I’ve been a Sonos fan for years, and recently talked about my first experience using Alexa to control older Sonos equipment. I have one room, my exercise room, that isn’t covered by the Niles multi-zone system. I was using an Echo in there, but with the launch of Sonos One decided I had an option for better sound. I swapped out a first generation Echo for the Sonos One.
Starting with the good news, the Sonos One sounds great, as expected. While I find the Echo good for casual music play, the Sonos One is better when you really want to fill the room. If you wanted to go another step Sonos supports pairing two like devices for stereo (separate left and right channels) playback. If you have a Play:1, there are reports of it being possible to pair the One and Play:1 for stereo playback. I have a Play:1 at a second home that isn’t being used, so it might just be coming to the ranch. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “Sonos Three” and/or “Sonos Five” next year, but that is overkill for my current use case.
As an Alexa device the Sonos One is a little weak, at least currently. It supports most, but not all, of the functionality of the Echo. Since the device is so music-centric that may not be a problem, but caveat emptor. For example, last time I tried Flash Briefing (News) it wasn’t supported though Sonos said it was coming soon. Getting the news during a morning workout is something I want. Alexa Calling and Messaging isn’t supported, and that may not show up for a long time. If you want my personal speculation on that one, Amazon may be reluctant to share your contacts with a third-party device. So a design that worked on first-party devices like the Echo wouldn’t easily adapt to those using Alexa Voice Services (AVS). Of course, in time Amazon could find a solution. Sonos emphasizes that the Sonos One will continue to be updated in the future, going so far as to say “Both Sonos and Alexa keep adding new features, sound enhancements, services and skills to make sure both your music and voice control options keep getting better. For free. For life.” For one of the most obvious examples, Spotify wasn’t available at launch but support was added just weeks later.
My big beef with the Sonos One is that the far-field microphone array doesn’t seem to be working very well. Now this confuses me, because when I tested it on arrival it seemed just fine (though not up to the Echo). That is, I could give a command while music was playing and it would hear and respond appropriately. This morning I was listening to music and the Sonos One was almost uninterruptable. I finally tried talking so loudly that the Echo Show in my office started to respond, while the Sonos One just a few feet away continued to ignore me. After my workout I applied the latest update from Sonos, which claimed to fix a bug introduced in the previous update. The next time I workout I’ll see if that made the One’s microphone array more responsive, and update this posting.
Update (12/13): I’ve had more success with the Sonos One’s microphones on subsequent occasions, so either my Sonos One needed a reboot or it needed the software update I mentioned. They still aren’t as responsive when playing music as the Echo, but work well enough that I had no real problems switching what we were listening to across an entire afternoon of cleaning our basement.
Bottom line: If you are buying primarily for music playback than the Sonos One is a good alternative to the Echo. But if music is more of a secondary use, then you are probably better off with one of the Echo devices.
For another take on the Sonos One, I found the Tom’s Guide review useful.