At $299 and looking remarkably small I was initially sceptical that Sonos could actually improve their baby Play One speaker, that was till I turned on their new Alexa voice activated Sonos One speaker and hooked it manually up to Spotify.
From the Rolling Stones to The Who to Bruce Springsteen to some relaxing classical music this small speaker actually delivered. I was not able to use the VA technology with Spotify but that is coming shortly.
This is not some simple makeover and hype exercise to introduce the new Sonos voice activation capability based on the Amazon Alexa platform, this is a whole new speaker which for the price is an excellent investment.
During an interview with Sonos executives I actually asked the questions to why Sonos does not sell a discounted pair of Sonos One speakers so that users can stereo pair these two small speakers together. For a small flat or apartment this would be an excellent investment.
The unlock key to the much-improved speaker is the introduction 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.
I first kicked the Sonos One into life in our office with several people sitting around at desks and despite this the sound output was as good as some of the performance speakers that cost twice the price.
Sonos is close to Amazon as they sell a bucket load of their product in the Amazon store, so with the pending release of Amazon in Australia and the ultimate release of the Amazon Alexa technology in Australia it’s not surprising to see Sonos take a leadership position in the voice activation speaker market. Harman is set to release three speakers shortly spanning Alexa, Google Home and Cortana.
The new Sonos One is built upon the same chassis as the previous Play one with its omnidirectional squarish enclosure, but that’s where it stops. The new model is sleeker and more stylish. On the top of the device is a LED light that lights up when you give it a voice command. You know instantly that it’s active and Sonos is adamant that no one can listen to you.
All of the front-end work came in the form of those tiny details you see on the top of the speaker.
Like the light underneath the microphone icon, on the top of the Sonos One.
The Sonos team tested blinking lights, coloured lights, lights with icons; some argued it should be a mute button, while others saw it as a power switch. Eventually they found the simplest answer: When the lights on, the assistant’s on.
“The LED is actually hard-wired to the microphones,” says Scott Fink, a Sonos product manager. “So, if that light is on, the microphones are on, and if that light is off you know the microphones are off. They literally share the same circuit.
The new microphone array lets you issue voice commands to Sonos to start music playback.
Apple customers will have to wait till next year as the latest speaker does not work with Apple Music.
I was also able to activate the speaker using TuneIn to access a New Zealand radio station. What I like is that I can use the Play One voice commands to control my entire Sonos network across several rooms.
If you buy one I suggest that you quickly work out which room in your house to put it in to control your network. For those who recently went out and purchased Google Home the Play One will be Google Home enabled next year.
That tone is the first thing you’ll hear when you talk to the latest Sonos device its first Sonos speaker to directly support Alexa, and the first-ever Sonos product with a microphone inside, a long-overdue upgrade especially as Sonos is not able to deliver High Res Audio (24Bit)
It’s also the beginning of a new Sonos era for the Company who pioneered and set the bar for networked audio.
Sonos believes that as more devices come online and voice interfaces improve, your home’s sound will be just as important as its heating system or curb appeal. “We talk a lot about being the speaker for anything that makes sound inside your home,” says Antoine Leblond, the company’s vice president of software. “That’s the thing we’re really moving toward.”
Even as it launches the Sonos One, a few pieces remain unfinished. You can’t use your voice to play songs through Spotify yet, despite the fact that both Sonos and Alexa support Spotify individually.
(All sides say it’s coming in a matter of a few weeks.) So, if you want to really impress your partner this holiday season, this could be an ideal investment.