Sonos on Wednesday announced the Sonos One, its latest wireless home speaker.
As the company suggested earlier this year, the One is the first Sonos speaker to natively support voice assistants. The device will work with Amazon’s Alexa platform to start; the company says an update to enable Google Assistant support will arrive sometime next year, and Sonos is open to working with more digital helpers in the future. The device costs $199/£199/€229 and will ship on October 24, with pre-orders now live on Sonos’ website.
The company said those who already have a Sonos speaker will gain Alexa support through an update rolling out today, too.
The most immediately apparent thing about the Sonos One is that it looks a whole lot like the company’s existing Play:1 speaker. It’s another diminutive, understated chunk of metal with rounded sides and a flat top and bottom. It’s still not totally wireless, since there’s still no Bluetooth support. While the design certainly looks familiar, I find it hard to call it unattractive.
From there, the One works like most other third-party Alexa devices. You can have Amazon’s increasingly ubiquitous assistant tell you the weather, the time, a joke, or whatever else its “skills” provide. Sonos says Alexa will be able to control Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and SiriusXM on the One right away, with support for Spotify coming “soon after launch.”
What Sonos is really selling here is the One’s audio quality and integration with other Sonos devices. If you have a family of Sonos speakers dotted throughout your house, for instance, you can tell Alexa to “play David Bowie in the kitchen and bedroom” and have it play to the corresponding devices set up in those rooms. Same goes for pausing, skipping, playing different genres, and so on. A little light will flash by the microphone button, you’ll hear the same alert sound you’d hear on an Echo, and Alexa will behave as usual.
You still manage all of your devices through the Sonos app, which the company is also refreshing on Wednesday with a new bottom-mounted navigation bar and other aesthetic tune-ups. The company announced that the One and other Sonos devices will support Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol, too, which will give iOS users another way to send audio to the speakers. The company also said it will integrate deeper with Tidal and Pandora by the end of this year, too, allowing its devices to be controllable through those apps. The company does this with Spotify already, and it says it plans to add support for Audible and iHeartRadio next year.
I was able to take a brief listen to the Sonos One at the company’s event on Wednesday. It’s impossible to say anything definitive about the One’s (or any speaker’s) sound or how responsive it will be in practice after a staged demo, but it seems safe to expect a sound profile similar to that of the Play:1—clean and decently full for its size but a little lacking in bass response since it’s still working with little space. Combined with a full set of Sonos speakers, it should sound great, but setting that up also costs a pretty penny.
If the One lives up to the reputation built by past Sonos speakers, it could be a compelling alternative for people who want to jump on the growing smart speaker trend but don’t want to sacrifice audio quality. The questions for Sonos, though, are how many people care enough about that difference to pay a slight premium, and can it keep up while Amazon and Google aren’t standing still. Amazon launched a $149 Echo Plus speaker just last week, for instance, which it claims will sound better than earlier Echo devices.
That said, Sonos’ goal of baking support for all voice assistants into one family of devices could be useful as those assistants continue to expand. And it may do enough to undercut Apple’s upcoming HomePod speaker, which will cost more and has a similar focus on audio. We’ll test the Sonos One further over the coming weeks.
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