For those that consider themselves to be audiophiles, it is no secret that the Sonos One has had a tight grasp on the smart speaker market for the better part of the past four months. With the long-awaited arrival of the Homepod, however, a new audio experience is available, and Apple is swinging for the fences. The company that brought you the iPhone, the iPad, and the iPod, is betting heavily that consumers will make the switch for a better sounding speaker, even if it means losing a little functionality.
Sonos, on the other hand, doubled down on their belief in their product by offering voice-activated support for Alexa, which comes in alongside the already solid default device application. The company likes to brag that it supports many music playing platforms, including Tidal, Google Play Music, Pandora, Apple Music, and Spotify. Although they are a fairly new player in the smart speaker game, Sonos’ One provides a solid experience without sacrificing features.
But which one should you choose based on its merits? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each device, and determine how they stack up against one another.
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While assistant integration is not a sole reason to make a decision between the Sonos One and the HomePod, it may play a key role. Of course, much of this probably depends on which assistant you use most often. Do you prefer Alexa, Siri, or Google? If your answer is anything other than Siri, then you’re probably better off going with the Sonos One. It is in this area that the Sonos holds a considerable advantage.
The Sonos One currently ships with Alexa as its default assistant. Recently, the company announced that it expects to support both Google Assistant and Siri sometime in 2018. While “sometime” is not a definitive timeline, Sonos is making a significant effort to support all three of the major players in the smart speaker industry. While taking on the effort to integrate all three assistants into their system is significant, if you use anything other than Siri, the Sonos One is the smart speaker for you.
By contrast, Apple’s HomePod supports Siri, and that’s it. You can use AirPlay to stream audio from a few other services, but you won’t be able to use Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa via the HomePod. If you are completely integrated with Siri, you probably look at this as a perk more than a problem, since you aren’t messing with two other assistants or services.
The bottom line for assistance centers around you and your preferences. If you have a household that includes many different types of devices, then the Sonos One is going to appeal to you since you’ll have the option of using Alexa, Google, and Siri for your smart speaker needs. But if your entire house is built around Apple products, then the HomePod is probably the smart speaker for you.
From a streaming music perspective, the Sonos One hold a firm grasp on the number of services it supports. By utilizing Alexa, the Sonos One leverages the smart assistant to offer services like Amazon Music, Pandora, TuneIn, Spotify, and SiriusXM. Through the Sonos One, you can play music from these services while controlling the volume and tracks as well.
Using the Sonos One companion application, the device supports a great number of services. Although you may have the option to start tracks from the app for some services, you do have the ability to control them.
The following is a full list of services supported by the Sonos One:
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music
- Google Music
- FIT Radio
- MLB.com Gameday Audio
- Slacker Radio
- Local Music Library
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of the breadth of the Sonos One. If you’re in the middle of a playlist and need to leave or you’re going to bed, just tell the Sonos One to “Stop playing.” Start the playlist right back up where you left off just by telling it to “play.”
Though the Sonos One offers support for more streaming services, the controls for Apple Music aren’t quite as intuitive as they are with the HomePod. This is perhaps the single area in which the HomePod holds the advantage over the Sonos One from a streaming perspective. The HomePod does not support any streaming services it views as competition.
The Sonos One and the HomePod both support multi-room audio functionality, but the way they go about it are completely different. The Sonos multi-room feature connects other Sonos speakers together via WiFi. With this type of connectivity, you can play the same song throughout all the speakers in the house, or you can choose to play different songs on different speakers.
You could even use a paired speaker as a soundbar for your television if you wanted. The drawback is the added expense of purchasing multiple Sonos speakers. You can do that or buy a Sonos Connect which allows you to use an external audio system with your Sonos One.
Apple’s HomePod will utilize AirPlay 2 to create a multi-room audio experience. Add any AirPlay 2 compatible speakers to your setup, and you’ll be able to control the speakers throughout your home. Just like with the Sonos One, you’ll be able to have all the speakers playing the same song, or have different boxes playing different songs. Additionally, if you have an Apple TV, you’ll have the ability to create sound pairings to add to your television watching experience.
If you had to make a decision based solely on multi-room audio, you would be making a good decision no matter which smart speaker you chose. However, between the two options, you’d probably be better off going with the Sonos One, simply because it’s been around longer and has more experience with multi-room functionality.
If you’re comparing the two smart speakers side-by-side, the Sonos One is the smaller device. Despite its size, the HomePod is the more unassuming of the two and looks more at home whether you decide to put it in the middle of your dining room table, or on the mantel above your fireplace. Something to keep in mind when deciding where to place your HomePod, the silicone foot can leave ring marks on certain woods and surfaces.
