It's been a long time coming, but Sonos today announced its first voice enabled smart speaker: Sonos One. Rather than building its own artificial intelligence, Sonos One will support Amazon Alexa at launch, and Google Assistant in 2018. This also makes it first smart home devices to support multiple software assistants, which is in line with Sonos' commitment to being "really open".
Managing Director of Sonos Australia Rennie Addabbo says the company is pitching Sonos One as a "smart speaker for music lovers".
"What's important to us is creating soul in people's homes," said Addabbo. "With music played out loud, we hope we can turn silent homes into soulful homes."
"The important thing for us is giving people choice and reducing their time to music, whether that's coming in through Spotify Direct, through the Sonos app, […] or through voice. For us, it's about getting to music as quickly as possible."
Sonos One is technically the first Alexa enabled speaker to launch in Australia (and the second smart speaker overall, after Google Home), but voice related functionality won't be "officially" be available until Amazon launches in Australia.
"As soon as Amazon and the Alexa experience comes to Australia, then we'll be right on the back of that with a free software update that will enable the Australian version of Alexa," said Addabbo. He did however acknowledge that those who know what they're doing will be able to go through "hoops" and enable Alexa on their device locally at launch.
In addition to using Alexa as a smart assistant for search related queries, smart home controls, or other third party skills, the big drawcard is voice control for music. The Alexa integration will allow you to use your voice to play music on any Sonos speaker you own (not just the Sonos One) or on any speaker group you've configured. Addabbo says you'll be able to use voice control to create groups in a future software update.
It is however worth noting that Alexa won't have access to your local music library, so you'll need to have a subscription to a compatible music service. At launch, these include Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, and TuneIn. Support for Spotify will be coming soon after launch, and Google Play Music support will presumably arrive alongside Google Assistant in 2018. Basic controls such as "play", "pause", "volume", and "skip" will still work regardless of your music source.
The Sonos One uses six microphones in a circular array to ensure its listening to the right person in a room. Any music you're playing will "duck" so that you don't have to shout commands over your tunes.
If you own an existing Sonos product and already have Amazon Echo (or another Alexa powered device), you'll be able to use that to drive any speaker in Sonos' current family. You'll just be talking to the Echo, rather than directly to a Sonos One.
While the Sonos One is almost identical in design to the company's existing entry-level Play:1 speaker, Addabbo says it's been redesigned from the ground up; the power cord and the base are the only components the pair share in common. The Sonos One does however use a similar speaker configuration of two Class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, and one mid-woofer. As such, the new speaker should offer the same audio quality as its predecessor, which in our opinion, was pretty great.
Despite the Sonos One's similarities to the Play:1, the One and the Play:1 will co-exist in stores for the foreseeable future. When asked about a potential price cut to the Play:1, Addabbo said Sonos has "nothing to announce at the moment".
On top of adding Google Assistant to Sonos One in 2018, Sonos is set to upgrade its entire range of speakers with support for Apple's AirPlay 2. If you've got an iPhone or iPad running iOS 11, this will allow you to beam music to Sonos speakers without the need to open the dedicated controller app. As a result, you'll also be able to use Siri to control music playback.
If you want to get your hands on what looks to be a very future-proof speaker, Sonos One will go on sale locally from October 24 at $299. You'll be able to get it an either all-white or all-black matte finish.