Tech Guide

The Sonos One is the best speaker that has Amazon Alexa built-in

The Sonos One
Todd Haselton | CNBC
Key Points
  • The Sonos One is a great replacement for the Play:1
  • It adds Amazon Alexa support so it's smart, too
  • The audio experience is still top-notch

The Sonos One is the best speaker I've ever heard with Amazon Alexa built-in, but you don't need to upgrade if you already have Sonos speakers in your house.

I spent the last week or so with the Sonos One, adding it to an existing set of Sonos speakers in my house, and I think it's exactly where Sonos needed to take its line of speakers. On the other hand, folks who already have Sonos speakers at come can get similar functionality for less.

I'll explain in a bit.

What's the Sonos One?

It looks really similar to the original Sonos Play:1 (on right)
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The Sonos One replaces the Sonos Play:1 (on the left and right, respectively) as the company's new entry-level $199 speaker. If you haven't heard of Sonos, it made a name for itself offering really full-sounding speakers that can be placed in various rooms around the house. With connected functionality, users can stream from connected music services including Spotify, Apple Music and more. There's nothing better than walking from the living room to the dining room and into the kitchen hearing the same Miles Davis song play throughout, perfectly balanced as if you'd never walked away from the speaker.

What makes it special?

The Sonos One in white
Todd Haselton | CNBC

The Sonos Play One has embedded microphones and Amazon Alexa on board. That means you can ask the Sonos anything you'd ask one of Amazon's Echo products, such as the weather, to control your lights, to play certain songs and more. It works just as well as the Echo, I found, though lacks some of the Echo's more Amazon-y features, like the ability to call other Echoes. I also loved that, when asking it to play music, it sounded so much better than the Echo I already owned.

Some small changes

There are changes on the top of the Sonos
Todd Haselton | CNBC

There are a few small changes, like the new controls on the top of the Sonos that replace physical buttons found on the original Play:1. Otherwise, it's about the same size and weight as the original and still includes a regular power outlet (it can't run on just a battery) and an Ethernet jack in case your Wi-Fi isn't great. Setup is a cinch, as it always has been.

You can save money

There's a microphone for speaking to Alexa on the Sonos One
Todd Haselton | CNBC

You can save money if you already own a Sonos and still get really similar functionality. Amazon recently added a Sonos skill to its Alexa app, which means if you have an Echo Dot at home you can ask it to play music on one or multiple Sonos units. Sure, it's an added gadget, but an Echo Dot costs just $50 instead of $199 for a whole new speaker.

Some nit-picking

A jack for Internet on the back if your Wi-Fi isn't great
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I did notice a couple of oddities during my tests, though I was using beta software. Sometimes, for example, if I asked another Alexa to play music on my entire Sonos system, nothing would play. I assume this is because there might be interference on the system whereby it assumes I'd ask the new Sonos One to play the music instead of a separate Echo.

Also, I kind of wish the Sonos app would recognize all of my Echoes and allow me to use them as multi-room speakers, too. I understand that would be a nuisance, though, and kind of defeats the point of pushing consumers to buy additional Sonos units instead of more affordable Echo speakers.

Should you buy it?

You can select which rooms to play music in if you own multiple Sonos speakers
Todd Haselton | CNBC

I really like Sonos speakers and the Sonos One carries the torch quite well. As I mentioned earlier, there's really no need to buy one if you already have a Sonos Play:1, just pick up an Echo Dot. If you're new to the ecosystem, though, the Sonos One is a great speaker that I highly recommend -- just don't expect it to do every last thing an Amazon Echo can do.