If you love music, movies, or podcasts, you know that having a good speaker can make all the difference. When it comes to quality smart speakers, Sonos is a top choice. But within their line-up, how do you decide between the Sonos One and One SL?
Don‘t worry friend, I‘m here to help! After extensive research comparing reviews, specs, and thousands of user experiences, I‘ve put together this complete Sonos One vs. One SL comparison guide just for you.
By the end, you‘ll know exactly which of these awesome speakers is the best match for your needs and budget. Let‘s get started!
A Brief History – Where Did These Speakers Come From?
First, a quick history lesson so you understand the background of the One and One SL…
The original Sonos One was launched in October 2017 as the company‘s first smart speaker. It could be controlled completely hands-free using built-in Alexa voice assistant technology developed by Amazon.
According to Sonos, it took over 2 years of engineering to perfect the Sonos One‘s six-microphone array and make sure Alexa could hear commands clearly.
The Sonos One was met with critical acclaim upon release, with CNET calling it "one of the smartest speakers ever made." It replaced the older Sonos Play:1, becoming the new flagship affordable speaker in the Sonos line-up.
Two years later in September 2019, Sonos released the One SL as a lower-cost alternative to the original One.
It removed the microphones and voice assistant capabilities, but retained the same stylish design and excellent sound as the Sonos One. According to Sonos, the "SL" stands for "stereo left," as the speaker is optimized for use as a rear left surround channel or as part of a stereo pair.
The One SL was also well-received as a speaker for those who didn‘t need built-in smart features but still wanted great Sonos sound quality.
Now that you know where they came from, let‘s look at how they compare in terms of design, sound, features and more!
Design & Build Quality
When you first look at the Sonos One and Sonos One SL, you‘ll be hard pressed to tell them apart. They share an identical compact, understated design.
Both speakers have the same dimensions of 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 inches and weigh a solid 1.85 lbs. The housing is matte plastic with a matching metal grille around the sides. You can choose either black or white color options.
The controls are identical too – touch sensitive buttons allow you to adjust volume, play/pause music, and summon Alexa on the One.
The only visual difference is the Sonos One has a small LED light on top to indicate when the microphones are active.
Overall though, the design is remarkably similar. Both speakers will look great on a kitchen countertop or bookshelf, blending seamlessly into your decor.
In terms of durability, the One and One SL are also evenly matched. The plastic housing feels very solid and the speaker grille is metal.
Sonos says both models have also been tested to withstand humidity, such as in a bathroom. So you can comfortably use them in more exposed areas without damage.
However, these speakers still lack any serious waterproofing. For outdoor or very wet locations, the fully weatherproof Sonos Move is a better option.
But for general home use, the One and One SL have a very premium, durable feel that belies their reasonable prices. No major differences here either.
Sound Quality Comparison
Of course, sound quality is what really matters in a speaker! Here again the Sonos One and One SL are very evenly matched.
Both models contain the identical speaker components:
- One tweeter for crisp, clear high frequencies
- One mid-woofer for punchy mid-range and deeper bass
- Two Class-D digital amplifiers perfectly tuned to the drivers
With this nearly identical acoustic set-up, it‘s no surprise that independent experts have found the One and One SL to sound virtually indistinguishable from each other.
For example, during audio testing, RTINGS discovered the two speakers have almost identical frequency response curves across low, mid, and high ranges.
In real life listening, what does this mean? Excellent, rich sound from a compact device! Both the One and One SL can fill a room with music, and deliver pleasing stereo separation when used in pairs.
Maximum volume is impressive too. While compact in size, these little speakers can really crank up the sound. In fact, at full volume, the One reaches a room-filling 85.1 dB while the One SL hits 85.8 dB – extremely close.
So whether you‘re rocking out to AC/DC or smooth jazz, dialogue in movies will sound crisp and clear.
For most buyers comparing the One and One SL, sound quality will not be a major distinguishing factor. But if you want to nitpick, the One SL may have a barely perceptible edge in bass response thanks to internal tuning.
However, both speakers sound fantastic overall. Unless you‘re an audiophile doing careful A/B testing, you will be extremely satisfied with either model.
Voice Assistant Capabilities
Here is where we finally see a significant difference emerge between the Sonos One vs One SL – built-in voice control.
As mentioned earlier, the Sonos One is equipped with 6 far-field microphone arrays. This allows it to hear Alexa voice commands clearly from anywhere in your room.
You can play music, get news updates, control smart home devices, and access over 90,000 Alexa skills completely hands-free. It feels like talking to someone directly in the room.
