Sonos One, the most sophisticated loudspeaker of its generation

Sonos is a relatively young electronics manufacturer – founded in 2002, located in Santa Barbara (California) and known for its painstaking after-sales service, for offering perpetual support and updates for years. It is also popular for its ‘Play’ speaker series.

We have been able to thoroughly test the recent Sonos One model, the company’s first product to offer a comprehensive service with voice assistants Google Assistant and Alexa. And yes, this is a true monochrome beast with WiFi and Ethernet connection and compatibility with more than 60 audio services. For weeks he has been accompanying us to all the Christmas festivities, going from room to room and updating each other.

But, unfortunately, the speakers are left without their smart functions, a responsibility that falls on Google and Amazon but which blurs one of the two nuclear formulas of this speaker: wireless communication and the greatest power-control relationship possible. Let’s see how far each of these facets is fulfilled.

Sonos One, Technical Specifications

DIMENSIONS 161.45 × 119.7 × 119.7 MM
WEIGHT 1.85 kg
TYPE OF SPEAKER Active 2-way monitor (media and treble), 2 integrated digital D-class amplifiers
COMPATIBLE FORMATS AAC, AIFF, Apple Lossless, FLAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WAV, WMA
CONNECTIVITY 802.11b / g at 2.4 GHz; 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port
VOICE CONTROL 6 long-range microphones, smart features with Google Assistant
OTHERS Resistance to humidity, possibility of stereo pairing
FEEDING 100-240 V AC, frequency 50-60 Hz
PRICE $249

First steps

What is the Sonos One? No, it’s a trivial question. It is easy to get lost among the “smart speaker” nomenclature. We are facing a speaker that can be controlled with our smartphone, with tactile and wireless functions and that has multi-room options or for the automation of home audio. Oh, and it’s also compatible with Amazon Alexa and the Google Assistant. But we will talk about this later.

Unlike the Play:1 speaker, the brand bets this time for touch controls, in contrast to the three physical buttons that it included. A single physical button, on the back and with the infinity symbol, is responsible for the synchronization between network, terminal and system. The interaction is somewhat more stylized, of course, but there will be someone who lacks that physicality of knowing how to switch between tracks blindly, just by touching the equipment.

We start by connecting the speaker to the wall socket while we wait for the control app to download – available for both  Android  and  iOS, as well as  desktop versions.

The system does not include hardware for vertical mounting – these are distributed from  the official website – nor can we power it wirelessly. In return, as its interior space is not compromised by a typical IonLitio battery, the audio performance promises to be spectacular.

Just start the app asks us to connect to a Sonos account or create one. From here we will have to follow a series of steps where we grant the speaker access to our WiFi network. For a few seconds we will lose access to the network since the mobile will act as a router while the Sonos One creates its own network. If we do not have WiFi, we will save the steps of entering the password by simply connecting it to the router via Ethernet cable (included in the box).

Once connected, we will have to put a nickname to the speaker and place its position in the house – Living room, Bedroom, Kitchen, etc.-. This will serve so that, together with  Trueplay technology, the speaker sounds in the best possible way by analyzing the available size in the room.

Design: White on the outside, beast on the inside

Our test model dresses in a sober, broken white that does not have a single fingerprint on it. The grid hides a huge front speaker very easy to clean with a washcloth. And if we talk about mass, we are facing a robust speaker like him alone, smoothed lines, that balanced beauty of which they spoke when Apple  presented its (iconic) icons.

In the upper margin, as you can see in the photos, we find the micro symbol, a play / pause, and a circumference of LEDs that mark a series of functions, both to increase the volume and the jump between tracks. The design, we insist, is a delight. Sometimes we ignore this work for obvious, but in the case of Sonos the habit does make the monk.

Of course, beauty is inside. It’s time to make it sound.

Give me compatibility and leave me in trouble

Update through, the app lets you choose between a variety of services including Apple Music, Bandcamp, Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited or Soundcloud. The compatibility is total. The route to follow is, from the three points, More> + Add music services, log in to the corresponding service and grant access to it. This will be added to the ‘Browse’ section and we can now enter and exit from it with freedom. But here we may miss certain functions.

Continue Reading: Google Home Mini: Smaller but with the same features as its big brother

Unlike  other bluetooth speakers, Sonos One uses WiFi technology to gain access to more bandwidth and reproduce sound at more kilobytes per second. We still need the mobile / PC / Mac to play the music, but once the system is synchronized we can use the controls of the device itself.

For what? If the connection with our smartphone is lost or we want to use another playlist in another room, there is no problem, the Sonos One continues playing what was assigned to it in queue.

The problem? We are not facing a Bluetooth speaker to use. If you do not have payment accounts in any of the services, forget about streaming from that playlist you created on YouTube. Or that free version from the Spotify website that solves the mornings of tedium. And, beyond the obvious, this model also imposes an additional restriction: control through the different services.

