Probably THE worst item I’ve ever…
Probably THE worst item I’ve ever bought. They are so bad that we’ve been using our phones to listen to music now. We’ve tried everything, called sonos, we ring our Wi-Fi provider etc etc. they cut in and out repeatedly. It’s almost like they are a market scam. I’m looking for new speakers now. What a horrible product.
Does Sonos deliver the experience you…
Does Sonos deliver the experience you expect from their own promises and advertising?? When it's working yes. But that's the problem. When it's working!! The sound is rich a superb. However. You will grow sick, tired, irritated and utterly deflated with HOURS I mean Hours you will spend constantly resetting and reconnecting the system and your router everytime the app drops or loses connection with the speakers or the Arc. You spend literally hours constantly doing this and each time when you think you have system fully connected you find the next day that yet again one of the surrounds has dropped off the system and so the cycle begins again. Even though each speaker is showing a white light and fully connected to the Internet the App cannot see the missing speaker or speakers. Would I buy another Sonos product?? No. Should you? Well if you have literally nothing better to do than constantly problem solve an expensive home theatre system yes. If you have?? Don't. Why have Sonos not resolved these issues?? I regret purchasing Sonos.
Never Buy a Sonos product if you don't want to lose money or end up with bricked devices and ZERO refund. Fraudulent Business riddled with consumer violations.. will be suing.
Any company that refuses to accept…
Any company that refuses to accept responsiblity for delivery of their products and in turn, blames the courier and refuses to re send or refund the client, has a short lifespan. What a bunch of criminals. They have fallen from great heights and I can only think the leader of this company needs his head examining!
Great hardware, crap app
Great hardware, but the app is poor. I never - never - never use the app to play music, just use spotify directly to switch between different technology and hardware and it works flawlessly.
There is no hardware remote control, so the app must be brilliant, but it isn't.
The only thing I use the app I use for is moving speakers from stereo pair to AV rear system, and that is not ideal process. It all works, but it is not greate.
As for playing music from the app - don't even try.
Amazing fall from grace
Amazing fall from grace. Can only imagine the founder rinsed the company for everything it had only to sell his shares and sabotage customers with well built but totally useless speakers. The whole S1 to S2 thingy... dont get me started...
Too long to set up
I got the Sonos one speaker a year ago and it’s the biggest waste of money. The music sounds great from it but it takes longer to set it up than it should. I’ve probably wasted at least 8 hours trying to set it up or set it up after an update of whenever the wifi drops for a second or when there’s a power cut. I’ve really lost patience with it. Not worth £200 at all.
Sonos is difficult to setup
I’ve spent hours trying to set a system up. I have a very expensive setup with several speakers. Read various out of date or conflicting information on the internet from Sonos and other sources. I’ve half a system working…don’t bother go buy a simple to use system. Save yourself tech rage.
Bad app, constant troubleshooting
I would have to agree with most of the reviews here. They sound nice, but the app is garbage and it's very difficult to get it working correctly and playing music from the desired sources. I spend more time trying to get it to work correctly than using it. Sonos needs to shape up or go away.
Sonos have ruined their own business
I am very very sad to say that after ten years of amazing sound access with Sonos I have just about lost the plot and am going to bin it. Our office network has booted Sonos off again, no idea why. The very helpful, and very patient, helpdesk are trying, but we are getting nowhere. Someone has really messed up here and the product is now next to useless, given the hours of frustration every six months or so.
Very buggy software
Agree with other reviewers, the software is extremely buggy. One of our devices, or both, regularly disappear from the app and then we struggle to add them back into the system. Which requires a lengthy process of rebooting, ethernet cables, router reset, factory reset, customer service guidance etc. It's just such a waste of time.
Just so crap
Just so crap. Worst purchase I ever made. A completely unmet promise of simple wireless speakers. What you are actually able to play on the speakers is so limited and what does play involves a horrible app that has more glitches than features. Absolute junk.
The speakers do a great job but the app…
The speakers do a great job but the app and system is terrible. The app crashes all the time stopping you from playing any music and we brought the roam on the basis it was a “Bluetooth speaker” but won’t work unless it’s need paired on Wi-fi. Worst holiday purchase ever.. especially considering the cost. Be beater Sonos, be a speaker not a system!!!
app play only 20 sec of the track then…
app play only 20 sec of the track then dies. have to reboot everything 100 times and still not working some days. radio spotify and everything same issue. this supposed to be plug and play witout poking around with Ip addresses and stuff. but its not. i would never lunch such defect product!
What is Sonos? How the premium speakers work
What is Sonos, you might ask? Sonos is a leader in home audio and offers high-quality speakers that can stream premium sound around your home.
What makes Sonos stand out is its expansive streaming library. It supports everything from Spotify, Pandora and Tidal to Audible, Stitcher, and SiriusXM. You can find the best music apps, best audiobook apps and best best podcast apps on Sonos, but that's not all.
Sonos recently launched Sonos Radio, a free, ad-supported streaming radio experience that brings 60,000 global stations to your sound system. Unlike algorithm-based radio apps, the Sonos Radio lineup is handpicked by a team of curators, DJs and artists.
The company also announced a new version of it's app, called S2, which launched with a refreshed interface and support for new devices alongside. our Sonos Arc review. We've since conducted a Sonos Roam review, too. While the Arc is a great indoor soundbar, the Roam is Sonos's first ultra-portable (and most affordable) speaker. See our Sonos Roam vs. Sonos Move face-off for more on how these two speakers differ.
Sonos is also the company that, in many ways, has perfected the whole-home audio experience. It supports the ability to play different tracks in various parts of the home, sync them together and control them all from your phone.
Simply put, Sonos gives customers choices of high-end audio and a range of sleek speakers that can fit in just about any room. Here's how it all works.
Sonos Arc vs. Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
The Sonos Arc is the company's massive soundbar with Dolby Atmos. It offers a modern design and some seriously powerful audio hardware.
Eleven high-performance drivers, including two that are upward firing, are supported by three tweeters: two side-firing and 1 front-facing for dialog. The Sonos Arc also offers 8 custom elliptical woofers, with 4 forward-firing, 2 reflecting upwards on the ceilings and 1 shooting sideways out of each end.
The Sonos Arc soundbar is replacing the Sonos Playbase, once our top pick among the best soundbars.
Sonos also recently announced the Sonos Beam (Gen 2), a $449 follow-up to the original Beam. It has HDMI eARC support, welcoming Dolby Atmos and other high-quality audio formats.
Sonos ending updates for older devices: What you need to know
Sonos has stopped pushing firmware updates for legacy devices in order to focus resources on improving newer speakers. Affected products include the original Zone Players (2006), Connect and Connect:Amp (20112015), first-gen Play:5 (2009), C200 (2009), and Bridge (2007).
Everything the company sells today will continue to receive software updates. See if your older Sonos speaker is eligible for Sonos' Trade Up Program, which lets you exchange an aging device for a new one.
Getting started with Sonos
The first thing you'll want to do is decide what you're looking for out of a Sonos speaker. If it's streaming sound in one room, the Play:1 or Play:3 might come in handy. But If you want better sound for bigger rooms, consider the Play:5. And if you're looking for something to augment your TV's audio, the Sonos Arc is the best.
You'll need to download the Sonos app to a mobile device to start using your Sonos speaker. From the app, you can choose which music services you want to use.
MORE: What's the Best Music Service for You?
The Sonos experience lets you play different music throughout your home. So, if you want to play classical music in the living room on your Play:1 and pop music on the Play:5 in your family room, go for it. And at any time, you can sync those speakers to listen to the same track in different rooms.
How do you set up Sonos?
If you've decided on a Sonos speaker and want to set it up, the process is rather painless.
After you take the Sonos speaker or speakers out of the box, you'll need to decide where they should go. Place the speakers away from obstacles that could disrupt your sound quality.
Once you have your spot, pick up your Android or iOS device, and download the Sonos app. It's a free download for Android and iOS and will give you access to everything you need to start using your music services.
Sonos will walk you through the process of setting up your speakers. As long as your phone is connected to your Wi-Fi network, press the assigned buttons on your respective Sonos speaker, and wait for it to connect. Follow the same procedure for all of the other speakers you have.
Sonos TruePlay and Auto Trueplay
To get the best audio quality, you also need to tune the speakers to the room they're in. A feature called Trueplay that modifies the acoustic output of the speakers. After you launch Trueplay, your Sonos speaker will start emitting a series of tones for about 45 seconds.
During this time, you must hold your iOS device (this particular feature does not work with Android phones) upside down and walk slowly around the room the speakers are in, waving your phone up and down. The app records what it hears through your iPhone's microphones and, based on that, changes how the speakers produce sound.
The Sonos Move battery-powered smart speaker introduced new Auto TruePlay technology for Sonos speakers that eliminates the process of manual tuning. Rather, it uses its internal microphones to adjust audio output for the surrounds. In our Sonos Move review, we found Auto TruePlay worked as advertised. It's great on the Sonos Roam, too.
How does Sonos work?
Sonos uses your wireless network to allow all of its speakers to communicate with one another and your controller.
First, you need to connect a single Sonos speaker to the same Wi-Fi network as your smartphone or computer. Once that connection is established (it takes only a few minutes), you'll be able to play your music and other content on the device.
But it's when you add another speaker that Sonos becomes a special experience. Sonos creates a secure mesh network that connects all of the speakers in your home. The network, called SonosNet, is an extension of your existing Wi-Fi.
When you have multiple speakers connected, data is transmitted over that mesh network to tell one speaker to play, for example, Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling," in the kitchen and Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning" in the family room. And when you want one track to sync across all of the speakers in your home, again, that data is transferred over the mesh network.
Sonos' network is proprietary to the company and, therefore, delivers an experience you won't see replicated anywhere else.
