By Dan Moren
October 4, 2017 8:48 AM PT
Sonos One (singular sensation) and other news from today’s event
Note: This story has not been updated for several years.
When it comes to multi-room audio, Sonos is still the gold standard. But the company has lagged behind on the smart speaker revolution, promising only that integration with assistants like Amazon’s Alexa would come in due time.
Today, that due time got a lot closer. At an event in New York City, the company made a variety of announcements about its product line and clearly positioned its devices as the only home speakers you’ll need. Let’s break down what’s new.
Sonos’s entry into the smart speaker market, the Sonos One, is essentially a Sonos Play:1 with six integrated far-field microphones and Alexa built-in. The top of the device has also been redesigned with touch sensitive playback controls. At $199, the One costs exactly the same as a Play:1, and it not only boasts all the features of Alexa, but also all the features of a Sonos.
This is a healthy competitor to the revamped Echo line, offering better sound for only a bit more money. Off the top of my head, the only feature the One seems to be missing from the standard Echo is the ability to work as Bluetooth speaker; stacked up against the Echo Plus, it also lacks the built-in smart home hub, though it can still talk to smart home devices over your local network.
At the moment–and with the understanding that this doesn’t ship until October 24 and I certainly haven’t seen it firsthand–this would seem like the smart speaker to recommend to those who want great sound quality and multi-room audio. It’s also $150 cheaper than Apple’s forthcoming HomePod. For those not convinced by the Amazon ecosystem, Alexa won’t be the only voice assistant option available; Sonos says Google Assistant is coming next year.
Echo and Sonos public beta
So, what if you don’t want to invest in a new speaker and you already have a Sonos and an Echo? Good news! The long-promised Echo and Sonos integration will be available starting today as a public beta.
I guess I can say at this point that I’ve been testing this feature as part of the private beta for a few months now, and it’s pretty great. It works much as you’d expect, letting you play tracks, adjust volume, and so on. I’ve had generally pretty good results. Controlling your Sonos speakers with your voice is super useful, and frankly you’re not going to want to go back to the app if you don’t have to.
AirPlay 2 coming to Sonos
One of the advantages of Apple’s upcoming HomePod (at least until we can put it up against a Sonos and do a real comparison of audio quality) is integration with the rest of the Apple ecosystem via AirPlay 2.
Well, not anymore. Sonos also announced that AirPlay 2 will be coming to Sonos devices in 2018, letting you play audio from iOS devices on your Sonos speakers and letting you use Siri to control music on Sonos speakers.
My question is whether or not I’ll then be able to use a pair of Sonos speakers as stereo speakers for my Apple TV, because…that is potentially interesting. Apple suggests you can do so with the HomePod using AirPlay 2, so in theory the same should be possible with other AirPlay 2 speakers? We’ll have to see.
Assorted other news
Direct Control: Later this year you’ll be able to directly control your Sonos speakers from certain apps like Pandora and Tidal; other apps, like Audible and iHeartRadio will come next year.
Developer APIs: A “Works with Sonos” program will let partners and developers build software (and hardware?) that integrates with Sonos. Logitech and Samsung’s SmartThings are on the list, which bodes well for using Sonos speakers in connected home environments.
All in all, this is a big push by Sonos to become a major force in the market, going beyond its original multi-room audio roots. Casting a wide net to work with many different services and vendors certainly positions the device and the company to potentially become the de facto audio company in the connected home. But there’s significant competition from Amazon, Google (which has its own event coming later today), and, of course, Apple. It’s going to be an exciting holiday season.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]
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