Sonos is one of the earliest pioneers of multi-room audio setups and wireless home audio streaming. Although the company’s product range now even covers portable audio products, it’s still best known for its paired smart speakers, such as the Sonos One, which I review today. Sonos, now officially available in India through a distributor, hopes to tackle existing smart speaker brands such as Amazon and Google with a big distinction – a focus on sound quality.
Priced at Rs. 21 999 in India, the Sonos One (Gen 2) is a Wi-Fi speaker with support for Apple AirPlay 2, and has the ability to stream music directly from the internet. Although more expensive than options like the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo series, the Sonos One promises better sound quality. Does this smart speaker live up to the hype? Find out in this review.
Sonos One (Gen 2) design and specifications
Sonos is best known for its high-end speakers and home audio solutions, but some of the company’s more recent products are positioned as more affordable one-box solutions that are easier to install and use. The Sonos One (Gen 2) is like many of the other smart speakers currently on the market, in the sense that it is a single device that needs to be connected to a power socket and is meant to stay in one place.
The Sonos One (Gen 2) speaker has a rectangular block-shaped shape, with a metal grille around it, and a plastic base and top. The bottom of the speaker has a socket for the included power adapter. The back has an Ethernet port for wired connection and a single button that controls some pairing-related features. The speaker weighs 1.85 kg and is quite heavy for a product of its size.
The top of the Sonos One (Gen 2) has a touch-sensitive zone, which is used to play back and control the volume. There is also a microphone button if you need to mute the microphone. The play / pause button and volume controls work with a single tap, while swiping from left to right or right to left in this area will skip to the next or previous track, respectively. You can also control these features from your smartphone.
The audio drivers on the Sonos One (Gen 2) consist of one tweeter and one mid-woofer. The speaker is powered by a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and has 1GB of RAM. The Sonos One (Gen 2) does not have Bluetooth connectivity, and only uses Wi-Fi to stream music from the Internet through paired services. Google’s Chromecast protocol is also not supported on the Sonos One (Gen 2), so you will not be able to broadcast music to the speaker of an Android phone, even with supported applications.
Although the company mentions that both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi are supported, I had several connectivity issues with 5GHz Wi-Fi and had to use a 2.4GHz connection to use the Sonos One (Gen 2) properly. Sonos’ well-known multi-room implementation can be set up by the application if you have multiple speakers in your home, and you can also set up a stereo pair with two Sonos One speakers in the same room.
Since the Sonos One (Gen 2) is a Wi-Fi-enabled speaker, you need the Sonos app to set it up (available on iOS and Android). The process took a total of about 10 minutes, including connecting the speaker to my Wi-Fi router and connecting my streaming services to it. You can also go through the ‘TruePlay’ setup process, which reportedly optimizes sound based on the acoustics of your room.
The application is fairly simple to use once fully set up, with tabs for quick access to recently played tracks, playlists and curations in your connected streaming services, and settings for the Sonos One itself. There is also a useful Search tab that allows you to search through all linked services and your own playlists with keywords.
Services that can be paired with the Sonos One (Gen 2) include Apple Music, YouTube Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, Gaana and JioSaavn. You also get free, pre-certified access to Sonos Radio, which lets you stream composite Internet radio stations and playlists to your speaker.
If you use the Sonos One (Gen 2) with any AirPlay compatible device such as an iPhone or iPad, you can play audio directly on the speaker by using any of the supported apps on the device itself, thanks to AirPlay 2 support. This, of course, makes the Sonos One especially suitable for use with Apple devices. The Sonos One supports the link of Google Assistant or Alexa for hands-free voice commands in some countries, but disappointingly this feature was not supported in India at the time of this review.
Sonos One (Gen 2) performance
The Sonos One (Gen 2) is a smart speaker for all purposes, but the inability to set up a voice assistant in India is a significant drawback. From now on, it’s not possible to just ask the speaker for the content you want. This is a very basic and fundamental feature for any smart speaker like the Amazon Echo series or the Apple HomePod mini. However, the Sonos One is still very useful, even without this feature, though with a few more steps needed to play what you want.