Setting up SonosNet
To set up SonosNet, you have a few options.
Most Sonos users stick to the "Standard" setup that relies on a Wi-Fi network and mesh network to ensure all your Sonos players are synced, can be controlled from your app and give you access to your content sources, like Spotify and Apple Music.
If you buy a Sonos Boost, however, the technology is slightly different.
The Sonos Boost connects directly to your Wi-Fi router and creates a proprietary network for your speakers. The Standard and Boost setups use the same SonosNet mesh network, but the latter is a bridge that better prioritizes communication.
So which is best? Both get the job done, but Sonos recommends using a Boost if you have a "tougher wireless environment" with a slew of devices connected to your network. In those cases, offloading your Sonos speakers to a separate Boost network might make for a better Sonos experience.
One other note: Your controller app runs over your network whether you have a Standard or a Boost configuration. Your phone will never connect directly to SonosNet.
What kinds of speakers does Sonos sell?
Looking to buy one or more Sonos speakers? Here's a quick rundown:
- Sonos One ($199): A smart speaker that works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
- Sonos Move ($399): A great-sounding portable offering that works with Alexa and Google Assistant. It's pretty durable, too.
- Play:1 ($149): A "mini" speaker designed to play music in smaller spaces.
- Play:3 ($249): A "midsize" speaker that offers stereo sound and, like the Play:1, can be integrated into a wireless surround-sound system with other Sonos speakers.
- Play:5 ($499): The biggest home speaker Sonos sells, and the loudest of the Play models.
- Playbase ($699): A soundbar of sorts that sits under your TV and delivers wide-ranging sound, and can be placed under a TV to save room.
- Playbar ($699): A full-fledged soundbar for the home that, like the Playbase, can connect to your TV and play programming, as well as the sound you pick from your Sonos app.
- Sub ($699): A subwoofer to add some bass to your Sonos surround-sound setup.
- Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf ($99): A modest home speaker that packs Sonos sound for under $100. The Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf is only available at Ikea.
- Ikea Symfonisk Table Lamp ($179): A Sonos speaker and lamp all-in-one. The Ikea Symfonisk Table Lamp is only available at Ikea.
How do you add Sonos to another room?
Adding Sonos speakers to an existing setup is a cinch.
When you get your new Sonos speaker, simply remove it from the box and plug it in. Once it's booted up, load the Sonos app and choose to "Add a player or Sub." The app will take you through the process of setting up the device, including pressing buttons on the unit to get it to communicate with your other units.
Once your speaker is found, just give it a name, and you're all set to control it from the app. You can also use Trueplay for this speaker, too.
How do Alexa and Google Assistant work with Sonos?
If you're looking to bring a smart assistant into your home via Sonos, it's quite easy. After setting up your Sonos One or Sonos Move, connect it to your Amazon account or Google Home account from within the Sonos app and start issuing voice commands around the home. You can use voice commands when you're near your Sonos One or control music with help from the Sonos app.
You can also connect your Sonos speaker, like the Play:5, to some of the best Alexa speakers and best Google Home speakers. The two devices will link up, and you'll be able to call out commands to Alexa or Google Assistant to take control over your Sonos speakers and play what you want.
Which streaming services work with Sonos?
Sonos is one of the most appealing agnostic options on the market and is compatible with some of the most popular streaming services. Here are some of the top services it offers. Check out the complete list on Sonos' website.
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music
- Google Play Music
- Calm Radio
- Classical Archives
- Concert Vault
- [email protected]
- Hype Machine
- MLB.com Gameday Audio
- Radio Disney
- Slacker Radio
- YouTube Music
What is Sonos Trade Up program?
The Sonos Trade Up program is a sustainable way to upgrade your current Sonos system with fresher devices. When you a recycle an older, eligible speaker, you'll get 30% off any new one. You can upgrade through Sonos.com, a participating retailer, or with an authorized Sonos installer.
Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at [email protected]
As we built our home, we decided to install a sound system throughout the house based on our internet installer's advice. We chose Sonos, the products looked great and seemed to be user friendly and relatively easy to work with. Three years in, the system has turned out to be a disaster. In order to connect sound throughout the house, we purchased a sound bar for a Smart TV, the Sonos MOVE, the Sonos One and the Sonos Home and for about three months, it worked well. The system consistently disconnects itself from our WIFI; it stops connecting speaker to speaker, and we routinely must reconnect to our phones. We have great WIFI, no problems at all beyond the Sonos system and the reconnection process, which I have to go through at least every 2 months (or at least every time I need to use it) is so lengthy and completely counter intuitive.
The system frequently can't find the speakers and the phones do not show the Sono's internal WIFI system they reference in order to reconnect the speakers. There are no solutions for these problems, and it can take me up to 2 hours to try to reconfigure the system and reconnect everything. My husband and I both work, we have kids, we are busy and our intent in choosing to install the Sonos system was to allow us to listen to music together and enjoy our various music platforms. The Sonos system has turned out to be so frustrating, and I deeply regret investing in it. I wish was flush enough to rip it out and throw these speakers away, but I am not. So we just play music through the TV. I have reached out to Sonos directly, but their help is not thoughtful or helpful. Do not purchase these speakers if you have another option. Save yourself time and hours of dysfunctional frustration!
I purchased a whole house systems and spent over $2000! After a few years (when they updated the Sonos App) many of the speakers are now incompatible with the new App. So basically I just have to throw them in the trash as they are WORTHLESS. Will NEVER buy Sonos again! HUGE waste of money!!!
Thank you, you have successfully subscribed to our newsletter! Enjoy reading our tips and recommendations.
Extremely expensive and does not update. We spent over $6,000 and only one item still works and even that is sporadic. SO DISAPPOINTED AND FRUSTRATED. Will NEVER buy Sonos again! Only lasted a few years before major issues started to occur.
SONOS provided years of quality music and sound but with the OS upgrade it's out with the old and time to pay more! I have two Play 5 units that I paid $500 apiece for and are worthless. They say you can operate them on the old OS but I've spent days trying to make it work and I give up. I won't be buying SONOS again.
I wish everyone could see this before making the mistake to buy a Sonos product. My experience with Sonos has been so horrible that I will never recommend or buy another product from this company. I purchased an SL and attempted to connect the speakers with my Alexa Echos. Upon multiple unsuccessful attempts and many hours wasted, I try to find help on forums and reviews on the Alexa app. It turns out that this issue has been going on for months without any remedy or fix. I contact Sonos support and spent about an hour with a “tech specialist” that denied the issue I was having until I recommended that he looked at the reviews and forums.
He then acknowledged that my issue was not an isolated issue. He said that it appeared the SL no longer worked with Alexa and his solution was to RETURN MY PRODUCT AND PURCHASE THE MORE EXPENSIVE SONOS ONE. Absurd advice to begin with, but I told him that I purchased through Costco and no longer had my receipt. Besides the fact that was not an acceptable solution (and how would I be certain that if I got the Sonos one, that in the future it wouldn’t just break and they suggest I buy a new product again) he said that I could process a return with their sales team and I should call them during business hours to process a return. I asked if he would detail notes of my call so that I wouldn’t have to waste another hour and repeat the call to another agent and he confirmed that there would be call notes and a recording of the call.
Frustrated, I waited until the next day to call back to provide my case number and either find a solution or return the product. When I spoke to the agent, she said that the previous agent did not take notes so I needed to go through the process of explaining it all over again. I asked if she could listen back to the recording and she said it’s possible that there was a recording. At this point, I just wanted to work on returning my product and going with a different company, so I asked to process and a return and she told me it’s not possible because I didn’t buy through Sonos. From false advertising to trying to upsell me when their product is broken should be illegal. How is this company still allowed to do business when so many people report similar issues as I?
Sonos makes good quality speakers. It is a shame that I bought several old Sonos 1’s & amp that soon became outdated. I should be able to have some future compatibility with their newer stuff. They lost my respect.
Add us to the long list of Sonos haters. For what we paid for this system it should have lasted at least forever. Two weeks ago they did an o/s update that killed my Gen 1 equipment. That should be illegal - everything worked fine and Sonos knowingly killed it. And to rub salt in the wound, offered us a 30% discount on a new system. Two thumbs down and two fingers up, Sonos.
I liked my Sonos One SL, until today. It just died - no power. To add salt to my wound, Sonos support had no way of repairing it, and since it was two months out of warranty, they offered to replace it for $109 plus tax. How big of them. Not gonna happen.
I have Gen 1 and Gen 2 Play 5s. I just bought the new Gen 3 play 5 only to find out it will not work with the same network as my others. Shame on you Sonos for making my system not expandable. My last purchase was only a year ago and is now obsolete. A BIG don’t buy for Sonos.
1) The speaker sounds good (for the money), looks good, and is portable.
2) Customer service is reachable (and tries to be helpful) if you call at off times.Bad news:
1) Sonos says it works with Google Assistant, but this is limited. For example, I use Sirius XM, which can be commanded through Google Assistant ONLY if one is using a Google Smart Speaker. I can only control XM through the Sonos app (which works fine). Don't expect the same level of integration as you'd get with a Google smart speaker.
2) The Speaker must reside on the same network as the mobile device on which the Sonos app is installed. For example, if my phone is on my main network, the Sonos app will not function if the speaker is on my guest network (highly recommended for security reasons). If/when Sonos stops patching the Sonos One - let's say after 3 years - this will create a security issue, as the speaker is sitting on the same network as my files.
Sonos Move review: house shaker, not road warrior
For the past week or so, I’ve been listening to music on a wireless speaker in my living room, in my kitchen, in my home office, on my patio, and even at the park. While some people might do this with a variety of different speakers, I’ve been using the same speaker in all of those places: Sonos’ new $399 Move.
