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Sonos One review: Seriously great-sound with a serious caveat
- Phenomenal sound quality
- Plays nice with other Sonos speakers
- Supports the most streaming services
- Still lacks Google Assistant
- Voice integration can be clunky
Sonos' promise to deliver the service-agnostic smart speaker hasn't quite been fulfilled here but things are off to a strong start.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
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Smarts aside, the Sonos One Smart Speaker is just a slightly-rejiggered Sonos Play:1 speaker. It’s a small boxy thing with rounded corners that comes in two shades: black and white.
In comparison to the regular Google Home and the Sony LS-C50 smart speaker, it is noticeably larger. However, on the whole, it looks like a more conventional speaker - and an especially-conventional Sonos speaker. Regardless, it does feel like a piece of tech you’ll want to show off.
Like any Sonos system, there’s potential for your to expand, connect and synchronize it to other speakers in your household. However, the smart assistant capabilities of the Sonos One will only work for it - as it alone incorporates the far-field microphones needed.
Setting the Sonos One was a little bit more effort on our part than the regular smart speaker experience. In order to get the speaker working, we had to first connect it up to our local wireless network and run a few updates over to it. Using the app, these updates often timed out or failed. I took a few attempts before we got every running. However, it should be said that these issues might have been exclusive to the press/pre-launch experience as we were using a beta version of the app at the time.
Regardless, once setup, connecting the Sonos One up to your various streaming services was very straightforward. We encountered minimal issues here, and the speaker supports what feels like almost every streaming service out there: Apple Music, Google Music, Spotify, TuneIn, SoundCloud and Bandcamp are all represented here. All told, the Sonos One supports 40 different streaming services. Pretty much everyone you'd want to see represented is here.
At a moment’s notice, control is handled using the touch pad on the top of the speaker. You can tap to turn up the volume, swipe to skip tracks and press the mute button to manually turn off the microphone. For the most part, these buttons work. However, I found myself naturally just jumping into the app most of the time. Ideally, you'll want to control the Sonos One using your voice. However, as mentioned, that feature isn't available in Australia quite yet.
Before setting up the Sonos One, I’d grown pretty used to the sound quality of my regular Google Home. The Home doesn’t sound bad, but it does suffer from distortion at higher volume settings. Still, it’s perfectly listenable for the most part and I'm happy with it. At least, I was.
Regardless, the Sonos One has almost ruined the music playback on the Google’s speaker for me. Before listening to music on the One, I honestly didn’t know if I really needed or wanted better sound for my smart speaker experience - let alone whether an extra $100 would even make a difference. Now, I can scarcely imagine going back.
Nothing short of the words ‘genuinely exceptional’ can really begin to scratch at doing the Sonos One justice. The difference was immediately noticeable. Sound sounded so much crisper and carried a wealth more depth. Vocals resonate with an almost-tangible echo while bass-heavy songs pack that much more of a punch. Simply put, if you care one iota for audio quality, the Sonos One should not be overlooked as far as smart speakers go. The lack of support for hi-res audio might irk some but it’s worlds better than anything out there.
The Bottom Line
Unfortunately, it’s still inevitably a little difficult to recommend buying this right now. There’s no question that the Sonos One smart speaker sounds better than the Google Home does. However, buying one now is a proposition that’s precarious at best given the omission of the smart assistant side of things.
At the moment, it only supports Amazon’s Alexa - which still isn’t available in Australia and New Zealand. This means, you’re basically buying a regular Play:1 on the promise that Sonos deliver on their Google Assistant support. More than that, you’re paying extra on the promise that integration will be as smooth, if not more, than the regular Google Home experience.
So, at the end of the day, it comes down to trust. Whether or not you buy into Sonos' promise is entirely up to you. I wouldn’t necessarily go about replacing your existing Play:1 yet but if you’re looking to buy a smart-speaker, are happy to pay extra for better sound quality, happy to wait for the smarts to arrive later and - above all - trust that Sonos will deliver on their promises, then go right ahead.
Updated 4th May 2018 - As of a few weeks ago, Sonos has finally enabled Amazon Alexa for Australian users of the Sonos One. Does this long-awaited update make the difference? Well, it depends on what you're expecting. If you're expecting the full smarts of Amazon's smart assistant built-into the Sonos One, you won't be disappointed. It's all here. So long as you preface your requests with the usual "Hey Alexa", you can use it to play music, get news and sports updates, check the weather and remotely control your smart home devices.
Unfortunately, if you're expecting voice to seamlessly integrate with the existing Sonos listening experience, you might be a little let down. Due to the software restrictions around what voice services Alexa can integrate with, you may well run into issues with your streaming service of choice. I could tell the Sonos One to play music with Spotify using my voice, but not with Google Music. Ultimately, until those other parts of this picture get colored in, the voice control for this product is going to feel a little limited, unfinished and incomplete.
Of course, that's not to say things aren't pretty good as it is. If Alexa is your voice assistant of choice, this is hands-down the best sounding smart speaker available. Even if there are still limitations, the library of supported services and platforms here is so far ahead of the competition and the easy-connectivity with any additional Sonos speakers you have laying around ends up as icing on the cake.
At this time, Sonos' promise to deliver the service-agnostic smart speaker hasn't quite been fulfilled but things are off to a strong start.
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