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The Sonos One and Google Home are two speakers with a common goal: becoming a great sounding centerpiece of an audio setup, with enhanced streaming over wifi and voice control to integrate with your other devices.
Since the release of Amazon Alexa, products like these have popped up, combing Siri-like effects into what looks like a Bluetooth speaker. Despite that, the speakers always operate over wifi, usually in combination with an app with AI.
With the Sonos One costing nearly double the price, though, it’s good to take a look at the Google Home to see how it shakes out.
|Sonos One||Google Home|
|Speakers||2 drivers, 2 passive radiators||2 drivers, 2 passive radiators|
|Supported OSes||Android, iOS||Android, iOS|
|Supported Audio Formats||N/A||HE-AAC, LC-AAC+, MP3, Vorbis, WAV (LPCM), FLAC|
|Wireless||802.11a/b/g/n, 2.4 and 5 GHZ Wi-Fi, ethernet||802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5Ghz) Wi-Fi|
Sonos has made quite the splash in recent years, with compact devices that easy to use and pretty good sounding to boot. The One shacks up as the centerpiece of that, with Alexa integration, app control, and room-filling sound.
Design and Build
Sonos adopts a minimal aesthetic across all their devices, and the One is no exception to that. It’s really just a rectangle, with slightly curved edges, and an all-around grille. Even so, there’s a lot to appreciate about the look.
The soft rubberized shell contrasts nicely with an all metal grille that surrounds the entire body. Maybe it’s not the most resistant to damage, but it really isn’t supposed to be. The Sonos One is a competently built device, with plenty of protection, just don’t go too overboard.
The only area to interact with the speaker directly is on top. Sonos uses touch controls as opposed to buttons. It’s a small change, yes, but opens up the possibility to swipe the top of the speaker to change tracks, or simply tap to pause.
On the bottom, you’ll find threads for mounting the device. There are a number of wall mounts from Sonos and third parties to throw these puppies in the corner of any room. While you miss out on some of the 360-degree sound, the convenience of mounting is worth it.
The One is, essentially, a variety of Amazon’s Alexa. It uses the same voice control system, but upgrades the speaker to hold the Sonos name. However, in this configuration, there are quite a few downsides.
Like Alexa, there’s no Bluetooth connectivity. It seems a bit counterintuitive, considering it looks and functions almost exactly as a Bluetooth speaker, but the only way you can connect to the One is over wifi.
And, I do mean the only way. As mentioned in the above section, the only way to interact with the speaker is on top. There’s no external connections for lining in a 3.5mm jack or USB device. I understand Sonos is aiming at making this speaker easy to use, but opting out of these basic connections makes no sense.
It’s not all bad, though. Sonos is using the Alexa AI, so you can interact with the speaker with your voice as well. Commands work just as well as they do on the Amazon device, with a built-in microphone mute for skeptics.nIt has Google Assistant built-in, too, which works in the same way.
The latest version of the Sonos One works with AirPlay 2, on Apple devices with iOS 11.4 and higher. This is quick and easy to use if you have a compatible device.
You can control the speaker through the Sonos app as well. This one-stop-shop is intended to be a hub for the speaker but works much better in theory than it does in practice. It doesn’t feel well optimized, and I almost always found myself reaching directly for Spotify or Apple Music instead.
Despite hiccups in features, the sound of the Sonos One is top-notch. If you’ve used any Sonos device before, this should come as no surprise, but the One fills a room with sound, despite its small size. You’ve never heard Alexa sound so good.
Like the Alexa unit itself, the bass is surprisingly good for the size. Passive radiators create a consistent and room-filling low end that punches way about what the size would suggest. While it certainly won’t the place of a sub or larger speaker, it’s a fine substitute for convenience sake.
The sound itself is a stereo signal (meaning two channels inside the actual unit) but has more of a perception of a mono source. Since it is, in fact, a singular unit, a truly wide stereo field isn’t achieved when one speaker is on its own.
You can, however, pair two or more of these speakers together for multi-room configurations or stereo sound. Unfortunately, you can only pair with another One, though. Other Sonos devices, such as the Sonos:1 (don’t get too confused) and the PlayBase aren’t supposed.
And, they never will be. Sonos intends for this unit to standalone. While I appreciate the attention as far as ease of use goes, cutting it off from connecting to the rest of the ecosystem seems a bit far. As Sonos is focused on home theater setups mostly, allowing you to pair a One with your existing theater setup would be nice.
