Once you decide that you want to invest in multiroom audio setup, the name Sonos tends to pop up a lot. Although the company has a great line of speakers, the best of which we’ve outlined here, it’s not the only option out there. 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.
Editor’s note: this article was updated March 18, 2021, to include the Apple HomePod Mini, Denon Home 150 Wireless, and Bose Home Speaker 500.
Looking into Bose? Go with the Bose Home Speaker 500
Bose is one of the leading manufacturers of portable audio thanks to products like the Bose QuietComfort 35 II and SoundLink Micro, but the company is also on the front lines of home audio. While it has plenty of speaker options available, a good place to start is the Home Speaker 500.
Bose Home Speaker 500
The speaker supports both Amazon Alexa and the 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.
There are plenty of ways for you to connect the speaker to a source device, be it over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 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 Google Nest Audio is a Sonos alternative for those who like simplicity
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, so you may find that you’re underwhelmed by its bass response, but for such a compact speaker, its sound is pretty good. It also offers Media EQ and Ambient IQ which adjust the sound signature and volume of your playback depending on the type of media being played and the level of ambient noise in the room.
Google Nest AudioFull Review
The Google Nest Audio can be connected to a limitless number of 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 from anywhere in the house. 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.
Denon Home 150 Wireless mimics the Sonos design
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 has a standard single unit design with one mid-woofer and a tweeter to pump out music. There are plenty of ports that line the speaker’s spine, including a USB port, so you can plug in a flashdrive filled with your favorite tunes.
Denon Home 150 Wireless
The Denon Home 150 Wireless supports AirPlay 2, and you can stream from a variety of music services that range from 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.
The Apple HomePod mini the best pick for Apple fans
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 USD, and emits 360° 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 HomePod mini
Apple inserted its S5 chip into the HomePod mini which enables computational audio; the speaker analyzes and optimizes the EQ and volume prior to playback. iPhone owners can hold their phones near the speaker which will detect the phone’s presence and display visual feedback on the top panel display. You can make announcements to the whole family via the intercom feature, which works with HomePods, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, AirPods, and even CarPlay.
Want to save cash? Get an Amazon Echo
What if you don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars? You can get the same multiroom effect by just picking up a few Amazon Echo 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.
Amazon Echo Dot
Plus, because Amazon Alexa is already in so many other speakers you’ll be able to connect them if you ever decide to upgrade.
Best Sonos alternatives: Notable mentions
- Amazon Echo (4th gen.): If you want better sound quality than the Echo Dot provides but still want the convenience of Alexa, this spherical smart home speaker is an affordable and quality option.
- 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 251 Environmental Speakers: This wireless outdoor speaker set is a great add on to your multiroom Bose ecosystem – multiroom includes outside! Keep in mind you’ll need a Bose-compatible amplifier to power these and connect them to multiroom wireless playback. They’re weather resistant and produce booming sound.
- Google Nest Mini: 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.
- LG MusicFlow: LG is also taking aim at the home audio market, and whether you want a smart speaker, smart display, or this awesome soundbar we reviewed, they’re worth checking out as well.
- Yamaha MusicCast 20: This cylindrical speaker features Wi-Fi connectivity as Airplay, Spotify Connect, and even Bluetooth which is missing on something like the Sonos One. Its sound quality, however, is a little lacking in the bass, so it could be paired with a subwoofer if you want a deeper sound.
What you should know
Apps that let you control your speakers
One thing to be aware of when it comes to multiroom 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 requires 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.
Music streaming compatibility
As you can see from this list there are plenty of choices for multiroom 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.
Versatile product line-up
This is something that might be more important for some people than others. If you’re going to be doing nothing but playing music then you’ll probably be fine with any of these options. Heck, even the new JBL Connect+ feature that you find on the JBL Flip 4 and Charge 4 will let you sync up to 100 speakers together to play music simultaneously. But if you’re going to 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 you don’t want to set up an entire 7.1 system and just want something like the Sonos Playbase for one TV, then 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, but what exactly does that mean? While it may seem confusing at first, it’s way more simple to understand then it appears so don’t be discouraged. These numbers just 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, then you have five different 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 you take into account the different kinds of speakers. In a 5.1 speaker setup you’ll have a left and right channel speakers, a center channel speaker, left and right surround speakers (usually next to, or behind the seating area), and of course the subwoofer. A 7.1 setup is this exact same setup but with two additional surround speakers that go behind you.
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Frequently Asked Questions
JBL's Bluetooth speakers like the Charge 4 have the ability to 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 multiroom audio. The main difference is that many home speakers stream over WiFi rather than Bluetooth, and this can help improve connection stability and sound quality.