Sonos has been making smart home multi-room speakers for a long time — I first listened to a ZonePlayer S5 a full eight years ago. But it’s 2017, and smart speakers can’t just be controlled from an app on a phone any more. They need to listen to your voice, and that’s exactly what the new Sonos One does, as well as controlling your life — both through Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant.
The Sonos One, which will cost the same $299 in Australia as the the existing PLAY:1 it will replace, is built upon the same chassis as that omnidirectional squarish enclosure. It differs mainly in that it has six far-field speakers built into the top, using active noise cancellation to hear voice in a room even when the One is playing loud music. Whenever you’re talking, too, the One will actively duck the music so it can better hear you.
Sonos has designed the One with the privacy of its users in mind, too — after some concern from customers — so there will be a visual cue whenever the microphone is enabled in the form of a bright LED up top. That light will switch on whenever the speaker is listening for voice, so if it’s off, your conversation isn’t being monitored. The company was intentionally explicit with its explanation, too: “The light is hardwired to the same circuit that powers the microphone array, so if the light is off, it means the microphone is off.”
Those microphones will let users issue voice commands to Sonos to start music playback, for example, although not all music services — like Apple Music — will work at launch. At least in the UK, US and Germany, Amazon’s Alexa will handle music playback through services like Pandora and TuneIn Radio. Importantly, you only need the one Sonos One to distribute music commands to all your Sonos speakers — you just have to work out which room in your house to put it in. Since it’s a set of far-field mics, too, you should be able to activate it without standing up close.
But it’s the integration with Amazon Alexa — and, some time in 2018, the Google Assistant — that distinguishes the Sonos One from the rest of the also-ran fleet of multi-room speakers that already exist. You’ll be able to use the Sonos One to do anything an Amazon Echo can do outside of just music control, and similarly any existing Sonos users with an Echo can now use that to control their speakers. When the Google Assistant arrives on the scene it’ll make the Sonos One the first smart speaker to support multiple (competing?) voice assistants.
We’ll have our hands on a Sonos One for review soon, so let us know if you have any particularly pressing questions. [Sonos]