MEGATech Reviews: Sonos One Smart Speaker with Alexa
With everyone else getting into the smart speaker business, we knew Sonos had to throw in a smart assistant eventually. Now, where are the Sonos Three and Five?
Pros
  • Elegant and weighty industrial design
  • Exceptional sound quality
  • Great addition to Sonos family
Cons
  • Alexa doesn't work in Canada yet
  • Can't form stereo pair with PLAY:1
  • Premium price
8.5Overall Score

I've been a big fan of the Sonos ecosystem for a number of years, even though I recognize that it can be rather cost-prohibitive for a lot of people. At the same time, a lot has changed in these last few years and it started to feel like Sonos was falling behind. Now, they're catching up again with the new Sonos One, which was just announced a couple weeks ago. It takes everything that we loved about Sonos and added into the voice-activated smart assistant that's becoming all the rage.

And, as far as I can tell, it's the first Sonos product that doesn't use all caps for its official product name. So, there's that too.

Haven't I Seen/Heard This Before?

Basically? Yes. Yes, you have.

The Sonos One is fundamentally identical to the trusted and true Sonos PLAY:1 in almost every way. It has practically the same dimensions, it's also available in black or white, and it is humidity-resistant, so you can bring it to the bathroom or outdoor patio without too much concern.

But of course, it has to be at least a little different. Instead of the physical buttons on the slightly indented top, the Sonos One gets capacitive touch controls reminiscent of the second-generation Sonos PLAY:5. The top is also completely flat now, making for a much cleaner look. I also appreciate how, at least on the white version, the speaker mesh is a lighter tone too, also adding to this cleaner look.

Getting Started

If you already have a Sonos system set up in your home, adding the Sonos One is no different than adding any other speaker. Just open up the app on your smartphone or tablet, navigate over in the menus to add a speaker, and the wizard will take care of the rest. If this is your first Sonos product, the initial setup takes a few more steps but is just as easy to understand. Just follow the app.

Just like the PLAY:1 before it, you'll notice that the power cord plugs into the base of the Sonos One. The flat cable is then fed through a channel to the back, resulting in a very clean look and great cable management. And while this speaker is perfectly happy operating over Wi-Fi or using a Sonos Boost, there is also a standard networking port on the back for a wired connection if you prefer.

Another notable difference between this and the PLAY:1 that it effectively replaces is that the threaded mounting hole on the back has now been removed. This can be a little troublesome for those of you who want to mount the speaker to the wall, for instance. In its place is the pairing button.

The Same Great Sonos Sound

If you've ever heard what the Sonos PLAY:1 sounds like, then you'll already know what the Sonos One sounds like. The speaker has a good amount of weight to it, just a smidge over four pounds, and it's got some grippy rubber ring on the bottom. Unwanted vibration is practically nonexistent.

The sound profile is rich and full, offering a lot more deep and clean bass in particular than you might expect from a speaker of this size. Inside are two Class-D digital amplifiers and custom-built drivers that have been "meticulously tuned to the speaker's unique acoustic architecture." That comes by way of one tweeter and one mid-woofer. It really is quite remarkable.

No, it's not going to outperform the larger siblings in its family, like the PLAY:5 or the PLAYBAR, but the Sonos One easily holds it own and it completely blows away many other comparatively-sized speakers. A simple Bluetooth speaker this most certainly is not.

Alexa, When Are You Coming to Canada?

So, I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the Sonos One is the first smart speaker from the company that is ready to accept all sorts of voice commands, just like you'd get from something like the Google Home or the Amazon Echo. There are six far-field microphones arranged in an array with "advanced beamforming and echo cancellation." That way, it'll be able to "hear you from anywhere in the room, no matter how loud the music is playing."

The smart speaker is currently being positioned as working with Amazon Alexa. However, Alexa is not yet available in Canada. When I went through the app to enable voice services, I was told that I couldn't yet, but I'll be notified when I can. That's really too bad, because Alexa integration and control is really the biggest "new" thing about this speaker.

But since the microphones are all there, it's just a matter of enabling this feature through software. Sonos says that Google Assistant will be coming some time in 2018 too. If this holds true, it wouldn't be unreasonable to think that Sonos could ink deals with Apple and Microsoft to work with Siri and Cortana too, though neither of those have been anywhere near confirmed yet.

Forming the Stereo Pair

You know how I keep saying that the PLAY:1 and the One are more or less the same thing? Sonos doesn't really think so. Something that I've been meaning to do since I picked up the Sonos PLAYBAR some time back was to form a stereo pair in the back for 5.0 surround sound. (That's 5.0 and not 5.1, because I'm not as convinced to pick up the SUB just yet.)

Since these two speakers are fundamentally the same, I thought I could do it. And I thought wrong. You really do need to have an exact matching pair if you want to enjoy the surround sound experience with Sonos. In other words, you need to have two PLAY:1 speakers or two One speakers (or two PLAY:3s or two PLAY:5s). While I completely understand, it's still a bit of a shame.

MEGATechie Number One Speaker or MEGATechie One of Many?

This product represents the natural evolution of the Sonos brand. Smart speakers are expected to do more than just play your favorite music these days; they're expected to listen to you too. You can thank the Amazon Echo family for that. If you want a much better audio experience, though, the Sonos One will destroy the standard Echo. I just need Alexa (and Google Assistant) to work in Canada.

Moving forward, this product niche is going to be much more crowded and much more competitive. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts to the upcoming Apple Homepod and Google Home Max, since both are very clearly stepping on the toes of Sonos. This speaker doesn't reinvent the wheel; it just keeps moving it forward.

The Sonos One launches on October 24 for $199 US ($249 Canadian) in your choice of white or black. That's the same price as the PLAY:1, so we can probably expect either a discount on the older speaker or for it be discontinued and replaced by the Sonos One altogether. Then, all we have to do is wait for the Sonos Three and Sonos Five, because those sure sound inevitable at this point.


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