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Review: Sonos One Smart Speaker

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Sonos is considered the originator of wireless streaming audio. The company’s innovative MESH network solution enabled high fidelity audio streamed across multiple rooms simultaneously (or independently). Sonos speakers have been considered the gold standard in audio quality and precision while their software has long been the envy of other speaker manufacturers.

2017 has been a challenging year for Sonos. While the company continued to unveil well-received speakers and sound bars, they are seeing unprecedented competition not just from cheaper smart speakers with built-in assistants. They are also seeing companies like Google and Apple jump into the premium connected speaker space, presumably with smart assistant functionality. Now, Sonos has answered that challenge.

A quick peek at the upcoming Google Home Max and Apple HomePod speaker inevitably brings comparisons to popular Sonos Play speakers which work well as standalone speakers or can be paired wirelessly for preferred stereo sound.

If you can’t beat them.....

There’s little chance that Sonos will create a smart assistant, so the best is to play nicely with the providers of these services. Their answer is the Sonos One, presumably the first of a line of smart speakers that can connect to personal assistants. Sonos One comes with Amazon Alexa built-in, which means that for countries that support Amazon’s assistant, the Sonos One can do everything and Echo or Echo Dot can do, but it can also play music at a much higher quality.

Out of the box, the Sonos One looks identical to the company’s iconic Play:1 speaker. The big difference is that it has six custom designed microphones that can hear your voice from nearly anywhere in a room even if music is playing.

A pair of Class-D amplifiers and custom built drivers ensures that the Sonos One can output loud yet clear audio that sounds much better than what current Amazon Echo devices or even Google Home devices can muster.

Being a connected speaker, Sonos can access all the streaming music services. It is likely the only one that can. Apple will not likely allow Spotify or Google Play music on HomePods since it will want Apple Music to be exclusive.

Cross platform is truly smart

Sonos will also be a cross-platform smart speaker. It ships with Alexa from Amazon, which is worthless to Canadians since it is not legally supported. The good news is that Sonos One will be able to support Google Home as well as Apple Siri in the near future.

Out of the box and jamming in under 10 minutes

Connecting Sonos One is as simple as plugging it in and setting it up on the app. It can be given a name (usually the room or area where it will be placed) and then you can use the app to select music providers or which stored music collection you want to play. If the voice assistant component was available, you would simply ask it to play music from your preferred provider (i.e. Alexa, play Michael Jackson's Billie Jean from Spotify...).

In terms of sound quality, we can enjoy the legendary Sonos sound engineering in the smallest package. Audio quality is sublime and loudness is also surprising. It's hard to imagine all that music is coming out of such a small speaker and yet here we are. 

Whether it is playing back operatic arias, blues, jazz, classic rock, electronica or the Hans Zimmer soundtrack for Blade Runner 2049, the Sonos One fills the room with warm and full quality sound. Playing Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers album The Big Beat, with the volume at less than 1/2 loudness allowed me to really enjoy this jazz ensemble.

The horns are clear and warm, the bass and drums could very well have been in the room with me.

The background sounds and echoes you might have missed before, easily fool you into thinking your'e at the Blue Note in New York, listening to these musicians live.

I’ve integrated Sonos One into my household which already has two Sonos Play 5’s and it fits in nicely and helps add another dimension to my home audio. It has quickly become my preferred speaker for listening to music, news or podcasts while I work. It would also be the ideal Sonos speaker to take to the cottage or on vacation, provided your Wi-Fi connection is strong.


For anyone who is already a Sonos fan, has been holding off on getting a Play:1, or was turned off by the crap quality of smart some speakers. The Sonos One is worth looking into. Despite its small size, this speaker offers a laundry list of technology but never at the expense of gloriously clear and nuanced sound playback.

Unfortunately, I cannot vouch for the smart assistant connectivity of the Sonos One but plan on reviewing the integration with Google Home or Apple Siri moving forward. This means the Sonos One can only get better and more useful once the smart assistant functionality is unlocked. So, theoretically, the best is yet to come.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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