Sonos One vs. Amazon Echo Plus: Which Is The Best Alexa Speaker?

Cam Secore
Updated 03/05/2019

After months of testing, I determined Sonos One is the best Alexa speaker because, even if Alexa doesn’t work perfectly, this speaker’s sound quality is unparalleled. Echo Plus (2nd Gen) provides the best Alexa experience, but sacrifices sound quality.

I’ll explain how I reached my conclusion by comparing two smart speakers (Sonos One vs. Amazon Echo Plus) while evaluating five categories: sound, design, software, music compatibility, and whole home setup.

Sonos One

8
  • Sound: There’s not much bass, but the sound is crisp, clear and smooth.
  • Design: It’s made of solid materials, looks sleek, and has neat touch controls.
  • Software: Alexa gets falsely triggered often, but its basic functions work fine. Google Assistant is coming soon.
  • Music Compatibility: It works with 33 music services inside the Sonos app. It has full AirPlay and Spotify Connect support.
  • Whole Home: Sonos speakers get better as you add more. A pair of Sonos Ones beats HomePod.

Best for you if...

You want a fantastic-sounding speaker and only need Alexa for smart home tasks and music playback. Alexa can be wonky on Sonos One with a few missing features and imperfect hearing, but its sound is clear and rich with a controlled bass. Sonos One is a must for iPhone users because of its AirPlay 2 compatibility.

Amazon Echo Plus

5
  • Sound: Echo sounds muffled with a terrible mid-range and boomy bass.
  • Design: It’s small, unobtrusive, and the best-looking Echo device made to date.
  • Software: You get full Alexa functionality with great mics and the ability to change wake words.
  • Music Compatibility: Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music work well, but you can only start them via Alexa, not the apps.
  • Whole Home: A stereo pair of Echo Plus speakers sounds better than you’d expect. Echo Sub sounds terrible.

Best for you if...

You want the best Alexa experience and aren’t concerned with sound quality. Echo Plus shouldn’t be your main speaker, but it’s the best Amazon has ever made, and fine for occasional listening. Sonos’ sound quality is multiple times better, and there are affordable Bluetooth speakers with superior sound, too.

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Sonos One

8

Sound (B-):

  • Tones and instruments are distinct. Sonos does an excellent job showing off the mid-range, with clear, crisp sound.
  • The bass isn’t loud, but it’s in control consistently. If you’re a bass lover, One isn’t for you, but neither is Echo Plus. I recommend looking at HomePod or Sonos Play:5.
  • Sonos One uses software to improve the sound to make it sound similar no matter where you are in the room. With Trueplay, you spend 60 seconds waving your phone up and down while it computes the size of your room. There are two annoying caveats:
    • If you move the speaker, you need to reconfigure Trueplay. While devices like HomePod and Google Home Max, compute the audio automatically.
    • Trueplay is only available for iPhone users.
  • A pair of Sonos One speakers beats any speaker with a voice assistant included that I’ve tried.

Design (A-):

  • It looks fantastic! It comes in matte black and white.
  • There aren’t any physical buttons with feedback, but there are touch controls on the top for play, pause, skip, and volume. They’re not the most intuitive initially, but once you learn them, they’re great.
  • It’s noticeably more solid than Echo Plus, weighing four times more. It’s six inches tall. It’s the perfect size to put anywhere in the house.
  • There’s no option for a remote. Instead, you use the Sonos app, music apps, or your voice.

Software (C):

  • Sonos has most of the Alexa powers and skills found on native Echo devices with some exceptions: voice calling and messaging, reminders, and notifications.
  • Alexa on Sonos One is great for music playback, checking the weather, controlling your Alexa-compatible smart home devices, and timers. Studies show timers, music, and weather are  the only functions the average person uses anyways.
  • You can only use the “Alexa” wake word. Because of its simplicity, it produces tons of false alerts when you’re just having normal conversations or from the TV.
  • I gave Sonos One an “F” for software originally. They fixed two of their most annoying features:
    • There’s an irritating chime that goes off by default when Alexa is initiated. This interrupts the music playback for long periods and interrupts you as you’re trying to speak. Thankfully, you can disable it.
    • In the early days, the mics couldn’t pick up “Alexa” unless you were practically screaming at it. Sonos fixed this with an update. Now, the mics aren’t nearly as good as native Echo devices, but it’s better than “Hey, Siri” on your phone and good enough.
  • Sonos is currently beta testing Google Assistant support. If Sonos can master the integration with Google, it will pull ahead of Echo Plus in the smarts category too. As I’ve written previously, Google Assistant is superior to any voice assistant on the market.
  • The Sonos app is brilliant. You can mix and match music from all your favorite services. “The Queue” is brilliant and fun to use with friends. If everyone is on your Sonos’ WiFi and has the Sonos app on their phone, they can add songs to a universal queue. For example, you can have five friends put five different songs from five different music services on the queue, and it’ll keep playing songs until the queue is empty.
  • While the Sonos app is great, unfortunately, you still have to use the Alexa app to set up Alexa initially and customize Alexa settings. I wish there were a way around this.

