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Why the Sonos One Smart Speaker and Sonos Radio Are a Match Made in Audio Heaven

As a digital technology expert and long-time audiophile, I‘ve had the pleasure of testing numerous smart speakers over the years. And while many offer solid performance and features, the Sonos One consistently rises to the top. Its combination of premium sound, multi-room audio, and smart assistant support makes it one of the most versatile and compelling speakers on the market today.

And when you pair the Sonos One with Sonos Radio, the company‘s exclusive streaming service, you unlock a whole new level of audio discovery and enjoyment. In this in-depth review, I‘ll share my experiences using this powerful combo and explain why I think it‘s a must-have for any music lover.

Unboxing the Sonos One: Setting the Bar for Smart Speaker Design

The Sonos One makes a striking first impression with its sleek, minimalist design. Available in black or white, the speaker has a smooth matte finish that resists fingerprints and blends easily into any decor. At just over 6 inches tall and 4.7 inches wide, it‘s compact enough to fit on a bookshelf, kitchen counter, or desk.

Despite its small size, the Sonos One packs some serious audio hardware under the hood. It boasts two Class-D digital amplifiers, a tweeter for crisp high frequencies, and a mid-woofer for rich mids and bass. And with six far-field microphones around the top, it‘s always ready to respond to voice commands.

Setting up the Sonos One is a breeze thanks to the intuitive Sonos app, which walks you through the process step-by-step. Simply plug in the speaker, connect it to Wi-Fi, and follow the prompts to link your music services and configure your voice assistant of choice (either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant). The entire setup takes just a few minutes, and the app provides helpful tips along the way.

One of my favorite things about the Sonos app is how it seamlessly combines all your music services (including Sonos Radio) into a single, easy-to-search interface. You can quickly browse artists, albums, and playlists from Spotify, Apple Music, and dozens of other services, and even combine tracks from different sources into a single queue. The app also lets you group multiple Sonos speakers together for multi-room playback, adjust EQ settings, and set parental controls.

Sound Quality: Rich, Room-Filling Audio in a Compact Package

Of course, the most important aspect of any speaker is how it sounds. And I‘m happy to report that the Sonos One delivers impressive audio quality that belies its small size. The speaker produces clean, detailed sound across a wide frequency range, with crisp highs, clear mids, and punchy bass.

I tested the Sonos One with a variety of music genres and was consistently impressed with its performance. On acoustic tracks like José González‘s "Heartbeats," the speaker rendered every delicate guitar pluck and vocal harmony with stunning clarity. And on bass-heavy songs like Billie Eilish‘s "Bad Guy," the Sonos One delivered a surprising amount of low-end thump without sacrificing detail in the mids and highs.

The speaker also performs well at high volumes, thanks to its advanced digital signal processing and adaptive noise suppression. Even when cranked up to 80% volume, the Sonos One maintains a clean, distortion-free sound with no noticeable clipping or harshness. And its 360-degree driver arrangement ensures a wide, immersive soundstage no matter where you place it in a room.

One small downside is that the Sonos One lacks Bluetooth support, meaning you can only stream audio to it via Wi-Fi. This may be an issue if you have guests over who want to play music from their devices. However, the speaker does support Apple AirPlay 2, so iOS users can easily beam audio from their iPhones or iPads.

Hands-Free Convenience: Alexa and Google Assistant on Demand

In addition to great sound, the Sonos One also offers hands-free voice control via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. With its six-microphone array and adaptive noise suppression, the speaker can reliably hear voice commands from across a room, even with music playing.

Using Alexa or Google Assistant on the Sonos One feels just like using a native Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. You can ask the assistant to play specific songs, artists, or playlists, control playback (play, pause, skip, etc.), adjust the volume, and even group speakers together with voice commands. The Sonos One also supports all the standard smart speaker functions like setting timers, checking the weather, and controlling compatible smart home devices.

In my testing, I found the Sonos One‘s voice recognition to be nearly flawless. The speaker consistently understood my commands on the first try, even when I spoke in a low voice or with background noise present. And with its adaptive noise suppression, the Sonos One continues to hear commands clearly even as you raise the music volume.

Sonos has also taken privacy seriously with the One, including an illuminated LED indicator that lets you know when the microphone is active, and a physical mute button to disable it entirely. This provides an extra layer of peace of mind for users who may be wary of always-listening devices.

