Here at WIRED, we like Sonos speakers. We really do. Throughout the last eight years, we’ve reviewed all of the company’s wirelessly connectable speakers, from its small Play:1 to its Beam soundbar, and we’ve recommended every one of them. But it’s not cheap to turn your home into a Sonos-powered shrine to sound. Like Apple products, Sonos speakers sell at a premium, starting at $100 for a basic bookshelf speaker. But which ones should you buy? Read on for my recommendations.
Updated August 2019: We’ve added in the new Sonos/Ikea Symfonisk speakers, which were added to our picks, and updated with info about Google Assistant support, which finally arrived after several delays.
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1. Best Sonos Speaker
The Sonos One (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is just about the smallest Sonos speaker, but it still packs enough oomph to fill most rooms and its hands-free Alexa and Google Assistant integration is a lot of fun. Sonos took the time to make Alexa sound great, and thanks to its voice commands, the Sonos One has become my go-to speaker. Alexa and Google voice commands work like normal (though you must choose between them). It can play music, tell you the weather, find a recipe, and answer simple questions, like any other smart speaker. It also works with Siri via AirPlay 2.
I’ll recommend other Sonos speakers in this guide, but you also can’t go wrong just buying 2-4 Sonos Ones to fill your house up. You get a small discount on orders of 2 or more. They’re much more affordable and their small size means you can hide them in any room.
Play:1 is a Good Alternative: The Play:1 is $150 at Amazon and Sonos.com. It sounds about as good as the Sonos One, but doesn’t have touch controls or microphones for Alexa. If you already own a One, it’s a good way to add more satellite speakers to your home.
2. Best Speakers to Fill Out a Room
With the Symfonisk bookshelf speaker, the entry price for a Sonos speaker has dropped by $50. If you want to network a few speakers together for a larger room, or connected rooms, it’s the cheapest way to do it. Sonos collaborated with Ikea on this one, which is why it’s more affordable, and slightly less pristine than the others in this guide. It’s been a while since a Sonos speaker had physical buttons, for one. Looks aside, it sounds almost as good as a Sonos One. You can mount it right to your wall or stand it upright on a bookshelf or table.
It doesn’t directly take audio commands because it has no mic, so you’ll need a Sonos One, Google speaker, or Alexa speaker that you can yell at if you want to control it with your voice. Other than that, it does everything you’d want a Sonos to do. The Sonos Symfonisk table lamp costs $180 and also sounds great; If you like it’s style, go for it. Read our dual review to see what they both look like.
3. Best Party Speaker
If you really like to party, I recommend adding a Sonos Play:5 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) to your setup. It has enough kick to dial a party up to 11, or just really annoy your neighbors. I placed mine in the largest room of my apartment and it was honestly more power than I needed. Sonos boasts that this model has six Class-D digital amplifiers: three tweeters, three mid-woofers, and a phased speaker array. In practical terms, it will fill a very large room or basement with ease.
Out of the four standard Sonos speakers I tested, this one delivered the largest range of sound, with enough thump to satisfy fans of any genre. It’s worth noting that it does not have microphones, so it cannot be used hands-free with Alexa or Google Assistant.
4. Best Sonos Soundbar
The Beam (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is one of three soundbars that Sonos offers. It doesn’t sound quite as expansive as the older, larger Playbar, but it is more precise in the upper range and sounds fantastic overall. Its smaller size and extra features are worth the size tradeoff. It’s $300 cheaper, too.
Unlike the Playbar, it can connect to your TV via HDMI ARC, letting you turn your tube on and off with your own voice. It has Alexa, Google Assistant, and Airplay 2 built-in. Even if you don’t particularly need a voice assistant today, you may change your tune in a few years. If you own a Fire TV Stick (our TV streaming device guide), it’s also possible to use basic Alexa commands on the Beam to watch any TV show or movie, though no voice assistant works well enough to replace a remote control yet.
Save Up for the Subwoofer: Sonos hasn’t yet released a more affordable Sub to match the cheaper Beam. The standard Sub is superb, but it will cost you $699 on Sonos or Amazon. Don’t bother buying surround speakers until you own a Sub. It will make a more profound difference.
