The Sonos One is the speaker that Sonos owners have been waiting a long time for. Well, the Sonos owners who have wanted a personal assistant from their speaker and voice control for their multi-room systems anyway.
The speaker is described by the company as "the smart speaker for music lovers" and it not only offers Amazon's Alexa built-in from launch, but it will offer Google Assistant in 2018 too, giving you a choice of the personal assistant you want to use.
Alexa is capable of plenty, from turning your Philips Hue lights on, to playing your favourite Bieber track. What Alexa can't do is tell you what the Sonos One is like. We can though. "Hey Pocket-lint, should I buy the Sonos One?"...
How different is the Sonos One to Sonos Play:1?
- 161.45 x 119.7 x 119.7mml 1.85kgs
- Same size as Sonos Play:1
- Capacitive touch controls
- Mains powered, not portable
- Ethernet port, Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth
The Sonos One is a beautiful looking speaker, if you can call a speaker beautiful. It follows a similar design ethos to the Play:1 speaker, the company's smallest device, but it offers refinements for an all-round more streamlined finish.
The Sonos One is the same size as the Play:1, making it suitable for most rooms, especially smaller ones. You'll need to have an available plug socket wherever you place it, though, as the One requires constant power. Sadly, it's not portable - even though its size suggests it could be.
Despite its similar design and dimensions, however, the One offers a completely different top to the Play:1. Rather than the physical Play/Pause and volume buttons, the Sonos One has capacitive touch controls, matching the style of the Sonos Play:5 (which launched in September 2015) and the more recent Sonos Playbase (which launched in February 2017). The top is also completely flat rather than indented like the Play:1, for a cleaner overall design.
There is a Play/Pause button in the centre of the One's control pad, with a slim LED status light positioned above, and volume controls either side, visually linked by a circle of dots. It's what sits above the circle of dots that makes this speaker stand out from the rest of the Sonos line-up though: the microphone icon button.
This microphone button can be turned on and off with a tap. When it's on, a light positioned at the top of the circle of dots lights up so you're fully aware it's on and listening. Sonos tells us the light was hardwired to the microphone so it can accurately represent when the mic is on - rest assured your conversations aren't being recorded at all times.
The Sonos logo remains at the front of the device within the plastic section, which is either matte black or matte white depending on your choice. Unlike the Play:1, the One's speaker grille is now the same colour as the top, rather than metallic, making for a more seamless finish. It also ties the Sonos One in with the more recent Sonos range.
At the back of the Sonos One you'll find the pairing button, along with the Ethernet port, but no mounting screw hole like the Play:1. The Sonos One has the same base as the Play:1, though, tapering in towards the bottom to create a kind of floating appearance, with the power input hidden away underneath.
Does Alexa work on Sonos One? What features are available?
- Alexa voice control from launch
- Not compatible with Alexa calling, however
- Google Assistant forthcoming in 2018
The Sonos One has all the same features as other Sonos speakers, but it adds built-in voice control thanks to the array of six-microphones within the top of the device. The Sonos One runs Amazon Alexa already, but Google Assistant compatibility will arrive in 2018, meaning next year you'll get the choice of personal assistants rather than being restricted to one platform, as you are with an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker.
Ensure the One's microphone is turned on and you'll be able to ask Alexa anything, as you can via an Amazon Echo or, increasingly, a number of other devices. The list of things you can ask Alexa is endless - so long as you have the respective Skills enabled (via the Alexa app) - ranging from asking Alexa to request an Uber to adding garlic to your Ocado order.
Aside from general requests and tasks, you'll also be able to say something like: "Alexa, play Human" - and she will respond with "Playing Human by Rag and Bone Man in the Kitchen (or whichever room your Sonos One is in)". You can also use the One to ask other speakers within your Sonos system to play certain songs or skip tracks. For example: "Alexa, play Human in TV Room" - and that's exactly what'll happen without you needing to move a muscle.
However, not all of the 80+ music services that work on Sonos are compatible with Alexa voice control. Amazon Music is, of course, along with TuneIn Radio, and Spotify has also recently been made compatible despite not being available at launch.
Others such as Apple Music and Deezer aren't however, so while you can still start a track or playlist from these services on the Sonos One using their respective apps or the Sonos app and then ask Alexa to skip tracks within the playlist, control volume, or pause the track, you won't be able to ask Alexa to start playing a track from the likes of Apple Music on the Sonos One as yet. It's also not possible to use voice to start a playing music from your NAS drive or device, though like Apple Music or Deezer, you can still control this music with your voice once it is already playing on the Sonos One.
A feature called Arbitration is also on board the One, which means if you have more than one Sonos One, or you have a Sonos One and a couple of Echo Dots or an Amazon Echo in your home, only the closest smart speaker or device will pick up your command. This is similar to what Amazon offers in its Echo devices - so it's nothing new, but it does mean you won't have multiple smart devices responding to requests.
