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The Complete Sonos Buying Guide: Every Speaker, Soundbar and Amp Explained
We break down every product that Sonos currently makes. Including the new Era 100 and Era 300 speakers.
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Sonos basically invented the multi-room category of home audio, starting as a software company in the early 2000s before integrating its Wi-Fi-enabled network into hardware a few years later. Its first amplifier (which became the Connect:Amp) and subsequent speakers were great, but the real beauty of Sonos is its ecosystem of audio products that make listening to music at home really easy.
Sonos Era 300 Read More
Sonos Era 100 Read More
Sonos One Read More
Sonos One SL Read More
Sonos Five Read More
The magic of Sonos is the ability to group any number of Sonos speakers together, provided they are all connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and have them all playing in sync throughout the house. Alternatively, they can all be playing different tunes if you'd like. And it's all controlled through a smartphone app.
Imitation is the finest form of flattery, so, over the years, a lot of companies have tried to beat Sonos at its own game. New wireless protocols have been introduced, such as DTS Play-Fi, Google’s Chromecast, Bluesound and Apple AirPlay, which emulate what Sonos does. Some big companies, most notably Google and Bose, also have their own line of multi-room speakers.
Under that pressure, Sonos has introduced smaller and more affordable speakers, like the Play:1, giving more people a gateway into Sonos. Under new leadership — after a decade in charge, CEO John MacFarlane stepped down in 2017 and handed over the reins to Patrick Spence — the company is now in the business of producing smart speakers that work with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant.
In 2023, Sonos’s bread-and-butter is still multi-room audio, but the breadth of its entire ecosystem has expanded a lot. Its line of soundbars (as well as its connected amplifiers) have helped it weave its way into the home theater so that now you can integrate your TV into its greater audio system. Its connected receivers and amplifiers have helped Sonos become a solution for people who already have some part of the system, like a vintage receiver or passive speakers — which is most people — and don’t want to start over. And now Sonos even has several portable speakers.
The bottom line: Sonos is still the best wireless home audio ecosystem out there and Sonos is worth it in every sense.
The Different Kinds of Trueplay?
A huge part of listening to a speaker is the room that it's in. Sound reflects off your walls, ceiling and furniture and, ultimately, this can have a huge impact on a speaker's sound quality. Sonos’s way of combating this issue is with Trueplay, a technology first launched in 2015 that tunes your Sonos speaker so that it sounds best for the room it’s in.
It's 2023 and Sonos makes a lot more speakers and soundbars than it used to — and not every one of these speakers supports the same kind of Trueplay technology. There are technically three different types of Trueplay technology that you need to know about.
• Trueplay (Advanced Tuning): This is the traditional TruePlay method that most of Sonos's speakers and soundbars support. It requires you to flip your iPhone or iPad upside down and wave it around the room. As your Sonos speaker plays some bizarre sounds, your iPad or iPad calculates how sound reflects around the room, and then the speaker tunes itself based on those calculations. This traditional Trueplay method is only supported on iPhones and iPads – not Android smartphones — and you need to initiate via the Sonos app every time you want to retune your speaker (which you should do every time you move the speaker).
• Automatic (Trueplay): This is a type of Trueplay that is specific to Sonos's portable speakers, the Move and Roam. Instead of having to initiate Trueplay via the Sonos app like you would most of its other speakers, Sonos's portable speakers are able self tune themselves on the fly. The idea is that since you're constantly moving them around, they need to be quickly tuned for the space that they are in. Since it uses the built-in microphones of the speaker, it's able to work whether you have an iPhone or Android smartphone.
• Quick Tuning: This is a new kind of Trueplay that was introduced in early 2023 with the Era 100 and Era 300. It's unique because it's specifically designed as a Trueplay-type solution for Android users. It uses the built-in mics on an Era 300 or Era 100, rather than the mics in your iPhone or iPad, to analyze the room and improve its overall sound. This process needs to be initiated in the Sonos app.
