SONOS ONE – A VERY “SMART SPEAKER”
Almost a year to the day since they started talking about voice-control, Sonos has this week announced the Sonos One, a very smart 'smart speaker’. However, the real story is in the software and the announcement of the newly open ‘Works With Sonos’ platform.
They call it ‘The only smart speaker you'll ever need’ and the Sonos One represents a paradigm shift for Sonos and the nascent voice-controlled speaker market, as this is the first and so far, only product with support for the three viable virtual assistants, Alexa, Google and Siri. That alone makes it a game changer.
As well as multiple voice assistants, Sonos, a company once famous for closed architecture, now says it will welcome all comers, including smart home companies like Crestron, Logitech, Lutron, iPort, Wrensilva, with many more to come.
So, the odds are that the Sonos One and future products will develop into home automation hubs, as well as speakers. This of course makes for a very confused market, with all the major players now releasing wireless speakers with almost identical but incompatible functionally. This makes Sonos’s new ‘Embraceable You’ approach a rather attractive proposition.
Unfortunately, there is the usual caveat for Australia “Voice control for Sonos is not supported in your country, yet.” So, until Alexa officially launches with Amazon Australia later in 2017, we have what is essentially a nice but slightly dumb speaker.
With that said, Alexa can be used down under thanks to a few workarounds. For example, StereoNET HQ is totally ‘Alexa enabled’ while I myself (being quite mad) have a mix of Alexa and Google Home, plus Siri via AppleTV and more. At least now, instead of having to choose between ecosystems and buy yet another proprietary device, we can upgrade with Sonos if we choose and enjoy all the platforms have to offer.
The actual One speaker is a neat design, looking much like a Play:1, but with a sleek touch panel on top rather than buttons and a hidden six microphone array. There are quite a lot of ‘smarts’ in the microphones and voice control, which can listen for commands across a whole room and turn the music down when you address it. Whether you actually say Hey Alexa, OK Google or Hello Siri is yet to be determined. Little else has changed in the form factor, although Sonos say that the One is internally brand-new.
As for sound quality, hopefully it is as good as the existing Play:1 which sounds way better that anything Amazon and Google have made so far and has always sold at a very low price for a really good bi-amplified active speaker.
The good news is that the ‘One’ will sell at the same price of $299 AUD as the Play:1 and once again, using other Sonos components you can create stereo pairs, add a subwoofer or create a complete surround sound system.
These are the key specs according to Sonos (as always, no power is quoted):
- Two Class-D digital amplifiers tuned to match the drivers and acoustic architecture.
- One tweeter creates a crisp and clear high-frequency response.
- One mid-woofer ensures you’ll hear the faithful playback of mid-range vocal frequencies plus deep, rich bass.
- Adjustable bass and treble controls let you customize your sound by individual room or groups of rooms.
- Six far-field microphone array, used for advanced beamforming and echo cancellation.
One obvious omission from Sonos is the support for Hi-Res audio. As a Wi-Fi system delivering full 16 bit / 44 kHz CD quality, Sonos speakers will always sound better than Bluetooth ones, but competitors such as Bluesound are now supporting 24bit audio.
And here are some words from Sonos:
Sonos today unveiled Sonos One, an all-new, voice-controlled smart speaker capable of supporting multiple voice services and playing music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other sonic content from more than 80 streaming services. With surprisingly rich sound and thoughtful design that fades into the background, Sonos One is priced at $299 AUD and will be available globally on Oct. 24.
Pre-orders start today at http://www.sonos.com.au
At launch, music fans in the US, UK, and Germany can ask Amazon Alexa to control Sonos One out of the box, with full voice support for Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, and TuneIn. Alexa voice control for Spotify on Sonos One will be coming soon after launch. Voice transport controls like pause, skip, volume up and down, and even asking what’s playing will be available for all other music services Sonos supports. With Sonos One, owners can use voice to control their entire Sonos home sound systems.
In addition to support for music, Sonos One will allow owners to enjoy all the other great things people love about Alexa – they can hear the weather, set timers, listen to news and traffic reports, and even hear the latest sports scores. And Sonos One with Amazon Alexa is always getting smarter through cloud updates.
In 2018, the Google Assistant comes to Sonos One, making it the first and only smart speaker to support multiple major voice services. With the Google Assistant and Sonos, customers will not only have great sound and a beautiful speaker, but a personal assistant that’s ready to help throughout the day: listen to music, ask questions, keep track of the latest news, dim the lights, or hear about what’s next on the to-do list.
The company also said that Apple AirPlay 2 will come to Sonos next year. This will make it easier to play music from iPhones / Pads etc and owners should be able to use Siri on their phones and eventually even Apple’s HomePod to control their Sonos systems. The new multi-room support in AirPlay 2 also means that that users will be able to integrate Sonos devices with other AirPlay 2 speakers whatever brand.
For more information visit the Sonos brand page.
Rob Follis has been writing about tech on and off for over 40 years, is a designer, photographer, information omnivore, gadget-head, Hi-Fi afficionado, owner of far far too many things and sadly an unsuccessful app developer. A born & bred Londoner now happily living in Melbourne. Email Rob.