Many reviewers praised how much more useful having Alexa built right into the speaker is compared to controlling music only via smartphone. It provides a seamless smart home experience.
Alternatively, you can use the Google Assistant if you prefer. The setup process involves linking your Google account and enabling voice access.
Unfortunately Alexa and Google Assistant cannot be active at the same time. You have to choose one or the other. Switching requires a factory reset from the Sonos app.
In contrast, the Sonos One SL has no onboard microphones at all. There is no option for direct voice control from the speaker itself.
However, you can still control the One SL from any Alexa or Google Assistant enabled smart device on your home WiFi network. This includes other Sonos speakers like the Beam or Alexa/Google Nest displays.
You‘ll just need to manually link the One SL to the voice assistant each time instead of having it built-in and ready to go.
So in summary:
- Sonos One: Direct voice control using Alexa or Google Assistant from the speaker itself
- Sonos One SL: No direct control, but can be linked to separate Alexa/Google device
For many buyers, having simple and fast voice control from the speaker may be a game-changing feature that‘s worth paying extra for.
Winner: Sonos One
Beyond the core differences in microphone and voice control, the Sonos One and One SL are nearly identical in terms of features.
A few of the key ones they share are:
- Stereo pairing – Ability to pair two Sonos One or One SL speakers together in the same room for wider, more immersive stereo sound.
- Home theater use – Can be combined with a Sonos Beam, Playbar or Playbase to serve as rear surround speakers in a home theater set-up.
- Multi-room audio – Allows you to easily link speakers in different rooms for seamless whole-home music listening.
- 100+ music services – Gives you access to all major streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, YouTube Music, Amazon Music and more. No Bluetooth though!
- Airplay 2 – Allows direct streaming from any Apple device to the speaker over WiFi.
- Touch controls – Both have touch buttons for basic controls like volume and play/pause right on the speaker.
- Sonos app – Connects via the Sonos app for iOS or Android for more settings like EQ and alarms.
As you can see, the One and One SL function nearly identically based on their additional features.
The only differences are the lack of microphones and voice control. Otherwise, they work great either alone or as part of your wider Sonos system.
5 Key Specs Comparison
To recap the key similarities and differences, here is a quick specs table for the Sonos One vs One SL:
|Spec||Sonos One||Sonos One SL|
|Dimensions||6.36" x 4.69" x 4.69"||6.36" x 4.69" x 4.69"|
|Weight||1.85 lbs||1.85 lbs|
|Speakers||One tweeter, one mid-woofer||One tweeter, one mid-woofer|
|Amplifiers||Two Class-D digital||Two Class-D digital|
|Voice Assistant||Alexa or Google Assistant built-in||No direct control|
As you can see, the speakers are nearly identical on paper except for the inclusion of onboard microphones and voice assistant compatibility.
Where Can I Buy the Sonos One and One SL?
Both the Sonos One and Sonos One SL are available on Sonos.com as well as Amazon:
- Sonos One – $219 on Sonos / $199 on Amazon
- Sonos One SL – $179 on Sonos / $159 on Amazon
I recommend checking Amazon first, as they frequently run deals that drop the price lower than buying directly from Sonos.
For example, right now the Sonos One is 20% off at just $159 on Amazon – an awesome deal!
No matter where you buy, both speakers are eligible for free shipping and free returns in case you change your mind later.
Which Should You Buy – Sonos One or One SL?
So now comes the final question – which of these awesome speakers should YOU buy?
Here are my recommendations based on different user needs:
- If you want the convenience of direct voice control from the speaker itself, the Sonos One is easily worth the small price premium for the built-in Alexa/Google capabilities.
- If you‘ll mainly use the speaker for listening to music or home theater and don‘t need voice control, the Sonos One SL provides nearly identical performance and design at a more budget-friendly price point.
- If you already own an Alexa or Google Assistant device, or are planning to buy one, the cheaper Sonos One SL makes sense since you can control it from that external device instead.
- For use as rear surround speakers for a TV setup, the voice-control free Sonos One SL is likely the better choice.
- If you might want to add voice assistant functionality down the road, the Sonos One is the wiser long-term investment for future-proofing.
At the end of the day, you really can‘t go wrong with either of these awesome smart speakers from Sonos. They provide virtually the same compact, stylish design and incredibly rich, room-filling sound.
It just comes down to deciding if the built-in voice control convenience of the Sonos One is worth the small premium over the voice-free One SL based on your needs.
I hope this detailed comparison has helped make that decision clearer! Let me know if you have any other questions.
Enjoy whichever model you choose – I‘m confident you‘ll love listening to your new Sonos speaker as much as I love mine!