That is, if we want to do something as simple as playing the music hosted on our computer we must access through a server such as PLEX, enter the app from the Sonos app and play the content. Two steps that a Bluetooth speaker meets in one. From Sonos they affect what makes a simple Bluetooth speaker different from this One: they prefer to offer quality and selective control so that their speakers are cannon fodder for any scenario.

In any case, Sonos One is compatible with 43 audio / radio / podcasting services and more that will come in the future – beyond our borders the compatibility goes up to 84 services. In addition, all speakers have the synchronization system to play the same music in different rooms or vice versa.

No Alexa, no party

Sonos OneOf course, we miss being able to tell Alexa to download or upload the music or that magical “pon ‘Life on Mars’ by David Bowie” while you shower without touching anything. It’s a shame not to be able to declaim “Alexa, play my playlist of grimy black metal in the living room” and let the Sonos One start shooting material.

That does not deprive us of some functions. If we keep pressing the microphone button we can ask the speaker some questions and he will connect with our Google Assistant. The assistant  has flowed  into the different Android terminals during the past months of October-December and the performance is identical: if we ask what time tomorrow or where to eat, the information will appear later in the terminal.

Losing compatibility with assistants such as Alexa means losing compatibility with Amazon Echo, with interactive sports and news channels, not being able to order a pizza or depriving us of control of certain home automation gadgets such as  smart bulbs. But we should not forget that we are facing a speaker: and when it comes to music, it is very difficult to find a rival.

Sonos sounds “in Ultra”

Sonos OneSonos One promises a similar efficiency performance in outdoor patios and narrow halls, without reverberations. In the musical counterpart we have been able to certify it but, once again, it has not been possible to be proven all the voice functions, the effectiveness with which he listens to us or the efficiency with which the assistant speaks.

That said, to the mess. We started with a capricious production theme ditto: ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ by Sam Smith.

The bass notes of the piano and the different timbre modulations of Smith have a body, with that thickness unfit for other portable Bluetooth speakers. When the choir enters, in the chorus, we can perceive the different scenes of production, some in the background, the string in third. The test is rounded by the subwoof of the bass drum, when we rumble the table on which it rests by testing the maximum volume. Of nine.

But we can still give it a plus volume. To modify the audio compression we must go to More> Settings and go down to ‘Advanced settings’, from which we will find the option ‘Sound compression’ and we can choose whether to compress or not.

In the competition of the stereo image, leaving aside the front of the mix, we perceive very stable but sharp media somewhat sweetened in excess. Styles such as orchestral rock and other niceties are somewhat buried by this effect. It is a harmonic mist, not a tonal distortion.

In other words, we listen with less clarity, but we still perceive the different instrumental lines. As you can imagine, none of this happens when we flirt with synthpop, overproduced electro or more recollect atmospheres typical of acoustic folk. But emulating a stereo scene is very simple. We are interested in comparing the depth of that scene.

And for this we use the Sinkovsky Plays & Sings Vivaldi, a 2014 album with a rather irregular press where Dmitry Sinkovsky reinterprets and almost rewrites master lines and that helps us measure the spatial amplitude, the ability of the Sonos One to emulate reverbs and crescendos.

And this is where the monitor of the Californian house shines and boasts performance. Another outstanding.

An all-in-one application

Sonos OneNot infrequently the app had an irregular behavior, with possible disconnections, forcing us to reset the WiFi network and disconnect the speaker. Of course, the updates take advantage of our connection and the performance is fluid. Even more if we resort, as was our case, to the desktop version for Mac version 8.2.3 of the app.

In the mobile version, the route will always be identical: a first editable tab from which our favorite playlists are saved, saving the history of our last use. Except if the font is not correctly tagged, the system will always recognize the track information.

The control of volume and track allows us to reproduce in order or randomly – with a pop-up design similar to Spotify – and the Rooms tab allows us to have a centralized control of all the speakers and all the reproduction lines, adjusting the volume of each one. Finally, the magnifying glass allows us to make selective searches of artists, songs, albums, lists, stations, genres or podcasts.

It must be said that if we are registered in the Beta program and we share usage data, the app itself has a history to know what we hear, from what room, from what app and other habits, in all our registered products.

Finally, one of the key questions: how much difference can be appreciated jumping from WiFi to direct connection with the router?

Our smartphone is the control station, not the issuing source. The system plays the files from the different associated services.

Well, this depends on the quality of the source. That our terminal has this or that DAC or is compatible with LDAC, aptXHD is irrelevant, since the Sonos One streams the material to use: our smartphone is the control station, not the source. The system plays the files from the different associated services.

That does not invalidate the difference between typical compressed amateur themes on SoundCloud with the native Flac library that you can have hosted on your HD. It is perceived from any ear. First of all because we noticed a quite obvious volume jump. The rest is a sterile debate.

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