Is the Sonos One Smart Speaker Still Worth Buying in 2023?

In 2017, Sonos released its first-ever smart speaker, the Sonos One smart speaker. This innovative product entered a market already flooded with similar wireless speakers from tech giants. For example, Apple, Amazon, and Google, all vying for a share of the growing streaming and voice-controlled market. They have their HomePod, Echo, and Home offerings.

Despite the competition, the Sonos One stood out as a serious contender in the burgeoning smart speaker field. While other companies had created speakers with smart capabilities, they were not experts in audio. Therefore, the recent trend of audio companies licensing smart technology. For example, Google Cast, AirPlay 2, and Alexa and Assistant voice control has been of great interest to hi-fi fans.

The Sonos One, in particular, impressed with its built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control combined with the audio expertise of Sonos. Essentially, it was a Play:1, the highly-regarded five-star speaker from 2013. With smart features, and it quickly became the number one choice for those seeking a high-quality smart speaker.

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The Sonos One has remained popular since its launch and has been a great success. However, for those who do not require voice control, the cheaper Sonos One SL was released in 2019. It is identical to the One but without built-in microphones or voice assistant support.

It’s worth noting that Sonos has released a successor to the Sonos One: the Era 100. According to the company, there isn’t a single part of the One in the Era 100. The new Era appears quite similar to the One. But it takes sound quality to the next level, incorporates Bluetooth and a USB-C input, and is pricier.

Although the Sonos One is likely to be gradually phased out and replaced by the Era 100 over time, it will continue to be available for sale for the foreseeable future. This is excellent news since, despite its age, the Sonos One remains a highly recommended smart speaker from Sonos.

Price

The Sonos One smart speakerwas initially priced at £199 / $199 / AU$299 upon release. But it can now be purchased for slightly less than that. As of March 2023, the best price in the UK is £169. Over the next few months, as the speaker is phased out, its price is expected to decline further, especially if stocks last until Black Friday in November.

The Sonos One is currently one of the most affordable smart speakers from a major player in the market. It sits between the more budget-friendly Amazon Echo and Google Nest. The cost less than half of the Sonos One’s asking price. At the higher end of the market, the HomePod 2 is priced at £299 / $299 / AU$579. Meanwhile, the Sonos Era 100 comes in at £249 / $249 / €279 / AU$399.

Design

The Sonos One has a nearly identical shape and size to the previous generation Play:1, and it also shares some similarities with the newer Era 100. The only significant difference is the color of the wraparound grille, which is now available in black or white to match the speaker’s color.

The Sonos One’s design is sleek and unobtrusive, allowing it to blend seamlessly into any environment. The top panel features a touch-sensitive interface with a circle of small white LEDs and symbols, replacing the three physical buttons on the Play:1. The symbols represent play/pause, microphone, and Sonos’s context-sensitive actions. The white LEDs indicate whether voice control is active. Overall, the Sonos One’s design is a subtle and functional update from its predecessor.

Sonos emphasizes that the One offers easy control over your privacy. You can turn off the voice control by tapping the microphone symbol. When the lights are off, it means that the microphone is off.

In addition to the touch-sensitive panel, the One also features a dedicated Pairing button, located above the ethernet socket. Unlike the Play:1, the One doesn’t require a wired connection to your router, although Sonos still recommends using cables for the most stable and reliable connection. The Sonos wireless network is highly reliable, so users are unlikely to encounter many issues with the Wi-Fi connection.

Despite some minor differences, the Sonos One’s design has remained relatively unchanged, which speaks to its effectiveness. The Era 100, which has undergone a more significant overhaul, shares many similarities with the One’s design, including a new control panel, rounded edges, and a slightly heavier build.

Features

The Sonos One’s voice control functionality is great. It works together with both Alexa and the Google Assistant. You can easily switch off the voice assistants if you prefer. But it’s worth noting that they work seamlessly with the One. For example, you can use Alexa just as you would with an Amazon Echo, without needing to specify the Sonos system in your command. This makes for a smoother and more natural interaction.

Control Music Playback

In addition, you can control music playback in other rooms. Start by specifying the room or ‘zone’ you want the music to play in, even if the other Sonos speakers in that zone are not Alexa-enabled. For example, you can say “Alexa, play Bowie in the lounge”. After that, the One will send the music to the appropriate Sonos speaker. If you want to play music on all of your Sonos speakers at once, you can say “Alexa, play Bowie everywhere”. This will create a synchronised audio experience.