Sonos One Overall
The Sonos One is an incredibly well tuned speaker that’s easy to use and attractive enough. Missteps in pairing and external connections make this more of a closed-loop solution, but, if that fits your needs, it’s a great speaker, despite a slightly higher cost.
The Google Home is similar in almost every way, switching out Alexa control for Google Now. While I personally like the Google iteration of voice control better, there’s little that separates this speaker from the Sonos One.
Google Home Update
A quick update: Google Home is being replaced with the Google Nest Audio. You can still get the Google Home from some retailers, but the Google Nest Audio is now more readily available.
There are a few differences between the Google Nest Audio and Google Home. Google Nest Audio is a rectangular speaker. It’s more compact and sleek than Google Home.
It also has a few differences in terms of specs. They’ve added Vorbis and Opus to the line-up of supported audio formats but haven’t yet updated to Bluetooth 6.0.
The last thing to note is the sound quality: Google has been working hard to improve audio quality, and the Nest Audio has a larger woofer (75mm) and a 19mm tweeter. This cuts out some of the issues of distortion at high volumes. It’s also been tweaked slightly for improved bass without distortion, and it’s overall louder at max volume.
It’s also, impressively, a little cheaper.
Now that we’ve given you that update, onto our original thoughts on Google Home!
Design and Build
The look is one major difference. Google had created was seems to be a completely new shape with the speaker, that’s slightly cylindrical, but with a larger base and slanted top. It’s a unique look that doesn’t push the boundaries too much.
The grille only covers with bottom of the speaker, the rest reserved for white plastic. The real star of the show, though, is that slanted top. This is where you’ll find all of the controls for Google Home.
Despite being similar to the Sonos One, I prefer Google’s take on touch controls. There are no indicators on top. Instead, you simple tap the top of the speaker to pause, and run your finger in a circle to adjust volume. It seems there may be a conflict here in inputting controls, but I never had any issues.
There are also four LEDs on top, each with one of the Google Now colors. These LEDs light up whenever you’re inputting a command, letting you know that Now is receiving it. If you don’t want it to listen, a simple mute button on the back will turn all LEDs orange, letting you know that the microphone is cut off.
The versatility of Google Home is what makes it shine. This speaker can be used for just about anything, with multi-room support, plenty of apps, and Google Now integration to boot. It’s a more familiar system, one that uses the largest search engine in the world to respond to user input.
However, asking the Home to tell you a joke isn’t the true power of the device. It can sync across many different things you do, allowing a single source of audio. For example, you can easily pair with your TV and say, “Hey Google, play Stranger Things on Netflix,” and it’ll pull it up.
This versatility is what makes the Google Home more of a smart assistant and less of a speaker. It’s not intended just to be setup and used as a radio occasionally. This is the full power of Google, connecting all your digital devices together.
The Home isn’t the only speaker in the line, either. Unlike Sonos, Google Home can connect to the Home Mini or Home Max as well. Sure, it’s still a close system, but a variety of different speakers for a home theater setup that doubles with voice control is a huge plus.
Unfortunately, the same excellent sound from the Sonos doesn’t carry over here. You’ll still get great sounding audio, but not with the attention to detail of the One. At almost $100 cheaper, though, it’s hard to complain.
Google uses the same configuration, with two drivers and two passive radiators. The sound is, technically, stereo, but sounds mono as it is a singular source. The radiators do great work, however, projecting bass around a room.
The sound truly improves when paired with other Google devices, though. As a wide variety of devices are used, the full spectrum of sound opens up. The Max is good centerpiece of bass, and Mini work their way around the room for some depth in the stereo field.
Unfortunately, like the Sonos One, though, there’s no external input. In this case, while still a bummer, I’m much more open to accept the change. Google Home is set up as a hub for everything you do, not just a speaker, making the omission make much more sense.
Google Home Overall
The Google Home is a centerpiece of an entertainment setup. It has a deeper integration with other devices unlike the Sonos One and, despite being a closed system, there are options for different sizes of speakers at different price points.
As voice control rises in popularity, more of these speakers will assuredly hit the market. Right now, though, the Sonos One and Google Home are both excellent options, with small and convenient sizes and plenty of features to boot.
However, Google’s iteration seems to be a much more realized version of the tech, with Sonos feeling like a Bluetooth speaker tacked on with Amazon Alexa. While the One will give you better sound, there are far more options with Home.
Although, it’s your choice, so which one are you going with? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.