You may be wondering why buyers should even consider this device over competing smart speakers, given this significant drawback and its high price, but I think it can be answered with one very strong point – sound quality. The Sonos One is very impressive in terms of sound quality, delivering loud, enjoyable and refined sound that is comfortably better than what I have heard on any other mainstream smart speaker, including the similar price Amazon Echo Studio.
I used the Sonos One (Gen 2) with an Apple iPhone as the controller. I found that it was much easier to use AirPlay from within applications like Apple Music, YouTube Music and Audible than to use the Sonos application. The latter works pretty well for fetching content, and it will be your only option if you’re using an Android phone. There were a few occasions where the applications could not detect the speaker through AirPlay, but this was easily corrected by reloading either the speaker or my router.
Once paired with AirPlay, streaming was stable and without delay, sound quality was as good as it could be, and playback and volume controls were fast and responsive. While it would all have been a lot easier with a voice assistant, none of the other features of the speaker are lame, so it’s not a total loss.
Apple’s Siri voice assistant is usually able to transfer music from one device to another using AirPlay protocols, but all my efforts to do so with audio from my AirPods Pro to the Sonos One using voice commands , got errors. It did work properly when using AirPlay within the Apple Music application; the music stopped on my headphones and resumed after a moment on the Sonos speaker. Again, voice commands do not seem to work with the Sonos One (Gen 2) at all.
Sound quality on the Sonos One (Gen 2) is, as mentioned above, exceptional for a smart speaker of this price and size. The speaker is loud, refined, coherent and detailed with all genres, and the sonic signature is flexible enough to adapt well to just about any type of audio content being played. Even at high volumes, there was not much distortion or difficulty hearing from the speaker, and it produced quite easily powerful sound that could be clearly heard, even from different rooms in my house.
While the Sonos One listened to Let’s Groove through Earth, Wind & Fire, the Sonos One delivered stiff, refined bass, while allowing for a lot of sparkle in the highlights and definition in the mid-range of this disco track. The sound was lively and pleasant, with far more energy delivered than I expected from a speaker of this size. The flexibility of the sound was noticeable even with different types of music, including the spicy and aggressive Boom by Tiesto, with the speaker delivering exactly what was needed.
Even with softer cuts like Truth by Kamasi Washington, the Sonos One allowed detail to shine through. With audiobooks, I could hear Ray Porter’s excellent account of Heaven’s River by Dennis E. Taylor clearly and attentively even from about 10 feet away. The Sonos One is a well-tuned smart speaker that easily outperforms all its competitors when it comes to sound quality.
TruePlay setting on the Sonos One (Gen 2) is quite a tedious process, as it requires you to move around the room with your phone for about 10-15 minutes to measure sound with its microphone, all while keeping things quiet. The process failed and had to be restarted a few times when I tried it, due to even the slightest disturbance such as someone talking in another room, or a doorbell ringing. However, once completed, I found the audio a bit more lively and open with TruePlay active, and would recommend going through these steps for best results.
Smart speakers usually need to check certain boxes when it comes to features like internet connection, the ability to connect with popular streaming services and access to voice assistants. As of now, the Sonos One (Gen 2) meets only two of the above requirements, although it is possible that the company may deploy support for voice assistants in India in the future. However, on all other points like connectivity, usability and sound quality, the Sonos One is an excellent smart speaker.
Although expensive at Rs. 21 999, the Sonos One (Gen 2) sounds significantly better than any other smart speaker I’ve heard, and that alone makes it worth considering if you have the budget. It may also be worth considering the Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), which, while not as good in terms of sound quality, does have an excellent 10-inch screen and full-fledged access to Alexa, for ‘ a more complete smart experience.