Sonos vs Bose: which is the better home speaker?

We’re pitting Sonos vs Bose in the battle of the smart speakers! It’s never been easier to fill your home with high-fidelity music thanks to the proliferation of smart speakers. Relatively small, but packing a punch, these powerful units deliver bassy and well-balanced sound, allowing you to appreciate your tunes as the artist intended them.

And they’re convenient, too. The “smart” aspect of a smart speaker refers to its connectivity, allowing you to easily interface with your preferred music apps like Spotify, Tidal or Apple Music. Many smart speakers, including the Sonos and Bose ones we’ll be looking at in this guide, can also interface with virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing you to control the tunes with voice commands.

But hey – you’re here at our Sonos vs Bose guide, so we’ll assume you’re au fait with what a smart speaker entails. What you want to know is which of these two brands deserves your consideration, and delivers the superior smart speaker for the price.

Both Bose and Sonos offer a number of different speakers, with varying functions and at various price points. For each brand, we’ve picked speakers you’d use in similar contexts – home smart speakers that can function either by themselves, or as part of a multi-room, multi-speaker system. In the Sonos corner, we have the Sonos One, while Bose is being represented by the Bose Home Speaker 500.

So, which is best? Only one way to find out – let’s dive into Sonos vs Bose.

Sonos vs Bose: Design

Both the Sonos One and the Bose Speaker 500 score well here, with impressive looks that manage to be simple but stylish. The Sonos One takes up a relatively small footprint in your home, with a base width of 4.69 inches and heights of 6.3 inches. It’s nobody’s idea of bulky, and fits perfectly comfortably on side tables, bookshelves, kitchen counters or wherever else.

Sonos One

The Sonos One slots well into any home space. (Image credit: Sonos)

The touchscreen controls on the Sonos One are located on top, above the grille, offering play/pause and volume adjustments. There’s also a small LED light that flashes to let you know when the speaker is listening. You can get it in white or black, and given that it’s going to be on display in your home, having the choice of colours will no doubt be appreciated by plenty of users.

Footprint-wise, the Bose Speaker 500 is pretty much the same proposition. It’s a little taller at 8 inches, and a little narrower with a base of 4.29 inches, but those aren’t differences anyone is going to lose sleep over. Like the Sonos One, it has a seamless ovoid shape that feels very premium, but unlike the Sonos, it has a colour LCD display screen on the front that can show off album artwork, or just display a clock when the speaker isn’t running. A light bar is used to display when the speaker is listening, and it comes in both black and silver, both constructed from anodized aluminum. The grille is precision-drilled for optimal quality, and it looks the part too.

Bose Home Speaker 500

The Bose Home Speaker 500 includes a front LCD screen as well as touch controls. (Image credit: Bose)

There’s not much in it, but the inclusion of the LCD screen means we’re giving it to Bose. The silver option the Home Speaker 500 is also one of our favorite finishes, reflecting light beautifully in a way that makes it a perfect complement to any room it’s placed in.

Winner: Bose

Sonos vs Bose: Performance and audio quality

The Bose Home Speaker 500 is an impressive achievement – effectively two speakers in one. Its dual two custom drivers, pointing left and right, deliver stereo separation, and give you that multi-channel effect without having to buy a second speaker. Does it measure up to a two-speaker setup? No – but it does sound damn good all the same.

The sound it creates is remarkably expansive – it really does fill a room. The bass punches through really well, to the point where some people may prefer to turn it down a few notches, but it never seems to overwhelm the sound, and the vocals and other instruments are still as clear as you like. There’s plenty of power in this speaker too, and it’s unlikely many people will need to turn the volume up more than halfway. Clarity is still excellent at high volume settings though, with minimal compression.

The Sonos One also impresses. Its two Class-D amplifiers produce a great sound, with plenty of bass but also some excellent vocal clarity. Hook it up to the app and you can use Sonos TruePlay to optimize the speaker for the room it’s in – which it does by measuring how sound reflects off the walls and furnishings in the room.

