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Sonos One Review: No Voice Services in Canada Yet, But Sound Packs a Punch [u]

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Earlier this month Sonos announced the Sonos One, the company’s all-new voice-controlled smart speaker, which supports over 80 streaming services and also Amazon Alexa for users in the U.S., UK and Germany when it launches on October 24th worldwide.

Sonos let us put our grubby paws on the Sonos One (in white; black also available) and we’ve been testing it out for the past week. Here’s our experience of the Sonos One…

I’ve heard nothing but praise for Sonos speakers from friends and family who own them, as they swear by these speakers for streaming music and more. In our case, this is actually the first time we’ve unboxed and listened to a Sonos in our household. After playing with the speakers for a week, we can see how people love Sonos like they do with Apple products.

Unboxing the Sonos One is not quite like an Apple unboxing experience, but the company takes care when it comes to its packaging. The simple box reveals a top portion which contains instruction manuals and also helps hold and protect the speaker during transport:

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The speaker itself comes wrapped in a light paper cloth, with a Sonos sticker holding it all together. It feels like Sonos gift wrapping, as the top is nicely folded like a Christmas present:

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Inside you’ll find an included AC power cord and ethernet cable, if you aren’t looking to setup Wi-Fi for your speaker.

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Here are the touch controls at the top of the Sonos One. The middle button is for play/pause, while the left and right ‘four dot’ squares are for volume up (right) and down (left). The mic button doesn’t work yet in Canada (more on that later):

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One nice touch—the AC power cable plugs flush into the bottom of the Sonos One, so it will reduce cord clutter and ensure you can high the cord when the speaker is placed on a tabletop:

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Here’s what the front of the Sonos One looks like. The speaker itself has good weight to it, at 1.85 kilograms (4.08 pounds), the same as the Sonos PLAY:1. The hefty weight means it ain’t going anywhere once you place it down:

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The back of the Sonos One has the setup button and the ethernet port:

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The side view shows off the white matte grille:

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The bottom view again: four rubber feet ensure the Sonos one stays put on your counter, table or mantle:

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Here’s how the Sonos One compares in size to an iPhone 6 Plus—the speaker has a fairly small footprint to let it disappear into your home:

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Here’s the Sonos One on our fireplace mantle—as you can see, the white model blends in nicely:

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Setting up the Sonos One was very straightforward. All I had to do was download the Sonos iOS app, create an account, plug in the Sonos and follow the clear step-by-step instructions.

The first step is to connect your Sonos to Wi-Fi, which we did via the Standard setup. The other option is a Sonos BOOST setup, which allows users to connect their speaker to a router via the ethernet cable.

The Sonos app went through steps to connect to our Wi-Fi, then we pressed the button on the back of the speaker. Once successful, a chime is played from the speaker.

Next, the Sonos iOS app started to update the speaker which took a few minutes, and once that was done, the app asks you to tune your speakers with Trueplay, “so you can get great sound no matter where you place them.”

Trueplay setup takes “about 3 minutes” and utilizes your iPhone microphone. You need to ensure you’ve placed the speaker where you intend to leave it in your room. The steps will instruct you to remove any iPhone cases on your device, turn your device so the mic faces the Sonos, so it can pick up and test background noise.

There’s a helpful video which shows you exactly how to walk around your room, while waving your iPhone up and down. This test will allow Trueplay to detect how sound is affected by your surroundings.

Once complete, it was now time to start playing some music. The first thing I did was connect my Apple Music account. In the Sonos app, go to the ‘More’ tab in the lower right, then tap ‘Add Music Services”. Tap on Apple Music, then tap ‘Add to Sonos’. You’ll see options for “I’m already a member” and “Start trial”. Once you hit the member option, it’ll launch Apple Music and ask you to ‘continue’ and sign into iTunes to confirm.

The Apple Music view within Sonos shows your For You, New, Radio and My Music tabs. Now when you use the Search tab in the Sonos app, it’ll bring up Apple Music search results as well.

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Now that Apple Music was setup, we could finally start playing some music. The Sonos One has a pair of Class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter and one mid-woofer. Immediately, we were taken back by the amount of chest-thumping bass this small speaker puts out. Sound from the speaker can easily fill a living room and this was with loudness enabled.

We’re not audiophiles by any means, but from our quick listening tests of hip-hop, alternative, pop and jazz music, they all sounded pretty good on the Sonos One, leaps and bounds ahead of your cheap Bluetooth speaker.

Bass is very impressive, as is treble, but one area we thought needed some improvement was the mid-range, as during some songs the deep tones easily overpowered. Lowering bass levels helped improve sound a bit though. Overall, this is a very good speaker and having two setup for true stereo would be a fantastic setup, given the small footprint.

Like the PLAY:1, a pair of Sonos One speakers also can be linked to a PLAYBAR or PLAYBASE to create your home theatre, and even the company’s SUB.

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What’s pretty cool about the Sonos speakers is the constant connection with nearly zero delay when it comes to restarting music. If you pause music from the Sonos iOS app or the speaker itself, you can press the play button on the speaker at any time, and music will resume instantly. There’s no need to launch the Sonos iOS app to get started again. This is because the speaker connects over Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth, meaning no dropouts or delays associated with the latter.

Also interesting, which may be a result of our beta Sonos iOS app—we were able to listen to Apple Music on our desktop, while simultaneously listen to Apple Music on Sonos using our individual subscription. Under normal conditions, one connection will stop Apple Music as the other begins playing.

When music is playing on the Sonos, your lockscreen will have a separate Sonos widget, showing artist name and also let you control the volume with your iPhone’s volume buttons. These controls can be enabled or disabled in the Sonos iOS app settings.

Sonos says “Lock screen control will not be available if another audio app such as Spotify or Apple Music is playing music, if Airplay or Bluetooth is being used, if VoiceOver is enabled, or if headphones are plugged into the iOS device.”

Now, the Sonos One is a smart speaker, but Canadians are out of luck. The company says Voice control support “will be coming soon”, and issued us the following in a statement:

The Sonos One is considered Voice-Ready for Canada, which means when services such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant become available in Canada, it will be made available on the Sonos One. The speaker will be future-ready and evolve as more voice-services become available north of the border.

Amazon does not support Alexa in Canada yet, so you can’t use it on the Sonos One. Sonos says support for Google Assistant is coming in 2018, as well as Apple’s AirPlay 2.

Update 10/19: Clarification on Siri support for Sonos One:

This platform level integration will allow all sounds from devices in the Apple ecosystem to play in any or every room of a Sonos home. It also means that you can talk to any Siri enabled device (iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, Apple Watch, and HomePod) and control all your Sonos speakers. This integration will not be specific to HomePod.

The speaker does have a six far-field microphone array setup for advanced beamforming and echo cancellation, which we were unable to test. But you can sleep well at night, knowing a future software update will add more voice assistants to your Sonos One.

Overall, we were pleasantly surprised with our first Sonos experience, and the Sonos One lived up to high expectations. Its simple, yet elegant design, coupled with its compact footprint and powerful sound, makes for one worthy speaker.

The Sonos One is priced at $249 CAD, which is the same price the company charges for its PLAY:1 (which lacks voice control unless you have an Amazon Echo/Echo Dot). While the price is definitely on the premium side when it comes to wireless speakers, the Sonos One may be worth the investment, given its ease of use and setup, plus the impressive sound coming out of a speaker this small.

You can pre-order it here on Amazon.ca, as it will be released in Canada and worldwide on October 24, 2017.

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