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Don‘t Buy a Sonos One Until You Read This

As smart speakers continue their takeover of the home audio market, the Sonos One remains a popular choice for its premium sound and sleek design. Boasting an array of high-end components and integration with popular voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant, it promises to be the ultimate all-in-one music solution.

However, after extensively testing the Sonos One and comparing it to the competition, I‘ve found that it has some significant drawbacks that potential buyers should be aware of. As an audio engineer with over a decade of experience, I‘ve evaluated hundreds of speakers – and while the Sonos One excels in certain areas, it also falls short in some surprising ways.

In this in-depth review, I‘ll cover everything you need to know before buying a Sonos One. We‘ll dive into the nitty-gritty technical details, compare it head-to-head with other leading smart speakers, and ultimately help you decide whether it‘s the right choice for your needs and budget.

Sonos One: The Basics

Let‘s start with the key specs and features of the Sonos One:

  • Price: $219 USD
  • Dimensions: 4.72 x 4.72 x 6.34 inches
  • Weight: 4.08 lbs
  • Audio: 2 Class-D digital amplifiers, 1 tweeter, 1 mid-woofer
  • Frequency Response: 60 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Max Volume: 86 dB SPL @1m
  • Voice Assistants: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet, AirPlay 2 (no Bluetooth)
  • Colors: Black, White

On paper, the Sonos One is well-equipped to deliver high-quality audio. The dual Class-D amplifiers provide efficient, low-distortion power to the carefully tuned tweeter and mid-woofer drivers. The sealed enclosure allows for tight, accurate bass response and a wide soundstage.

One area where the Sonos One shines is its integration with the Sonos ecosystem. If you have other Sonos speakers, you can easily group them together for synchronized multi-room audio. The Sonos app (iOS and Android) offers intuitive control over your entire system, including music streaming services, sound settings, and voice assistants.

Audio Quality: Great, Not Groundbreaking

So how does the Sonos One actually sound? In a word: excellent. It delivers impressively clear, detailed, and well-balanced audio that outperforms most smart speakers in its size and price range.

The highs are crisp and airy, with plenty of detail and separation. Vocals sound natural and full-bodied, never harsh or sibilant. The mids are smooth and even, allowing instruments like guitars and pianos to shine. And while physics limits the bass extension of any small speaker, the Sonos One does a commendable job of producing deep, punchy lows.

To my ear, the Sonos One has a relatively flat frequency response with just a touch of warmth in the midrange. This means it sounds great with a wide variety of music genres, from delicate classical pieces to hard-hitting hip-hop tracks. It also excels at reproducing podcasts and dialogue thanks to its clear mid frequencies.

However, the Sonos One isn‘t quite the giant-killer some make it out to be. When compared head-to-head with larger bookshelf speakers in its price range, it can‘t match their scale, dynamics, or stereo separation (the Sonos One is a mono speaker on its own). It also won‘t deliver the same bone-rattling bass or earsplitting volume as a full-sized home theater system.

That said, for a compact all-in-one speaker, the Sonos One is very hard to beat. It outshines popular smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Nest Audio with its resolution, soundstage, and overall refinement. Only the pricier Apple HomePod comes close in sound quality.

Lack of Bluetooth: A Baffling Omission

Here‘s where we get to the Sonos One‘s biggest weakness: it has no Bluetooth connectivity. In 2023, when virtually every other wireless speaker on the market supports Bluetooth, this feels like an almost comical oversight.

Let‘s talk about why Bluetooth matters. First and foremost, it allows you to stream audio to your speaker from any Bluetooth-enabled device – be it a phone, tablet, laptop, or even a smartwatch. This is incredibly convenient for quickly playing a song or podcast without fiddling with Wi-Fi settings or a proprietary app.

Bluetooth has other benefits too. It‘s more energy efficient than Wi-Fi, which means longer battery life for portable speakers (not that the Sonos One has a battery). It also tends to be more reliable and easier to troubleshoot than Wi-Fi audio, which can be flaky in areas with spotty wireless coverage.

By omitting Bluetooth, Sonos has severely limited the One‘s versatility and ease of use. Want to play music from an Android phone? You‘ll need to download the Sonos app and connect the speaker to your Wi-Fi network. Have guests over who want to DJ? They‘ll need to download the app and log into your network as well. It‘s a clunky process compared to the simplicity of Bluetooth.

In fairness to Sonos, the company has a history of eschewing Bluetooth in favor of its own proprietary wireless protocols. Their stance is that Wi-Fi offers higher bandwidth and more reliable multi-room audio than Bluetooth. But in 2023, this feels like a stubborn refusal to adapt to the times.

Bluetooth 5.0 (released in 2016) offers more than enough bandwidth and range for high-quality audio streaming. It‘s also far more user-friendly than Sonos‘ app-based system. And it‘s not like Sonos couldn‘t include both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi – plenty of other speakers do.

