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Sonos One (Gen 2)
February 8, 2019
Original: $219 USD
16.2 x 12 x 12 cm (speaker)
2m (power cable)
It’s painful to sacrifice sound quality for smart features when buying a home audio system. Luckily, with the Sonos One (Gen 2) that’s not much of a concern. This smart speaker has built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and it sounds pretty good for something so little. You can connect it for multiroom playback, and it’s built for easy control via the Sonos app or with just your voice.
We spent about a week testing out the Sonos One (Gen 2) and learning all of its quirks. Let’s get into it.
What’s it like to use the Sonos One (Gen 2)?
The Sonos One (Gen 2) comes wrapped in a protective sock and is fairly compact at 16.2cm tall. A metal grille wraps around the speaker with a matte black surface on the top and backside. Touch control icons are etched into the speaker’s touch control panel, which accumulates a lot of fingerprints. Otherwise, the Sonos One (Gen 2) has a cute rectangular design without harsh corners, and its bottom has silicone feet to ensure a soft landing.
The included power cable fits flush with the speaker’s bottom edge, making a clear statement that this speaker isn’t meant to be unplugged and taken around. That’s right, the Sonos One (Gen 2) doesn’t have a battery—it’s supposed to stay in one place on your bookshelf or countertop for its whole life. You can power the speaker by plugging it into a wall outlet and it needs to remain plugged in to function. After streaming music through the Sonos One (Gen 2) for an hour, the back of the speaker heats up a little. While it feels warm to the touch, it doesn’t seem like cause for concern.
You can place the Sonos One (Gen 2) just about anywhere and it will sound good.
You can move the speaker from room to room after unplugging it, just make sure to go into the app to change the room your speaker is associated with. Fortunately, you don’t have to re-do the Wi-Fi setup process when you unplug and re-plug the speaker. There’s also an ethernet input on the back of the speaker if you’re old school.
Sonos advertises its Sonos One (Gen 2) as humidity-resistant, but it is not water-resistant and does not have any official IP rating. This means you can keep it on your bathroom counter for jamming out in the shower, but you shouldn’t actually bring it into the shower with you.
How do you control the Sonos One (Gen 2)?
The Sonos One (Gen 2) has touch controls on its top for media playback and smart assistant functions. Here’s a table outlining the things you can do with the speaker’s touch controls:
Tap the play/pause button once
Tap the right-side button with four dots once
Tap the left-side button with four dots once
Skip forward one track
Swipe across all the touch controls from left to right
Skip backward one track
Swipe across all the touch controls from right to left
Group the speaker with a "room" that is playing
Tap and hold the play/pause button
Enable/disable the microphone
Tap the microphone button once
What does the Sonos app do?
You’ll need to download the Sonos app (iOS, Android, FireOS, Windows, macOS) to set up this speaker (more on that later). A big part of the smart experience of the Sonos One (Gen 2) is its companion app, and you can’t really use the speaker without downloading it. If you don’t like speaker apps and complicated setup processes, we recommend looking into other less intelligent speakers.
Once you download it, you can engage Sonos Radio, which is a nice tool for discovering music within different genres and categories. If you really like it, you can sign up for the paid Sonos Radio HD for more control and HD audio. Also, with the Sonos One (Gen 2), you can set your favorite songs as alarms and have them play in certain rooms of your Sonos ecosystem.
The app’s media player interface is nice and easy to navigate, but my iPhone’s lock screen only displays the last song I played in the Spotify app, and doesn’t display anything when I play music from the Sonos app. I can still use the Sonos media player when I unlock my phone, but it’s a quirk nonetheless.
As with all smart speakers, you can browse Instagram and TikTok on your smartphone and the audio will come through its own speakers without interrupting streaming playback through the Sonos One (Gen 2).
Yes, you can control playback on this Sonos speaker from your favorite streaming service. You can even use AirPlay media from your Apple device and connect streaming services to the Sonos app.
