adapted their products accordingly.
After connecting the Sonos One, you can set it up on your iPhone . If you already have some Sonos speakers, you can add them to the existing system.You log in with your Sonos account and then start pairing, assigning a room, and updating the firmware if necessary. This is arranged in a few minutes. Then, with TruePlay, you will adjust the audio settings of the speaker to the room.One of the last steps in the process is linking to the voice service. As mentioned, you can choose from three assistants on the Sonos One. Thanks to the support of AirPlay 2 and Siri , there is also the possibility to use Apple’s smart assistant, although the possibilities are somewhat limited. However, this is something Sonos cannot do much about.After completing all the steps, you can log in to all music services to which you are a subscriber, such as Apple Music , Spotify , Tidal and, if necessary, Google Play Music or Amazon Music.
One of the most important functions of the Sonos One (except for playing music) is that you have smart assistants at your disposal. Something to keep in mind is that you can only set one digital assistant per speaker, so you have to choose from either Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri. If you have multiple Sonos products at home, you can choose a different assistant per speaker. You can then use this interchangeably: you talk to one speaker with Google Assistant, to the other with Siri , where you can also command to play something on another speaker.
These speakers are popular to use in a duo setup with the television. Make sure you have two of the same type of speakers, because it is not possible to combine a Sonos One in a home cinema setup with a Play: 1 to form a surround pair. Of course you can combine multiple models with each other in a multiroom setup, with the speakers spread over your house.What you can also use the Sonos One perfectly for is making your existing Sonos system AirPlay 2 compatible . If you have some older speakers, you only need to add one AirPlay 2- capable Sonos to operate the entire system with voice commands from now on.Furthermore, the Sonos One is of course very suitable as a kitchen speaker, especially if you activate the Google Assistant on it so that you can fill your shopping list and ask questions without having to touch buttons with your dirty hands.
If you use Alexa, you will notice that the integration with the Sonos speaker is better arranged than with many other speakers. For example, you can say “Alexa, play Radiohead” without having to say “on Sonos”. This makes the use just that little bit easier. It was also noticed during use that the speaker recognizes your voice quite well, even when you have loud music on. Sonos has built in a special 6-way microphone for this and combines this with a smart variant of noise cancellation, called ‘smart voice capture’. You don’t have to yell at your speaker to give an assignment.
When it comes to music services, Sonos offers you a wide choice of course: not only Apple Music , Amazon Music and Google Play, but also Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn, Audible and various others. You can also operate these with your voice. If you use a somewhat more obscure music service, you can of course choose and start the music via the app, after which you can do the volume settings, play and pause with voice commands.Just like with a regular smart speaker, you can ask Sonos One about the weather, add messages to your list and set timers. As with other smart speakers, you get an audio tone when the microphone has heard the attention word (‘Hey Siri’, ‘Alexa’ or ‘OK Google’) and is busy listening. The quality of the microphones in this speaker is excellent, even slightly better than on the Echo Dot. But it is also a lot cheaper and has fewer microphones (four instead of six).
We are not audio freaks at the iCulture editors, but we do hear the difference between a good and a bad speaker. Compared to the Play: 1, we don’t actually hear any difference – and that’s what we’ve read elsewhere in audio expert reviews. That’s because Sonos has used the same audio components and speakers as in the Play: 1. They had to rearrange the internal components to make room for the six microphones. This does not affect the sound quality and that is fine, because we were already satisfied with the sound that comes from the smallest Play’s. People who want to play hi-res audio should look elsewhere, because the Sonos does not support that and it does not seem to be coming. In March 2017 , Sonos indicated that it is ‘not on the roadmap’.
With TruePlay you can additionally calibrate the speaker for use in the chosen room. You do this via the iPhone app. For such a small speaker, the Sonos One produces an impressive sound, without distortion. You do sacrifice something in quality if you compare the sound with the Play: 5, which has a better bass sound and can give a stereo effect on its own. But the price is therefore a lot higher.
