Not only is the Sonos One the best third-party smart speaker we tested – it’s also the best sounding smart speaker period. The two issues we have with this speaker are the lack of Bluetooth connectivity, which is mostly a convenience issue, and that it costs twice as much as the Amazon Echo. If those two quirks don’t bother you, this is the best smart speaker available. The setup process takes a little longer than most of the speakers we tested, but the Sonos app is easy to use and walks you through the process step by step.
The Sonos brand is synonymous with quality sound and whole-home wireless audio. The idea of having your music playlist follow you around the house was only a pipe dream 10 years ago, but Sonos has made it a reality. You can use the Sonos One as your voice assistant for the kitchen and add a PlayBar to your entertainment room and a PLAY:3 for your deck, and control them all with the Sonos app. The app also organizes all your music streaming services and smart home devices. The Sonos One is compatible with more than 60 streaming music services, but voice control only works with Alexa compatible services, which don’t include Apple Music or the free version of Spotify.
The setup process for this speaker takes a bit longer than most products we tested, but the speaker tunes itself specifically for your room. The Sonos app walks you through the process of signing into your Amazon account and connecting to Wi-Fi. You’ll also have to create a Sonos account if you don’t already have one. Once you are signed into your accounts and streaming services, the app will prompt you to initiate the Trueplay Tuning process. The speaker plays a test tone as you walk around your room waving your phone. The phone then analyses that test tone and adjusts treble and bass frequencies based on your room’s acoustic characteristics. You can manually adjust the bass and treble settings in the app if you don’t enjoy the default setting offered up by the tuning process, but we found the automatic tuning to be spot-on in our tests.
To test the audio quality of the speakers we reviewed, we played a wide range of musical genres while quickly switching back and forth between speakers. The Amazon Echo and Google Home were no match for the Sonos One, so we focused our side-by-side comparison on the Google Home Max and Harman Kardon Allure. Both are significantly more expensive and take up more counter space than the Sonos One. While the bass response was better with the larger speakers, we thought the Sonos One offered a more balanced sound stage and more natural vocal reproduction. The One isn’t loud enough to rattle the pictures off your wall, but it had no problem filling our 400-square-foot AV room with a surprisingly wide frequency range, especially for how compact the speaker is.
The top panel of the Sonos One has touch-sensitive buttons to control volume, pause the music and switch to the next track. They reacted better than the touch controls on the Harman Kardon Allure, but we still prefer physical buttons. You won’t find a Bluetooth pairing button on this speaker because it doesn’t support Bluetooth. It does have a microphone mute button on the back panel, if you are worried about having an active listening device in your home. The six-speaker array performed better than average in our adjacent room test. Alexa had no problem hearing us over conversational-level music from more than 20 feet away.
The Sonos One is the best smart speaker we tested especially for music enthusiasts. The Sonos One had a better all-around sound stage for more musical genres than louder speakers with more bass. The only reasons to consider a different smart speaker is the whopping $200 price tag, or if you prefer the Apple or Google ecosystem to Alexa.