You have to connect your Spotify account to both the Google Assistant app and again to the Sonos app for it to work with voice assistant control, touch controls, and the Sonos app.
How does the Sonos One (Gen 2) smart assistant work?
Touch controls and the Sonos app aren’t the only way to control the Sonos One (Gen 2). You can also activate it with just your voice. Whether you select Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, simply call out the wake phrase and the speaker’s far-field microphone array should pick it up. The speaker’s mic setup uses beamforming and multi-channel echo cancellation to increase its speed and accuracy. After testing the mic system from various distances, I can confidently say, “Hey Google” to the Sonos One (Gen 2) at a normal speaking volume and trust that it will hear me.
The smart assistant will take commands to carry out a multitude of tasks, including playing and controlling music, setting alarms, accessing information, and more. For details about what each smart assistant can do, visit the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa information pages.
The business of smart speakers involves sharing access to a lot of your accounts and a general degree of privacy invasion, and you will simply have to accept that to use something like the Sonos One (Gen 2). Luckily you can disable the microphone on this speaker, and the speaker will indicate to you with an LED light that the mic is in fact turned off. Even when it is disabled in this mode, you can still access your smart assistant by pressing and holding the microphone icon on the touch panel.
Yes! I have an iPhone, so to get the Google Assistant to work, I use the Google Assistant app. Only after connecting it to my Google account does this feature work for me.
How do you set up the Sonos One (Gen 2)?
The Sonos One (Gen 2) takes a bit of time to set up and is fairly complicated for such a simple speaker. The product comes with a quick start guide, but most of the instructions for setup are in the Sonos app.
When you download the app it will prompt you to create a Sonos account with your email address, which is only the first annoyance. You’ll have to enable location tracking so Sonos can find your speaker and Wi-Fi network. Even though the speaker operates over Wi-Fi, the Sonos app forces you to enable Bluetooth when setting your speaker up. This is so it can connect your speaker to your account and share Wi-Fi information from your device to the speaker. You’ll also need to enable your microphone during setup, but at least you can promptly disable this from the touch panel. That said, you’ll want to keep it on if you plan to use hands-free voice commands.
Getting the Sonos One (Gen 2) to connect to my Wi-Fi was kind of a hassle because the Sonos app won’t recognize my Wi-Fi as being compatible with the Sonos system. Thankfully, I can connect it from my iPhone’s Wi-Fi settings, though this is a bit of a workaround. An LED on the speaker indicates if you are connected, muted, if the mic is activated, and if an error has occurred.
Once you connect the Sonos One (Gen 2) to the same Wi-Fi as your smartphone, the app will prompt you to designate the speaker to a room with a label. This will come in handy if you plan on expanding your setup to multiple rooms. It will let you stream certain media to certain rooms as well as use stereo playback and home theater setups.
How does the Sonos One (Gen 2) sound?
The Sonos One (Gen 2) produces sound from its front side with the Sonos label and has really nice sound quality thanks to its two Class-D digital amplifiers, tweeter, and midwoofer. You may be thinking that the speaker won’t produce loud enough bass frequencies because it has a midwoofer rather than a subwoofer, but the bass is perfectly fine for casual listening.
Lows, mids, and highs
In chemtrails by Lizzy McAlpine, the simple repeating bass line doesn’t overwhelm the singer’s soft vocals. In more instrumentally busy songs, like Any Day Now by Trousdale, the Sonos One (Gen 2) reproduces a consistent output. The group’s lush harmonies don’t get drowned out by the guitar strumming, bass line, or upbeat drums.
The Sonos app offers pretty rudimentary controls for equalizing the speaker’s sound, but they get the job done. You can toggle bass and treble frequencies and give the speaker’s volume a boost. The speaker sounds nice at both low and high volumes, and can definitely get loud enough to fill a story of your house with sound.
If you have an iOS device you can take advantage of Sonos Trueplay audio. This is a software feature that measures the acoustics of the room your speaker is in and then fine-tunes its audio output for maximum quality.