The Move is a milestone product for Sonos, a 17-year-old independent company that sells popular wireless home audio products. It’s the first model from the company with a battery and support for Bluetooth audio, which means it’s the first Sonos speaker you can easily transport — or move, if you will — from place to place. It’s more than a typical Bluetooth speaker, though, because the Move also supports the classic Sonos Wi-Fi system and integrates seamlessly with Sonos’ other speakers. It’s also a smart speaker with always-on microphones that you can use to speak to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant.
As the first portable Sonos product, the Move has a lot riding on it. For the most part, it shoulders that burden well. It is an excellent speaker. But you might want to read on if you’re thinking of dropping nearly $400 to replace that cheap Bluetooth speaker in your travel bag with a Move.
- Loud, full sound
- Reliable wireless connectivity
- Seamlessly integrates with other Sonos products
- Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant on board
- Sounds great indoors or out
- Some significant setup bugs and headaches
- Too big and heavy to travel with
- 10-hour battery life is shorter than other Bluetooth speakers
Buy for $399.00 from AmazonBuy for $399.99 from Best Buy
The first thing to notice about the Move as you take it out of the box is just how big and heavy it is. This isn’t your typical portable Bluetooth speaker. The Move is a substantial thing that weighs over 6.6 pounds and towers almost 10 inches tall. As a result, it’s not really well-suited for light travel. Dragging it to the playground for some tunes while my kids played wasn’t trivial, unlike the typical UE Boom I just throw in a bag while walking out the door.
Instead, it’s best to view the Move as a speaker that you can easily move from place to place in your home or from inside your house to your outside patio, as opposed to something you’ll really want to travel with. Sonos designed a handle into the speaker’s molded plastic shell, making it easy to quickly pick it up and place it down in a new location, but it isn’t something you’ll want to carry the Move around by on long trips.
Compared to the popular Sonos One speaker, the Move is a bit taller and has an oval shape instead of a rounded square. Most of that size difference is due to the battery in the base of the Move. The actual drivers (one woofer and one tweeter) in the Move aren’t much larger or more powerful than the One’s. It’s also considerably taller than Apple’s HomePod, though it doesn’t take up any more shelf space. The Move’s size isn’t much of an issue inside the home — you’ll need about as much space for this as you do for a HomePod or Sonos One — but it’s definitely noticeable when you bring the Move on the go.
In a pleasant surprise, the battery in the Move is replaceable, so when it eventually stops holding a charge, you can swap it out for a new one. Sonos says the battery should last for 900 charge cycles (or roughly three years of use), and it will be selling replacements at a later date for a to-be-announced price. The company says the Move will last about 10 hours off of a charger, and I was able to hit that mark listening to music at 50 percent volume. While 10 hours is plenty of playtime for hanging out on my patio, it is far less than what popular Bluetooth speakers provide, though you can run the Move off of a USB-C power bank if you need even longer playtime.
Charging the battery takes about three hours and is done via the oval “dock” that comes with the Move. There are two contact points on the back of the speaker that line up with contacts on the dock, so you just have to place the speaker down on the dock to start charging. I love this design. I didn’t have to fumble with plugging in a wire to charge the speaker, and it provides a home for the Move to live in when I’m not using it in other locations. The experience is just like the wireless chargers I have on my desk and nightstand for my phone.
Sonos is selling the Move in just one color: a grayish-black that’s not as dark as the black Sonos One. It’s also not any more resistant to fingerprints than the One, even though this is a speaker that’s meant to be handled and moved around, not just sit in one place. I’d love to see a white option, as most Sonos speakers are available in two colors, so perhaps this is something the company will offer in the future.
The design features are all appreciated, but what really matters with the Move is the sound, and that’s where Sonos really delivers. The Move gets surprisingly loud and is able to fill even large rooms without sounding like it’s struggling or overwhelmed. Its sound output is closer to a Sonos One than a Sonos Play:5, with perhaps just a little more volume than the One. You can hear the bass coming from the Move, but you can’t feel it the way you can with a Play:5. But you can’t take that Play:5 outside with you, either.
The Move has a downward-firing tweeter, which is designed to provide an omnidirectional soundstage, so you can hear the music regardless of where you’re positioned in relation to the speaker. Compared to the One, which has a front-firing tweeter, the Move does envelop a room with sound a little better, and it doesn’t rely on you being in the “sweet spot” for the best experience quite as much. Overall, the sound output between the One and the Move is very similar, with a punchy bass, clear highs, and warm mids.
It sounds great across a wide variety of genres and at both low and high volumes, so you don’t have to crank it to 11 to really enjoy it. I really appreciate this versatility when I just want some background music in my home office or during dinner and still want to be able to carry a conversation over the music. Sonos speakers all have a similar sound signature, which is not quite clinical but very pleasing to listen to. And the Move fits right in with the rest of the lineup.
I also compared the Move to Apple’s HomePod, and I was surprised by how much louder the Move was able to get. At 70 percent volume, the Move easily outgunned Apple’s speaker at the same settings and was able to maintain clarity just as well. The HomePod is a great-sounding speaker, but the Move actually sounds clearer and crisper to my ears and is able to maintain a louder volume to boot.
Impressively, the Move doesn’t lose any of its punch when it’s running on battery, as opposed to being plugged into the wall. Outside, the Move is able to hold its own, projecting a lot of sound without losing it all to the atmosphere or degrading into distortion. It was surprising how similar the Move sounded no matter where I placed it, which is due in large part to Sonos’ new automatic TruePlay tuning that uses the speaker’s onboard mics to tune its output to whatever environment it’s in.
Apple does a similar thing with the HomePod, and I’m glad that Sonos is finally enabling it automatically, without the need to go through a convoluted setup process that involves waving a beeping iPhone around the room to acoustically map the space. The company says it’s likely that automatic TruePlay will be added to other Sonos speakers that have microphones in the future.
The Move also sounds almost exactly the same whether I used it over a Bluetooth connection to my device or via the usual Wi-Fi setup. Switching between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is done by a button on the back of the speaker, and the Move will try to connect to the last device it was paired to when you switch modes. It’s just as loud and enjoyable to listen to on Bluetooth versus Wi-Fi, though the automatic TruePlay tuning is only available when using the speaker on Wi-Fi. Due to the Move’s large size and weight, I don’t think most people will use it over Bluetooth very often, and it had no problem hanging on to my Wi-Fi network’s signal when I took it outside to my patio.
If you want even more volume, you can pair two Moves together in a stereo formation, much like Sonos’ other speakers. But I’m not sure why you’d use the Move for this kind of setup, as the stereo pair will get broken whenever you move one of the speakers from its base and use it in a different location.
Like the Sonos One and Beam soundbar, the Move has onboard microphones and support for either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant for voice controls. I was able to bark commands to adjust the volume, skip tracks, or control other smart home gadgets even while the Move was playing music at high volumes, and it responded without issue.
It’s not possible to run Alexa and Google Assistant at the same time, but the Sonos app does make it easy to switch between the two platforms whenever you want. On battery, the speaker will go to sleep after a few minutes of not being used, and it took a couple of attempts to “wake” it with a voice command when it’s in this power-saving mode. Voice commands are also not available over Bluetooth; you have to use the Move on your Wi-Fi network to take advantage of them.
Because the Move is a Sonos speaker, it’s compatible with almost every streaming music service available, plus services like Audible and Pocket Casts. You can play music on it through voice commands, via Sonos’ app, directly through Spotify using Spotify Connect, or via AirPlay 2 on an Apple device. If you have a receiver or turntable plugged into other Sonos devices, like a Connect or a Play:5, you can play that music through the Move, too. As you’d expect, you can also group the Move with other Sonos speakers in your home for simultaneous whole-home listening. If you’re paired to the Move over Bluetooth, whatever audio app you have on your phone will now play through the Move, just as you’d expect with any other Bluetooth speaker.
While most of my experience testing the Move was positive, it wasn’t all perfect. I had some significant problems getting Alexa and Google Assistant to play music through the Move due to some apparent incompatibilities between the Move and my mesh router system, which I was able to eventually resolve by forcing the Move to connect to the main router node during setup. Sonos says the problems I encountered were out of the ordinary, and other reviewers I spoke to said they had no issues getting the Move up and fully operational on their networks, so your mileage may vary here. When everything did get set up correctly, the experience was great. But it took a lot of time and work with Sonos’ support team to get there, and the app wasn’t very helpful when troubleshooting the problems. I also have not encountered any issues with other Sonos speakers on this network, so something must be different with the Move’s Wi-Fi hardware or configuration.
The biggest question that most people seem to have about the Move is about whether it’s worth the nearly $400 price tag. Frankly, it’s a tough price to swallow for what largely amounts to a $200 Sonos One with a battery bolted to the bottom of it. It’s also a lot more money than the typical Bluetooth speaker costs. But the Move also does things that no other Sonos speaker nor any other Bluetooth speaker can do, and it does it all without compromising on sound quality, volume, or features.
If you’re looking for a truly portable Bluetooth speaker to take to the park or the beach, the Move is not the right solution. But if you’ve been wanting the ability to take your Sonos speaker out to the patio, down to the basement, in the garage, or anywhere else where you don’t need a full-time dedicated speaker but where you want to occasionally listen to music, then the Move is exactly the thing you’ve been looking for.
I have a feeling a lot of people have been wanting just that kind of speaker. I’m one of them. We’re just going to have to pay $400 to get it.
Photography by Dan Seifert / The Verge
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.
Reviews sonos system
TODAY'S BEST DEALS
The Sonos One started a revolution. It was one of the first smart speakers that didn't force users to choose between smarts and excellent sound quality (it features both), as well as the first that didn't make users choose between Alexa and Google Assistant.
