‘Tis the season for smart speakers! As Christmas approaches, a wealth of new portable voice-controlled boomboxes are set to hit stores, including the Amazon Echo 2017, updated Google Home speakers and Apple’s HomePod.
Having pioneered wireless home audio, Sonos has something to say about that in the shape of its new One speaker. A straight up replacement for the old Play:1, the Sonos One is essentially that same diddy device with Amazon’s Alexa built in. So it’s basically an Echo that’s built for music as well as all of Alexa’s many other talents.
Wanna know more about the new Sonos One? Read on for all the info on this new multiroom marvel.
1) It works with Alexa, without buttons
Sonos has been working on the One for some time now, and that means it’s a cut above the many Echo-like devices you can buy right now.
Crucially, you don’t need a button to activate Amazon’s voice assistant, unlike cheap alternatives such as the Jam Voice or Fabriq. Just say the word ‘Alexa’ and the speaker’s six built-in microphones will work their magic. All of which means you can ask for songs, artists and albums to be played without having to dip into the (admittedly excellent) Sonos app.
You'll also be able to ask Alexa to pause, play and skip songs, and of course all of the other standard Alexa skills will work: so you'll be able to set timers and get the news headlines, for instance.
Inside it there's a six-microphone array and an "adaptive noise supression algorithm" which will help it hear everything you say - and indeed, make sure it hears the right person if you've got a bit of a party going on. Another nice touch is that if you're already playing music, the volume will intelligently lower when you speak to it, meaning there's no need to shout to be heard.
2) It won’t work with Spotify at launch
Out of the box the Sonos One's Alexa skills will include support for Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, and TuneIn - but not Spotify. Sonos say that's coming before Christmas, though, so hopefully we won't have too long to wait on that front.
And of course you’ll still be able to use Spotify with the Sonos One via the existing Sonos or Spotify apps.
3) Google Assistant support is coming in 2018
Just as Sonos has gone to great pains to ensure its speakers are compatible with almost every music streaming service going, the same will apply to its support for voice assistants.
That means Google Assistant will arrive on the Sonos One at some unspecified point in 2018, which is undeniably good news for Android fans and anyone who’s been tempted by that tasty new Pixel phone.
4) It looks very much like the old Play:1
Sonos has taken many cues from Apple’s design ethos over the years, and that once again applies with the One speaker.
To the untrained eye, this thing pretty much looks identical to the old Play:1 and that’s not really a bad thing. It’s got that big wraparound grille, matte black or white colouring and classic cuboid shape. On the top of the speaker is its microphone button, volume and playback controls - just like the Play:5.
5) Its internals have changed
We’ll update this section in a bit once we’ve squeezed some more info out of Sonos, but we’ve been told the inside of the Sonos One is completely different to its predecessor. In fact only the feet and bottom cups of the speaker are retained from the old model.
What does that mean for its speaker array? Well, the Sonos One is powered by two Class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer. We’ll let you know more details as soon as we have them, but what we can say is that Sonos itself boasts the One will have a "surprisingly rich sound from a speaker of its size".
6) Its microphones are hard-wired to a light
How can you tell if someone’s listening into you through your Sonos? That shouldn’t happen, but with privacy in mind Sonos has added a simple feature for peace of mind: when the One’s microphones are turned on, a light on the top of the speaker will illuminate.
Better yet, the two systems are hard-wired together, so they can’t be tricked.