Sonos One: It’s All or Nothing

Posted on February 8, 2018 by Brad Sams in Hardware with 25 Comments

If you have listened to First Ring Daily for any length of time, you’ll know that I am deep into the Sonos ecosystem with no signs of slowing down. When the company offered up two Sonos Ones for $349, I jumped on the deal and here is a quick review of the hardware.

For Sonos fans, this device has been a long time coming. The company promised integration with Amazon’s Alexa (Google Assistant support is coming in 2018 according to the company) and this device delivers it in the best possible way. Previously, I was running an Echo Dot into my Play 5 via the line-in but it never worked as well as I had hoped which is why I ended up buying the One pair.

This speaker, which has far-field microphones built in, is essentially a Play 1 but with a refreshed look and more functionality. Setting up the device is simple; open the Sonos app and follow the instructions on the screen. Once it’s setup, it works just like any other Sonos speaker but you can now scream at it and it will follow your commands.

But it’s not perfect, as the Alexa voice only comes out of the speaker that is receiving the command. I have speakers spread across my house and I would prefer to hear the audio response come out of the entire network but that’s not possible at this time.

And by far the most annoying thing that I can only conclude is Sonos’ ignorance in hoping you buy more speakers is that a Sonos One and a Play One cannot be combined for a stereo pair. What this means is that in my kitchen where I have the One, I also have a Play 1 and each speaker is set up in mono output as you can’t pair them to create stereo separation.

Why Sonos has this artificial limitation, I don’t know, the speakers sound nearly identical and are the same size. The company, I suspect, wants me to replace all my Play 1s with Ones but that’s not going to happen if I value my marriage.

Also, this speaker does not have a line-in option or Bluetooth support.

Aside from the Alexa difference, the physical play and volume buttons have been removed in favor of touch sensitive controls. I’m not sure if this is a big deal for you, I rarely touch the speaker and this change makes it look more ‘modern’ but I fully understand why some prefer buttons instead of this implementation.

For sound quality, I quite like the One audio profile it creates. The mids sound warm but the highs can be a bit thin. The lows are lacking but are good enough for a speaker of this size that you will be satisfied with its performance. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t like the audio quality of Sonos but there are many who will complain about the price (myself included).

At $349 for two speakers, I do think the One pair on-sale right now is a good value compared to the typical price of $400. That being said, you will spend far more than $349 because with Sonos, it’s either all or nothing.

If you buy a Sonos speaker, you get locked into their ecosystem and will likely end up buying a Play 5, a sub, or a Playbar at some point down the line as it integrates into your speaker ecosystem. It makes no sense to buy a Sonos One and then 8 months later to buy a Google Max or a HomePod.

Once you invest in Sonos, it’s all or nothing. For me, I’m ok with that as I like the idea of having a speaker that will eventually support multiple AI assistants (Cortana maybe one day too?) but the idea of being locked in isn’t too appealing.

There is hope on the horizon though, Sonos said that they will support Airplay 2 which means, in theory, you could eventually expand your Sonos system to include other non-Sonos speakers. The problem here is that Sonos software development and deployment happens at an anemic rate; don’t buy today expecting this functionality to arrive anytime soon.

If you are comfortable with these limitations, I can say that if you do buy one of these speakers you will be happy. It works as well, has a solid audio profile, and Alexa works quite well with no issues of being recognized when shouting commands from across the house.

In our house, we have music playing for several hours per day and the Sonos setup works wonderfully well. I have no regrets about making this purchase but I do hope the company can move faster in developing its software.

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Comments (25)

25 responses to “Sonos One: It’s All or Nothing”

  1. cornholio

    I recently purchased a pair of Play 1s and am quite happy with them. I didn't see the benefit in adding Alexa, so went the "cheaper" route.

  2. Gus Paul

    With Alexa does this finally mean you can play Audible books with Sonos?

  3. chaad_losan

    Sonos speakers are still over priced and crippled in strange ways. As was described in the article they have unfathomable limitations for the sake of profits. You can't output any audio that is not supported by the sonos app and you just have to "live with it". No thanks.

  4. Jorge Garcia

    All of these things, especially the HomePod, simply remind me of the Weltron 2001 SpaceBall 8-Track I wish I had back in the day....

  5. philht

    I have made this comment before in e-mails to Paul, but I'll now make it here. It is not true that you cannot use other stereo equipment with Sonos. For several years, I have been using a Sonos "Connect" in order to play the media stored on my computer and what is available over the internet (up until recently I primarily used Groove; now I'm on Spotify; it also handles "Hearts of Space" and some others I don't use). It works great. I can control it when in my living room (with the main stereo) while away from my computer (in the upstairs den) with my phone, using the Sonos app. It probably would work with a WiFi connection, but for maximum throughput I have it wired from the computer via ethernet cable.

