(Pocket-lint) - If you've considered buying a smart speaker in the last two years, you'll undoubtedly be aware of Amazon's Echo and its Alexa assistant and if you've ever considered multiroom audio, you're almost certain to have come across Sonos.
Until very recently, the decision between these devices was pretty clear: you want smart then you opt for Echo, while if you want excellent multiroom capability and audio, you opt for Sonos.
That line has now become significantly blurred though, with a lot more to consider. Do you pick the Amazon Echo and sacrifice audio quality for smarts at a smart price, while also being able to control an existing Sonos system?
Or do you choose the Sonos One with great its excellent sound and Alexa integration, but with a compromise to your wallet?
Here is how the two speakers compare.
Sonos One vs Amazon Echo: Design
- Echo comes in more finish options
- Sonos One larger but more premium looking
- Capacitive controls on Sonos, physical on Echo
The Sonos One is a beautiful, solid and premium speaker that is available in black and white colour options. It features a matte, colour-matched grille, tapered bottom for a floating effect and it offers a simplistic finish that will suit the majority of home interiors.
Measuring 161.45 x 119.7 x 119.7mm and weighing a pretty hefty 1.85kg, the Sonos One has capacitive controls on its top, including play/pause control, volume control and microphone on and off control. The power cord is hidden at the bottom of the Sonos One, while the Ethernet port is positioned at the back of the speaker, along with a pairing button.
The Amazon Echo is a cylinder-shaped device with a slightly less premium build quality than the Sonos One, but more finish options. It is available in three options - charcoal, sandstone and heather grey.
The standard Echo measures 148 x 88 x 88mm and weighs 821g, making it quite a bit smaller and lighter than the Sonos One.
There is also the Echo Plus which is a little larger than the standard Echo at 148 x 99 x 99 mm but weighs in 40g lighter at 780g.
The Echo and Echo Plus both have physical buttons on their tops, including a microphone control button, volume controls and an action button. There is also a light ring at the top of the Echo and Echo Plus to indicate when Alexa is listening, while the Sonos One has a small LED light to show when the microphone is on and a status light that flashes on the top of the device when it is listening to a command.
The Echo's power port is positioned at the back of the device and there is also a 3.5mm audio output, something the Sonos One doesn't offer.
Sonos One vs Amazon Echo: Features
- Both have Alexa voice services
- Echo has Alexa calling and messaging, Sonos One doesn't
- Multiroom audio on both, but Sonos One extra features like stereo pairing
- Echo has Bluetooth
Both the Sonos One and the Amazon Echo and Echo Plus offer integration with personal assistant Alexa and therefore all the voice services that come with her. You can add hundreds of Skills in the Alexa app, which will then allow you to ask Alexa anything from what the weather forecast is to turning your Philips Hue lights off, repeating your last Chinese order on Just Eat or adding garlic to your Ocado shopping list.
Naturally, as you would expect, you can also ask Alexa to start playing the music you want to hear. You'll need an Amazon account to use Alexa and both the Echo and Sonos One require you to sign into music services like Spotify too, in order for Alexa to play music from them.
When you ask Alexa to start playing music on your Sonos One, it will search Amazon Music, Spotify, TuneIn Radio and a couple of other services, but not all music services compatible with Sonos are compatible with voice search. For those that aren't, you can still start a track or playlist from the respective app or the Sonos app manually and then ask Alexa to control the volume or skip a track.
On Amazon Echo, the default music service is Amazon as you would expect but you can also say "Alexa, Play Ed Sheeran on Spotify" and the Echo will start shuffle tracks from your favourite red-headed popstar, offering support for some other music services including Spotify too.
Like Sonos One, you can also control volume and skip tracks with your voice by asking Alexa on Echo, as well as control existing Sonos speakers, though the experience isn't as seamless through Echo for Sonos as it is when you use a Sonos One as you're introducing a middle man.
The Amazon Echo also supports Alexa calling and messaging, allowing you to call and message other Amazon Echo or Echo Dot users. This is something the Sonos One doesn't support.
The Sonos One does however offer excellent multiroom audio, working independently or within a group of existing Sonos speakers to simultaneously stream music from over 80 services or play music from your device or NAS drive in various rooms. You can play the same music in different rooms or different music in different rooms.
It also offers everything other Sonos speakers offer, including stereo pairing of the same speaker, the ability to create a 5.1 system with a PlayBar and SUB, as well as Trueplay tuning which adapts the speaker to the room it is in with simple tuning using an iOS device. Sonos speakers use a wireless mesh network and the experience is excellent with rarely any dropouts. Coincidentally, you can also opt to use the Sonos One with Google Assistant instead.
The Amazon Echo meanwhile is also capable of multiroom audio as we mentioned in the intro and it adds Bluetooth capability, whereas Sonos doesn't have Bluetooth.
Sonos One vs Amazon Echo: Hardware and performance
- Better audio performance from Sonos One
- Better voice experience from Amazon Echo
- Both have feature to ensure only closest smart speaker responds to commands
The Sonos One has a tweeter and a mid-woofer, both powered by two Class-D digital amplifiers under its hood. It offers adjustable bass and treble controls through the Sonos app and the One produces a mighty sound for its relatively small package.
Sonos builds its speakers with music in mind, calling the One the "smart speaker for music lovers", and it offers excellent audio quality. There are six microphones on board and the Sonos One also has noise cancellation to help with voice commands when in a busy room, as well as a feature called Arbitration that ensures only the closest smart speaker to you, whether a Sonos One or Amazon Echo, will respond to your command.
In our experience, there is a minimal lag between asking Alexa to do something and her responding, with the One delivering an overall great experience in music playback and voice control.
The new Amazon Echo meanwhile, has a 2.5-inch woofer and a 0.6-inch tweeter running the show. Rather than being built for music, Amazon has designed the Echo with voice as the priority.
This results in an excellent experience when it comes to listening to a news briefing or a radio station without much music, but you don't get as rich and detailed sound as you do with the Sonos One when it comes to music. Indeed, if it's music you're interested in, we suggest you opt for the Echo Plus rather than the standard Echo.
The Echo has seven microphones on board and it too has a feature onboard that ensures only the Echo device closest to you will respond to your command.
Sonos One vs Amazon Echo: Price
The Sonos One costs £199 or $199.The Amazon Echo costs £89.99 or $99.99, while the Amazon Echo Plus costs £139.99 or $149.99, adding a couple of extra features which you can read about in the feature below.
There are always great deals available on Echo devices from time-to-time and these prices will be updated in real-time.
Sonos One vs Amazon Echo: Which should you buy?
The Sonos One is a no brainer for those who have an existing Sonos system, those who are considering starting a Sonos system, or those who want a smart speaker that also delivers excellent audio quality.
That said, the Amazon Echo is the perfect device for those who don't have a £200 budget or those who want a brilliant voice assistant and Bluetooth functionality and are happy to settle for more average audio quality than the Sonos One offers. It's also the only choice if you want access to Alexa calling and messaging.
The decision between these two great smart speakers will, therefore, come down to what features are most important to you and what your budget is. There are few multi-room platforms as great as Sonos, but there are few speakers, if any, that offer the seamless Alexa experience and everything she offers than the Echo.