Which Sonos Speaker Should You Buy?

Allen St. John

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Speakers have to do three things: Deliver the kind of glorious sound that makes you want to put your favorite playlist on perpetual repeat—and do it easily and reliably.

That's what Consumer Reports speaker testing program evaluates, in that order—sound quality first, followed by measures of ease of use and versatility.

On both counts, Sonos wireless and smart speakers routinely land near the top of our ratings. The speakers typically sound great and stand out for versatility. Buy a few Sonos speakers and you can easily build a flexible whole-home system controlled through your smartphone.

Of course, Sonos speakers aren't the only great choices for music lovers. In fact, they're not even at the very top of our extensive wireless speaker and smart speaker ratings, which are open to CR members.

But Sonos speakers have a devoted following. If you're sold on the concept and the brand, choosing the right Sonos speaker can be tricky, especially because the company revamped its line this year, introducing its first portable Bluetooth speaker as well as a Sonos-powered speaker that's sold by Ikea.

Here's a broad selection, from most to least expensive, with tips for a Sonos shopper looking for the best model for their needs. (Sonos's sound bars are handled separately in CR ratings.)

Sonos Play:5 wireless speaker

What it is: The company's largest, most expensive, and longest-running model is something of a classic. It achieves stereo sound from a single sizable box that can serve as the heart of a flexible system that routes music throughout your home.

What's to like: The Sonos Play:5 simply sounds great, with solid bass and crystalline trebles that let you hear the detail of instruments ranging from the double bass to the ride cymbal. Our testers give the Play:5 an Excellent rating for sound quality—our rarely bestowed top grade—when two of them are paired in stereo.  

What's not to like: The Play:5 is relatively expensive, and it's rarely discounted. Like all of the company's speakers except the newly introduced Move, Sonos's flagship is WiFi-only, and each speaker needs to be plugged into an AC outlet.

Who should buy it: The Play:5 is for the music lover who's willing to invest in great sound.

Sonos Move smart speaker

What it is: The Move represents a significant departure for Sonos, which built its reputation on home audio speakers meant to stay within range of a WiFi network. It's the company's first portable speaker featuring a rechargeable battery and Bluetooth streaming, meaning it can be used on the move. Just like the name says.

What’s to like: The Move is versatile compared with the company's other offerings, as already mentioned. It's also modestly weatherproof, although you'd best keep it under a roof or awning rather than out in the elements.

What’s not to like: The high price, which is usually around $400. Our testers find the Move's sound quality to be quite close to that of the Sonos One SL, which sells for about half as much, although the Move does provide better bass. For around $100 more than the Move, you can buy a Sonos Play:5, which is less versatile but sounds significantly better. And despite its name, the Move is quite large for a portable speaker, making it more useful on a porch than in a picnic basket.

Who should buy it:  A music lover looking to expand an existing Sonos system to the great outdoors.

Sonos One SL wireless speaker

What it is: The Sonos One SL is the manufacturer’s new entry-level wireless speaker and the least expensive Sonos model. It's essentially a Sonos One smart speaker without the microphones, and it replaces the existing Play:1, which was similar in size, shape, and price.

What's to like: Our testers found that the One SL sounds almost identical to the Sonos One (below). And that’s a good thing. The sonic signature is clear and detailed, and the bass has an impact, though not super-deep. The One SL is a monophonic speaker, and our testers found that the sound improves when the model is stereo-paired with another One SL.

What's not to like: The lack of smart speaker features might be considered a drawback to some, while others might wish for Bluetooth pairing with a smartphone. The Ikea Symfonisk (below) offers similar sonic performance for slightly more than half the price.

Who should buy it: A music lover on a budget who doesn't want a smart speaker like the Sonos One.

Sonos One (Gen 2) smart speaker

What it is: The Sonos One is the company's entry-level smart speaker. The second generation model, introduced this year, features an improved processor. But our testers found essentially no change in performance over the earlier model.

What's to like: The Sonos One is one of the few smart speakers that offers multiple options when it comes to digital assistants. iI's compatible with both Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as with Apple's Airplay. Sonically, our testers found One's sound to be clear and detailed, and its bass to be tight and with an impact, though not super-deep. The Sonos One is a monophonic speaker, and our testers found that the sound improves when the model is stereo-paired with another One.

What's not to like: Some would-be One buyers might wish for Bluetooth pairing with a smartphone, a function that the more expensive Move provides. The Ikea Symfonisk offers similar sonic performance to the Sonos One for slightly more than half the price.

Who should buy it: A consumer who's wants great sound and smart speaker convenience but is concerned about obsolescence in the fast-changing AI marketplace.

Ikea Symfonisk wireless bookshelf speaker

What it is: This $100 bookshelf speaker represents Ikea’s first foray into the world of wireless speakers, and it's the cheapest entry into the Sonos ecosystem.  

What's to like: Our testers report that the Symfonisk sounds a lot like its Sonos brethren, with a clear trebles, a balanced and detailed midrange, and bass that’s tuneful although not especially deep. The sound-quality ranking falls just a bit below that of the Sonos One and Sonos One SL, but the gap is so tiny most casual listeners won’t notice the difference. Our testers note that a stereo pair of Symfonisk speakers does a better job than a single unit at reproducing the room ambience on a recording.

What's not to like: The Symfonisk looks like an Ikea product, not a Sonos. It's tall and narrow in contrast to the shorter, squatter profile of the Sonos One and One SL. Whether that's a disadvantage is up to you. Positioned horizontally, the Symfonisk can be mounted on a wall and used as a shelf, but its limited capacity makes it better suited to hold bric-a-brac than books. Like Sonos’ other home speakers, the Symfonisk lacks Bluetooth capability; it needs WiFi to function.

Who should buy it: Someone who's attracted to the sound and convenience of a Sonos multiroom system but can't justify the expense.

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