HomePod vs. Sonos Play:5: Thoughts After 3 Months Of Listening

Cam Secore
Updated 07/19/2018

After three months of testing, I determined Sonos Play:5 is the best-sounding and most compatible speaker. HomePod is the best speaker on the market for its size and is more affordable than Play:5, but you only should consider HomePod if you’re an Apple Music user.

You’ll be happy with either of these speakers, and it’ll be the best speaker you’ve ever owned. I own both and plan to keep them.

I’ll compare and contrast these two speakers (HomePod vs. Sonos Play:5) by evaluating four categories: compatibility, sound, software, and design.

Sonos Play:5

10
  • Compatibility: You can play music from any of the major music services in the Sonos app or cast from your music service’s app.
  • Sound: The sound is crisp with perfect bass and mids. It has way more power than HomePod and, overall, most will prefer it when side-by-side.
  • Software: The Sonos app is fantastic, but TruePlay is a hassle to configure, and there’s no smart assistant.
  • Design: It’s well built and attractive, but it’s huge and heavy (14 pounds).

Best for you if...

You want the best-sounding speaker under $500, and you’re a Spotify, Google Play Music, Amazon Unlimited or Pandora user. You’ll fill any large room with huge sound, and you can use the Sonos app to load the queue with songs. You can easily pair and unpair with other Sonos speakers. You can plug in your phone directly when you don’t have WiFi. The downsides are its portability, bulkiness, and lack of smarts.

Apple HomePod

8
  • Compatibility: You can AirPlay any music service, but AirPlay isn’t great and there are no ports.
  • Sound: It’s omnidirectional and has amazing sound for its size. It calibrates itself automatically to sound the same no matter where you’re sitting.
  • Software: Setup is seamless through the iPhone Home app and you can perform basic smart home tasks with Siri.
  • Design: It’s beautiful and can be put anywhere without hogging space.

Best for you if...

You’re an avid Home app (HomeKit) user with lights, thermostat, and other smart devices configured in the Home app, or an Apple Music user. HomePod is more portable, sounds best out of the box without customizations and is $150 less than Sonos Play:5. HomePod is an amazing sounding speaker with too many limitations right now, but things will change as the Siri evolves and opens up.

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    apple speaker vs sonos

    Sonos Play:5

    10

    Compatibility (A):

    • Inside the Sonos app, you can play your music from any of the major music services after you sign in (Apple Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, Amazon Music, Spotify and many more).
    • Using Spotify Connect, you can play music on Play:5 inside Spotify’s app rather than Sonos’ app.
    • On Android devices, you can “cast” music services (Amazon, Google, and Pandora) to Sonos.
    • You can play music from any device by plugging it into Play:5’s headphone port.
    • You can AirPlay audio from any iOS app that has the AirPlay symbol at the bottom.

    Sound (A+):

    • It has six custom-designed drivers with dedicated amplifiers.
    • You can’t find a better sounding speaker for $500. Sonos Play:5’s sound is crisp with perfect bass and mids. The biggest sound difference between Play:5 and HomePod are its midlevel. There tends to be better separation.
    • It fills bigger rooms much better than HomePod because it’s much louder. It sounds much louder on the highest volume, and you’d go deaf at high volumes.
    • The sound doesn’t get distorted at loud volumes like most speakers. In fact, to get the most out of Play:5, it sounds best at volumes over 60%.
    • The sound only comes from the front of the speaker. However, you can use TruePlay to create a custom sound based on your room’s configuration, similar to what HomePod does automatically. The TruePlay set up is clunky, only works with iPhone, and you’ll need to set it up every time you move Play:5 to a different location.
    • I prefer HomePod’s real-time sound configuration to Sonos’, but it sounds great once it’s configured.

