(Pocket-lint) - Sonos has long been teasing voice control for its speakers. It all began in March 2016 when former CEO John MacFarlane said it was within the company's long term strategy but that it would take its time to bring it to market in a "wonderful way".
A year-and-a half later and that "wonderful" voice control is now here. We've known since February 2017 that voice control for Sonos speakers through Amazon Echo and Echo Dot will arrive before then end of the year, but there is also a Sonos speaker with built-in voice control joining the party called the Sonos One.
Here is everything you need to know about the Sonos One smart speaker.
Sonos One smart speaker: Design
- Similar design to Play:1 but refined
- New touch controls
- Black and white colour options
The Sonos smart speaker features a very similar design to the Play:1, but with a few changes, including a white speaker grille instead of silver for the white model and different controls on the top.
The original Play:1 measures 161.45 x 119.7 x 119.7mm, comes in black and white colour options and it has a physical Play/Pause button, an LED status light and volume buttons on its dipped top.
The Sonos One meanwhile, will be almost the same size but it features capacitive buttons, a slimmer LED status light and a microphone symbol on its top, which is now flat rather than dipped and more streamlined than the original model.
A circle of dots surround the centralised Play/Pause button and the LED light, linking the next and previous buttons together. These relate to the voice control aspect, lighting up when the speaker is listening, like the Amazon Echo does when you say "Alexa".
The capacitive buttons on the Sonos One match the style of those introduced to both the Play:5 in September 2015 and the Playbase in February 2017, which ties the new smart speaker in with the latest products in the Sonos portfolio.
Sonos smart speaker: Hardware and software
- Far-field microphones on board
- Great sound expected despite small package
- Multiple voice platforms coming
- AirPlay 2 support coming
The new Sonos One smart speaker has an array of six far-field microphones for built-in voice control. A similar sound output to the Play:1 is expected, though no doubt there will be some improvements, with Sonos using custom-built drivers for the new device.
The Sonos One has two Class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter for high frequency response and one mid-woofer for mid-range vocal frequencies and deep bass. This is the same as the original Play:1 aside from the new drivers being customised, so we expect it to sound as great for a small speaker as the original did, if not a little better and more refined.
The FCC filing claimed the new speaker would offer "multiple voice platforms and music services". Support for multiple music services is nothing new for Sonos, with the company offering a huge breadth of support for over 80 music service partners.
Multiple voice platforms was more interesting though and it was true. Although the speaker launches with Alexa as the primary voice assistant, Google's Assistant is in the works too, coming 2018. Although Siri wasn't mentioned, the Sonos One will support Apple AirPlay 2 from next year, like the rest of Sonos speakers.
Sonos smart speaker: Release date and price
- Announced on 4 October
- Pre-orders open on 4 October, delivery 24 October
- Price set at £199 / $199 / €229
Sonos hosted an event on 4 October in New York, which is where it launched the new smart speaker called Sonos One.
It was rumoured since January 2017 that the company would launch a speaker with built-in Alexa voice control after its CEO, Patrick Spence, told Variety it wasn't just testing the functionality of controlling existing Sonos speakers through an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, but that it was also planning a Sonos speaker with built-in Alexa and now it is finally here.
The new smart speaker will replace the original Play:1 but it will come in at the same £199 price point, making it the cheapest and smartest speaker in the Sonos line-up, though still more expensive than the Amazon Echo at £89.99. We expect it will sound a lot better though.
The Sonos One will be available for pre-order from 4 October, with delivery starting 24 October.