Sonos One Review: Sonos Sound Gets Even Better with Alexa Built-In
Sonos One is Play:1 with voice, Amazon Alexa with better sound, and Apple HomePod with a more pervasive voice assistant.
The Sonos One is the first Sonos speaker you can control with your voice, whether or not you have an Amazon Echo or other voice-controlled home automation hub at home. That's because the One comes with Alexa built in, along with a six-mic array, multiroom audio capabilities and — coming soon — Google Assistant and AirPlay 2 updates in 2018.
Right out of the box, the Sonos One can do (almost) everything Alexa can do. That means the new Sonos speaker can control the lighting, shading, security and a host of other smart-home skills throughout the home.
Touted as "the smart speaker for music lovers," the One can control users’ favorite Alexa-supported services with voice including Amazon Music (Prime and Unlimited), Pandora, TuneIn, and Sirius XM. For all other services, like Apple Music, Google Play Music, and Soundcloud, once music is streaming through the Sonos App, you can control volume, play/pause, and ask what’s playing via voice.
Support for Spotify is coming soon — likely before the holidays — but you can still play Spotify tunes and playlists on the One through the Spotify app. When this update happens, Sonos will become the first third-party speaker to have Alexa control for Spotify.
Sonos adds that the One unlocks voice for any speaker in any room. This works for targeting a single speaker (“play the Beatles in the kitchen”) or an existing group of rooms grouped in the Sonos app. The company says since multiroom audio has been its focus for 15 years, this experience will get even smarter over time. Still on the docket: the ability to group and ungroup rooms using voice.
The Sonos One retails for $199, which is $70 more than Amazon Echo and $150 less than the upcoming Apple HomePod.
Great sound for compact, unobtrusive, aesthetically pleasing speaker
Out-of-the-box home automation hub with Alexa's third-party skills
Across the board music streaming service compatibility
Connects to all other Sonos speakers for multiroom audio
Humidity resistant for use in bathrooms and patios
Great price-to-performance ratio
Waiting for support for Google Assistant, Spotify, AirPlay 2
Doesn't yet pair with Play:1
Setup is trickier for those who don't already have an Alexa or Sonos device
Features & Setup
Sonos got a little sleeker with its One design. Inspired by the architecture and sound profile of the Play:1, the One is offered in black or white to blend into any room decor. The One only shares two physical parts with the Play:1, the bottom rubber feet and bottom plastic cap. The actual speaker components are specific to the Sonos One.
"Built on the mini-but-mighty blueprints of Play:1, Sonos One is backed by a pair of Class-D amplifiers and custom-built drivers, meticulously tuned to the speaker’s unique acoustic architecture," says the company.
Other audio features include one tweeter for a clear, high-frequency response, one mid-woofer for faithful playback of mid-range vocal frequencies plus deep bass, adjustable bass and treble controls so users can customize sound by individual room or groups of rooms, and a six far-field microphone array, used for advanced beamforming and echo cancellation.
- Two Class-D digital amplifiers
- One tweeter for crisp and clear high-frequency response
- One mid-woofer for faithful playback of mid-range vocal frequencies plus deep, rich bass
- Adjustable bass and treble controls so users can customize sound by individual room or groups of rooms
- Six far-field microphone array, used for advanced beamforming and echo cancellation
The One I reviewed was white with a white matte grille. On top, capacitive touch controls offer volume up/down, previous/next track, play/pause, and microphone mute. An illuminated LED indicator light is on when the mic is active, ensuring no one is listening when users want privacy.
In terms of network, the product uses Wi-Fi, not Bluetooth, and connects to a home's network with any 802.11b/g, 2.4 GHz broadcast-capable router. There's also a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port, which users can directly to a router if Wi-Fi is unstable, or provide Internet accessibility to non-wireless devices if using BOOST setup.
I chose to set up the One in my kitchen, where I've always wanted to be able to play music while I cook, serve dinner or entertain guests. I plugged in the speaker and chose to use Wi-Fi instead of Ethernet. The speaker blinked white for a minute, and then turned green, signaling it was ready to be set up.
The Sonos app guides the setup after that. Pressing and releasing the "on" button beckoned a chime and I selected the room in which my Sonos One was to live (at least for now), the kitchen. Users then have options to add other Sonos players and register their new Sonos speaker.
I was using the beta app, since the Sonos One is still running a beta software, but it worked just as well as the original Sonos app. New features of the app updated irght away, including a new tab bar for easy navigation throughout the app, room control so users can send music to different rooms through Now Playing, and an option to add favorite tunes in one place under My Sonos.
Then came the tricky part. I didn't previously have any Alexa devices, so the Alexa setup took some time. I had to log into Amazon, connect Alexa, establish a username and password, and finally log into Spotify (through Facebook). The amount of Goliath tech companies that now own all my information had never been more clear.
But when that was set up, it was pretty exciting. Sonos provided some musically themed questions for Alexa right off the bat. "Alexa, what is happiness?" I asked. "Pharrell would be great at answering that," she replied. Great, my very first Alexa question was about my least favorite song of all time.
As I navigated Spotify to play music through the Sonos One, Alexa tried to help out with the setup. "When you're done, go back to the Sonos app." Thanks, girl. Alexa wanted to connect to Amazon Music right away, and I let her pick a few things from the small amount of songs I have on Amazon Music. But I'm a Spotify fan, so for my actually listening session I switched to Spotify, sacrificing the fun voice control for the time being.
Performance & Conclusions
The entire Sonos lineup offers TruePlay, which uses the mic on an iPhone to analyze the room and optimize the sound of the speaker based on where in the room it sits. My kitchen is a long, open space, which could have been a challenge for such a compact speaker to fill, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I started with my new favorite song from my new favorite artist: "Flare Guns" by Quinn XCII. Right away, I noticed it sounded similar if not better than the Play:1, which is a good thing. It also outdid both Amazon Echo and Google Home.
"Alexa, turn it up" and "Alexa, turn it down" worked even though I was playing through Spotify. So you don't miss out on all voice control through non-supported music streaming services.
To check out the bass, I played "Friends" by Francis and the Lights featuring another personal favorite of mine, Bon Iver. It has pure vocals and deep undertones, which were both brought out beautifully by the One. Of course, there's only so far that a compact speaker can go in terms of bass, but it was much more balanced than I expected.
Then I played a head-banger, "The Ocean" by Mike Perry. I found myself dancing alone in my kitchen without noticing. Lastly, I decided to blast the volume with "Silence" by Marshmello. It was incredibly powerful for such a small-form speaker. I could have had 40 people packed into the room and still heard crisp sound.
Perhaps most impressive, even with the volume turned up, Alexa heard me when I asked her "Alexa, turn it down."
When I switched to Amazon Music, I could ask the One to play a song, album, artist or playlist in my music library. The Alexa app also lets users pick different services as well as radio stations.
While you can pair two Sonos Ones together for multiroom audio, it's not yet possible to pair a One and a Play:1 together in stereo. However, the company said that this feature could be added in the future via a software update.
My two cents? The Sonos One is a great way to upgrade a multiroom audio setup, especially if you already own Sonos devices, and especially if you have yet to make the foray into voice control. If users are considering an Amazon Echo or Google Home, a Sonos One can provide the same convenience and control alongside a dedicated audio speaker.
Chelsea Cafiero is Senior Web Editor of CE Pro. She also manages the corresponding websites of sister publications Commercial Integrator, Security Sales & Integration, Campus Safety and Electronic House. Chelsea has previously covered politics, local news and consumer electronics. She joined the CE Pro family in 2012. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Chelsea at firstname.lastname@example.org
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