Once you’ve set the speaker to a room in the Sonos app and placed the speaker in its spot, you can tune it with Trueplay. This involves making sure the room is as quiet as possible and waving your device around the room using its microphone to detect the room’s acoustics.
Hold up! Something’s missing:
This section is typically where we display a frequency response chart to show you exactly where the audio output shines and where its deficiencies lie. We’re still ironing out our standardized speaker tests with the appropriate support equipment to update our testing and data collection. It will take a bit to get everything fleshed out, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and performance plots. These will be made obvious by a new chart aesthetic.
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
Should you buy the Sonos One (Gen 2)?
The Sonos One (Gen 2) is a good buy if you’re ready to dive headfirst into the world of smart homes. It’s a nice-looking compact speaker that sounds great and is easy to control once you’ve set it up. The speaker is compatible with any smartphone and offers a couple of extra perks for iPhone users. The touch controls are responsive as is the smart assistant microphone. Being able to expand endlessly upon your Sonos ecosystem with other speakers is pretty cool.
However, the Sonos One (Gen 2) isn’t without its drawbacks. I’m not too fond of its tendency to highlight fingerprints. And anyone who is worried about privacy won’t be thrilled with Sonos’s setup process, not to mention how much of a pain this process is in general. This speaker is also a bit pricier than other smart speakers out there, perhaps with Sonos’ sound quality to thank, but expensive nonetheless.
If you already have a Sonos One (Gen 1), getting a whole new Sonos One (Gen 2) probably isn’t worth it. The key differences are that the newer speaker has an updated processor and uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) during setup. If you want to get a 2nd Gen speaker in addition to your 1st Gen, you’ll be able to hook them up to one another in stereo playback or a home theater setup, and add both to your Sonos ecosystem.
The Sonos One SL does not have a microphone or smart features, but is otherwise just like the Sonos One. If you have a Sonos One (Gen 2) and a Sonos One SL, you can stereo pair them as well. Sonos actually recommends this rather than stereo pairing two Sonos Ones because you don’t need two voice-enabled speakers in one room.
(Click the image to expand.)
What should you get instead of the Sonos One (Gen 2)?
Sonos isn’t the only brand of smart speaker on the market. Anyone who is deep in the Apple universe should look into the Apple HomePod mini, a pint-sized smart speaker that uses Siri. Google Pixel users should consider the Google Nest Audio, and Amazon lovers the Amazon Echo (4th Gen). If you get the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) you can actually use it to control Sonos devices.
If you want something portable but not completely devoid of smart features, check out the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II. This Bluetooth speaker has an IP55 rating and a 17-hour battery life, making it a great on-the-go companion. It doesn’t have a built-in smart assistant but you can hook it up to your smartphone’s native assistant. You can also integrate the SoundLink Revolve+ II into your Bose home sound system via Bose SimpleSync.
Frequently asked questions about the Sonos One (Gen 2)
Sonos products need to operate over 802.11b/g so if your router is set exclusively to 802.11ac or 802.11n Wi-Fi you may need to fiddle with some settings to get it to work. Most routers will allow you to use multiple protocols at once, but certain routers may require you to adjust your whole house’s Wi-Fi to 802.11b/g, slowing down the internet speed for every device in your house.
Fortunately, if you find yourself in this sticky situation, you don’t need to return your Sonos One (Gen 2) to the store just yet. There is a workaround with SonosNet, a mesh network that connects your Sonos devices to one another without using Wi-Fi. SonosNet requires one of the Sonos speakers in your house to be connected to your internet router via ethernet cable, and the rest can be placed anywhere in the house for wireless connection.
Yes, in the Sonos app you can filter out explicit songs, set maximum volume limits, and disable touch controls.
No, the Sonos One (Gen 2) doesn’t support Bluetooth playback. Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is just so the speaker can communicate with your device during set up.