Even without that, however, the Sonos One is a spectacular speaker, and the best smart speaker on the market in 2021. In our time spent with it in our home, we were consistently impressed with the sound quality in both standalone and stereo speaker modes and how voice assistant integration has continued to grow.
Sonos speakers have also been given a hefty upgrade, as the company launched a new operating system and accompanying app that brings support for Hi-Res Audio to its newer wireless speakers.
The new Sonos S2 app also brings a feature called 'room groups' – this means your wireless speaker system will be able to remember frequently grouped players (like your bedroom speakers and your living room speakers). This should allow you to get entire areas of your home – downstairs, for example – playing music much more quickly than before.
However, Sonos speakers have also increased in price - and that includes the Sonos One. Once $199 / £179 / AU$299, it's now $219 / £199 / AU$319.
Even as Google and Amazon are making better and better sounding speakers in-house (see: Amazon Echo Studio and Google Home Max), the Sonos One remains the best wireless speaker of 2021.
What Sonos has working to its advantage, though, is its multi-room ecosystem that goes a long ways toward filling the gaps left in Alexa and Google Assistant's ecosystems.
One day Amazon and Google's Hi-Fi speakers might overtake the Sonos One - but, until that day comes, you can rest assured knowing that Sonos, with its wealth of experience and brilliant inter-connectivity, still holds the top spot.
- Note: Our original review was written before the S2 update brought Hi-Res Audio. For an in-depth look at the latest in Sonos tech, check out our Sonos Arc review.
Although the Sonos One’s design is broadly based on the company’s existing Play:1 smart speaker, there have been a number of improvements made.
On the top you’ll find a touch-sensitive surface that’s a great deal sleeker than the Play:1’s trio of volume and play/pause buttons. Swiping right or left skips forward and backwards through your current playlist, while tapping in the center of the surface plays and pauses your music. Finally, tapping the left and right halves of the panel raise and lower the volume.
It might be a simple series of controls but, as has always been the way with Sonos speakers, you’ll spend most of your time controlling them via the app. The physical controls are nice when you want to quickly skip a track, but you’re unlikely to use them much, especially now that voice control is also an option.
To facilitate this voice control, Sonos has equipped the speaker with six internal microphones to allow it to hear you drunkenly ask to play ‘Hey, Jude’ just one more time, and these are joined by more or less the same guts as the Sonos Play:1; namely its pair of Class-D amplifiers and a tweeter / mid-woofer driver combo.
On the top of the device you’ve also got a power-indicating LED alongside a small light to let you know when Alexa is listening. This second LED is hardwired to the microphones, and Sonos promises that the microphones cannot listen to you if it’s not illuminated.
A small LED light illuminates to show you that Alexa is enabled, and this turns off when you stop it listening to you. It’s a far cry from the Echo’s bright red ring, and means that the speaker still looks the part even if you’d prefer to disable its voice recognition.
Thanks to the combination of Amazon’s and Sonos’ services, the setup of the Sonos One is a little more involved than your average Echo device, but thankfully not horrifically so.
The process involves installing the Sonos and Alexa apps, and you’ll need to sign into both your Sonos and Amazon accounts, as well as any other music streaming services that you’ll want to listen to using the speaker.
You’ll also be encouraged to go through a ‘Trueplay Tuning’ process, which requires you to walk around your room with your phone as your speaker plays a number of test sounds. Your phone listens to how the speaker sounds in its environment, and tunes its sound accordingly.
Of course, you can also manually adjust the treble and bass levels of your speaker if you have more specific preferences, although we were content to leave them at their default levels.
You’ll also need to assign the Sonos One a room to allow you to identify it from the Sonos app, and it’s here that you’ll also have the ability to pair the Sonos One up with another speaker to have them play music in stereo. Unfortunately you can’t pair it with a Sonos Play:1, despite the similarities in form-factor.
Given that this is a Sonos speaker, you won’t be surprised to hear that the Sonos One sounds pretty fantastic.
Throw Elegie by Mouse on the Keys at the speaker, and sound has real punch and energy to it. The song’s kickdrum...well...has kick to it, and drives the energy of the song. It’s an impressive amount of power from such a small speaker.
The speaker even deals admirably with more complicated pieces of music. Silent Earthling by Three Trapped Tigers sounds clear and crisp, despite the multiple layers of instruments circulating throughout the song.
That said, the speaker doesn’t offer the separation of a pair of stereo speakers with the way the music is squashed into a single channel, but it does a solid job at its size and price point, and naturally its ability to be paired with more Sonos speakers enhances its sound further still.
Alexa, the Sonos app and future developments
Sonos is known as the company that invented the multi-room system but in the years since many others have thrown their hats into the ring, including Amazon itself. Its Amazon Echo speakers can be grouped together into a multi-room system, but unfortunately – and weirdly – the Sonos One can’t join them to sync music across the different types of hardware.
Of course, much of what’s written above could also have been said of the original Play:1 when it was first released back in 2013. The real story here is about how voice control is integrated – it is simply wonderfully executed.
Almost, nearly perfect.
While at launch the functionality seems a little more limited than we were expecting due to the absence of its integration with Spotify, this has now been rectified via a software update.
It's great news, as Spotify is one of the more popular streaming services out there. Being able to simply request songs by using your voice is far more convenient than having to dig into an app on your phone.
With Spotify now added, the Sonos One is an impressively featured multi-room speaker. It’s backed by the same great Sonos app that has seen continuous improvement and development over the years, and now integrates with all major music streaming services.
Otherwise the speaker acts pretty much as you’d expect a smart speaker to. It integrates with all the same smart home products, you can ask it about the weather, or just have it tell you stupid facts and jokes.
You can also, thanks to the recently released Sonos Alexa skill, use voice commands to get music playing on other Sonos speakers throughout your home. The skill is still in beta and is hence a little buggy (it refused to play the radio on “kitchen speaker”, but was fine with “kitchen”), but when this sees a full launch it will be another helpful feature.
Essentially, we think the Sonos One is the best Alexa speaker on the planet – and the best Google Assistant speaker, too. Fundamentally this is because it’s underpinned by audio quality that’s a step above what’s available on Amazon’s current generation of Echo hardware, but it’s a speaker that also integrates fantastically well with the rest of Sonos’s multi-room lineup.
Yes, it was certainly a shame that it launched without support for the most popular streaming service in the world, Spotify, but kudos to Sonos for bringing out the update in good time. The speaker is now just as effective as an Amazon Echo at playing your music, and sounds much better than Amazon's own speaker.
If you need to take your music on the go, check out Sonos' portable speakers, including the Sonos Move and the Sonos Roam.
TODAY'S BEST DEALS
Jon Porter is the ex-AV Editor for TechRadar. He wrote for magazine and websites such as The Verge, Practical Photoshop, TrustedReviews, Inside Higher Ed, Al Bawaba, Gizmodo UK, Genetic Literacy Project, Via Satellite, Real Homes, Plant Services Magazine
Sonos: everything you need to know
The Sonos wireless multi-room system helped revolutionise the way many of us listen to music at home. It made a whole home music system a convenient and affordable reality, delivering music to every room in your house – whether playing in unison, or separately in different zones.
Sonos may not have been the very first option – and it's certainly no longer the only one – but it was the class leader for a long time thanks to its winning combination of usability, functionality and sound quality. Sonos kickstarted the idea that your music system was no longer restricted to one room or by pesky cables.
You can now stream your music from a range of devices – phone, laptop, NAS drive – to multiple speakers around the home using your home wireless network. There are plenty of manufacturers offering this multi-room experience, such as the cheap-and-cheerful Audio Pro and hi-res-supporting Bluesound, but Sonos continues to be one of the leading (and certainly most popular) players with its long-established and well-developed multi-room family of products, from wireless speakers to soundbars, amplifiers to portable Bluetooth speakers.
Here, we'll guide you through everything you need to know about Sonos and help you set up your own Sonos multi-room system...
What is Sonos? How does Sonos work?
Sonos was founded in 2002 with one simple aim: to transform your home sound system for the digital age. Its products and software are designed to fill every room of your home with music, and the flexibility and functionality of its products has made the company a household name. No wonder the likes of Amazon, Audio Pro, Bose, Denon, Google and LG have since got in on the act.
The Sonos wireless sound system originally worked by connecting one single speaker to your home network, then adding more Sonos units (up to a maximum of 32) into the mix, using a dedicated secure wireless mesh network known as Sonosnet. Now, should you prefer, you can simply connect any number of Sonos products to your home wireless system – there's no longer a need for one device to be connected to your router.
But that Sonosnet network was certainly integral to the way Sonos's multi-room speakers operated initially, sitting one step removed from your home network. That meant a stronger, more robust signal, that wasn't prone to dropouts when streaming music. The choice is now yours.
Sonos launched the amplified ZonePlayer ZP100 and CR100 controller back in 2004 and it hasn't looked back since, continuing to innovate with new products and wireless speakers to expand and enhance the listening experience at home, adding streaming services and voice control to its ever-growing roster of offerings. With the arrival of the new Sonos S2 platform in 2020, some serious upgrades have made the whole experience even better, too.
Sonos set-up: how to get started
A major part of Sonos's appeal and meteoric rise in popularity lies in its hugely simple set-up process.
The Sonos app (available on Android and iOS) will walk you through the set-up, but it requires little more than pressing the speaker's sync button (to link them to your network and other Sonos speakers), finding the connected speaker on the app and entering details such as your wi-fi password. It's really that simple. And the slick, easy-to-use Sonos app makes everyday use even easier.
In the app, you can assign each speaker to a room of your house, programme it so the volume can be controlled via your TV's standard remote, and add your favourite streaming services.
Adding other speakers is a breeze: just tap in the app to add a new speaker, press the sync button on the back and it's all done. A new feature called 'Room Groups', introduced in the Sonos S2 update, allows users to create lasting groups of particular zones that you often use in unison – the lounge and kitchen, perhaps – so that you don't have to manually group the rooms together every time.
