I got my Sonos One this week and set it up, so I thought I’d write up a little review. Overall, I like it, but I’m not overwhelmed with it.
The setup experience was pretty bumpy. It’s done through an iPhone app, and it’s probably pretty straightforward if everything works right. For me, though, I couldn’t get it working on my wifi network and had to connect it to my router via an old-fashioned Ethernet cable. The app is pretty determined about trying to get it working on wifi. I wish it would have tried a little less hard, and let me give up and switch to the wired connection earlier. Once I got past that issue, though, it wasn’t bad. (To be clear, the device is on wifi now. Only the setup had to be done wired.) If you’re hooking up third-party services, you may have to do a lot of copying and pasting to log into accounts and authorize everything. That wasn’t too bad for me, since I have 1Password on my phone. If I didn’t have a good password manager on my phone, that part would have been difficult.
After the initial setup was done, I also installed the Mac app for Sonos. That app is a little easier to use than the iOS app, and I wish I could have done the setup with that app instead of the iOS one. (To be fair, maybe I could have, but it didn’t occur to me to try, since the instructions indicated that you should do the setup from your phone.)
As to sound quality, it’s good, but not amazing. I guess it’s pretty impressive for a speaker that size, but I still think my 30-year-old speakers sound better. (Admittedly, there are two of them and they’re much larger than the Sonos One.) I am wondering if the sound would be significantly better if I’d gone for the two-pack and set them up as stereo speakers. (But I’m not curious enough to order a second one to find out.) Last night, I listened to some Christian Tetzlaff, from MP3s that I ripped from a CD, and it sounded pretty good but not perfect. Right now, I’m listening to the same MP3s through my old speakers via Volumio, and I think that sounds better. (I hate to use hi-fi snob words, but it sounds warmer and more natural, I think.)
The general consensus seems to be that the Sonos One has noticeably better sound than the Amazon Echo, but it’s not nearly as good as the HomePod. (The Echo is on sale for $85 right now, and is probably a perfectly good speaker for most people.) I’m fine owning a Sonos One instead of a HomePod. I don’t much like the $350 price on the HomePod or the fact that it’s pretty much locked into Apple’s ecosystem.
Getting back to the Sonos, I like the fact that it works with a wide array of music services. I’ve got my Amazon Music, Bandcamp, Google Play, and Slacker accounts set up on it. I’ve only got the free versions of the Amazon, Google, and Slacker services right now. The Amazon service is useful for all the music they make available to Prime members (and access to anything you’ve bought from them too of course). The Google Play service is useful, since I’ve got their Music Manager installed on my desktop PC, which automatically monitors my iTunes library and makes all of my MP3s available in the cloud. So, with that, I can stream pretty much any music I own. (And I still kind of like Slacker, even though I’m not paying for it anymore, so I don’t get it ad-free now.)
Sonos uses TuneIn to allow you to listen to radio stations on the device. You don’t need to actually set up an account with TuneIn, which is nice. I currently have about a dozen stations set up, including WNYC, WXPN, KCRW, KEXP, and several others. The quality varies; some stations have a pretty solid internet stream and some aren’t so good. Many years ago, I was in the habit of listening to XPN every morning while I was eating breakfast. I stopped doing that when I started having too much trouble picking them up. I’m giving that another try now, via the Sonos.
NTS is interesting, in that they have their own integration with the Sonos. It’s nothing fancy; it just gives you access to NTS 1 and NTS 2. I do listen to those stations quite a bit, so it’s nice to have, even though you can also find NTS 1 & 2 in TuneIn.
There are plenty of other integrated services, including Apple Music and Spotify, so all the “big guns” are covered. All these integrations are the main reason to chose a Sonos over a HomePod, I think.
I’ve also pointed the speaker at the UNC path to my Volumio, and it hasn’t had any problems seeing that as a NAS and playing the MP3s from it. I’m pretty sure AAC files work fine too. (I need to try some FLACs and see if they also work. They should.)
Speaking of the Volumio box, while I do still like it, and will probably still use it on its own occasionally, I think it’s probably going to become mostly just a NAS feeding the Sonos now. The Sonos seems to be better than the Volumio for most stuff. Volumio only integrates with Spotify and not any of the other music services (and I don’t use Spotify). And while Volumio supports streaming radio, I haven’t been able to get many stations to work with it. (All of which is perfectly reasonable for a little open source project running on a Raspberry Pi, of course. I’m not knocking Volumio.)
Sonos One also, of course, comes with Alexa. I honestly haven’t done much with that yet. I’ve been controlling the device mostly through the Mac and iOS apps. I have said “Alexa, play WXPN” to it, and it did indeed play WXPN, so that’s good. And I’ve used it to check the weather. But that’s really not that exciting to me. I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything that’s really worthwhile or interesting to do with Alexa, but haven’t come up with anything yet.
The Sonos apps, for both Mac and iOS, are perfectly workable, but not really that great. It’s easy enough to start playing a radio station, or to find and play an album in my music library, but it’s not as easy as, for instance, iTunes. I’m hoping that they do add AirPlay to the Sonos soon, so I can just route music from iTunes on my Mac to the Sonos. (And I’d also like AirPlay so I can route podcasts from Overcast to the Sonos.)
I guess that, if I’m embracing Sonos, then maybe I’m finally ready to give up on the idea of ever buying a new CD player and going back to listening to my CDs the old-fashioned way. It’s getting increasingly hard to walk into a store and buy a CD these days anyway. According to this article, Best Buy is going to stop selling them entirely, and Target is trying to change their sale terms in a way that might not work well for the music companies, and result in even fewer CDs stocked and sold in their stores. I can still get CDs from Amazon, though, and often for the same price as the MP3s, with free shipping (via Prime) and AutoRip, so I get the MP3s anyway. So I’ll probably keep buying CDs, even if I only ever treat the physical media as a backup for the MP3s.