Sonos is wildly popular for a reason. We in the tech biz toss the term “wireless multiroom audio” around a lot, but what Sonos really does is put great-sounding music in every corner of your home or business — and they make it dead simple. We like to think of Sonos as the audio company Apple wishes it could be — one that gives you amazing sound that “just works.” So what could possibly raise our enthusiasm about the company and its wares? We have the answer for you here in our Sonos One review.
Sonos isn’t alone in this game any longer. Alexa came along and blew the home speaker floodgates wide open. With its open digital assistant platform, Amazon was able not only to popularize its own speaker products, but also to see to it that Alexa started popping up everywhere and controlling everything. Today, if your product doesn’t work with Alexa, it’s considered behind the times. What’s more, Google was prodded to get in on the action and is now pushing its own line of speakers.
Sonos had to pivot, and pivot it has. In October, Sonos announced the Sonos One, a reimagined version of its popular Play:1 speaker that’s built to be the smartest smart speaker on the market. Out of the box, the Sonos One supports Amazon’s Alexa, but the company promises Google Assistant will come to the One sometime in 2018. Follow below to find out if the company’s latest effort to even further simplify whole-home audio is as successful as it sounds.
Out of the box
Sonos long ago perfected its out-of-box experience, drawing inspiration from the folks at Apple and making it all its own. Inside the Sonos Play One box, you’ll find a simple setup card, information on downloading and setting up Amazon’s Alexa app, and a clever sort of “dial” meant to inform and inspire you to tell Alexa how to get music going in your home.
We’ve been praising Sonos for its foolproof setup process, and we’re going to go ahead and keep heaping on the kudos. Figuring out how to seamlessly integrate Amazon’s Alexa assistant and app into its ecosystem is something the company says it pored over for months — and it shows. The process is, like all things Sonos, dead simple.
We’ve been praising Sonos for its foolproof setup process, and we’re going keep heaping on the kudos.
Plug the Sonos One into a wall outlet, pull the Sonos app up on a smartphone or tablet, and let the app walk you through the process. It will begin by having you create a Sonos account if you don’t already have one. From there, the app will discover the speaker automatically and prompt you to grant it access to your Wi-Fi network – if for some reason Wi-Fi isn’t available or stable enough, the speaker can be connected via Ethernet cable (not included) but don’t do that unless instructed.
Once the Sonos One has been connected to your network and you’ve named it (Living Room, Bedroom, Den, Kitchen, etc), the app will prompt you to use Trueplay, room-tuning software from Sonos. We strongly suggest you take the two minutes or so that this requires to get the speaker sounding its best – it really does make a significant difference.
Once you’re done walking around the room waving your phone in the air, you’ll be prompted to activate Alexa. This will require you to access the Amazon Alexa app, so make sure you’ve downloaded it and started an Amazon account if you don’t already have one.
From there, you can choose from a list of 50 music apps like Apple Music, Deezer, and more for Alexa to access. Specific apps — including Amazon Music and Music Unlimited, Tunein Radio, Pandora, iHeart Radio, Sirius XM, and Spotify — can even be set as the default streaming app for Alexa to use when you ask for a specific song or artist. Sonos also recently teamed with Pandora to add full support to Pandora’s mobile app, in case you’re a fan.
Ease of use
If you’re used to talking to Alexa through an Echo speaker or Fire TV device, you already know that Alexa is pretty good at deciphering your requests and turning them into actions. Alexa isn’t perfect, though, so if you’re new to this, expect a bit of a learning curve when figuring out what Alexa can and can’t do.
If you think Alexa is smart now, wait until you use it on a Sonos One speaker.
If you think Alexa is smart now, wait until you use it on a Sonos One speaker. By designing the Alexa Sonos skills from the ground up, the company has made getting the music you want on the speaker you want a breeze. For those who own multiple Sonos speakers, getting your favorite tracks playing in the right place is about to become a whole lot more fun.
Say a command like, “Alexa, play my Jazz playlist in the Kitchen,” and the Sonos speaker in your kitchen will begin playing your music in seconds. You can also set up a separate stream using Alexa. Ask the speaker to “play the Trends with Benefits podcast in the den,” and you’ll soon be listening to Greg Nibler and yours truly cutting it up over the latest tech in an entertaining half-hour podcast.
Thanks to Sonos’ microphone implementation, you can issue these voice commands from just about anywhere within earshot of the speaker. We were also impressed with how music could be blaring at full volume, but the microphones still caught us when we said “Alexa,” to bring the speaker to attention.
The Sonos One sounds exactly like a Sonos Play:1 speaker, which is to say it is one of the best-sounding compact multiroom wireless speakers you can buy today. Expect more bass than you thought possible from such a small speaker, with uncongested midrange, natural sounding vocals, and clear, sparkling treble. Frankly, the only thing that’s going to sound significantly better than a Sonos One speaker in your room is two Sonos One speakers. If you want a deeper dive into sound quality, just head over to our Sonos Play:1 review.
Sonos is big on pointing out that its speakers connect via Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth, and while Wi-Fi has its distinct advantages, there’s no arguing Bluetooth is a convenience most folks want. We want to give the Sonos One a perfect score, but without Bluetooth, we had to knock it down half a point. Also, one of the great things about the Play:1 speaker is its ability to be mounted to the wall or ceiling thanks to the inclusion of a 1/4-inch threaded insert. With such great far-field voice reception, we’re confused Sonos eliminated the insert in the One. These are hardly deal-breakers, but explain why we didn’t go for a full five stars here.
Sonos provides a standard warranty covering defects in materials and workmanship in every Sonos product for one year from the date of shipment from Sonos or the date of the original retail purchase from an Authorized Sonos Dealer. You can learn more about the warranty here.Our Take
The Sonos One is everything we’d hoped it would be: The best-sounding self-contained Alexa-enabled speaker you can buy, with the promise of Google Assistant and more coming soon, and the convenience and flexibility of Sonos’ killer app and ecosystem.
Is there a better alternative?
No. Right now, the only way you can get better sound quality with similar features is to connect an Echo Dot speaker to a more elaborate speaker system, and that doesn’t mean it’s going to give you the full Sonos experience.
How long will it last?
The Sonos One should last longer than most smart speakers given expected updates, and Sonos’ ability to build upon its flexible platform. As for build quality, the Sonos One is among the best-built powered speakers you can buy today, with the Riva Arena right up there with it.
Should you buy it?
Yes. If you want all the convenience of Alexa (and Google Assistant coming soon) along with Sonos’ intuitive system and excellent sound quality, the Sonos One is the only speaker of its kind.
Update: This review has been updated following the Sonos One’s newly launched Spotify support.