Ultimately, Sonos is still the smoothest multi-room set-up going.
The current roster of Sonos products kicks off with the Sonos One and Sonos One SL wireless speakers, which replace the discontinued Play:1. The only difference between the two is that the One SL doesn't have voice control, so is slightly cheaper. There's also the new Sonos Five smart speaker, which replaces the Play:5 and the the company's first fully portable wireless speaker, the 2019 Sonos Move.
In early 2021, Sonos launched a smaller, cheaper portable Bluetooth speaker – the Tolberone-shaped Sonos Roam. Not only is it significantly lighter than than the portly Sonos Move (0.5kg vs 3kg), it's smarter and offers 10 hours playback from a single charge.
Both the Playbar and Playbase have been replaced by the new Sonos Arc soundbar, which can be partnered with a new Gen 3 Sonos Sub. The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is the company's smaller, feature-packed soundbar which bests the original Beam with more refined sound and Dolby Atmos smarts.
Want something a little different (and cheaper)? Try the Sonos IKEA speakers-with-a-twist, the newer, updated version of the Symfonisk lamp (complete with a redesigned base and two different shade options or the Symfonisk bookshelf. Oh, and there's also the Symfonisk Picture Frame speaker which you can hang on your wall for an extra dash of minimalism.
You don't have to part with your beloved hi-fi system for Sonos to work, either. If you have a traditional stereo-amp-and-speakers set-up, add a Sonos Connect to turn it into a streaming system. Similarly, the Connect:Amp combines streamer and amplifier – so you can simply add it to your existing pair of stereo speakers. While these are still available, the latest versions are the Sonos Port and Sonos Amp.
There are also ancillary products such as the Sonos Boost. Connecting this box directly to your router expands and strengthens the wi-fi for Sonos products. It broadcasts 360-degree signals through walls and ceilings - ideal if you're setting up a multi-room system in challenging wireless environments. Oh and there are in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, too.
Sonos apps and services
The Sonos app is a large part of the system's charm. As well as walking you through the set-up, it's where you can control all aspects of your Sonos products and access your entire music library.
Sonos's mission statement is to offer 'all the music on Earth', so as well as allowing you to play music from digital libraries (such as from a NAS device or a laptop), the app also offers the widest choice of streaming service compatibility. Sonos's aim is to be platform agnostic, and it's the most comprehensive list we've seen in any multi-room product.
Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud, Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal, TuneIn... the list of supported apps goes on. It's worth noting you will need premium subscriptions for some of these, though.
Deezer, Qobuz, Tidal and Amazon Music HD bring CD-quality, lossless streaming to Sonos. While the other music services offer files up to 320kbps, these four services offer unlimited streaming access to CD-quality FLAC files at 16bit/44.1kHz for a monthly subscription charge. The Sonos Arc soundbar supports Dolby Atmos audio courtesy of the new Sonos S2 platform and Sonos now supports 24bit high-resolution audio via streaming service Quboz.
One of Sonos's best features is that you can build playlists directly within the Sonos app, and from multiple sources as well. So if you want to add tracks from both Spotify and Tidal onto a playlist of tracks from your NAS library, you can.
Sonos now offers Bluetooth on the Sonos Move and Roam portable speakers, and AirPlay 2 on the more recent Sonos smart speakers.
Finally, there's voice control. Continuing its agnostic approach, Sonos offers all three main voice assistants – Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and Google Assistant – in its compatible, smart products (which is all of the wireless speakers and soundbars, minus the Sonos Five and One SL).
Where you place your Sonos speaker in the room will affect its sound. The Sonos Trueplay feature within the Connect app (available on iOS only) aims to counter this, using the microphone on an iPhone or iPad to measure the response of the speaker in your room and tweak its sound to suit.
This set-up process runs through a series of test tones and sweeps, which will be familiar to anyone who has set up an AV receiver. The process tunes your speaker to the room, adjusting the bass and the treble to get it sounding the best it can.
Trueplay's calibration is particularly useful if your Sonos speaker is placed in a less-than-ideal location, such as tucked into a corner. Of course, if you don't like the changes, you can always set it back to default.
What is 'Works with Sonos'?
Another badge to look out for if you're buying into the Sonos ecosystem, is 'Works with Sonos'. The Works with Sonos badge certifies products that connect with the Sonos family seamlessly, so you know which smart products you can count on to connect to your system without fuss. That's the theory, at least.
Lutron, Onkyo, IKEA and iPort are just some of the brands using the branding and certification. You can see a fuller list on the Works with Sonos page.
Sonos missing features and things to consider
Of course, while Sonos bills itself as a "wireless hi-fi system", there's no denying a little more cash spent on a dedicated separates system will deliver better sound.
There are myriad streaming options should you value sound quality over the flexibility Sonos offers. You can stream music from your NAS device and other digital libraries to the Audiolab 6000N Play, for instance, to get fantastic audio performance. And the more streamers (and speakers) you buy, the more rooms of music you can have.
You may also then get wider high-resolution audio support (an area where Bluesound and Denon have been quick to capitalise). Sure, the Sonos S2 app lets users play 24-bit files from a local drive, but at the time of writing users can only stream hi-res tracks from the Quboz music service. That's fine if Quboz membership appeals to you, but not ideal if you're already wedded to one of the other high-res audio streaming services.
Sonos Recycle Mode and software updates
Another issue to consider is future compatibility, with Sonos recently getting into hot water over its Recycle Mode, which was accused of 'bricking' perfectly good speakers which had become too old to receive the latest firmware updates.
The latest announcement saw Sonos row back from that and end Recycle Mode, encouraging customers to perform a simple factory reset on their older gear before trading it in, choosing to give it to someone, recycling it at a nearby facility or sending it to Sonos and letting the firm handle it.
The good news is that the Sonos Trade Up programme still exists, and customers who own eligible older 'legacy' products can get the same discount, but they are no longer required to needlessly render usable speakers inoperable.
The following older products are not compatible with the S2 software platform and will not receive future firmware updates:
All Zone Players (ZP80, ZP90, ZP100, ZP120)
Connect:Amp (sold between 2006 and 2015)
Play:5 (Gen 1)
Realistically, this is an issue affecting all smart products, from speakers to TVs. If anything, the fact Sonos has supported older products for far longer than many other companies, and many people still love their older Sonos devices, has inadvertently served to make Sonos' future support issue a much bigger deal than it is for other companies.
As we said in our opinion piece, the Sonos backlash simply reveals the cold hard truth of smart tech – it has a shelf life, especially if you want the latest features and updates.
Which Sonos speaker is best for you?
As an entire ecosystem, Sonos is hard to fault – if you don't mind sacrificing hi-res audio, of course. Sensibly priced, beginner-friendly and with an appealing expand-as-you-go ethos, it's a multi-room solution to be reckoned with.
Now that you're armed with all the information, fancy creating your own wireless home sound system?
If you're set on investing in a Sonos speaker or soundbar, congratulations, we'd say you've made a great choice. The next step is to choose what Sonos products your system consists of. So, which Sonos speaker is best for you? We've tested every Sonos speaker and soundbar to help you make your choice.
Best Sonos alternatives
"So if I want a wireless multi-room speaker system in my home, I must turn to Sonos?" Not so fast. There are other options to consider, some of which offer a different flavour of sound or a different set of features to challenge Sonos's dominance.
The first of these is one of the newer entrants into the multi-room market: Audio Pro. We're big fans of the Swedish company's individual wireless speakers (which have picked up plenty of What Hi-Fi? Awards), so we aren't too surprised a multi-room system made from these superb speakers (Audio Pro Addon C5, Addon C3 and Addon C10) sounds great. What surprises us more is how its musicality is unrivalled by anything at a similar price – or even quite a lot more.
Such is the appeal of Audio Pro's expressive, nuanced and precise performance, we prefer it – in pure sound quality terms – over Sonos and Bluesound systems. Audio Pro's simple app can be a little buggy (and isn't anywhere near as fully-featured as Sonos's) but, for sound quality at an affordable price, this multi-room system is currently unbeatable.
Read the full review: Audio Pro multi-room system
The first genuine threat to Sonos was Bluesound, whose key hook of support for high-resolution audio made it our preferred multi-room system for years (as multiple Awards trophies will attest). Its wide range of products (which includes wireless speakers, a streamer, amplifier and soundbar) and subtly detailed and punchy sound made this pricey system worth investing in. But that was before Audio Pro came into the picture with its better value wireless speakers.
Bluesound remains a solid-sounding system despite losing its fifth star, though, with an improved BluOS app that now supports Alexa voice control and makes daily use a breeze (even if it's still can't match Sonos's intuitiveness). If you have deep pockets and a library full of hi-res music, it's worth a punt.
Read the full review: Bluesound Generation 2i
Here’s a question: if the Sonos One and Sonos Beam incorporate Alexa and Google Assistant voice control, is there really any reason to buy the Amazon Echo or Google Nest speakers?
There is: both Amazon and Google's ranges of voice-assisted speaker products offer a wealth of smart home features that aren't available when they're incorporated in third-party speakers like Sonos. And while previously we'd say these smart speakers are more suited to those who prioritise the fun smart perks over outright sound quality, that tide is now turning.
Amazon's latest generation of Echo speakers – particularly the Echo Studio and Amazon Echo (4th Gen) – are all good speakers in their own right. The entire Echo family (including older generations) also all multi-room speakers, with Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music and TuneIn radio supported for multi-room streaming.
Google's new Nest Audio and Nest Mini (rebranded successors to the Google Home and Home Mini) similarly connect to any number of its voice-controlled wireless speakers for a multi-room set-up, and its compatibility with Chromecast streaming (and therefore other products with Chromecast built-in, such as smart TVs) should set it apart from Amazon's offerings, too.
