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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