Just like the Play: 1, you can link two Ones together for a stereo system. Unfortunately, you have to purchase two new speakers, because you cannot form a stereo set with a Sonos One and an existing Play: 1.
Sonos One or Play: 1?
If you have doubts between a Sonos One and the somewhat older Play: 1, the choice is actually not that difficult. It just depends on what you want to do. These are the main differences:
- The One has microphones for voice functions, the Play: 1 does not
- The One is a ‘smart speaker’ with 3 voice assistants, the Play: 1 is not
- The One works with AirPlay 2 , the Play: 1 does not
- The Sonos One Gen 2 has more memory and a faster processor, making it more future-proof
- The One has a uniform color, the Play: 1 has a grille in a contrasting color
- The Play: 1 is slightly cheaper due to the lack of various functions
In short: if you are looking for a speaker with which you only want to listen to music, or are you looking for the cheapest possible solution, then it is no problem to choose the Play: 1. If you expect more functions, the Sonos One is the speaker you are looking for.
Sonos One or IKEA Symphonic?
With the arrival of the IKEA Symfonisk speakers, more options have been added at the bottom of the market. However, keep in mind that these speakers do not have built-in microphones and do not have smart functions. This makes them identical to the Play: 1 in terms of functions, with all the features that we have already listed above in the comparison. The IKEA Symfonisk table lamp speaker is even identical to the Play: 1 in terms of audio experience. The main difference is that a lamp is mounted on top, giving you a 2-in-1 device. The bookshelf speaker can be an option if you want to hide the speaker inconspicuously in a closet or use it as a bedside table. The audio quality of this speaker is slightly less. Technically, however, they are just Sonos speakers and that means that you have all the options that you also find on the Play: 1, for example. Sonos will provide future software updates, so you’re good at that too. It just depends on what you want: with a TV setup, the Sonos One looks a bit more neutral than when you place two speaker lamps.
Sonos One or Apple HomePod?
Now that Apple has also released a smart speaker, you may wonder whether you should still invest in a smart speaker from Sonos or whether you should opt for Apple’s HomePod. That is a difficult choice. The HomePod is not yet available in the Netherlands and now only works in English (and some other languages, but not Dutch). The audio quality of the HomePod is close to Sonos, but there is a considerable difference in price: the Sonos One costs € 200 while the HomePod costs around € 350. With the HomePod, however, you’re stuck with Apple’s speech and music services, while with Sonos you have a bit more flexibility. If you already have Sonos speakers at home, then expanding with an extra Sonos One is the most logical choice. It always comes in handy as an additional music speaker.
If you already have an existing Sonos system and want to add Alexa functions to it, you can also link your existing Play: 5 with an Echo Dot. You then have the same speech functions, but are cheaper.
- Stylish design, now completely in the same color (no more gray grille)
- Great sound
- Good price / quality ratio
- High-quality materials and construction
- Clear touch panel instead of buttons
- Works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri
- Few other innovations compared to Play: 1
- No hi-res audio
It is a renewed version of the Play: 1, with some design changes such as a matching colored grille. Inside are the real improvements, like the microphones and support for smart assistants. The audio components are almost identical to the Play: 1, so the audio quality has largely remained the same, but you have many more options. The audio quality is excellent for such a small speaker, but with the low tones the One falls slightly short compared to larger and more expensive speakers such as the Sonos Play: 5. In terms of price / quality ratio, however, you are in the right place.
It is the best-selling speaker from Sonos and that is understandable. You get a pretty good speaker that is constantly being improved with software updates. Certainly because this is a fairly new model with improved technical specs, so that all innovations also come to the Sonos One via software updates. As with Apple products, they have a fairly long lifespan, are reasonably stable in value and you can easily expand the system into a multi-speaker system in your entire home. In our opinion, an excellent investment!
Despite cheaper alternatives such as the Play: 1 and the IKEA speakers that were made in collaboration with Sonos, this is still the most versatile Sonos speaker in 2019.