We're not wild about any of these products' audio performances, however: they're acceptable for background listening, rather than being your main music system.
But most pertinently, they both offer cheaper alternatives to Sonos. You can get an Amazon Echo or Google Nest Audio for under £100/$100, making them solid alternatives if you're on a budget.
7 of the best Sonos accessories
Which is the right Sonos speaker for you?
Sonos multi-room system review
Best multi-room systems
Sonos Arc vs Beam vs Playbar vs Playbase: which is best?
Joe is Content Director for Specialist Tech at Future and was previously the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across print and online for more than 15 years, writing news, reviews and features. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung, reported from CES, the Bristol Show and Munich High End for many years, and provided comment for sites such as the BBC and the Guardian. In his spare time he enjoys mixing vinyl and cycling.
You will also be interested:
- Kinds of puppies
- Garage landscape ideas
- Pubg support twitter
- Honda trike dealership
- Printer tables walmart
- Brit hume trump
The Best Multiroom Wireless Speaker System
Why you should trust us
Dennis Burger has been reviewing headphones, speakers, AV receivers, home automation systems, home theater gear, and high-end audio gear for nearly two decades. He served as East Coast contributing editor for Home Entertainment magazine and is now senior editor at SoundStage! and a regular contributor at Cineluxe. In the past he has written for Residential Systems, Home Theater Review, Electronic House, Big Picture Big Sound, Digital TV & Sound, Home Smart Home, and Home Theater magazine, just to name a few.
Wirecutter senior staff writer Chris Heinonen, who wrote previous versions of this guide, has reviewed speakers and other audio/video equipment since 2008. He has tested multiroom wireless speaker systems—from retail versions to custom-installed ones—for many years.
Who this is for
Multiroom wireless speaker systems are for people who want to be able to play music and podcasts throughout their home and easily control them from their phone, tablet, or computer, or even through their voice. These systems, connected via Wi-Fi, let you play different tracks on each speaker or group them together to play the same track throughout the home. They support both local media libraries and online streaming services, allowing you to access music from almost any source. They make it easy to expand your system by simply adding another speaker or zone.
If you care only about playing music in a single room and don’t need built-in voice-control capabilities, other options work well for less money. Bluetooth speakers can easily stream audio from your phone or computer, but few of them let you group multiple speakers together—and even when you can, you’re usually limited to playing the same source through all the connected speakers, which isn’t the case with Wi-Fi speakers. Bluetooth speakers also require your phone or computer to be the streaming source. In contrast, multiroom wireless audio systems access the music sources directly and don’t use your phone’s battery life.
How we picked and tested
Since we first published this guide in 2013, we have considered more than a dozen different multiroom wireless speaker systems and called in many of them for testing (see the Competition section for more details). We focused on the following criteria for what’s important in a multiroom speaker system:
- Sound quality: A decade ago, it may have been unrealistic to expect these speakers to sound great, but since so many of today’s wireless speakers deliver excellent performance, there’s simply no excuse for those that don’t.
- Support for the widest selection of online streaming music services: A speaker is no good—no matter how great it sounds—if it can’t play your music.
- A wide selection of models at a wide range of prices: Having a model that works for each situation in your house, without being too expensive, allows you to integrate your whole home into the music system.
- Easy control of the speaker system via apps or voice control: An audio system that requires you to physically adjust the volume or skip tracks on the speaker itself is not as useful as one that lets you do those things from anywhere in the home.
- Ability to group speakers together: Your system should be able to stream the same music around the whole house or allow you to combine two speakers into a stereo pair for a more dedicated listening experience.
- Streaming from the source directly, not through a computer or phone: Some multiroom music systems require your phone or tablet to be the source, which means the music won’t play if you take your phone out of range. This arrangement is also more prone to dropouts and other issues.
- Bluetooth or AirPlay as a fallback option: This is useful when a streaming service isn’t supported.
- Ability to add more speakers or zones on your own: Lots of advanced custom-install options are available, but every time you want to expand one of those, you need to have your dealer come back out and set it up. Being able to pick up another speaker from a major retailer and add it yourself when you want to expand is a much easier solution.
Some other features aren’t essential for a whole-home audio listening system:
- Portability lets you take your music outside with you or even on the road.
- A surround-sound option allows you to create a 5.1-channel home theater system for watching movies.
- Dual-band Wi-Fi support helps in situations where you have too many devices on the 2.4 GHz spectrum and it causes too much interference, such as in an apartment or condo building.
- Hi-res audio support is a bonus but not something most people will ever need or even take advantage of.
We tested each system in different houses and apartments, with both local music libraries and streaming music services such as Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify. We put the speakers all around the house to make sure range wasn’t an issue. In the case of soundbars and subwoofers, we watched movies and TV, as well.
Our pick: Sonos
The Sonos system is the best multiroom wireless speaker system because it supports the most services and has a wide selection of great-sounding speakers, comprehensive search features, and a well-organized app that runs on almost all major mobile platforms. Sonos keeps its platform current by updating its speakers, adding more services, and introducing new features such as Trueplay room-correction technology. The Sonos user experience is the best of any of the multiroom wireless speaker systems currently available, and it has only gotten better with the introduction of the new S2 operating system, released in June 2020.
The Sonos lineup
Sonos offers speakers that start at the budget end with the small Sonos One and Sonos One SL (which lacks voice control) and extend to the Arc and Beam soundbars for use with a TV. You can use a single speaker, combine two into a stereo pair, or even build a 5.1-channel home theater system using a soundbar along with two other speakers for surrounds and the matching Sub. Recent software updates have even added the ability to add dual Subs to home theater setups.
If you already have passive speakers that require an amp and you’d like them to work with your Sonos system, you can use the Sonos Amp. The Amp also has a stereo analog input if you want to connect a turntable, a CD player, or some other audio source device, as well as an optical digital audio input and an HDMI input to connect a TV. Before you go that route, though, it’s important to consider your specific needs. If you’re just looking for a stereo setup, you can get a pair of the impressive Sonos One speakers for a lot less; the most serious audiophiles might consider upgrading to a pair of Sonos Five units. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking to bring your record collection into the Sonos ecosystem, you’re probably better served by the Sonos Port, which features a single analog input that can work with your turntable, as well as analog and digital outputs that you can connect to your receiver.
For portable listening, the Sonos Move adds a battery and Bluetooth, so you can take it with you and use it outside of the range of your Wi-Fi network. It is one of the larger Sonos speakers, with a carrying handle on the back, and it sits in a small charging base. It can play louder with more clarity than the much smaller Sonos One, but it isn’t as detailed and offers less stereo separation than the Sonos Five. A better portable option is the newer Sonos Roam, a more compact and affordable solution that supports Qi wireless charging and has IP67 waterproof certification. You can read our impressions of the Roam here.
IKEA now offers Sonos speakers, too. The Symfonisk WiFi Bookshelf Speaker is the cheapest Sonos speaker yet, coming in under $100, while the Symfonisk Table Lamp (yes, it’s a speaker built into a lamp) is $190. The Symfonisk bookshelf speaker doesn’t sound quite as good as the Sonos One, with more distortion in the bass as you play louder, but you can create a stereo pair for almost the same price as a single Sonos One, and it has a different design that may blend into certain rooms better. The lamp design inspires mixed reactions and doesn’t sound as good as the other models do. If you want music and light from one device, it achieves that odd goal. As surrounds in a home theater setup or as a reading-lamp-and-speaker combo in a bedroom, it fits a niche, but for the best sound we’d stick with the Sonos One. In July 2021, IKEA will add the $200 Symfonisk on-wall speaker that looks like a piece of art.
Sonos also offers a series of architectural speakers designed to be combined with the company’s updated Sonos Amp. These were created in conjunction with Sonance, a company with a long history in architectural speakers, and the lineup includes in-ceiling, in-wall, and outdoor models.
Using the microphone of an iOS device, Sonos’s Trueplay software offers room correction for your Sonos speakers at no extra cost. This is handy, since most people tend to place multiroom wireless speakers where they’re convenient, not where they sound best. A speaker tucked into the corner of a kitchen counter, for example, is likely to sound extra boomy in the bass because of its proximity to the walls. Trueplay uses test tones to measure how the room influences the speaker and then corrects for that. After using Trueplay, we found that it always improved the sound of our Sonos speakers, helping to produce less boomy bass and a clearer midrange.
The Sonos experience
The Sonos app is well designed and runs on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. From the app you can control all of the speakers or zones, group them in any combination, adjust the volume of each individual speaker (even if they’re grouped), find music, create playlists, mark your favorites, and more. The speakers themselves offer very few controls—only volume and a play/pause button in most cases. The app handles the rest. It also makes setting up and configuring a system very easy no matter how technically inclined you are.
Having access to your favorite music is the most important feature of a multiroom wireless speaker system, and the Sonos system continues to lead the way in that regard. Currently, it offers support for 133 streaming services, although not all of them are available worldwide; many other systems offer a half dozen or fewer. The major ones are here, including Amazon, Google Play, Pandora, Spotify, and even Apple Music—as are social services such as Bandcamp, Mixcloud, and SoundCloud. You’ll also find more niche services such as Concert Vault, Murfie, 7digital, Tidal, and Qobuz. You can play back your local music library (with some limitations for iOS users) and subscribe to podcasts, too. With the release of the new S2 operating system, Sonos now also features its own Radio app, which combines the core functionality of TuneIn and iHeartRadio and offers access to more than 60,000 stations from around the globe. No matter how or where you get your music, the odds are good that Sonos will support it.
With access to so many music services, being able to find what you want to listen to is also important. Sonos gives you direct access to all of the supported streaming services through a single app for your computer or smartphone; many other systems make you use the individual app for each service. Sonos’s unified service approach lets you search across every service you subscribe to, which makes it easy to find the music you want to listen to.
