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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Best Sonos Speakers 2018

Best Sonos Speakers 2018
Sonos is famous for its wireless multi-room speakers but it can be hard to know which one is best for you. We explain everything you need to know about Sonos including the app, controller, music services, features, reviews and more.

Founded back in 2002 in California, Sonos has been setting the bar and leading the way in the multi-room speaker market for a long time. Designed to be easy to use, stylish and sound great, there’s little not to like about the Sonos range of speakers.

Sonos has been in the news lately for reportedly forcing users to opt-in to a new privacy policy, and threatening that their devices "may cease to function" if they don't. However, the company has since stated that "Without accepting the new policy, some services may cease to function over time. The device will not be bricked."

What is Sonos?
In the company’s own words: “Sonos is the smart speaker system that streams all your favourite music to any room, or every room. Control your music with one simple app, and fill your home with pure, immersive sound.”

That’s a pretty accurate summary and Sonos is easily one of the easiest wireless speaker systems for consumers to get to grips with and set up. Watch the video at the top of the page for a nice visual overview.

Sonos speakers simply connect to the internet and each other via your home Wi-Fi network and you control them with the Sonos app which is available for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows (download it via here). The speakers also have buttons for basic functions. The Sonos Controller app has replaced the physical controller which used to be the traditional method.

There was a time when you needed the Sonos Bridge to connect the speakers together but those days are gone - although the Sonos Boost is available if you have poor Wi-Fi in your home. You just need to connect one to your router instead to create a Sonos Mesh Network. A handy feature is that the Ethernet ports on the back of Sonos speakers can be used to provided connectivity to other devices, like laptops, via the Sonos Mesh Network.

Sonos speakers: Price and where to buy
Sonos has previously been out of many consumers’ budgets but the Play:1 means the system is affordable at £169. Prices then go up to £599 for the home theatre speakers.

However, Sonos has announced price increases across its range of speakers and devices that will come into effect on 23 February 2017. The prices are going up between 15- and 25 percent and you can see the prices before and after below followed by a comment from Sonos explaining the decision.

"Our prices are defined regionally; in the UK, this includes local taxation and import duties, but we pay for everything we make in US dollars. Over recent months, there has been a significant change on the US Dollar to GBP exchange rate. As a result, our existing pricing has become unsustainable and, like many other companies, we will have to increase prices for all products priced in GBP," said Sonos.

There are many places to buy Sonos speakers including the firm’s own shop but you can also buy Sonos speakers from Amazon, John Lewis, Richer Sounds and Currys.

Best Sonos speakers: How does it work?
One of the great things about Sonos is you can simply start with one speaker and add more as and when you like (or can afford more). You can have as few or as many as you like. Adding a new speaker into the system takes a matter of seconds via the app.

Each speaker is assigned a zone, or room, and you can play different music in each zone from a number of different sources (see below) or you can group them up so the same tunes are playing throughout the house - this is great for parties.

It’s easy to move speakers around and there are many different sizes and prices to suit different needs (see below).

Features include the ability to create a stereo pair if you get two identical speakers, using any Sonos speakers as an alarm (with your choice of music or radio station to wake up to) and plugging in devices directly with the line-in port on the back.

One of the latest features is True Play which uses the microphone on your iPhone or iPad to tune the Sonos speaker based on various factors like the size and shape or your room and even where the speaker is placed within it.

Sonos music services
Once you’ve got a speaker (or many speakers) set up, it’s time to play some music and the choice is vast.

Via the app, it’s easy to choose where to play music from which starts simply with any stored locally on the device where the app is installed. Sonos supports AirPlay but doesn’t have Bluetooth. You can also stream music which is on any computers that are on the same network as the Sonos system. There’s also support for NAS (network attached storage). 

Most users will want to use online music streaming services, though and there are plenty to choose from. There are too many to list here but the big names include: Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, Napster and Tidal. See also: What is the best music streaming service?

There’s also TuneIn Radio so you can access more than 1,000 internet radio stations for free.

Best Sonos speakers: Which Sonos speaker to buy?
Sonos splits its wireless multi-room system up into three categories: speakers, home theatre and components. We’re not really looking at components (the Connect and Connect:Amp) here as they’re not speakers but they are handy for adding an existing Hi-Fi, vinyl turntable or pair of speakers into the Sonos system.