Of course, not everybody wants technology to tune their speakers for them. So if you get a Sonos speaker, you don’t have to tune it with Trueplay. And if you do, but then regret it, you can turn Trueplay off at any time: Go into the Sonos app > select "Room Settings" > select the speaker > select Turn Trueplay off.
What Is Sonos Voice Control?
Sonos released its first "smart" speaker, the One, back in 2017, and today many of its speakers and soundbars offer this same smart functionality. Effectively, you can integrate them with either Alexa or Google Assistant (but not Siri) and then use voice commands to control music, set timers, ask questions about the weather and so on.
Then in mid-2022, Sonos announced its own smart voice assistant, called Sonos Voice Control, that works exclusively on Sonos speakers. It's designed to answer music requests and adjust various settings on your Sonos speakers; a "Hey Sonos" request can change songs, adjust volume and even group and ungroup Sonos speakers.
The idea with Sonos Voice Control is it offers more privacy and security than other voice assistants. It can't answer questions about other things, like whether or trivia or most other things. The other neat thing is that you can integrate your Sonos speaker with Alexa and Sonos Voice Control simultaneously, so you'll be able to use "Hey Sonos" or "Alexa" voice requests on the same speaker.
Note: At the time of writing (March 2023), Sonos's future with Google Assistant is a little bit unclear. The two companies have several on-going legal battles and this unfortunately had some trickle-down effects on Sonos speakers. For example, you can't integrate Sonos Voice Control and Google Assistant on the same Sonos speaker. Maybe most importantly, Google Assistant isn't supported on the newest Sonos speakers, the Era 100 and Era 300. It's only supported on Sonos older speakers and soundbars at this time.
How to Get a Great Deal on Sonos Speakers
The Upgrade Program: As of November 2020, Sonos has introduced a new Upgrade Program that allows long-time Sonos owners to buy new Sonos speakers and get a 15-percent discount. This is not a trade-in program; you'll still keep your old Sonos speakers. It's an initiative by Sonos to encourage long-time listeners to expand their system with some newer products.
Shop Certified Refurbished: Sonos refurbishes many of its speakers, amps and soundbars and sells them at a discount. The catch is that it regularly changes which of its various speakers are available in its "Certified Refurbished" section, so you might not be able to get the exact model of refurbished speaker you're looking for. For Sonos's latest refurbished offerings, click here.
Because Sonos speakers are essentially computers, they don't stay supported forever. Their sound-making abilities may remain intact, but their connectivity features get left behind. It's the tradeoff for the simplicity Sonos provides. Old-school vintage speakers may last for a generation, but they're also way more difficult to stream Spotify to.
Older Sonos products fall into one of two categories: Discontinued, and unsupported.
Discontinued products may still be for sale by Sonos, as refurbished models. Most importantly, they are supported by Sonos' latest "S2" app which means that although they are no longer top-of-the-line, they will place nicely in a Sonos system that contains more current speakers. Buying a discontinued Sonos product can be a good get if you're looking for a deal and understand it may become unsupported sooner than the newer products.
Unsupported products are not compatible with Sonos' newest "S2" app. They can still function, but they need to be grouped on their own separate network, and Sonos may not support this workaround forever. Buying unsupported products is almost certainly not a good idea (unless you are getting them at garage sale prices), and they're included below primarily for posterity.
As an audio ecosystem, Sonos plays well with a lot of different streaming services. It works with Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, YouTube Music, Pandora and Google Play Music, and that’s just to name a few. (You can check out the full list of streaming services, here.) The beauty of this is that you don’t have to play music through the Sonos app. You can just open the streaming app that you normally use, say Spotify, and direct the app to play music through your Sonos system rather than through your smartphone.
If you have a streaming service that you already subscribe to and want to be able to stream to your Sonos speaker, it’s easy but you have to add that music service account to Sonos. To do this, simply
- Open the Sonos app
- Select “More”
- Select “Add Music Services”
- Select the service you want to add (Spotify)
- Select “Add Account”
And then follow the rest of the instructions to finish adding your account. You can do this from a smartphone or computer from a Mac or PC.
Further setup info can be found here.