Because some people prefer to use native streaming service apps, such as those for Spotify and Apple Music, Sonos is starting to make its speakers compatible with those. Using the Spotify app or Apple Music, you can send music directly to a Sonos speaker, just as you would with a Spotify Connect speaker or the Apple HomePod, respectively. Sonos has said that this compatibility will be available for more services in the future but has not provided a timeline or named specific services.
Sonos’s unified service approach lets you search across every service you subscribe to.
The Sonos One is almost identical in form and sound to the original Sonos Play:1 but allows any Sonos system to become Alexa or Google Assistant enabled. You can now ask the Sonos One to play music or to turn off a smart light, just as you can with any Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. Any Alexa device on your system (such as a standard Echo or a Dot) can initiate a music stream to any other Sonos or Alexa device on your system—whether to an individual speaker or to a group. Using voice this way takes some getting used to, and it has some drawbacks that we detail in our standalone review of the Sonos One. It’s really powerful and useful once you get the hang of it, but if voice control is your main consideration, you may be better off with an Amazon Echo system, for reasons we’ll discuss in further detail below. The Sonos One also supports Google Assistant, if that’s your preferred virtual assistant.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The only Sonos devices that offer Bluetooth audio support are the portable Move and Roam. If a streaming service is missing, getting it onto your Sonos devices without using AirPlay is difficult. A few Sonos models, including the Five, Amp, and Port, have analog inputs, which allow you to add a Bluetooth receiver if you’d like. But that eats up an analog input that could probably be put to better use, and it isn’t nearly as simple as having a unit with Bluetooth built in.
On a related note, we would like to see a cheaper way to add a line input for hooking up a Bluetooth receiver, record player, or other device. Currently, your only options are the $450 Port, the $500 Five, or the $650 Amp.
Many Sonos models are also stuck on the standard 2.4 GHz band unless you buy the company’s optional bridge, which creates its own Wi-Fi network. If you live in a standalone home, using 2.4 GHz is a good choice, as it provides better range. If you live in an apartment or condo, the large number of 2.4 GHz routers in such a building can make those signals less reliable than 5 GHz, and the added range isn’t important. Support for both frequency bands would be better across the entire lineup, but for now, only the One (Gen2), One SL, Five, Move, Roam, Port, and Sub support an 802.11a or 802.11n 5 GHz connection. The Amp, Arc, and Beam support 802.11n 2.4GHz only.
Many of Sonos’s strengths come from the fact that it is a closed system, but this is also a weakness. Hardware from any other company won’t work with it, and if Sonos were to cease to exist as a company, you might find yourself with a bunch of very expensive bricks. We don’t expect Sonos to vanish anytime soon, but we do consider such a possibility to be a drawback for many of the other proprietary systems we didn’t pick, because if their manufacturers give up on them, you might be left with a system that’s either non-functioning or unable to be updated.
In August 2019, Sonos disabled the option for iOS users to search songs stored on their iPhones or iPads. This means that the universal search function doesn’t locate these songs, nor can they be played directly from the Sonos app. There are a couple of workarounds, the simplest of which is using AirPlay 2 to send a song from your mobile device to a compatible Sonos speaker and then using the Sonos app to group that speaker with others in your Sonos system. Another option is to upload your library (or selected songs from it) to a music service with cloud storage capabilities, such as Apple Music.
As we detail in our standalone review of the Sonos One, there are still significant limitations in the way Amazon Alexa is implemented on Sonos devices (including the One, Arc, Beam, and Move). This is a moving target, as the functionality is regularly updated, but as of this writing (May 2021) the most frustrating quirk is that the volume of Amazon’s digital voice assistant cannot be adjusted relative to the volume of the speaker itself. And it desperately needs this functionality, since Alexa is simply way too loud by comparison.
To give you an idea of how loud Alexa’s voice is relative to the average output of the speaker, I turned my SPL meter toward the Sonos One while it was playing Sly and the Family Stone’s “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and measured the peak output at 66 decibels from 3 feet away. I then asked Alexa what time it was and measured the voice assistant’s response at 69 dB—a full 3 dB louder than the loudest notes in the music. In technical terms, 3 dB amounts to a doubling of sound energy and a perceived 23.2% increase in loudness. In practical terms, it means that if you’re listening to music at reasonably loud levels and ask Alexa a question or give it a command, Alexa’s going to scream its response at you.
Thankfully, Sonos speakers with Alexa built in do support the Whisper Mode feature found on standalone Amazon Echo speakers, which helps a little. Whisper Mode means that, if you whisper a question or command to Alexa, it whispers to you in response. But that’s not a wholly satisfying workaround, and it’s no replacement for being able to independently control the volume of Alexa relative to the volume of the Sonos speaker.
Sonos speakers with Alexa built in also have some other voice-control shortcomings when compared with proper Echo devices. For example, Sonos doesn’t support Alexa Routines that include audio actions (Routines are customizable features that can execute multiple actions from one voice command). We wouldn’t normally focus on such smart-home functionality in a guide about wireless music systems, but since this deficiency specifically relates to audio playback, it’s relevant.
Consider one of the Routines that my wife and I use most frequently: As we’re going to bed, we say “Good night” to the Echo Studio in our bedroom. This command turns off most of the lights in the house, adjusts the temperature on our Ecobee thermostat, and then starts playing the album Thunderstorm (Sounds of Nature) to lull us to sleep. Since playing a song or album is an audio action, the Sonos One will not perform that Routine. That’s one reason why we recommend using a dedicated Echo device for more advanced voice control.
Lastly, Sonos made some serious PR missteps in early 2020, when it announced that the original Play:5, Connect, Connect:Amp, and Bridge, along with the original Zone Player and the CR200 wireless controller, would no longer receive feature updates after May 2020. These models were released between 2005 and 2011, so it’s not surprising that they’re no longer receiving new features, but the company didn’t clearly articulate the news, which created a lot of confusion. All of these models still work, and they will continue to receive bug fixes and security updates for as long as possible, but they are no longer receiving new functionality. Connect and Connect: Amp models manufactured after 2015 still get updates, as do Play:5 v2 units.
Unfortunately, if your system consists of a mix of newer and older models, the new models also won’t receive updates because updating the new models would remove compatibility with the older ones. The solution to this problem amounts to creating two separate Sonos systems, with older devices controlled by the original Sonos app and newer devices controlled by the new S2 app. With such a split system, only devices within the S1 system can be grouped together, and likewise only S2 devices can be grouped together. In other words, grouping S1 devices and S2 devices together to create a truly whole-home wireless music system is no longer possible.
Security and privacy
In August 2017, Sonos established a privacy statement outlining the data it collects from customers’ systems. The data includes customers’ Wi-Fi signal strength, IP address, music services, product use history, names of products or rooms, and other functional data. Sonos says it uses this information to keep the products functioning and to improve service; the company also says that it never sells the data, although it may share some data with third-party vendors, music services, and voice services.
Some customers take issue with the fact that, if you don’t agree to the new policy, there’s a chance that your Sonos devices will cease to operate over time because they will stop receiving software updates. However, you can still opt out of some data collection even if you agree to the policy. In addition, Sonos notes that it does not collect recordings of your voice.
Also great: Amazon Echo
If a Sonos system costs a little more than you’re willing to spend, or if you value advanced voice-control functionality more than pitch-perfect sound fidelity, we also really like Amazon’s Echo ecosystem as an alternative. The Echo family isn’t as diverse as Sonos’s offerings, but it does include a couple of good-sounding speakers: the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) and the Echo Studio, both of which also support Bluetooth. Amazon’s multiroom music platform isn’t as robust and intuitive as Sonos’s, but it continues to improve, and you can use more precise, nuanced voice control.
At $100, the standard Echo (4th Gen) is $80 less than Sonos’s cheapest speaker (the One SL), and although it doesn’t sound as good—the bass isn’t as dynamic, high frequencies aren’t quite as sparkling and its upper bass/lower midrange is somewhat boomy and uneven by comparison—it still sounds quite good for the price. It’s a noticeable improvement in the sound quality over the 3rd Gen unit.
The 4th Gen Echo boasts a radical redesign compared with its older siblings. Instead of the cylindrical form factor we’ve come to associate with Amazon’s smart speakers, the new model has a spherical design and has been upgraded to include two 0.8-inch (20 mm) tweeters instead of one. Its 3-inch (76.2 mm) woofer is also placed at the top of the speaker instead of the bottom. The upside of the dual tweeters is that the new Echo delivers a reasonably effective stereo effect. The downside is that the Echo is now a more directional device than the previous iterations. What this means is that if you install your speaker in the center of a room (say, on a coffee table) or between two rooms (e.g., on a counter between a semi-open kitchen and family room), the sound quality of the speaker, as well as the stereo effect, shifts depending on where you’re standing or sitting.
For $200—the same price as the Sonos One—you might instead opt for the Echo Studio, which features a front-firing 1-inch tweeter, two side-firing and one upward-firing 2-inch midrange drivers, and a 5.25-inch down-firing woofer. The result is much beefier bass than you can get from the standard Echo, but even the much larger Echo Studio doesn’t quite beat the Sonos One in terms of balanced, neutral sound, nor can it match the sheer output of the Sonos Five. But it does have one trick up its sleeve that no other compact speaker in our roundup can claim: Dolby Atmos capabilities to add a more immersive height effect to the sound.
