While Amazon’s Alexa was once available only on Echo devices and Google Assistant was limited to certain Android phones, the popular voice assistants are popping up everywhere now.
The Sonos One is one such device where you’ll find both. The wireless smart speaker is effectively the same as the Sonos Play, with the added benefit of a microphone array that lets you use it with a voice assistant.
It’s head and shoulders above other smart speakers in this price range, like the Amazon Echo and the Google Home, and earns our Editors’ Choice for its performance and versatility.
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Sones One Gen 1 vs. Gen 2
Sonos recently updated the One with a faster processor and more memory, as well as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) support.
BLE is only used as an option for setting up the speaker, and Bluetooth audio streaming is not present on this new model, which the company is calling the Sonos One Gen 2.
According to Sonos, the new processor and additional memory do not currently represent any new features or noticeable performance changes between the Gen 2 and the original One, which is now called the Sonos One Gen 1.
But these upgrades can enable new features specific to the updated speaker in the future.
The Sonos One Gen 1 is still available from Sonos alongside the Gen 2 version, at a discounted $169 price.
Because the two speakers are so similar and no features have been announced yet that are exclusive to the Gen 2, we consider both versions to be effectively identical in terms of the experience you would get from either of them.
At a glance, the One could be easily mistaken for the Play:1. It shares the same coffee can-like design, measuring 6.3 by 4.7 by 4.7 inches (HWD) in a squarish near-cylinder.
The speaker is available in black or white, with a grille that runs almost the entire way around its sides.
The top is a smooth, solid cap that adds almost an inch of height past the grille. The sides of the grille stop on the back, leaving room for a wide, solid strip that holds an Ethernet port and setup button.
The power connector plugs into the bottom, in a recess with a channel that lets the cable run out of the back, under the Ethernet port.
While the One shares a similar profile with the Play:1, its physical controls are completely different.
Instead of a contoured top panel with mechanical buttons for playback and volume, the One uses a completely flat top panel with touch-sensitive controls.
A play/pause icon sits in the middle, flanked by two four-dot icons on either side. These icons are the One’s touch controls, letting you play/pause and adjust the volume by tapping, or skip tracks by swiping.
An indicator light sits above the play/pause icon, with a smaller microphone status light above that.
A microphone icon above lets you mute the mic when you don’t want a voice assistant listening in.
Like all other Sonos speakers, the One supports multi-room, whole-home music playback through the Sonos app.
The company has built the most robust and broadly supported proprietary multi-room music platform on the market, but the speaker provides other, more open, options as well.
The Sonos app works with more than 50 different streaming music services, including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, SiriusXM, and Spotify.
You can also play music locally stored on your smartphone, tablet, or computer (Sonos Controller software is available on Android, iOS, Mac, and PC).
That wide support should cover all of your music needs, which helps take the sting out of the One’s lack of Bluetooth or any wired audio connections.
If Sonos’ own list of supported apps isn’t enough, you have two other wireless options as well. If you’re an Apple user, the speaker supports AirPlay 2.
The Sonos One will also work as a Google Cast-compatible speaker if Google Assistant is enabled.
All three systems can handle multi-room, multi-speaker setups. However, if you want to add a non-voice-assistant Sonos speaker like the Play:5 to the mix, you should stick to Sonos or AirPlay; Google Cast only works with Sonos’ voice assistant speakers when set up to use Google Assistant.
Sonos’ own multi-room system also supports stereo pairs and home theater configurations with multiple channels, letting you connect two One speakers with a Sonos Beam, Playbar, or Playbase to serve as surround sound satellites, just like the Play:1.
Choose Your Voice Assistant
The One’s biggest change over the Play:1, and its key selling point compared with other Sonos speakers, is support for voice assistants.
At launch, you could connect the One to your Amazon account and use the Alexa voice assistant, letting you treat it like an Amazon Echo.
Thanks to a recent update, you can also choose to connect your Google account and use Google Assistant, treating the speaker like a Google Home.
For setting the Sonos One to use Alexa, you just need to tap the Alexa option and sign in to your Amazon account.
For Google Assistant, you need to tap the Google Assistant option then go through a few extra configuration steps in the Google Home app to set the speaker up as both a Google Assistant and Google Cast device.
You can only use one voice assistant at a time. It isn’t difficult to switch between them, but it’s inconvenient enough that you’ll probably want to use just one primarily.
We find both Alexa and Google Assistant to be powerful and useful voice assistants with plenty of helpful features.
Both can provide general information and answer questions about weather, sports, unit conversions, and translations; play streaming music from a variety of services, and control smart home devices.
Just say their respective wake-up phrases (“Alexa” and “OK Google”) and ask your question or give your command to get started.
Alexa has a slight edge in third-party voice control skills and supports a wider selection of smart home devices.
Google Assistant works a bit better than Alexa at understanding natural speech and following strings of multiple commands and questions.
Ultimately, which voice assistant you should go with will be a matter of taste, what smart home devices you have, and whether you use Amazon Prime Music or Google Play Music.
And, of course, if you want to customize your voice assistant’s voice; Google Assistant offers a variety of options including John Legend, while Alexa only has its own singular female voice.
One can get pretty loud for its size, but you shouldn’t expect powerful low-end to come out of its small frame.
It easily outshines comparably priced voice assistant speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home and stands on its own against its predecessor, the Play:1.
Slightly larger speakers can get louder, and some like the JLab Block Party even support multi-room playback, but those alternatives lack any voice assistant support.
The speaker struggles a bit with our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout.” At top volumes, the bass synth notes and kick drum hits distort a bit, causing a bit of crunchiness in the ideally flat, consistent sounds.
This is similar to what we heard with the Play:1, and you can get around it by dialing the volume dial slightly. To the One’s credit, it produces some appreciable sub-bass rumble.
Yes’ “Roundabout” sounds excellent on the Sonos One, showing off the speaker’s sound signature.
The low-mids and highs are boosted a bit, which gives the electric bass a good amount of punch and presence and lets the texture of the guitar strings really come through.
Vocals stand cleanly in the front of the mix, ensuring that every aspect of the dense track gets some of your attention.
The high-mids and highs are pushed up perhaps a bit overzealously, which adds some life to the guitar plinks but pushes the lower frequencies just slightly further back than they should be.
Speaking of dense mixes and strong high-frequency response, KMFDM’s “Ultra” sounds properly energetic on the One.
The guitar shredding gets most of the prominence, but the cacophonous industrial bassline stays present, and the hissed and growled vocals come through clearly.
Erasure’s “Chains of Love” is represented extremely well here. The drums get plenty of presence, with a good amount of poppy thump typical with an 80s backbeat.
The synths and vocals are clear and clean, standing out in the mix without overpowering the drums, letting all of the track’s elements come together in ideally mixed synthpop bliss.
The Sonos One is a worthy and superior upgrade to the Play:1. It has all of the Play:1’s excellent features and performance, with the added benefit of your choice of Alexa and Google Assistant, and it sounds far better than the Amazon Echo and the Google Home.
The Marshall Stanmore II Voice and the Google Home Max are both larger and more powerful Google Assistant-equipped speakers, but they’re each about twice the price of the Sonos One.
The Sonos Beam, meanwhile offers the same streaming support and choice of the voice assistant in a soundbar form factor. In the $200 range, however, the Sonos One is easily the most versatile voice assistant speaker available, and our Editors’ Choice.