Sonos One review – CNET

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Ever since the release of the original Amazon Echo, the smart speaker has been more smart than speaker. Being able to ask Alexa — or, on Home speakers, Google — for a weather report or a timer is great, but the number one use for these speakers for most people is playing music. And until now they’ve all sounded mediocre when asked to belt out the tunes.

The Sonos One ($198.99 at Amazon.com) is the first smart speaker I’ve heard that actually sounds great with music. Based on the company’s Play:1, a 4-year-old multiroom speaker that still outperforms pretty much anything at its price, the Sonos One sounds even better. It can join an existing Sonos whole-home audio system or serve as the beginning of one. And with Alexa built right in, the Sonos One can do almost everything an Echo can. And her voice sounds more natural than ever.

Amazon’s assistant is just the beginning. Sonos is the first company to promise compatibility with both Alexa and Google Assistant, the other major home voice control system. Sometime in 2018 the One will work just like a Google Home speaker. Also coming to Sonos is Apple’s AirPlay 2, allowing control of the speaker from any Siri-enabled devices like iPhones ($699.00 at Apple) and iPads.

Update, Nov. 29: This review was originally published on Oct.18 and has been updated to include our experience of Spotify voice control, a recent addition. After reviewing numerous other competing Wi-Fi speakers, we’ve also given the Sonos One our CNET Editors’ Choice Award.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Even without these future additions, the Sonos One is a great smart speaker today. Of course it also costs twice as much as the new Echo, and Amazon has multiroom audio support too. Soon the higher-end Apple HomePod and Google Home Max speakers will hit the market too, promising improved audio quality of their own. We haven’t tested those speakers or the Amazon Echo Plus yet so we can’t say how well they compare to Sonos. 

Either way the Sonos One offers an awesome combination of versatility, sound quality and affordability right now. If you’ve been looking to jump on the smart speaker bandwagon, but been put off by poor sound quality, there’s no more reason to hesitate. 

The Sonos One is available for $199, £199 or AU$299.

Three things Amazon Echo can do that Sonos One can’t (yet)

The Sonos One behaves pretty much exactly like an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot speaker, but at launch it lacks a few of the capabilities of those speakers. Here’s a rundown.

  • Set Sonos as default: If you have more than one Echo in the home, Amazon uses a system called Echo Spatial Perception to determine which speaker you are talking to and which to then play back for you, a feature Sonos says it has adapted into its speaker. However, when you use the One as part of an Echo system, there is no current way to default to the Sonos when playing music — even if it’s the closest to you. Instead, if you also have one or more Echos you will need to say something like “play on the Sonos” each time. This isn’t an issue if you only have Sonos speakers.
  • Alexa Calling: Echo speakers can call other Echos and most phones within Northern America for free. Sonos is not able to do this. In fact, requesting it hilariously causes the speaker to say “Alexa,” which sets the unit back into listening mode again. A Sonos representative said it is something the company is looking into.
  • Zigbee: The new Amazon Echo Plus allows for users with Philips smart bulbs and other Zigbee-based devices to operate without the need for an external hub. Of course Sonos can control all of the smart home devices that a standard Echo or Dot speaker can.

Familiar design

Sonos One

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Sonos speakers have been around for 15 years and we’ve liked pretty much all of them. The One looks almost exactly like the Play:1, and retains the same dimensions: shorter and wider than the tall, slim original Echo. Sonos’ top panel has a completely flush surface with a cluster of touch-sensitive buttons, lights and a dotted ring. Above the central light is a “mic” button that lets you mute the onboard microphone array of that dotted ring.

Just like the Play:1, the Sonos One is available in white or black (pictured, though the black color scheme is different than that of the Play:1).

Sonos One

The Play:1 (left, in white) and the One.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The dedicated Sonos app incorporates dozens of streaming music services, from Spotify to iHeartMusic to Google Play Music. It enables you to use the speaker in a whole-home, multiroom Sonos setup, as part of stereo pair or as rear speakers for a Playbar or Playbase. The multiroom capabilities of the Google Home and Chromecast Audio come close, but Sonos is still the king of whole-home audio.

If you’re an existing Play:1 owner I have some bad news. Right now the One cannot form a stereo pair with a Play:1, so if you already own a Play:1 you can’t just buy a One to get the wider soundstage of stereo. To pair the One up for stereo listening you’ll have to buy a second One speaker. Sonos wouldn’t tell me if they’ll eventually add One-Play:1 pairing capability.

Sonos One

Sarah Tew/CNET

The biggest draw for this speaker over the Play:1 is the virtual assistant which brings not only smart home capabilities but the notion of controlling music with your voice. Users can between Spotify or Amazon Music as their default music service — in addition to radio services — and play songs, albums or playlists just by using their voice.

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