Sonos Radio: A World of Curated Stations and Exclusive Content

Now let‘s talk about Sonos Radio, the ace up the Sonos One‘s sleeve. Launched in April 2020, Sonos Radio is an exclusive streaming service that comes pre-loaded on all Sonos speakers. The ad-supported version is completely free for Sonos users, while a premium tier called Sonos Radio HD offers higher quality audio and an ad-free experience for $7.99/month.

What sets Sonos Radio apart from other streaming services is its highly curated approach to music discovery. Rather than simply providing a searchable catalog of songs, Sonos Radio emphasizes human-curated stations designed to fit specific moods, genres, and activities. The service offers over 60,000 stations from both Sonos‘ own curators and a variety of broadcast partners.

Some of my favorite Sonos Radio stations include:

  • Concert Hall: A classical music station that features live recordings from renowned orchestras and opera houses around the world.
  • Chill Beats: A laid-back electronic station perfect for focusing at work or unwinding at the end of the day.
  • The Riff: A station dedicated to guitar-driven music, from classic rock to modern indie and everything in between.
  • Rap Life Radio: A hip-hop station programmed in partnership with Apple Music, featuring a mix of brand new releases and classic tracks.

In addition to its curated stations, Sonos Radio also offers a growing selection of original programming that you won‘t find anywhere else. This includes artist-hosted radio shows, where musicians like Thom Yorke, Dolly Parton, and David Byrne spin their favorite tracks and share stories from their careers. There are also exclusive interviews, live performances, and behind-the-scenes content that provides a deeper dive into the world of music.

From a technical perspective, Sonos Radio streams at a bitrate of 128kbps, which is on par with most other streaming services. The premium Sonos Radio HD tier bumps that up to 16-bit/44.1 kHz FLAC quality, which is a noticeable step up in audio fidelity. In my experience, both tiers sound excellent on the Sonos One, with plenty of detail and dynamic range.

Sonos Radio vs. The Competition: How It Stacks Up

Of course, Sonos Radio isn‘t the only music streaming game in town. So how does it compare to giants like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora? The answer depends on your priorities.

When it comes to sheer music catalog size, Sonos Radio lags behind its competitors. Spotify and Apple Music each boast over 50 million songs, while Sonos Radio‘s selection is limited to its curated stations. So if you‘re the type of listener who loves to dig deep into an artist‘s discography or create highly specific playlists, Sonos Radio may feel limiting.

However, if you prefer a more lean-back listening experience with a focus on music discovery, Sonos Radio really shines. Its human-curated stations offer a level of personality and creativity that algorithm-driven playlists can‘t match. And the exclusive artist content is a big draw for music nerds like myself.

Here‘s a quick comparison of how Sonos Radio stacks up:

Service Monthly Price Catalog Size Standout Feature
Sonos Radio Free / $7.99 (HD) 60,000+ stations Exclusive artist content
Spotify $9.99 50 million+ songs Algorithmic recommendations
Apple Music $9.99 60 million+ songs Human-curated playlists
Pandora $4.99 / $9.99 (Premium) Curated stations only "Thumbs up/down" feedback

Ultimately, I think Sonos Radio is an excellent value for Sonos speaker owners. The fact that it‘s included for free with every Sonos device makes it a no-brainer to at least try out. And for those who want higher audio quality and an ad-free experience, the HD tier is competitively priced with other premium streaming services.

The Bottom Line: A Winning Combo for Sonos Users

So where does that leave us? As a veteran audio reviewer, I can confidently say that the Sonos One and Sonos Radio make a fantastic pairing. The speaker‘s top-notch sound quality, versatile voice control, and multi-room capabilities make it one of the best smart speakers you can buy. And when you add in the free, curated music discovery of Sonos Radio, it becomes an even more compelling package.

No product is perfect, of course. Some may lament the Sonos One‘s lack of Bluetooth support or the inability to search for specific songs on Sonos Radio. But those feel like minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things.

At the end of the day, the Sonos One and Sonos Radio succeed because they make great sound easy and accessible. Whether you‘re an audiophile who wants to fill your home with music or a casual listener looking for a simple, all-in-one solution, this combo fits the bill. And with Sonos‘ track record of supporting products for the long haul with software updates and new features, you can feel confident in your investment.

As someone who listens to music for a living, I‘m excited to see where Sonos goes next. With the launch of its ultra-premium Dolby Atmos soundbar, the Arc, and continued expansion of Sonos Radio, the company is clearly committed to pushing the boundaries of home audio. And if the Sonos One and Sonos Radio are any indication, that future looks bright indeed.