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Best Sonos alternatives
Once you decide to invest in a multi-room audio setup, the name Sonos tends to pop up a lot. Although Sonos has a great line of speakers, it’s not the only option. Whether you don’t want to spend too much, want better quality sound, or maybe just a different aesthetic for your home setup, these are the best Sonos alternatives you can get.
For our top five picks, you can find the frequency response charts at the end of each image gallery, apart from those which we have not had a chance to create charts for yet. You can learn more about how to read our charts here.
Why is the Bose Home Speaker 500 the best Sonos alternative?
Bose is one of the leading manufacturers of portable audio, thanks to products like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and Bose SoundLink Micro. Still, the company is also on the front lines of home audio. While plenty of Bose speakers are available, a good place to start is the Home Speaker 500.
The Home Speaker 500 sounds great at any volume, which isn’t always the case. Sometimes, stout speakers like this one create distortion at high volumes, but you can max the output out with the Speaker 500, and things still sound crystal clear. Two 2.5-inch drivers sit on opposite sides of the speaker for pretty good stereo separation.
There are plenty of ways to connect the speaker to a source device, be it over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3.5mm input, Apple AirPlay 2, or Spotify Connect. You can control playback through the Bose Music app or via the touch presets on the top panel. You can use Bose SimpleSync to synchronize music playback with other compatible Bose speakers.
The speaker supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for hands-free voice access, offering more flexibility than something like a proprietary Google or Amazon smart speaker. There are some limitations to functionality: you can only initiate calls through the Alexa virtual assistant. Bose engineered the Home Speaker 500 with a small footprint and plenty of processing power.
An LCD screen displays the song you’re listening to with its corresponding album art. The screen quality isn’t the sharpest, but it’s nice to see what you’re listening to at a glance. For most people, the Speaker 500 is plenty for daily use.
Best for Google fans: Google Nest Audio
The Google Nest Audio is a compact, pillow-shaped smart home speaker. Its three far-field microphone array ensures that your commands will be heard and that anyone you’re calling can understand you. The Nest Audio has a neutral-leaning frequency response with heavily attenuated low frequencies. Its bass response may underwhelm you, but for such a compact speaker, its sound is pretty good. It also offers Media EQ and Ambient IQ, which adjusts the sound signature and volume of your playback depending on the type of media being played and the ambient noise level in the room.
The Google Nest Audio can be connected to many other Google Home speakers within your house. This way, you can stream multi-room audio, send messages to your housemate in another room, and access Google Assistant anywhere. The integrated Chromecast makes it easy to stream music from your smartphone, tablet, or computer directly into the speaker, and it supports all your favorite streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music.
Best for sound quality: Denon Home 150 Wireless
Denon makes quality home audio products, and the Home 150 Wireless is a nice smart speaker for listeners who value functionality and sound quality. This standard single-unit design has one mid-woofer and a tweeter to pump out music. Plenty of ports line the speaker’s spine, including a USB port to plug in a flash drive filled with your favorite tunes.
The Denon Home 150 Wireless supports AirPlay 2, and you can stream from various music services, including Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, and more. Similar to the Bose Home Speaker 500, Denon’s smart speaker has customizable shortcut controls on its top panel. Not all is perfect with this smart speaker: you need an Amazon Alexa speaker to pair with it if you want direct voice access to Alexa.
Best for Apple fans: Apple HomePod mini
The Apple HomePod mini usurped the Apple HomePod, and it’s surprisingly affordable, which isn’t very Apple-like. This smart speaker debuted for just $99, and emits 360-degree audio. It supports multi-room playback if you have multiple HomePod mini speakers in your house and supports playback from popular music streaming services like Apple Music, Radio.com, TuneIn, and more.
Apple inserted its S5 chip into the HomePod mini, enabling computational audio; the speaker analyzes and optimizes the EQ and volume before playback. iPhone owners can hold their phones near the speaker to detect the phone’s presence and display visual feedback on the top panel. You can make announcements to the whole family via the intercom feature, which works with HomePods, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, AirPods, and CarPlay.
Best value: Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen)
What if you don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars? You can get the same multi-room effect by just picking up a few Amazon Echo Dot (5th Gen) devices and grouping them together. It’s a bit of a hack as these aren’t going to sound anywhere near as nice as the other options on this list, but it’s one of the cheapest ways to get audio in any room. Plus, because Amazon Alexa is already in so many other speakers, you can connect them if you ever decide to upgrade.
You can also get some Amazon Echo (4th Gen) speakers if you want better sound quality than the Echo Dot (5th Gen) provides but still want the convenience of Alexa. This spherical smart home speaker is an affordable and quality option, and it also functions as a smart hub — a feature the Echo Dot (5th Gen) can’t boast.
Want a bigger sound from Apple? Get the Apple HomePod (2nd generation)
A bigger version of the HomePod mini, the Apple HomePod (2nd generation) gets plenty loud for its size. The woven fabric feels just as good on the HomePod (2nd generation) as on the mini. Inside, the speaker is decked out with a woofer and five tweeters. Apple also packed in some microphones to pick up your voice, even if the speaker is emitting music.
Predictably, the HomePod (2nd generation) works best with an iPhone. In fact, the speaker is pretty useless if you have an Android phone. You can control the HomePod (2nd generation) directly from the Home app on iOS/iPadOS. Playing content from Apple Music or Apple Podcasts is seamless, and any product that supports AirPlay can easily connect to the HomePod (2nd generation).
