The market-leading multi-room brand offers extensive streaming service options and adds voice-control tech
TYPE Wireless multi-room speaker system
DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 120 x 161 x 120mm
• Quoted power output: Not specified
• Up to 16-bit/48 kHz playback
• Streaming service support: Spotify; Apple Music; Tidal; Qobuz
Having been the dominant force in multi-room for some time, Sonos has created an unrivalled portfolio of wi-fi-equipped speakers, soundbars and subwoofers that allow you to create the perfect system for your home. The latest addition is the One, which is essentially an updated version of the existing Play:1 (which remains on sale). Its compact design is virtually identical to the Play:1, and will easily sit on a bookshelf or coffee table without taking up too much space. It squeezes in an array of six microphones, which allow it to work with interactive voice-control technologies such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
As we have found before, the Sonos app works on a wide selection of computers and mobile devices, and supports all the main streaming services, including Apple Music, Spotify and Qobuz. We understand that it plans to add Apple AirPlay 2 support early this year, which means that you’ll be able to create a mix-and-match multi-room speaker system using AirPlay 2 speakers from manufacturers other than Sonos for the first time.
The One does have its limitations, though. Music file support is limited to a modest 16-bit/48kHz and, like other Sonos speakers, it’s reliant on a home network, using either wi-fi or Ethernet cables. There’s no Bluetooth support, and not even a 3.5mm jack for wired connections.
Despite its new focus on voice technology, the One doesn’t take its eye – or ear – off the primary task of simply playing music. It may be one of the smallest speakers in this group, but it produces a terrifically light, detailed sound. Brian May’s solo guitar in Bijou chimes gently in the air, while the multiple echoes that he’s so fond of reverberate in the background, creating a far greater sense of space and atmosphere than I would expect to hear from such a compact little chassis.
The One also copes well with the more energetic guitar thrash of This Is How I Disappear. The chopping guitars have real bite and the drums land with a taut, precise slap. Yet the sound is very clear and balanced, and doesn’t lose sight of more delicate details, such as the gently tapping
Multi-room speakers that use wifi to connect to your home network are a little more complicated than conventional Bluetooth speakers (which make a direct connection to your mobile devices). One limitation of wi-fi connectivity is that support for streaming services has to be built into the app that each manufacturer uses to control its speakers, unless it offers Chromecast support.
The Sonos Controller app has an advantage here, as it supports just about every streaming service you’re ever likely to need. Most multi-room speakers stream big-name services such as Spotify, Tidal and Deezer, but Sonos currently lists 47 different music streaming services, including Bollywood sounds of Saavn, Arabic music from Anghami and an archive of live recordings from the fifties to the present day with Concert Vault.
cymbal on the chorus. Admittedly, the size of the speaker means that it’s not spectacularly loud or powerful, so if you’re looking for room-filling sound then you might want to look at one of Sonos’ larger speaker options. Alternatively, you can link two One speakers together as a stereo pair for a more robust soundstage.
The only minor weakness – inevitably, for a speaker of this size – is in the bass performance. To its credit, the modest little mid/bass driver in the One copes well with the slap-bass on Kate Bush’s The Big Sky (Meteorological Mix), with a firm sound that pulls it out of the rumble of the cascading drums. However, the bookshelf-sized speaker cabinet can’t quite reach down to the deep and dirty electronic bass on Shadow Journal. It manages to put on a good showing nevertheless and provides remarkably solid sound quality for such a compact multi-room model
Small, but perfectly formed and the ideal multi-room system starting point
- A compact speaker with a detailed sound
- Exhaustive streaming services
- Limited connectivity options
- Some lack of deep bass