On top of the HomePod are two volume buttons, along with a multi-color display that lights up when Siri is listening. While you do have the capability to mute the microphones on the HomePod, there is no indication that it is no longer listening. If it matters to you, the HomePod has a round shape, while the Sonos one is more rectangular.
While the Sonos One does not provide the aesthetics that the HomePod does, it would still look fine on a bookshelf. The top of the Sonos One is touch sensitive, with playback and volume buttons, along with holes which have been perforated for its six mic array. There are two LEDs on the top of the Sonos One that indicate when the mic is on, and when Alexa is listening.
Unlike other smart speakers, the Sonos One notifies you when Alexa awakes by making a beep, which means that if you’re across the room and not looking at the device, you’ll know that it’s listening. The Sonos One also provides support for the majority of Alexa’s functions. It can provide assistant features, smart home control, and full voice operations for Amazon Music, TuneIn, and Spotify.
The winner in the sound department is without question the HomePod. It provides a seven tweeter array, a six-microphone array, and a 4-inch woofer designed by Apple. This type of design is going to provide an expansive sound that you’re not going to find anywhere else. The HomePod instinctively adjusts to its environment, which helps create a pleasant user experience no matter where you decide to place the device.
This is not to suggest that the Sonos One isn’t loud. It’s plenty loud if you turn the volume up. However, there is noticeable distortion and sound quality when you do so. If you are looking for a good, quality kitchen or living room speaker, or a decent sound bar for your television, the Sonos One will do a fine job, but if your sole concern is sound quality, the HomePod is the device you want.
Similar to most decisions, this one comes down to how you expect to use your smart speaker. Are you going to use it just for playing music, or do you plan on hooking it into your current system?
Privacy and Security
The rub with smart speakers, whether it’s Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomePod, or Sonos One, is that they are always listening. As a result, it’s ideal to choose a smart speaker that will provide security and privacy. Both the Sonos One and the HomePod listen locally until you wake them by speaking the appropriate words. Once awake, your device will let you know it’s ready for instructions: The Sonos One with a low-pitched chime, and the HomePod with a top display animation.
Both Sonos and Apple have proclaimed that their devices store no information, transmit, or listen until you call on them. Once awake, expect that the first five to ten seconds get recorded, anonymously, then processed through a server. If you feel the need, Amazon will allow you to see what they file away, just to show how much data they actually store.
Unfortunately, this is the reality we face for smart assistants. The best solution for preventing these devices from listening when you don’t want them to is to press the mute button available on both the Sonos One and the HomePod. Until a more elegant solution is provided, this is the tradeoff.
Should You Get a Sonos One?
If you use more than just Apple products, the Sonos One might be the way to go. Sonos is well-known for the quality and reliability of its products, and its integration with Alexa and other streaming services make it a smart buy. Additionally, Sonos is consistently pushing out software updates to improve its speakers.
Sonos provides a beautiful multi-room audio experience, designed specifically for its high-quality platform. You can use it for surround sound for your television, or as a way to listen to your favorite music as you perform chores throughout your home. The Sonos One is great if you are already on Amazon’s or Google’s platforms, and you’re not interested in a larger device.
The music experience with the Sonos One is a positive one, and the ability to stream dozens of different services makes this device a hard one to pass up. Sonos is constantly doing what it can to improve the performance of its devices, and the Sonos One is no exception. You won’t go wrong by choosing this device for your smart speaker needs.
Should You Get a HomePod?
The HomePod is your ideal smart home speaker if Apple Music is the only streaming service you subscribe to, and you don’t intend to sign-up for any other streaming services. If you want a bigger speaker with amazing sound, and the vast majority of your devices exist within the Apple ecosystem, the HomePod is probably the speaker you should choose.
For audiophiles, the HomePod is a sonically pleasing smart home speaker. If you’re not interested in a complex multi-room setup in your home or don’t already have an existing setup, then the HomePod is probably the smart speaker for you.
The Sonos One and the Apple HomePod are two of the major players in the smart speaker market. Let’s take a look at how they compare to one another.
|Audio direction||Front facing||360|
|Pairs with other speakers||Yes – other Sonos speakers||No|
|Voice shopping options||Yes – Amazon||No|
|Weather, traffic, news, sports, alarms||Yes||Yes|
If you’re buying a Sonos One or HomePod for the best sound quality, the answer is easy: purchasing two Sonos Ones is going to give you a better sound experience than one HomePod. The best listening experience is in stereo, and based on its history alone, the Sonos provides a quality sound with its wifi speakers.
The Apple HomePod sounds great for a single speaker, and if that’s all you want, then that’s the direction you need to go. But if you’re looking for a more “surround sound” experience, you’d be better off buying the Sonos speakers.
Patrick Sinclair is a geek; make no mistake about that. He runs All Home Robotics in his spare time so he doesn’t have to think about his depressing cubicle and it gives him an excuse to buy expensive gadgets to review!