Speakers
So, to start with the speakers, there are three sizes to choose from which gradually increase in price.

The range starts with the Play:1 (above) which is very compact and affordable making it suitable for anywhere in the house. It can even be used in the bathroom or as a rear surround in conjunction with the home theatre speakers - the other ones can but they are far less suitable due to the size and price. We’d say the Play:1 is the best Sonos speakers for bedrooms and other small rooms.

In the middle is the Play:3 which will fill larger rooms but still isn’t too big so can be tucked away on a shelf etc. Like the Play:1 you can wall mount the speaker if you want and you can also stand it on end. The Play:3 is the best Sonos speaker for the lounge unless you want to use it with the TV (see the Playbar below)

If you want to go big, the Play:5 has just been updated with a new design, touch sensitive controls and better sound quality. It is suitable for filling the largest of rooms making it the best Sonos speaker for big lounges and similar rooms. It, along with the Play:1 and Play:3, can be made into a stereo pair if you buy two.

Home theatre
Moving onto the home theatre options which start with the Playbar; Sonos’ soundbar which is made for TVs. It’s one of the best wireless speakers for TV because it looks great, can be controlled with your existing remote (via Infrared) and sounds excellent with its three-channel system.

If you want to make it a 3.1 system for more of a cinema style experience then the Sonos: Sub. It’s big and heavy but isn’t the kind of subwoofer you want to hide away behind the TV stand and it really does pack a punch.

Although the Sub is designed to be paired with the Playbar, you can actually match it up with the other speakers in the range and the Connect:Amp. As mentioned earlier, the regular Sonos speaker range can be used a rear surround speakers to create a wireless 5.1 home theatre.

Offering a slightly different experience to the excellent Playbar, the Playbase is 58mm thin and packs a whopping 10 drivers – six mid-range, three tweeters, and one woofer each with a Class-D amplifier. 

There’s no HDMI input but the Playbase has an optical port and like the Play:5 has touch sensitive controls and LED lights for volume control and playback.

Best Sonos Speakers 2018: Reviews

1. Sonos Play 1
  • RRP: $199
At £169 the Play:1 is compact, versatile and smashes the price barrier to the world of Sonos which previously existed. Amazingly, this speaker retains the excellent build quality and sound quality with which we’ve come to expect.

2. Sonos One
There are a few niggles, such as some Sonos specific voice commands we’d like, but we’re hopeful and expectant that some updated will improve things. Even so, the Sonos One is the best smart speaker we’ve tested.

It’s more expensive than rivals but really is worth the extra for a huge difference in sound quality - not forgetting about design and build, too. Things will get even better when Google Assistant comes along.

Read our Sonos One review.

3. Sonos Play 5 (2015)
  • RRP: $499
Aside from the lack of High-Res support, there's very little to dislike about the new Play:5. It looks great and sounds awesome with plenty of power on offer. We like the new touch sensitive controls, the wide range of streaming services on offer and a decent app which now has Trueplay. It's another set of high marks.

4. Sonos Play 3
  • RRP: $299
The Sonos Play:3 is a really impressive network music player that is ideal for music fans with smaller homes to fill with sound. For £259 you have an incredibly flexible music system that lets you choose from among millions of tracks as well as the contents of your locally-stored music and iTunes library.

5. Sonos Playbar
  • RRP: $699
The Sonos Playbar is a superb soundbar. Not only is it sleek and well-built, but it also provides unparalleled sound with plenty of extra features which make it even more desirable. We can't fault the Playbar, but the high price will put it out of reach for some.

6. Sonos Playbase
  • RRP: $699
The Playbase is expensive and you can certainly get ones a lot cheaper if you don't mind a simple setup. However, you pretty much get you what pay for here in terms of superior sound quality, design and all the additional features that come with a Sonos multi-room speaker.

We still prefer the older Soundbar, hence the lower chart position here.

7. Sonos SUB
  • RRP: £599
The Sonos SUB integrates into existing Sonos systems seamlessly, adds some welcome bass power, and transforms a good audio setup into a great one. We think its £599 retail price is a little expensive, and it does drive up the cost of an already-pricy Sonos setup - but we think it’s well worth it.

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