The Echo Studio doesn’t support direct streaming of Atmos-mixed music from Tidal, but it does support a reasonably large library of 3D-audio tracks available on Amazon Music HD mastered in both Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial audio codec. The Echo Studio can also upmix stereo music into a simulation of 3D audio. Although the quality of this upmixing has drastically improved since the Echo Studio’s release, it can still be a little inconsistent with some music, especially some of the radical stereo mixes of the 1960s, like The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “The Wind Cries Mary.” This is somewhat less of a problem if you pair two Studio speakers in a stereo group. But in our long-term testing, we’ve found that maintaining the stereo pairing of two Studio speakers can be frustrating and inconsistent, so we can’t recommend it.
The Echo Studio also has a feature similar to Sonos’s Trueplay called Automatic Room Adaptation, which according to Amazon “analyzes the acoustics of the room and continuously adjusts audio filters during music playback to optimize sound output regardless of placement.” Unlike Trueplay, this feature doesn’t require you to use your mobile device to measure the sound of a series of test tones. Instead, the Echo Studio listens to itself while it plays music and makes tweaks to the sound over time. The speaker runs through a setup process for room calibration upon initial setup, but there’s no easy way to rerun that calibration should you move your speaker from one room to another, short of resetting the device and going through setup again. But since the process is constantly running as long as the device’s mics aren’t muted, this shouldn’t be necessary. Just let it play, and it will adapt itself to the new room over time.
The Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Studio are compatible with the Echo Sub if you need more bass. But the subwoofer’s functionality is somewhat limited, and reviews have been mixed, so we can’t really recommend it.
One potential advantage that the Amazon Echo lineup has over Sonos speakers is two-way Bluetooth support. You can connect your phone or tablet to your Echo or Echo Studio and send audio directly to the speaker, or you can pair an Echo device with a bigger Bluetooth speaker for improved sonic performance. The Echo and Echo Studio can also pair wirelessly with Amazon’s Fire TV streaming media players, and a combination of the Echo Studio and Fire TV gives you Atmos audio playback capabilities for movies as well as music.
When Amazon added multiroom music streaming to the Echo lineup in 2017, it was in a severely limited capacity. Back then, if any of your Echo devices was connected to a Bluetooth speaker, that connection would drop when you initiated multiroom playback. And none of the Echo speakers available at the time sounded good enough on their own to justify their use as your main music system. But in the years since, the audio fidelity of Echo speakers has improved, and the multiroom functionality has gotten steadily better. Bluetooth connectivity is now supported, so if you have an Echo Dot paired with, say, a Monoprice Soundstage3 in your home office, that duo can sync up with the rest of your Echo devices just fine.
Alexa doesn’t support nearly as many music services as Sonos (in the US, it’s mainly limited to the best-known apps such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn, and Vevo). What’s more, creating groups of Echo speakers isn’t quite as intuitive via the Alexa app as grouping is with Sonos. But it’s not too difficult.
The only major frustration of using Alexa as your primary multiroom music platform is that adding or removing individual speakers during playback isn’t supported. So, for example, if you’re listening to a podcast or audiobook in the bedroom and want to add your living room and kitchen speakers to the stream in real time, that’s currently not possible.
If you have your Echo speakers configured to control your smart-home devices, you can also create Routines that include music and home-automation tasks such as lighting levels and thermostat settings. You can launch these Routines with a short verbal command that you can name anything you’d like, such as “Alexa, good night” or “Alexa, bath time.” One of the shortcomings of the Alexa support built into some Sonos speakers is that they do not initiate any Routines that include an audio action, so this capability is a big bonus of native Echo devices.
In other respects, Alexa and Sonos get along quite well. You can, within the Alexa app, create speaker groups of Sonos speakers, but you cannot include Sonos speakers and Echo speakers together in the same group. However, you can select a Sonos speaker as the preferred speaker for any Echo device. For instance, if you want voice commands, alerts, timers, and reminders to come out of the Echo Dot by the kitchen sink, but you want any music that Dot plays to come out of the Sonos Five sitting atop the refrigerator, it’s simple to configure.
As such, the “best of both worlds” multiroom music system is a combination of Amazon Echo and Sonos devices—the former in rooms where voice-assistant functionality is more important (or where you don’t want Alexa yelling at you) and the latter in rooms where audio quality is the top priority. But this arrangement does complicate day-to-day use a bit, so if you value simplicity, your best bet is to pick one or the other for all of your multiroom music streaming needs.
What about Sidewalk?
Amazon recently introduced a new feature of its Echo devices known as Sidewalk, a private, low-bandwidth connection between devices, even if they’re not on the same home network. This means that if both you and your neighbor have Sidewalk enabled, you might be using a bit of their internet connection and they might be using a bit of yours. Overall, we’re not happy about the fact that Amazon chose to make this service opt-out, rather than opt-in, but other than that, we’re not as concerned as other outlets are. You can read more about our stance on Sidewalk, and get more details about how it works, here.
Given that Apple AirPlay 2 is a relatively open ecosystem, it has a lot going for it. You can easily mix and match speakers from a number of different manufacturers, including Sonos, Amazon, Bowers & Wilkins, Naim, and (of course) Apple’s own HomePod smart wireless speaker. Many mass-market AV receivers and even many TVs also feature AirPlay 2 connectivity. Add in Siri voice control, and the overall flexibility of the platform is hard to deny. The downside is that relying on AirPlay 2 for all of your multiroom music mostly anchors you to iOS as a mobile platform, so if you ever sour on Apple and decide to switch to Android or some other mobile operating system, you’ll mostly be left with a collection of disconnected speakers or sound systems. Grouping AirPlay 2 speakers via HomeKit isn’t as intuitive as it is with Sonos or Amazon, either. If you’re using your iPhone to control your music playback, as most people are likely to do, there are some frustrating limitations. For one thing, if you want to add or remove speakers from playback or adjust the volume of individual speakers, you need to do so via a widget found in the iOS Control Center. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that the speaker-selection and volume-control widget occupies less than a quarter of your total screen real estate, meaning you can see only four connected devices at a time. In other words, it involves a lot of unnecessary scrolling and (for those of us old enough to remember when “airplay” was broadcast-radio lingo) a good bit of squinting.
We previously had the Chromecast Audio platform as a pick for anyone who wanted an inexpensive multiroom wireless option, because you could get in the door with just the $35 audio dongle. However, Google has discontinued that dongle, so now you must buy other devices (speakers, soundbars, smart speakers, and the like) with Chromecast built in. Overall, we prefer Sonos as a complete system: With Chromecast, you can’t do 5.1 surround sound, it lacks room correction like Trueplay, it doesn’t support Alexa (which is not surprising), and grouping rooms is more complex since you have to start playback from an app and then switch to the Google Home app and merge it there. Sonos also lets you control every source from a single app or, in many cases, allows you to use the individual app, whereas Chromecast still works only through individual apps. Google has introduced the new Nest Audio smart speaker ($100) to replace the Google Home. There’s a lot that we like about the new speaker, including its improved sound quality, its pairing capabilities, and for the purposes of this guide, its enhancements in terms of voice-based multiroom audio control. In that respect, it’s about even with the Echo system. It’s easy to create speaker groups in the app, and sending music to groups requires easy-to-remember commands (“play Ramones in Whole House”), but you can’t switch music to different groups once you’ve started or play different music from the same service on different speakers, as you can with Sonos. Among smart speakers, we prefer Amazon’s ecosystem and its diversity of product offerings. That said, if you’re already invested in Google Assistant, there’s nothing about the Nest Audio that would make us recommend avoiding it. We just like Echo a little better overall.
The Marshall Multi-Room system is based on the company’s line of Bluetooth speakers, which we really like, but the whole-home system functions more like a Bluetooth speaker than a fully integrated system. You stream to the speakers via AirPlay, Bluetooth, or Chromecast, not through an integrated app that unites all the services in one place. You need to load the Marshall setup app to send audio to multiple rooms or join speakers into a group. We like the retro styling of the Marshall speakers, but the system lacks the complete integration that other whole-home audio systems offer.
Bose SoundTouch models offer presets on the device, giving you fast access to your favorite internet radio stations or playlists. Right now they support Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify, along with a handful of other streaming services, but they don’t support Google Play Music.
DTS Play-Fi is another open standard that is supported by a number of vendors, including Anthem, Onkyo, Paradigm, and Pioneer. It supports 5.1-channel surround sound using wireless speakers, and it covers a wide selection of devices. Unfortunately, it still offers support for only around a dozen music services and doesn’t support Apple Music or Google Play Music.
Denon’s HEOS system offers a number of different speakers in a variety of sizes, and Denon has built HEOS into all of its new receivers, as well. But at this point no other companies—aside from Marantz, which is part of Denon’s parent company—have adopted HEOS. The lack of Apple Music support makes this system easy to pass up for now.
Yamaha MusicCast is currently only in Yamaha devices, including soundbars, speakers, and receivers. It supports Pandora and Spotify but not Amazon, Apple Music, or Google Play. It supports AirPlay and Bluetooth on all its devices, but not enough services directly.
BlueSound is meant as a higher-end option and has the features to back that up. These devices include hi-res audio and MQA support, as well as a CD-ripping vault. But most people don’t need or won’t use these features, and the hardware costs almost 50% more than the comparable hardware from other companies because of all the extras.
Logitech has added multiroom support to UE Boom speakers, but they still stream the music from your phone over Bluetooth and communicate over Bluetooth, so the range is lacking.
The Naim Mu-so system looks and sounds great, and it lets you control everything from a single app, but the company’s cheapest model is still much more than most people want to pay. It might be a fantastic-sounding speaker, but it starts at a price that is too high for most people.
WiSA is an alliance that is licensing its technology to different speaker manufacturers. It operates in a different wireless band than conventional 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz Wi-Fi, making it less prone to interference. It is mostly aimed at building wireless surround-sound systems, where it can support lossless 24/96 audio with 7.1 channels, but it is starting to add multiple zones for multiroom wireless speakers. Unfortunately, it’s not a complete system approach and thus not a true competitor in this arena.