Both speakers are excellent, but in terms of raw speaker performance and quality, we’re giving this to Bose. Its ability to put out fantastic sound at high volumes is simply unparalleled, and audio aficionados will appreciate the warm, almost analogue tone of its output.

Winner: Bose

Bose Home Speaker 500

The Bose Home Speaker 500 can get to incredibly high volumes and still deliver top-notch sound. (Image credit: Bose)

Sonos vs Bose: Features

We’ve already started to discuss some of the features on the Sonos One, like the clever TruePlay functionality, but there’s plenty more to talk about. It interfaces with all the major streaming services, you can activate Alexa or Google Assistant to use voice commands, and there’s AirPlay 2 support if you want to send sound directly from your iPhone, iPad or Mac. 

Sonos’s multi-speaker integration is also superb – if you pick up another Sonos One, or a sound bar or one of the other speakers on offer, you can quickly and easily control all of them via the app. Want to have the same tunes blasting in every room in the house? Or rock out to PJ Harvey in the kitchen while your partner hunkers down to the strains of Spotify’s “Music for Concentration” upstairs in the study? In either case, it’s the work of moments. Speakers can be grouped and ungrouped quickly and easily.

Of course, Bose’s Home Speaker 500 does plenty of the same stuff. It supports all major streaming services, it has a proprietary app for easy control, and multiple speakers can be linked together using Bose SimpleSync technology. Also, for those who like a simpler life, the Bose Speaker 500 has one thing the Sonos One doesn’t – a 3.5mm aux input to plug devices in manually. 

Voice commands work well, even when you’re blasting your tunes out, thanks to the comprehensive eight-mic array that’s built in. Do we really need eight microphones just to hear us shouting “Alexa, play Bruce Springsteen” five or six times a day? Maybe not, but it’s nice to have. 

Winner: tie

Sonos One

The Sonos One can use TruePlay to detect the layout and contents of a room, and adjust sound output accordingly. (Image credit: Sonos)

Sonos vs Bose: Value

As the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. The Bose Home Speaker 500 may have better audio quality than the Sonos One, and may have a more premium design with extra features, but there’s no getting around the fact that it also costs $379 at major retailers. The Sonos One, meanwhile, is pretty consistently priced at $219. That’s a significant saving, especially if you’re planning on buying multiple speakers for a multi-room setup. It all adds up.

Both speakers may sound expensive to the layman, who might point out that you can get a listenable Bluetooth speaker for less than $30 on Amazon. However, the features, quality and functionality that both these speakers deliver more than justify their significantly higher outlay. In terms of audio performance, both of these speakers absolutely blow the cheaper stuff out of the water.

Ultimately, we feel the Sonos One gives you better value for money. Its intelligent audio capabilities with TruePlay tuning allow it to produce a sound that punches far higher than you might expect for a speaker of its size. If the two were closer in price, this might be a trickier question. But they aren’t.

Winner: Sonos

Should you buy the Sonos One or the Bose Home Speaker 500?

So, what’s the verdict? Well, we’re going to try and hedge our bets as little as possible, and say that the Sonos One is the better buy for the majority of users. It’s a terrific smart speaker, easy to use and stylish, with bags of features and audio quality to spare. The Sonos ecosystem is simple enough that pretty much anyone with a smartphone can craft and operate a multi-room speaker setup.

The Bose Home Speaker 500 is a better speaker, in audiophile terms. Is it better enough to justify spending an extra $160? For our money, no – not unless high-volume sound quality is really important to you, or you simply can’t imagine life without an aux cable input option. If either or both of those things are true, then you’re probably the kind of sound-focused tech head who will appreciate the better quality of the Bose 500 – and if so, get it. For everyone else, the Sonos One is the better buy.

Jon Stapley

Jon Stapley is an NCTJ-qualified journalist that has contributed to a plethora of sites, including Shortlist, The Skinny, The Guardian, Digital Camera World and more. He covers photography and technology, covering news on the latest gadgets and sourcing fantastic deals on great tech products.