With its multiroom functionality and superb sound, this classic smart speaker can fill your home with music
By Allen St. John
The Sonos One is one of the best-sounding smart speakers in Consumer Reports’ ratings.
It’s also something of a classic among smart speakers. When it was introduced in 2017, the Sonos One was one of just two smart speakers to combine top-notch sound quality with smart speaker functionality. (The other was the now-discontinued Google Home Max.)
The One still sounds truly terrific. And its smart speaker functionality, which is powered by cloud-based servers, has also kept pace with the competition. (Sonos made a small upgrade to the One in 2019, but our testers report that it sounds and works about the same as the original.)
The One is a relatively small, monophonic model that can work as part of a house-wide multiroom system with other Sonos wireless and smart speakers. It’s not rechargeable, so it needs an AC outlet, and there’s no Bluetooth so it needs a WiFi connection. But that multiroom capability enhances the One’s flexibility in a number of important ways, as I’ll explain below.
At around $220, the Sonos is midpriced in the world of smart speakers. It costs twice as much as a basic Amazon Echo, but its price is comparable to models like the Amazon Studio smart speaker and the Denon Home 150 multiroom wireless speaker, which offer equivalent sound quality. Sonos also offers the very similar Sonos One SL, which our testers found to be identical to the One in sound quality and functionality except that it doesn’t have a mic to enable its smart speaker features and is thus a little cheaper.
Alexa and Google compatibility: The One can use either Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant or Google Assistant. When the speaker was introduced five years ago, that seemed like an anti–obsolescence move in case one voice assistant went the way of Betamax. It still remains a useful feature. If you shop a lot through Amazon, Alexa can make that task easier. If you do a lot of voice-controlled searching, try Google Assistant. The One can work with Apple’s AirPlay as well.
Sonos Voice Control: If you’re concerned about your smart speaker sharing your data, Sonos offers its own privacy-friendly app option. Better known as Hey Google, Sonos Voice Control lets you ask your One to shuffle your Al Green playlist or just turn up the volume. But unlike Alexa or Google Assistant, Hey Sonos requests are processed locally on the speaker itself and not sent back to a company’s servers in the cloud. (This might be reason enough to choose the One over the mic-free One SL.) There is a downside, though: While Hey Sonos works with Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora among others, two of my favorite streaming music services—Spotify and the high-res Tidal—aren’t supported.
Multiroom capability: The One can be used as part of a multiroom system with other Sonos speakers. This versatility allows you to sync the same tune throughout the whole house or play different content in different rooms. You can also adjust the volume of each speaker individually or group speakers that are frequently used together.
WiFi connectivity: Like all of the Sonos home speakers, the One uses WiFI, which is more stable than Bluetooth. But it’s a bit less flexible, like when friends want to share music from their smartphones. If you own one of the Sonos portable speakers—the Roam or the Move—you can add Bluetooth connectivity to your Ones.
TruePlay: Sonos’s online tuning app allows you to optimize your Ones for the best sound in the room where you’re listening. The app plays a sci-fi-sounding test tone through your speaker while you walk around the room waving your smartphone’s mic. Like other similar systems, TruePlay is no substitute for proper speaker placement, but it does seem to help your Sonos speakers sound their best.
Sonos One (Gen 2)
How Well Does the Sonos One Work?
Our trained audio testers put the Sonos One through its paces in our lab in Yonkers, N.Y, and I did some additional real-world evaluation on a pair of Sonos Ones that I purchased at retail and have used in my home for several years
My Sonos Ones live in my kitchen on a wire rack across from my island work area. I had planned to install built-in speakers in the kitchen ceiling as part of a hard-wired multiroom system, but I discovered that the Ones could function the same way at a fraction of the price—and without needing any holes in the drywall.
The One’s small footprint affords plenty of placement options, including wall mounting with a bracket. Note, however, that you need to place each speaker close to an AC outlet and dress the power cord.
The straightforward setup of the Sonos One is accomplished through the Sonos smartphone app. But perhaps the One’s biggest strength is how the powerful-yet-intuitive app lets you control your music.
With one touch I can sync my Ones with the other Sonos speakers for house-wide party mode. With a second tap I can switch back so my wife can chill out to Miles Davis in the bedroom while I geek out with the Spike’ Car Radio podcast as I’m cooking.
Sonically, the Ones also deliver. Our testers report that the bass has impact and definition, although it’s not very deep. And that’s been my experience as well.
I opted for a pair of Ones because I love stereo imaging—the sense that you can pinpoint each singer or instrument in space. When I close my eyes while listening to the Punch Brothers’ “Moonshiner,” for example, I could swear that Noam Pikelny’s banjo is coming from beyond the kitchen wall, in the next room.
Overall, I found that Ones deliver a clean, clear, toe-tapping sound that lets you hear the subtle details of a recording. And they provide that musicality as part of a flexible system that can literally fill your home with music.
But if your living situation doesn’t allow for a multiroom setup, you might consider a pair of Edifier S1000MKII wireless speakers. They don’t offer multiroom capability or smart speaker functionality, but they do sound even better at a price that’s a bit less than a pair of Ones.
Who Is the Sonos One For?
It’s for a music lover who wants a flexible, high-quality music system that can work seamlessly in every room in the house. If that sounds like you, try starting with a single One, adding another for a stereo pair, and expanding your system from there. A Sonos system gives you all kinds of options for configuring and controlling your speakers, even letting you choose among digital assistants. But settings aside, the One does two very important things: It puts your favorite music exactly where you want to hear it, and it plays that music with the kind of exciting sound that makes you just want to listen to the next track from your favorite playlist.
How Consumer Reports Tests Smart Speakers
There are more than 40 smart speakers in our ratings. They’re refreshed constantly, ensuring that only currently available speakers are presented to CR members.
Our testing program begins in our dedicated listening lab, which is designed to reproduce how you listen at home. We use audiophile-quality mics to ensure that each speaker is equally loud, while an oscilloscope measures frequency response.
Then our trained testers listen. They compare each smart speaker with our wildly expensive, state-of-the-art reference loudspeakers and against models that rank higher and lower in our ratings. When an hours-long listening session is done, each tester fills out a detailed evaluation form. They even get their hearing checked routinely by an audiologist.
The secret behind our process? Consistency. We use the same testers. In the same room. With the same recordings. And the same references. That results in an even playing field and ratings you can trust.
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2022, Consumer Reports, Inc.