To ensure that your voice commands are always heard, even with loud music playing, the Sonos One uses a combination of noise cancelling, “smart voice capture,” and a custom-designed six-microphone array.

Originally, the Sonos One only supported voice control for Amazon Music, but it has since added Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn, YouTube Music, Apple Music, and Audible, which is a welcome addition to its capabilities.

Platform

Despite retaining their support for hi-res music for a long time, Sonos finally released hi-res capability with its Sonos S2 platform update last summer. This update allowed users of the Sonos S2 app to play 24-bit files from a local drive, and now there is also support for 24-bit streaming via Qobuz and Amazon Music. To benefit from this feature, you will need a subscription to the relevant service, as well as the Sonos S2 app (which supports 24-bit 44.1/48kHz for FLAC).

Other Features

Using a Sonos One with Alexa or Google Assistant is just like using them on an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. Along with playing music, you can set alarms and timers, check the weather, and add items to your shopping list. Sonos’s own voice control is only available on their new Era speakers. Meanwhile, the One is a great option for a kitchen speaker. It is because you can still get Alexa’s attention from an adjoining room with a slightly raised voice.

When Alexa hears you, you’ll hear a chime of acknowledgement, which is quicker and more natural than looking for a visual cue like you would with an Echo Dot. The One’s microphones are high quality and make fewer mistakes than a third-generation Echo Dot, although Alexa can still misunderstand your requests sometimes.

While voice control is a big feature of the Sonos One, you can also use it like any other Sonos speaker with the Sonos app. The app is user-friendly and supports almost every streaming service and your own stored music. Apple device users can send audio from almost any app using AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect is also onboard. The new Era 100 supports Bluetooth connectivity and physical connections via USB-C.

The Sonos One comes in two versions, Gen 1 and Gen 2. But only Gen 2 is currently available in stores. Gen 2 has an upgraded processor and more memory, but both versions perform and sound the same. If you prefer to save money and don’t need built-in mics and voice assistant, you can get the Sonos One SL instead. It is identical to the One in every other way.

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Sonos One Smart Speaker – Sound Quality

Upon our initial encounter with the One, we presumed that it would offer only a slight sonic upgrade to the Play:1. However, after conducting listening tests with both speakers in our testing rooms, we found that the two speakers sound almost identical. Nonetheless, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The Play:1 was already highly regarded for its sonic performance in the wireless speaker market at this price point.

We suggest utilizing TruePlay tuning to optimize the One’s sound quality if you have a compatible iPhone or iPad. This way can enhance the sound output. It is worth noting that TruePlay is not compatible for the One via Android devices. But only for the Era 100 and Era 300 speakers.

We prefer the Loudness setting left on to achieve a delivery that is weighty, full-bodied, and loud. These are impressive traits for a wireless speaker of this size. The One’s soundstage is spacious and well-organized, with the vocals given ample room to breathe. This significantly enhances their appeal. Despite this, the instruments are not left out. Also, they emerge in an impressively stereo-like manner from either side of the singer. It is a natural and sophisticated presentation.

The One’s weight also enables it to produce deep, solid bass for its size. Besides, it has enough rhythm to keep up with fast-paced tracks such as Trivium’s “Pull Harder On The Strings Of Your Martyr,”. It offers enough tonal shading to showcase Flea’s finest Red Hot Chili Peppers basslines.

The treble is crisp and clear, but it walks a fine line between being exciting and harsh. While the occasional sharp edge or hint of sibilance may be noticed, it is not enough to be troublesome, and it is often simply clear and sparkly.

As anticipated, the Era 100 delivers an improvement in sound quality. Also, its stereo presentation sounding significantly more spacious, detailed, and refined. Comparatively, the One sounds compact and lacking refinement. However, it is not a one-sided fight in every aspect. The One’s delivery of vocals offers a full-bodied richness that we wish Sonos had incorporated into the Era 100.

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Summary

Despite being an older model and having a successor in the Era 100, the Sonos One smart speaker remains one of the top smart speakers available in the market. If voice assistant functionality isn’t a priority for you, the One SL may be a suitable alternative. Additionally, the Sonos Move and Roam portable speakers are worth considering. Meanwhile, the Era 100 offers additional connectivity options and a more sophisticated sound for those willing to spend more.

However, for those seeking a compact, convenient, and cost-effective way to enter the Sonos ecosystem, the One is still an excellent option and comes highly recommended.