Music Compatibility (A-):

  • It’s compatible with 73 music streaming services. If it exists, you can stream it on your Sonos speakers through the Sonos app.
  • From iPhone and Android devices, you can cast directly from the Spotify, Amazon Music and Pandora apps to Sonos One without touching the Sonos app or Bluetooth. You can initiate this playback without using a voice assistant. (There could be other services that are cast eligible, but these three are the only ones that worked for me.)
  • If you don’t want to play music via Alexa, you can initiate music playback with Apple’s AirPlay 2. When using an iPhone or iPad, any app that produces audio can be AirPlayed to Sonos One with two taps. You start playing music on your phone, then tap the triangle button at the bottom of the screen and select your Sonos speaker. AirPlay support is a gamechanger for Apple users.
  • When you start listening from an Alexa command, the playback controls in Spotify automatically match up with what’s playing to give you control.
  • The only downside to Sonos’ music compatibility is that there’s no audio in port or Bluetooth support. If you don’t have WiFi, Sonos One won’t function.

Whole Home (A+):

  • If you want speakers in multiple rooms and are starting fresh, there’s no question: you want Sonos over Echo devices.
    • You can create a 5.1 surround home theater system with:
      • One Playbar, Playbase or Beam.
      • One Sonos Sub.
      • Two Sonos One speakers.
    • You can keep two Sonos One speakers in the same room and create a permanent stereo pair. (This tandem sounds better than premium speakers like HomePod and Google Home Max).
    • You can also keep your Sonos speakers unpaired, then temporarily pair them as needed. You choose which rooms you want the same music to play in. The difference with the temporary pairing, compared to permanent, is each speaker produces the same sound, as opposed to stereo sound.
  • You can pair Sonos One to a different non-smart Sonos speaker to make the entire system Alexa-enabled. For instance, if you match it with Play:5 (my favorite-sounding speaker of all time), Play:3, or Play:1, you’ll be able to initiation Alexa if they’re paired to One.
    • You can say “Alexa, play AC/DC” if you want the music to play on the device you’re talking to.
    • If you want Alexa to pay on a different device, you need to specify the room, “Alexa, play AC/DC in the Living Room.”
  • Sonos One has a list price of $199, but they’re frequently on sale for $149, especially when you buy a pair of them.

Echo Plus

5

Sound (D+):

  • I regularly use Sonos Play:5, Apple HomePod and have a Sonos 5.1 home theater setup in my living room. In addition, I’ve experimented with 10 premium Bluetooth speakers (JBL Charge 4 and UE Boom 3 are in the $100 range and sound brilliant). I dreaded listening to music on Echo for testing purposes.
  • While I don’t like the sound of Echo Plus, you might! If you’re comparing the sound quality to audio from your phone or TV speakers and you’ve never listened on premium speakers, Echo will be a substantial upgrade.
  • You won’t want to use Echo as your primary sound system or play music for extended periods, but it might work in a room you use less frequently.
  • Echo Plus is the best-sounding Echo speaker that Amazon has ever made (aside from Echo Show), but the bar is low.
    • The bass is stronger than the original Amazon Echo, but it’s not always in control and gets boomy.
    • The sound is muffled and the midrange gets washed out. I’ve referenced this before: it sounds compressed, like there’s a blanket or filter over it.
    • When playing side-by-side with Sonos One, you can’t pick up certain instruments with the same clarity as you can with Sonos.
    • The audio lacks richness.
    • It’s unlistenable for more than a minute when the volume is over 60%.
    • The sound is omnidirectional, but the sound is not computed or optimized for a room’s surroundings like Sonos is with TruePlay. It doesn’t sound the same from any spot in the room.
  • Amazon doesn’t value sound quality. Considering Echo Dot sounds like you’re listening through a tin can, and it’s the best-selling Echo device, it’s safe to say most consumers don’t care either. If the sound quality is better than a phone while adding smarts to the home, it’s a win for the customer.

