Sonos One :: First impressions

by Volker Weber

one1

Sonos One is the new PLAY:1 with Alexa built in. Same dimensions as the older speaker with a new top. There is a microphone array under the circle at the top to pick up your voice from a distance. The physical buttons get replaced by a touch panel in the middle, which works the same as on the 2nd gen PLAY:5. Tap to pause/play, tap on the left for volume down and on the right for volume up, swipe left to right for next track and right to left for previous. There are two LED indicators. The smaller one is lit when the microphone is on, the larger one is similar to the regular status light on Sonos, which means it can be turned off. It also comes on when Alexa wakes up.

A Sonos One is preferrable to a PLAY:1 combined with an Echo Dot, because both speakers default to playing on their own. If you have an Echo Dot, you have to tell it to control the Sonos speaker. Having said that the Echo Dot's software is more advanced. There are many Alexa features that work on the Echo Dot, but not on Sonos One. It won't play the news summary and you cannot play from Spotify, both of which work on the Echo Dot. All of that will eventually come, but currently Sonos One is lagging behind. The hardware is done, the software is still in development.

Comparing just the farfield voice recognition of the Sonos One and the Echo Dot I find the Amazon speaker to be superior. It's easier to wake up from a distance and it seems to understand better. But when it talks back to you, the Sonos One is in a league of its own. Amazon does not have a speaker that rivals the Sonos sound.

one2

Sonos One is a good upgrade for the PLAY:1. There are only three reasons to prefer the PLAY:1: it has a thread for a wall mount which the One is missing (see above), physical buttons are easier to operate in the dark, and you cannot pair a One to an existing PLAY:1 for surround sound or as a stereo pair. I prefer the all white or all black design of the Sonos One over the metal grille of the PLAY:1, but I like the old top better. It was purposefully designed to hold small items bedside.

Sonos One has the new link button you will also find on the second gen PLAY:5 and the PlayBase. Which remains to be the only Sonos player I don't have.

Comments

The One plays a short sound once it discovers the wake word while the Echo Dot just gives visual feedback. At first, I felt interrupted by that sound and now I am already trained by the One to do a short pause between "Alexa" and the rest of the sentence even though this pause is *not* needed.

Besides that, I am quite happy with it.

OTOH, I am annoyed how often Alexa (the voice recognition part) misunderstands specific words (Wandleuchte vs Kronleuchter vs Leuchter). This seems to happen ~1/3 of the usages with the Dot. Didn't happen with the One yet, but it's in another room, so I use different commands there. Needs more investigation.


Another interesting thing is in the Alexa app settings: Each One exists twice, once as an Alexa input (shown in the list view as "Online") and once with the Sonos Zone name. Don't know why.

Benjamin Bock, 2017-10-30

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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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