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Sonos has been around for some time for a while it felt like they owned the whole home audio market. However, there are now alternatives and many of them are not exclusive to a single manufacturer. Google’s Home, Amazon’s Echo and Apple’s Homepod devices are marketed first as speakers that have microphones/voice assistants which can also provide whole home audio.

With that in mind, Sonos has released the One, a Sonos with built-in microphones. Out of the box it has support Amazon Alexa’s voice recognition. Presumably it also has the capability to recognize Google Assistant and Apple’s Siri commands if Sonos can work out necessary licensing deals.

Physically, it closely resembles the Sonos Play:1. Yes the older model is called the “Play:1” while the newer model with built in microphones is the “One”; One does not equal Play:1.

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Aside from the built-in microphones, the One has touch sensitive controls found on newer Sonos models instead of physical buttons found on older models. It gives the top a much cleaner look.

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Like other Sonos, the back is very simple; There’s an Ethernet jack and a button.

Like the Play:1, the One’s power connector is on the bottom of the speaker. The big difference is that the One has a button located where the Play:1’s mounting socket is, so if you’re thinking of upgrading to a One, the Play’s mounting hardware won’t be compatible.

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The power cable plugs into the bottom.

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While the plug is standard you'll need one with a 90 degree connector.

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Given its size, the One is pretty hefty which in the case of a speaker, is usually a good thing since it could be the indicator of a powerful magnet in the speaker. Well, either that or it’s an incredibly cheap speaker with a piece of cement in it. Don’t worry, it’s the former.

Indeed, the One punches above its weight, the small size does not equal small sound.

Like other Sonos, the One is very easy to set up. You download the app if you don’t have it already have it, plug the One in and then follow the instructions on the app. I didn’t need the ethernet connector to attach the One to my network.

Speaking of the Sonos app, it’s easy to use and has lots of options. That said, it can feel slow and a bit clunky at times.

I ended up buying 2 Ones; the first is now located it in the corner of our kitchen which if I’m honest isn’t the ideal place for it.

On one hand; it’s in the corner which help it sound even louder because the sound waves coming out the back will reflect off the walls. On the other hand, we dry our dishes right in front of it. The dishes will disperse the higher frequencies (in a bad way), the randomness of the dishes also makes it impossible for the Sonos app to properly tune the speaker.

The other ended up in our bathroom. The location of the only power outlet really limited where we could put it. It ended up on a small table.

Alexa:

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Sonos has said that they’re going to integrate Google Voice at some point. This is a good thing because it shows they’re open to working with other companies and isn’t trying to do something like develop their own assistant.

We usually use Apple Music at our house so in terms of controlling your Sonos, the Alexa integration limits you to only controlling music or playlists that are already playing. If you’re listening to your rap playlist you can say “Alexa pause”, “Alexa skip forwards/backwards” or “Alexa set the volume to 5”.

It can also work with Amazon’s Prime Music; you can say “Alexa play Bad by Michael Jackson” and it will work.

While I was writing this, I also subscribed to Spotify. It can be substituted for Prime Music as the default music source in the Alexa app.

I put my One in the washroom and Alexa can still hear me over my extremely loud fan -even when my shower door is closed. While it sometimes struggles with song titles, overall I’m pretty impressed. It can even hear when I’m in my bedroom if I raise my voice.

If you don't like the idea of having the One listening to you all the time you can disable the microphone by tapping a button on top.

While the microphone works well, the voice controls can’t completely replace the Sonos app. You can’t do certain things like transfer music to a different room or group or ungroup other speakers. The commands can also vary depending on your music provider.

Sonos recently updated the One with Airplay 2 support. That means you can play music on it from many apps on your compatible (probably Apple brand) device. This frees you from the limitations of the Sonos controller app. You can watch the YouTube or Netflix apps and have the audio play over your Sonos.

If you have an older Sonos that doesn’t have AirPlay 2 support - basically any Sonos that has physical buttons - you can still group it with the One. They’ll play together.

Sound quality:

The One can easily fill a small to medium sized room with sound. In a larger room, it can still supply plenty of ambiance though you’ll probably want to pick up a Play:5 if you really want to really crank it.

Part of the reason for this is because the One actually has 2 seperate drivers, a tweeter and a 3” woofer. If you’re coming from a home theater background 3” will sound absolutely tiny but compared to many lifestyle-y speakers, it’s actually well sized for this price point. Then again, the One has a pretty small body and is not ported (not necessarily a bad thing) so this hurts it’s ability to generate even more volume.

Like other Sonos, the One supports Trueplay calibration. It plays a tone while you walk around the room waving your phone in a circle. This helps it to learn how the One sounds in different parts of your room so that it can adjust its audio characteristics.

If you’re not happy with how it sounds, there are treble and bass sliders in the app along with a loudness setting.

Keep in mind if you want a bigger soundstage you can always add a second One so that they can be setup as left and right speakers plus you can add a Sonos Subwoofer if you want a little more oomph.

One or 1:

Both sound the same so is the One worth the extra $50? If you’re looking for something to function as a rear speaker in a home theater setup you’re probably better off with the 1 as it has a mounting hole.

It’s important to note that you can’t pair the 1 with the One and have them both function as rears. They can’t be mixed (so I’ve read).

If you have any sort of smart devices at home or plan on adding some in the future you’re probably better off with the One as the built-in microphones help future proof it. It also adds AirPlay2 support which you may or may not find useful but the point is that it’s more upgradeable than the 1.

One or the others:

Sonos no longer has the market mostly to itself and there are now compelling alternatives in the form of the Google Home and Amazon Echo. Full disclosure; I haven’t really played with them much but I do have some thoughts on them for myself. I use both Apple and Android devices. That said, I tend to use iOS devices as my primary ones. However, I don’t want to get too trapped in Apple’s ecosystem so I want to give myself as many options as possible.

Conclusion:

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Don’t let the small size or the fact that it’s one of Sonos’ entry level speakers fool you; The One offers big sound and quality in a relatively small package. The inclusion of a microphone also gives it a different type of flexibility not found on previous models and potentially helps to consolidate 2 devices into one provided you’re using Alexa as your preferred voice assistant.

Alexa plus AirPlay 2 adds even more flexibility and reinforces the message that Sonos is open to working with other non-Sonos standards though I wouldn’t buy one with the expectation of future support.

Since it lacks the mounting hole found on its predecessor it can’t be wall mounted or placed on a stand as easily which makes it a less ideal choice if you’re trying to use the One as a rear speaker in a home theater setup.

Pros:
  • Good sound quality
  • Easy to use
  • Attractive design


Cons:
  • Lacks the mounting hole found on predecessor
  • A bit pricey
  • No way to physically connect an external sound source



4 out of 5 Howies