Sonos also offers acoustic noise-cancellation so the microphone on the Sonos One should still pick up your command, even if you're in a busy room, which we have found to be the case. You won't be able to use the Sonos One for Alexa calling or messaging, however, like you can with Amazon Echo, so if that's a feature you specifically want from your smart speaker, the One isn't for you.
Can I pair a Sonos One with any Sonos speaker? Which music services are compatible?
- Multi-room functionality
- Trueplay tuning available
- Over 80 compatible music streaming services
- Apple Airplay 2 coming in 2018
The Sonos One can be paired with another Sonos One to create a stereo pair, as you can with two Play:1, two Play:3 or two Play:5. However, it isn't possible to pair a Sonos One to a Play:1 in order to create a stereo pair, despite them being similar in design and composition. Sonos tells us this is something that could be made possible through a software update - but it didn't confirm if this update would ever be something that happens.
The Sonos One will work individually, of course, or it can be linked up with other Sonos speakers within your system for multi-room audio, allowing you to group various speakers together to simultaneously stream music from any one of the 80+ compatible music services you've signed into, your synched device, or a NAS drive.
You can also play music directly to the Sonos One from the Tidal app and the Spotify app using Spotify Connect, but grouping speakers needs to be achieved through the Sonos app.
The Sonos One will require a Wi-Fi connection, like all Sonos speakers require, as there's no Bluetooth on board for a direct connection. There's no longer a need for a Sonos Bridge as early Sonos adopters may remember. Even without this additional product, the mesh network created by the Sonos system is excellent, avoiding audio drop-outs thanks to one of the most robust systems going.
The Sonos One is also compatible with Trueplay, which allows you to tune the speaker to its surroundings using an iOS device (sorry, still no Android). It isn't currently possible to Trueplay tune with an iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, though it will be soon, so if you have a newer iPhone, you'll need to borrow a friend's older one to get the best sound out of your new speaker. It's also worth removing any protective case or you'll have to Trueplay tune twice.
How good does the Sonos One sound?
- Two class-D amplifiers, custom drivers
- 1x tweeter, 1x mid-woofer
The Sonos One offers mighty sound for such a small package. It doesn't deliver the same performance as you'll get from the larger Play:3 or Play:5, but we wouldn't expect that. Besides, the Play:1 is vastly superior to the Amazon Echo, both the original and the newer version.
We've been using the One in our kitchen, which is one of the larger rooms in our home, and it's had no problem filling it with sound. Put it this way: we're sure we've been close to getting a knock on the door from the neighbours when we've turned it up full volume, especially in the case of the bassier tracks.
Bass levels are rich and, much like the earlier Play:1, the One copes well with treble too. We've tested numerous tracks, from the likes of Beyonce to Bowie, and we've been impressed with the One's capabilities on all occasions.
The overall balance is towards the bassier side, but we're totally fine with that - and if you're not then you can always adjust the equaliser levels in the Sonos app to suit your preference.
In terms of Alexa voice control, the Sonos One performs well here too. In our testing there's been very little lag between our command and the execution. The One also offers useful feedback - by making a small noise and reducing the volume of any music you're listening to after you say "Alexa" - in order to listen to your request.
We had a couple of issues whereby we asked Alexa to play a radio station or a specific artist, to which she responded saying she would do what we asked but then the action was never executed, leaving us in silence. This problem occurred after we unplugged our Sonos One for a few hours before plugging it back in (which is something many will likely never do, therefore an unlikely problem). A factory reset and setting up the One from scratch restores Alexa functionality.
The Sonos One is a small but mighty little speaker. It delivers a premium, solid design, just as you would expect from a Sonos device, but it couples its good looks with smarts too, living up to that "smart speaker for music lovers" tagline.
It has some serious competition in the voice-controlled speaker world, especially with many being cheaper, and it could certainly be argued that Sonos is a little late to the smart speaker party, given Amazon Echo has been dominating for well over a year.
That said, for Sonos fans and music fans seeking a smart speaker that delivers excellent sound quality for its size, the One is unrivalled. This is a speaker designed for music lovers, which gives it that edge over Amazon's own Echo. Plus there'll be Google Assistant and more in the future.
The Sonos One doesn't disappoint. It truly is the smart speaker we've been waiting for.
Alternatives to consider
The Libratone Zipp is a great sounding portable speaker with interchangeable jackets for a quirky and colourful design. It too is compatible with Amazon Alexa allowing you to speak commands to it like the Sonos One, and it offers big sound and bass for its small size. The main thing it has over Sonos is its portability.
Read the full article: Libratone Zipp review
The Onkyo P3 featuring Amazon Alexa was announced at IFA alongside the G3 smart speaker with Google Assistant, meaning you have to choose between the assistants unlike the Sonos One. The P3 offers dual full-range drivers, dual passive bass radiators and DSP switching amplification, not to mention the Onkyo name, so although we have yet to hear it properly, it's likely to deliver in the sound department.
Read the full article: Onkyo P3 and G3 preview