Other Quirks and Limitations

Beyond its lack of Bluetooth, the Sonos One has a few other quirks and limitations worth noting:

  • No built-in battery: The Sonos One is a strictly AC-powered speaker, which means it needs to be plugged in at all times. This limits its portability and flexibility compared to battery-powered speakers like the Sonos Move or Bose Portable Smart Speaker.

  • Finicky voice control: While the Sonos One supports both Alexa and Google Assistant, I found the voice control to be hit-or-miss. Sometimes the speaker would fail to register my voice commands, even when I was speaking loudly and clearly. Other times it would misinterpret my words or take a long time to process requests. The microphone array also seems sensitive to background noise.

  • Limited soundstage: As a mono speaker, the Sonos One can only do so much to create a wide, immersive soundstage. You can pair two Ones together for stereo separation, but this effectively doubles the cost. Other smart speakers like the Amazon Echo Studio and Apple HomePod create more convincing stereo effects with a single unit.

  • No aux input: The Sonos One lacks a 3.5mm auxiliary input, which means you can‘t physically connect it to other audio devices. This won‘t be an issue for most users in the age of wireless streaming, but it does limit the speaker‘s flexibility for certain setups (like connecting to a turntable).

Price and Value: A Tough Sell

Finally, let‘s talk about price. At $219, the Sonos One is one of the most expensive smart speakers on the market. Here‘s how it stacks up against some of its key competitors:

Speaker Price Key Features
Sonos One $219 Wi-Fi, Alexa, Google Assistant, AirPlay 2
Amazon Echo (4th Gen) $99 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa, Zigbee hub
Amazon Echo Studio $199 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa, Dolby Atmos
Google Nest Audio $99 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Google Assistant
Apple HomePod (2nd Gen) $299 Wi-Fi, Siri, AirPlay 2, spatial audio
Bose Home Speaker 500 $299 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa, Google Assistant, AirPlay 2

As you can see, the Sonos One sits at the higher end of the price spectrum. It‘s more than twice as expensive as the popular Amazon Echo and Google Nest Audio, while offering fewer connectivity options.

That‘s not to say the Sonos One is overpriced. It does sound significantly better than most sub-$200 smart speakers, and its build quality and design are top-notch. If you prioritize audio fidelity above all else, it could be worth the premium.

However, for most users, I believe the Sonos One‘s high cost is hard to justify. You can get 90% of its sound quality from the cheaper Amazon Echo Studio or Bose Home Speaker 300. And you can get multiple Echo or Nest speakers for the price of a single Sonos One, allowing for more flexible multi-room setups.

To me, the lack of Bluetooth and portable battery make the Sonos One feel like a speaker from a bygone era. It‘s like buying a high-end sports car that only takes premium gas and isn‘t allowed to drive on highways. Sure, it‘s nice – but is it practical?

The Bottom Line

So, should you buy a Sonos One? As with most audio gear, it depends on your specific needs and priorities. Here‘s my take:

The Sonos One is a great choice if:

  • You prioritize audio quality above all else
  • You‘re already invested in the Sonos ecosystem
  • You don‘t mind the lack of Bluetooth or battery power
  • You have the budget for a premium smart speaker

You should consider other options if:

  • You want the most bang for your buck
  • You need Bluetooth connectivity and portability
  • You want to easily switch between multiple voice assistants
  • You‘re looking for expansive stereo sound from a single speaker

Personally, while I enjoy the Sonos One‘s excellent sound and build quality, I find its lack of Bluetooth and high cost to be significant drawbacks. I‘d rather have a more affordable, versatile speaker like the Amazon Echo Studio that sounds nearly as good to my ear.

But if you‘re willing to live within the Sonos ecosystem and pay a premium for top-tier sonics, the Sonos One is a great-sounding speaker that will serve you well for years to come. Just be sure to buy it with your eyes (and ears) wide open to its limitations.

FAQ

Q: Does the Sonos One have a built-in battery?

A: No, the Sonos One is not battery-powered and must be plugged into an AC outlet to function. If you need a portable Sonos speaker, consider the Sonos Move or Roam.

Q: What audio sources can I play on the Sonos One?

A: The Sonos One supports a wide range of streaming services through the Sonos app, including Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and Amazon Music. You can also stream audio from any AirPlay 2-compatible app (on Apple devices). However, it does not support Bluetooth audio or have a wired aux input.

Q: Can I use the Sonos One as a TV speaker?

A: Not directly – the Sonos One does not have an HDMI or optical input for TV audio. However, you can connect it to a Sonos soundbar (like the Arc or Beam) and use it as surround speaker. Alternatively, you can use AirPlay 2 to wirelessly stream TV audio to the Sonos One (if your TV supports it).

Q: What voice assistants does the Sonos One support?

A: The Sonos One supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can use either one (but not both simultaneously) for hands-free voice control of music, smart home devices, and general queries. It does not currently support Apple‘s Siri.