Sonos has become an audio staple in households across the world and with the dawn of smarts speakers created by Amazon and its Alexa smart assistant, there was always one thing missing from the burgeoning market: premium sound quality. In stepped Sonos with the Sonos One. It’s the first smart speaker that provides both access to use the big three voice assistants (with limitations, more on that later) AND premium sound quality. Apple has possibly come the closest with their Home Pod but given the usual Apple walled garden approach and price with their speaker, the Sonos One wins out in pretty much all areas.
With the spotlight now on audio quality, both Google and Amazon are quickly playing catch up, focusing on high-end audio quality to match the likes of Sonos with devices such as the Amazon Echo Plus and Google Home Max but with the time I have had with the Sonos One, it has blown me away in every aspect and given the open nature of the smart assistant and music services, again, its difficult to see the competition catch up anytime soon.
Ecosystems are the glue that hold a variety of devices and services together and Sonos have an extensive one for their speakers. The multi-room option Sonos offer is a fantastic way to fully utilise the high end audio and smart functions across your home.
Yes I have thrown enough platitudes in the intro alone, lets dive in and see how the Sonos One does in our in depth review.
Sonos released a range of speakers a while back called Play:1 and the Sonos One’s design is essentially based on the same design language but with some additional tweaks that definitely improves the device.
Lets start with where you will interact with the speaker the most – on the top. You’ll find a touch-sensitive surface that’s a great deal sleeker than the Play:1’s trio of volume and play/pause buttons. Swiping right or left skips forward and backwards through your current playlist, while tapping in the center of the surface plays and pauses your music. Finally, tapping the left and right halves of the panel raise and lower the volume.
Thats as complex as it gets. Very easy to use and control but as with most of Sonos’ offerings, you will most likely be controlling the speaker using the Sonos app the majority of the time. The physical controls are nice when you want to quickly skip a track, but you’re unlikely to use them much, especially now that voice control plays a much bigger part of the overall package and possibly the main reason you want to purchase this in the first place.
To facilitate this voice control, Sonos has equipped the speaker with six internal microphones to allow it to hear regardless of where you are in the room and it works incredibly well. You get the same internals as the Play:1; with a pair of Class-D amplifiers and a tweeter / mid-woofer driver combo.
If you want to tell when your voice assistant is listening, on the top of the device you’ve got a power-indicating LED alongside a small light for the microphones. This small light will tell you when it is listening and go off when its not. Sonos promises that the microphones cannot listen to you if it’s not illuminated.
Amazon like to keep their Alexa skills contained in their own app despite allowing Alexa on third party devices. This means you will need both apps to fully set the speaker up if you are looking to use the Alexa Voice assistant. Its not finnicky, it just has extra steps here and there that otherwise could have been avoided if Amazon let Alexa skills be more deeply integrated with third party apps.
The process involves installing the Sonos and Alexa apps, and you’ll need to sign into both your Sonos and Amazon accounts, as well as any other music streaming services that you’ll want to listen to using the speaker such as Spotify or Tunein.
You’ll also be encouraged to go through a ‘Trueplay Tuning’ process, which requires you to walk around your room with your phone as your speaker plays a number of test sounds. Your phone listens to how the speaker sounds in its environment, and tunes its sound accordingly.
Of course, you can also manually adjust the treble and bass levels of your speaker if you have more specific preferences, although I left them at their default levels and never felt the need to adjust them.
You’ll also need to assign the Sonos One a room to allow you to identify it from the Sonos app, and it’s here that you’ll also have the ability to pair the Sonos One up with another speaker to have them play music in stereo.
Now onto the most important part, this is an area where most smart speakers are lacking, with tinny audio and muddy bass but Im happy to say that you wont find those issues here. Given that this is a Sonos speaker, you might already know what to expect – fantastic sound.
I started playing my go to genre, some old school hip hop courtesy of the Luniz and their monster hit “I got 5 on it”. The speaker punched out clear bass that was not drowned out by that familiar melody (something a lot of speakers fail to do with this song) allowing the vocals and hook to shine. Throwing on some Shawn James next, his guitar is razor sharp and the speakers do a great job of filling his vocals with energy and broadcasts this beautifully to the room with absolute no detail lost. It’s a testament to Sonos that they can bring this level of audio fidelity to a smart speaker.
Whether its a song with multiple layers of instruments or a vocal only podcast with multiple voices, the Sonos one doesn’t struggle and delivers fantastic sound. This is all the more impressive for the fact the the Sonos One is not a traditional stereo speaker and doesn’t offer the separation like a pair of stereo speakers as the music is coming from a single channel. You can however, enhance your experience with pairing another Sonos One if you are looking for that true stereo option.
Onto the connected side of the speaker you have a plethora of options available for your audio needs. The usual suspects are there, Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music but you also get things like Pocketcasts, Audible and even the Calm app integration. Having all those options available with the audio fidelity of Sonos is great and you will be hard pressed to want to listen to any podcasts or music on anything else.
So with the above, the speaker acts pretty much as you’d expect a smart speaker to. It integrates with all the same smart home products, you can ask it about the weather, or just have it tell you stupid facts and jokes.
You can also, thanks to the Sonos Alexa skill, use voice commands to get music playing on other Sonos speakers throughout your home. The skill is still a little buggy but an update and some TLC from Sonos will make it into yet another helpful feature.