Review: Living with the Sonos One smart speaker

By Anthony Caruana, July 17 2018
Review: Living with the Sonos One smart speaker

"Alexa, what's the weather in London this week?"

A few months ago I was packing for a flight to London, wondering whether to toss an overcoat into my carry-on bag or if the space could be better used by my trainers and activewear.

But instead of reaching for my smartphone, I asked the compact Sonos One smart speaker in my bedroom - something I find myself doing more and more each day.

The $299 Sonos One adds ’digital assistant’ smarts to the popular Sonos Play:1 speaker. You get the same superb sound – rich, rounded and warm, with app-based tuning to tailor the speaker’s output to the shape and acoustics of any room – partnered with Sonos’ effortlessly easy WiFi setup and a minimalist design in cool white or stark black that blends into any home or office decor.

What’s new to the mix is support for digital assistant software. It’s like having Apple’s Siri or the Google Assistant sitting in the speaker awaiting your command – except that the Sonos One works only with Amazon’s Alexa.

The company has added support for Apple's AirPlay 2 system so you can direct music from your Apple device to their entire range of current speakers. The Play One works with Apple’s AirPlay 2 so you can at least beam music from your iPhone or iPad, skip tracks or change the volume using voice control through your iPhone.

But, while you can use Siri on your iPhone, iPad or Mac to send some tunes to a Sonos speaker, you can't say "Hey Siri…" to your Sonos Speaker and expect a response. You can't ask Siri, through the Sonos One, to turn on the lights or control any other HomeKit accessories.

Sonos has no plans to add Siri support to its speakers at this stage, but expects they'll work with Google Assistant via a software update later this year.

Of course, Alexa can do far more than deliver than a weather forecast, give you a traffic report or even a live news or sports update through the Sonos One. I used it to play a podcast each night while I was cooking dinner and fire up a Spotify or Apple Music playlist to enjoy during the meal.

Where the combination of Sonos and Alexa really shines is in connecting and controlling a wide range of ’digital home’ accessories such as smart power plugs, lighting, video doorbells, security cameras and even digital door-locks. You don’t need to have an electrician rewire your pad: just add an Alexa-compatible device onto your WiFi network and let the Sonos One do the rest.

I’m especially enamoured with intelligent lighting systems like the popular Philips Hue and funky Nanoleaf Aurora which makes lighting into a decorative as well as functional feature.

After returning home each day I just say “Alexa, turn the lounge lights on 50% brightness and play my '80s playlist from Spotify in my bedroom". A few seconds later, the music plays from the Sonos One, the lights come up and I’m sliding into the relaxation zone.

If you’re not locked into the Apple ecosystem then the Sonos One is a top choice for delivering premium audio and providing your stepping stone to creating a smart home.

Anthony Caruana

Technology expert Anthony Caruana spends almost as much travelling as he does at home, and on each trip balances his early-morning runs with a search for the best hamburger (Lori's Diner at San Francisco is his favourite to date).

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