Design (B-):

  • It’s six inches tall. That’s significantly smaller, and a notable improvement, over the first generation Echo and Echo Plus.
  • Amazon curved the edges and hid the unsightly speaker holes that were present on the early Echo and Echo Plus.
  • Echo has three fabric colors: Charcoal, Heather Gray, and Sandstone.
  • It’s made of cheap materials and only weighs a pound.
  • It’s nothing special to look at, but due to its perfect size, it’s easily concealable.
  • The best part of Echo Plus is the bright blue indicator light that illuminates when Alexa’s listening is helpful and can be seen from across the room. Unlike Sonos One that needs an annoying sound to let you know it’s listening, the light doesn’t interrupt you.
  • You can buy a Fire TV remote to work with Echo devices for playback controls.
  • There’s a 3.5mm port that can be used if you want to use Alexa with a different speaker.

Software (C):

  • There are over 15,000 skills in Alexa’s app store, making it the most widely-compatible smart assistant. Alexa will work with almost any smart home device available. You’ve got your speaker choice narrowed down to two Alexa speakers, so you probably know Alexa’s capabilities. I’m not going to rehash everything here, but if you want to learn more, I wrote about Alexa.
  • The major difference between Sonos’ version of Alexa on the Alexa on Echo Plus, is that Echo Plus can handling calling between Alexa devices or create reminders. I don’t use either of these features, but you might.
  • It has seven beamforming microphones and understands voice better than Sonos and has fewer false triggers.
  • The simple wake-up signal “Alexa” is quick and easy and the command most people use, but it can easily be triggered. Unlike Sonos One, you can change the wake word to “Echo,” “Computer,” or “Amazon.” I find “Amazon” rarely, if ever, activates a false trigger.
  • Multiple voice setup for personal requests doesn’t work as well Google’s, and the voices you add must be in your “Amazon Prime Household.” BUT it works better than Sonos.
  • While the Alexa app isn’t the disaster it used to be, it’s still hard to navigate, find skills and set up smart devices.
  • It works as a Zigbee hub for smart devices. If you don’t have smart home devices yet, like Hue Lights, Echo Plus works as your hub, saving you $50. This isn’t helpful if you already have smart home devices because you already have a hub or bridge plugged into your router.
  • Echo Plus includes a built-in temperature sensor, which can be handy for setting up Alexa routines with your smart thermostat.

Music Compatibility (B-):

  • You can control Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIN, Gimme Radio, and SiriusXM via Alexa.
  • You can listen to any music service with Bluetooth, but you won’t have voice control.
  • The 3.5mm port also works as audio in to play music from your phone or iPod directly with the internet or Bluetooth.
  • There’s no AirPlay support.
  • You can play Apple Music, but it needs to be initiation with Alexa. There’s no way to initiate it from the Apple Music app, which I think is easiest.
  • It works well with Spotify when asking for songs, but casting with Spotify Connect only works with one Spotify library. If friends come over and want to play music from Spotify, they won’t be able to use their own library.
  • You CAN’T cast or initiate playback from Google Play Music or Pandora either.

Whole Home (C):

  • You can pair Echo Plus with Echo Sub for $230. I tested the Echo Sub for a week.
    • I hated the sound it produced at default equalizer levels. There’s a constant booming that drowns out the rest of the music.
    • If you turn down the sub to its lowest level, it doesn’t sound terrible. But it’s not worth adding extra low frequency until Echo can master the mid and high tones.
  • You can create a stereo pair of Echos and/or add the new Echo Sub to increase the lower frequencies.
  • It’s important to note that if you create a pair, the only way to play music is through streaming. You can’t use Bluetooth or the line in. It’s paired over WiFi and functions similarly to Sonos.
  • A pair of Echo Plus speakers sound surprisingly decent. While it’s not as good as a pair of Sonos, it’s a huge improvement over one Echo Plus.
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6 Comments

  • Alex says:

    Hey would you say that A pair of Echo Plus speakers sound as good as one Sonos One?

  • Anthony says:

    Hi, I already have an echo show and I’m looking to pair it with another device in the same room. I’m looking at either a sonos one or an echo plus. Would going for the sonos give you the best of both worlds or would there be some compatibility issues that would mean its better to keep two echo devices paired?

    • Cam Secore says:

      What do you mean by pair? Playing music at the same time in the same room? If so, you’re better off with Echo. But if you’re just trying to add another Alexa to your house, Sonos is your best bet.

      • Anthony says:

        Hi Cam yes I mean setting them up like a stereo pair. Thanks for responding.

        • Cam Secore says:

          A stereo pair of two different speakers is going to sound terrible. And as far as I know it’s not possible to do it with Sonos One and an Echo device.

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