    Maybe Sonos has quit selling this item, or maybe they just don't advertise it; but I have until just recently had zero Sonos speakers, but have been using their "Connect" white box and software quite happily. I did just buy the 2 speaker Sonos One package, but that is for moving into other rooms, where I didn't have speakers and an ethernet connection would be more difficult.

  6. jeffrye

    That's odd. You're disappointed because you can't hear Alexa responses all over your house. Me - I'm disappointed because Sonos drops the volume of all speakers during any Alexa command (I have separate Sonos and Echo devices). So I'm upstairs listening to music and the volume drops to almost nothing because somebody downstairs is setting a timer.

    I'm sure it will all get worked out eventually but, as you said, it won't be fast.

    That said, I love my Sonos system too!

  7. maethorechannen

    But it’s not perfect, as the Alexa voice only comes out of the speaker that is receiving the command.

    Which is the same behaviour as multiple Echoes. I wouldn't expect it to act any different (except maybe if it was a pair set up in Stereo - but that seems like it would be more jarring than useful).

  8. SamERuiz

    Brad, you can use a third party app to create a stereo pair with a Sonos: One and Play:1. I can't believe Sonos didn't think people would want to do that. To the consumer, these speakers are pretty much the same thing. I understand they tweaked the sound in the new Sonos: One but they sound fine to me in a stereo pair. I used SonoSquencr (available in the Apple App store, not sure if it's in the Play store for Android). It costs a few dollars but was worth it to use those two speakers together.

  9. jchampeau

    I, too, love my Sonos One and all the other Sonos gear in my home. The app could use some love but I don't despise it like Paul apparently does. One thing I found myself yearning for: a way to add visual appeal to the listening experience. What I really wanted was a first-party Sonos "companion app" for Apple TV that would display artist and song title, album cover art, etc. I commented on a thread about this topic in Sonos' user community forum and someone turned me onto this: I joined the beta and it's awesome! When I'm at home listening during the day of course I don't need or want the TV on, but when others are over, this will provide a nice conversation starter. Between this app for Apple TV and the Sonos app on my iPad that allows people to walk up and add songs to the queue, it's a perfect system for a party.

  10. johnlavey

    I have had a Sonos One for several months. I like the fact that I can turn it on and off without having to move away from my recliner. ;-) As you probably know, if the bass or treble are not to your liking as is, you can use the app to adjust them. I think the sound is fantastic.

  11. petrolemo

    hey Brad, with my Sonos One, I find Alexa skill support to be buggy sometimes. I'm wondering what your experience is with skills in particular? (For instance, for me audio doesn't play on NPR One or AnyPod and some other skills.) I also find the Sonos app horribly confusing.

    • Brad Sams

      In reply to petrolemo:

      I primarily use my One for playing audio from spotify, setting timers/alarms, listening to the news headlines, turning on my Hue those limited cases, no issues.

  12. Stooks

    I do not really see the point of 3rd party solutions that have limited support for other service providers.

    I think the best experience is going to be to choose one of the three ecosystems (Amazon, Apple or Google) and dive in and do not look back.

    We tried a full size Echo and its sound quality compared to the Bose Sound Link BT was just not there. We have both Amazon Prime Music (limited to whatever that is) and Apple Music since everyone at my house uses iPhones. With Amazon Prime Music the Echo fit better. With Apple Music the Echo was just a BT speaker and inferior one at that compared to the Bose. The "Assistant" part was fun activity for my kids for about a week to 10 days. Now the Echo is a dust collector in my youngest kids room. I think he uses in BT mode with Apple Music.

    We will be trying a Home Pod next and see how it compares to the Bose. From what I have read in reviews it should be as good or better when it comes to sound and for our very limited "Assistant" needs Siri should be just fine at this very early time in the world of "Assistants".

    • petrolemo

      In reply to Stooks: I bought the Sonos One precisely because it supports Alexa and will soon support Google Assistant. So I'm not sure what you mean by "limited support." I don't find Alexa support limited, though it's a bit buggy right now.

      • Stooks

        In reply to petrolemo:

        Google..."Sonos Alexa Limitations". You will get lots of hits. I have not had success here linking stuff and my posting just spins.

        Sonos with Alexa cant do everything that a Echo can do. First link I found states...

        ""I agree with you. There are quite a few features like drop-in, flash briefings, voice calls unless you hook up through your home phone line, etc that do not function. When purchasing the one, I assumed I was getting an upgrade in sound, not losing functionality of Alexa. Not sure that trade-off is worth it, especially when Amazon has just launched devices with better sound.""

  13. NateInSLC

    Nice write up! I have Play 5's around my house and love them. I do wish they had some kind of assistant built in, but I don't think I'm ready to trade them for Sonos One's just yet. Maybe someday there will be "Sonos Five's"

  14. lukenlow

    I think this is only a pathetic parody, why reinvent the wheel?