Best Sonos alternatives: Notable mentions
- Amazon Echo Studio: This honking speaker is great for anyone already invested in the Amazon Alexa system. It supports 3D audio playback for Dolby Atmos content and is perfect if you subscribe to Amazon Music HD.
- Bluesound Pulse Mini 2i: This smart speaker costs quite a few pretty pennies, and it’s compatible with Alexa and Siri. You can stream over your Wi-Fi network or over Bluetooth. If you choose the latter, it supports aptX HD playback.
- Bose Portable Smart Speaker ($399 at Amazon): The Bose Portable Smart Speaker works well and has impressive bass for such a small speaker. It works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Plus, full access to every smart function is dependent on your region of the world.
- Bose 251 Environmental Speakers: This wireless outdoor speaker set is a great add-on to your multi-room Bose ecosystem – multi-room includes outside! Keep in mind you’ll need a compatible amplifier to power these and connect them to multi-room wireless playback. They’re weather-resistant and produce booming sound.
- Google Nest Mini (2nd generation) ($29.99 at Best Buy): Just like the Google Nest Audio, the Mini variant is a great, affordable smart speaker. You can even hang the mini from a wall with specific hardware.
What you should know about the best Sonos alternatives
A lot of speakers have companion apps
One thing to be aware of when it comes to multi-room audio is that regardless of which ecosystem you choose, you’re going to need an app. Unless you’re connecting via Bluetooth, basically all wireless speakers that let you play music simultaneously in multiple rooms require a dedicated app to help you keep everything under control. Another thing to be aware of is whether or not the apps are available on your OS of choice and notable features. For example, the Sonos app is available on both Android and iOS, but the Trueplay speaker tuning feature is iOS-only.
Look out for music streaming compatibility
As you can see from this list, there are plenty of choices for multi-room audio, but there are even more options when it comes to music streaming services. In a perfect world, everything would work everywhere, but that isn’t the case here. Some services work on some platforms, while others do not.
So if you have your entire collection in the Google Play Music library, you should make sure that whatever you’re investing in is compatible. If you’re strictly a streamer through a service like Spotify, you’ll probably be fine in most cases, but it’s still worth double-checking just for good measure.
There are specialized speakers for different uses
This is something that might be more important for some people than others. If you’re only playing music, then you’ll probably be fine with any of these options. Heck, even the new JBL Connect+ feature on the JBL Flip 5 and Charge 5 will let you sync up to 100 speakers together. But if you want to use speakers for home entertainment like gaming or watching movies, it matters what kind of speakers are available.
For example, if you’re trying to set up surround sound for your living room, it’s probably a good idea to make sure that whichever ecosystem you choose doesn’t only sell small satellite speakers because you’ll also need a subwoofer. If want something simple like the Sonos Playbase for one TV, you’ll need to make sure that whichever brand you choose has something that fits your use case. Sonos is great at having multiple speakers for multiple purposes, but they aren’t the only company to do so.
What is a 5.1 or 7.1 channel setup?
If you’re looking into different home audio speakers, you might find terms being thrown around like 5.1 or 7.1 compatible. What exactly does that mean? While it may seem confusing at first, it’s way simpler to understand than it appears, so don’t be discouraged. These numbers refer to how many speakers you have hooked up at once, with the “.1” being a subwoofer. So if you have a 5.1 speaker setup, you have five speakers and a sub. The same is true with a 7.1 speaker setup. It just means that you have seven different speakers and a sub. Easy right?
It gets a little more complicated when considering the different kinds of speakers. In a 5.1 speaker setup, you’ll have left and right channel speakers, a center channel speaker, left and right surround speakers (usually next to or behind the seating area), and the subwoofer. A 7.1 setup is the same setup but with two additional surround speakers behind you.
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Frequently asked questions about the best Sonos alternatives
JBL’s Bluetooth speakers, like the Charge 4, can sync up with up to 100 other JBL speakers through JBL Connect+, meaning you could theoretically put one in every room of your house and call it multi-room audio. The main difference is that many home speakers stream over Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth, which can help improve connection stability and sound quality.
Sonos is infamous for having a convoluted setup process, almost all of which is facilitated by the Sonos app. The process is not friendly to those who struggle with technology. On the other hand, Bose products typically have a pretty streamlined setup process that is more accessible to those with less tech experience.
Sonos has long been a go-to for multi-room audio aficionados, but the landscape is evolving. Brands like Bose, Google, Denon, and Apple are stepping up with compelling alternatives. While “better” is subjective and hinges on individual preferences, there’s no denying that options like the Bose Home Speaker 500 or the Apple HomePod mini bring their own unique strengths to the table, depending on what ecosystem you are in.
Absolutely. While this article delves into the world of Sonos alternatives, it’s by no means a dismissal of Sonos. The brand remains a heavyweight in the multi-room audio scene, revered for its seamless integration and robust sound. Sonos offers a diverse range of products that cater to different needs and budgets. So, if you like their ecosystem and quality, they’re very much worth the investment.
Sonos, while popular among mainstream consumers for its user-friendly setup and reliable performance, might get mixed reviews from hardcore audiophiles. They often lean towards setups that offer the pinnacle of sound fidelity or granular customization. That said, Sonos does hold its own in terms of sound quality, but those seeking the utmost in audio precision might explore other specialized setups.