(Pocket-lint) - The Sonos One is described by the company as "the smart speaker for music lovers" and it not only offers Amazon's Alexa, but Google Assistant too, giving you a choice of the personal assistant you want to use and the ability to change whenever you like.
Alexa and Google Assistant are capable of plenty, from turning your Philips Hue or Ikea lights on, to playing your favourite track. What they 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 119.7mm, 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 to the older Play:1 speaker, which was the company's smallest device until it was succeeded by the Sonos One SL. 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 like the Sonos Move or Sonos Roam - even though its size suggests it could be.
Despite its similar design and dimensions, 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 more recent Sonos speakers, like the Sonos Move (September 2019) and Sonos One SL (September 2019). 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 older speakers in the Sonos line-up that came before the One 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. The Sonos One SL has an identical top to the Sonos One but it lacks this microphone button as it doesn't feature integrated voice control.
The Sonos logo remains at the front of the One 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 the same colour as the top, rather than metallic, so it has 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 an 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 (a specially designed figure-of-eight cable is included).
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant on Sonos One
- Alexa voice control
- Not compatible with Alexa calling, however
- Google Assistant voice control
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, as well as Google Assistant, like the Move, Roam, Beam and Arc speakers. With both supported, users get the choice of personal assistants rather than being restricted to one platform, as you are with an Amazon Echo or Google Home/Nest speaker.
Ensure the One's microphone is turned on and you'll be able to ask Alexa or Google Assistant anything, as you can via an Amazon Echo or Google Home/Nest speaker. The list of things you can ask Alexa or Google Assistant is endless from requesting an Uber to adding garlic to your shopping order. You'll need respective Skills enabled (via the Alexa app) for Alexa control, while Google requires you to link accounts and services via the Google Home or Google Assistant app.
Aside from general requests and tasks, you can also 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: "Ok Google, play Human in TV Room" - and that's exactly what'll happen without you needing to move a muscle.
However, not all of the 100+ music services that work on Sonos are compatible with Alexa voice control or Google Assistant, though many of the main ones are. For Alexa, Amazon Music is, of course, along with TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music. For Google Assistant, YouTube Music is, naturally, Tidal, Deezer, Spotify and TuneIn Radio. For other music services, you can still start a track or playlist on the Sonos One using the Sonos app - and then ask Alexa or Google Assistant to skip tracks within the playlist, control volume, or pause the track.
It's not possible to use voice to start a playing music from your NAS drive or device either, though 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 a couple of Google Nest Mini's, only the closest smart speaker or device will pick up your command. This is similar to what Amazon offers in its Echo devices and Google offers in its Home and Nest 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 will still pick up your command, even if you're in a busy room. It's really good and works well.
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. Setting reminders and Amazon Announcements are both supported though, which they weren't initially.
In terms of Google Assistant, though again not every single featured offered by Google Home is supported, you still get plenty, including Google's Continued Conversation feature, meaning you don't have to say the "Ok Google" or "Hey Google" wake words each time you ask a follow up question.
Can I pair a Sonos One with any Sonos speaker?
- Multi-room functionality
- Trueplay tuning available
- Over 100 compatible music streaming services
- Apple AirPlay 2 supported
The Sonos One can be paired with another Sonos One or a Sonos One SL to create a stereo pair, as you can with two Play:1 or two Play Five speakers, for example.
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 will happen and we suspect not now the Play:1 has been discontinued.
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 100 or so compatible music services you've signed into, your synced device, or a NAS drive. All the key music services are supported, but as we mentioned earlier, not all are supported through the Alexa or Google voice assistants.
You can also play music directly to the Sonos One from the Tidal app and the Spotify app using Spotify Connect, but grouping speakers has to be achieved through the Sonos app. You can't add the Sonos One to an Amazon Alexa/Echo speaker group or a Google Home/Nest Mini speaker group though, unfortunately - it doesn't show up in the Alexa app in the same way an Echo will or in the Google Home app in the same way a Home/Nest speaker does.
Apple AirPlay 2 its also supported on the Sonos One, allowing you to send music directly from your iOS device to your Sonos speaker.
The Sonos One needs a Wi-Fi connection, like all Sonos speakers require for setup, as there's no Bluetooth on board the One like the Roam or Move. 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). If you have an Android device, you'll need to borrow an iOS device, whether an iPhone, iPad or 6th Gen iPod Touch 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 Move or larger Sonos Five, but we wouldn't expect that. Besides, the One is vastly superior to the Amazon Echo, both the standard Amazon Echo and the Echo Plus, and the Google Home/Nest speakers.
We use 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 listen to various music, from the likes of Beyonce to Bowie, and we're still 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 and Google Assistant voice control, the Sonos One performs well here too. There's very little lag between command and execution though. 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" or "Ok Google" - in order to listen to your request.
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 was a little late to the smart speaker party, given Amazon Echo had been dominating for well over a year when the One arrived.
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 or Google Home.
The Sonos One doesn't disappoint. It truly remains the smart speaker we were waiting for when it first arrived and continues to be an excellent choice.
Alternatives to consider...
The Sonos Roam has pretty much all the same features as the One, and it sounds great too, but it is also portable with Bluetooth capabiities. You can't use the Roam as surrounds to Sonos soundbar, but you can bring it wherever you like, it's waterproof and it has extra features like Sound Swap.
Amazon Echo Studio
If its the Alexa capability that tickles your fancy with the Sonos One, you could opt for the Amazon Echo Studio. It offers good capabilities in the sound department, and it's very slightly cheaper than the Sonos One. You also get a built-in Zigbee controller, making smart home control super simple.
If its Google Assistant that you're after, you could consider the Google Nest Audio. The Nest Audio isn't as capable in the sound department, but it is a good all-rounder with a nice material finish. It's also significantly cheaper than the Sonos One, at £89.99, shaving over £100 off the price of the One.
This review was first published in October 2017.