Sonos One needs serious b/s detection

by Volker Weber

260863-SonosOne 9-8c4a03-original-1507319284

Today I switched my b/s detector back on, and boy was it off the charts reading about the new Sonos One. In many reviews it comes across as a premium mix of Sonos and Alexa. And it clearly is not. So what is it anyway?

Play One looks like a Play:1 Tone Limited Edition when viewed from the side. It's either pure white or pure black. That is a good choice. The top has changed. There are no physical buttons. You control it via a large touch panel. You also no longer have the recessed top that would keep small items like earrings from wandering around your night stand.

Now things become difficult. Sonos One's claim to fame is that it can be controlled by voice. But that part isn't finished. It's "in beta" as Sonos likes to say, but I only call feature complete software as beta. What we have today is software "in development". Before we get to that, there is hardware involved. Sonos One has a microphone array that lets it pick up your voice from the room. And when that microphone array is on, it is hardwired to a white LED on top of the new touch panel, that cannot be turned off in software. This is to ensure the custoner that Sonos One is not listening when the light is off. It kind of kills usage in the bedroom, since that light is going to be on if you want to make use of voice control. In contrast, Amazon Echo speakers switch a light on when in privacy mode. Amazon rightfully assumes you want to use the product.

How does voice control work? The speaker is in continous listening mode. It puts the data in a buffer and analyses what it hears, quickly deleting the data until it finds its wake word. For now that wakeword is "Alexa". As soon as it discovers the wakeword, it streams your room sound to a server process in the cloud which tries to figure out what you are saying. Today this is an Alexa skill. What makes the software "in development" is that it is incomplete. Echo speakers can play from Spotify, Sonos One can play from Spotify, but you cannot tell Sonos One via voice control to play from Spotify. Neither from Apple Music or Google Play. Nor from your own library. Echo speakers have lots of features that Sonos One doesn't. And Sonos does not add any. Example: you cannot group or ungroup speakers via voice.

Digging deeper you will find that voice control on Sonos wants to be independent from Alexa. It will add Google Assistant next year for instance. That means it has to do its own wakeword detection and while you can call Alexa on Echo also with the wakewords "Amazon" or "Computer" the Sonos One only hears "Alexa". And it's a bit hard of hearing. More false positives and negatives. It will more often wake up when not called or not wake up when called.

I am sure this will get better over time. This product ships in time for the holidays, but not before software development is nearly done.

This is by no means a concise review. Example: you cannot pair a PLAY:1 and Sonos One.


First things first: Good to see you back where you belong! Good to see some activity on! I wish you a speedy recovery and the picture I saw led me to believe you are in the right path!
Now to Sonos ONE: I just received mine. Yes, there are a ton of shortcomings right now, but for me buying this device is a nobrainer. I sold all Play:1s as well as the Amazon Dots paired to (some of) them.
The first impression is excellent: extremly fast response times when commanding Alexa, no need to mention the room name to start a song/change the volume (hope that’s a feature and not due to the fact I currently only have a single ONE). Great first impression. In my case the ONE will decrease household complexity which I‘m always striving for (though never really getting there ;-))
Have a great weekend, Volker!

Markus Dierker, 2017-10-21

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.


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