    Software (C):

    • The Sonos app is awesome and my favorite feature. You can add any song from any music service to the same queue, and everyone who has the app and is on your WiFi can add songs to it. All of my friends have the Sonos app, and someone’s always loading the queue with new songs. It’s one thing everyone looks forward to doing when they come over.
    • There’s no smart assistant on Play:5, but you can buy Echo Dot for $50 and have full control of Sonos with Alexa. For example, “Alexa, play my Discover Weekly playlist in the living room.”
    • The TruePlay setup isn’t perfect and involves waving your phone around your body and room, like an idiot for three minutes.
    • Getting it to work with Alexa is no walk in the park either.
    • You can pair and unpair with unlimited Sonos speakers, but it’s typically used as a standalone speaker.
    • AirPlay 2 lets you connect multiple speakers together, even if they’re not Sonos speakers.

    Design (B):

    • Play:5’s design is stunning. It’s a piece of art.
    • There are no physical buttons. You use tapping gestures to change the volume and skip songs.
    • It comes in black or white with a matte polycarbonate finish.
    • I move my Sonos Play:5 around all the time, but I don’t recommend it. Carrying this 14-pound speaker is terrifying because you’d do severe damage if you dropped it with that much force.
    • While Play:5 looks great, it’s big (14” long) and won’t hide away.

    Apple HomePod

    8

    Compatibility (D):

    • You can’t set up HomePod without an iPhone.
    • You can AirPlay any music service to HomePod, but the only service that gives you voice control via Siri is Apple Music.
    • AirPlay works, but it has limitations. For instance, if you AirPlay Spotify to HomePod, any video that shows on your phone will interrupt the music and play over HomePod. This is a killer with apps like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat when you’re scrolling through the feed because autoplay videos hijack the audio. It’s infuriating and makes using your phone while listening to music nearly impossible. (Stick to Apple Music for HomePod, and you’ll be fine).
    • There are no plug-in ports.

    Sound (B):

    • HomePod has seven tweeters, a four-inch woofer, and six microphones.
    • Even at the highest volume, there’s no distortion.
    • The highs are crisp, and the bass is deep but stays in control. The mids aren’t anything special and sound better on Play:5.
    • It’s much quieter compared to Play:5. HomePod can easily fill a small room with sound, but if you’re looking to jam or throw a party, Sonos is the way to go.
    • At super low volumes, I prefer HomePod’s sound to Sonos because the sound profile doesn’t change as the volume changes. The sound retains all the detail at low volumes. It’s strange because I’ve never seen a speaker do this.
    • HomePod is omnidirectional and has an A8 processing chip (the same one used in iPhone 6). How does that affect the performance? HomePod calibrates its sound based on its surroundings like walls and furniture. After a song plays for two minutes, the music sounds identical from any position in the room. Close your eyes and most of the time you won’t know where the sound is coming from. There’s no setup; it works automatically.
    • HomePod has an accelerometer. If moved, it detects its new position and automatically recalibrates the sound based on the surroundings.
    • Even the founder of Sonos praised HomePod’s sound saying it’s better than Sonos One. HomePod sounds fantastic for its size, and you won’t find a better sounding speaker in this form.

    Software (A):

    • Setup is seamless through the iPhone Home app.
    • HomePod lacks smart features compared to smart speakers like Google Home Max or Amazon Echo due to Siri’s limitations. But it is quite a bit smarter than Sonos Play:5.
    • Siri can perform any HomeKit task, i.e., “Hey Siri, turn off the bedroom lights.”
    • You can ask Siri to play any Apple Music song, album, artist, playlist or have it pick music for you based on your preferences.
    • Siri has the best listening capabilities of any smart speaker on the market. It can hear you while whispering and it can hear when talking in a normal voice when the music’s at 100% volume.
    • AirPlay 2 lets you connect multiple speakers together.

    Design (A+):

    • HomePod is beautiful, with a sleek mesh material.
    • It comes in White and Space Gray.
    • The power cord is the nicest I’ve ever touched and matches the mesh material of the speaker. The design is very detail-oriented.
    • It has a six-inch diameter, making it one-third the size of Play:5.
    • You can comfortably put HomePod in the kitchen without it getting in the way.
     

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