5. Best for Big Home Theaters
A soundbar can make all the difference in a home theater, and costs a lot less than a full surround sound setup. The Sonos Beam is great for apartments, but if you really want a powerful soundbar, the Sonos Playbar (8/10, WIRED Recommends) is still the best. With more mid-woofers, it delivers deep bass and has more balance and depth than the Beam or Playbase. It’s also built to hang on a wall, but at just over 3-inches tall and 5-inches thick, it can sit in front of most TVs without hassle.
If you plan to spend the extra money to buy the Playbar, try to save up $699 more to get a Sonos Sub. It’s the second best investment you can make to improve your home theater experience.
Playbase is Good for Pedestal TVs: The Playbase (Playbase sounds a little sharper than the Playbar on high treble sounds, like cymbals, but it’s still one of the best soundbars you can buy. It’s made to sit under your TV and costs $699 at Amazon or Sonos.com.
6. Best Sonos Surround Sound Setup
To enable surround sound with one of its soundbars, Sonos requires two rear speakers, one for the left and one for the right. You can use any two speakers, as long as they’re identical. I’ve used two Play:5 speakers, but it’s overkill. Two Sonos One speakers are a better match, but if you are getting a Beam, it has mics in it, so save $100 and get two Play:1 speakers. They sound just as good. You can save another $100 if you buy two Sonos/Ikea Symfonisk speakers, which also sound outstanding.
This is one of the easiest wireless surround sound systems to set up. Simply place the speakers you choose to the left and right of your couch, then open up the Sonos app, add a surround speaker, and follow the instructions while the software does the rest. They don’t add as much benefit as you get from a Beam and Sub combo, but if you watch a lot of movies and want to hear things like TIE Fighters flying over your head in Star Wars, you’ll like the extra surround.
Not Near an Ikea? Try These Bundles: this Beam 5.1 Surround bundle costs $1,299 at Amazon (Sonos.com) and comes with a Sub and two Play:1s. I recommend it highly. If your room is large, this Playbar 5.1 Surround bundle for $1,678 at Amazon (Sonos.com) sounds phenomenal.
Sonos released a few new accessories in 2019. The company has worked with Sanus on stands before, but it now sells a shelf and stands for its smaller speakers. You can also buy them bundled with the Play:1 or Sonos One.
What’s WIRED about Sonos speakers
After flooding my home with every Sonos model you can buy (and filling all remaining space with the boxes of said speakers), I’ve come to value their audio fidelity and ability to seamlessly network together. Here are my favorite aspects of Sonos:
Simple Setup: It’s incredibly easy to set up these speakers. The Sonos app guides you through the process of starting a new system, or adding speakers to an existing system. There isn’t another speaker system that lets you string together multiple speakers as easily, or connect them up to stream in different rooms of your home while keeping the audio perfectly in sync.
Easy Streaming: The Sonos app supports almost every streaming service in existence, and many apps, like Spotify, let you stream to Sonos speakers within them. The Sonos ecosystem can also handle home theater applications, and can support a full surround sound setup.
All Major Voice Assistants: Unlike most “smart” speakers, Sonos speakers will connect to any one of the big three voice assistants: Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Airplay 2. You do have to choose one assistant at a time, but they’re fully functional, with the exception of some phone calling functionality through Alexa.
They Sound Amazing: Sonos speakers are all high quality and deliver consistent, appealing sound. It’s easy to argue that Sonos hardware is too expensive, but it’s difficult to fault the way they sound. Not every Sonos speaker is the same, but they have an elegant synergy and sound that no other speaker system seems to have. If you have a few speakers in a room, it’s hard to tell where the sound is coming from. The crystal clear music engulfs you.
Spotify Voice Controls: Spotify can now be accessed using Alexa or Google Assistant voice control on the Sonos One and Sonos Beam. If you have one of these speakers, you can set Spotify as your default music service. Then, when you ask Alexa or Google to play something, it plays it directly from Spotify. (Of course, you can set any available music service as your default: Amazon, YouTube Music, and so on.)
What’s TIRED about Sonos speakers
As amazing as Sonos speakers sound, and as seamlessly as they connect together, they still have some limitations, both in application and technology. We don’t think these are dealbreakers (yet), but you might.
Aging Connectivity: The tweeters and woofers inside Sonos speakers still sound amazing, but the way they connect to your network (or TV) is dated. Sonos speakers only have 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g, which means that they cannot connect on the sometimes faster/cleaner 5 GHz frequency commonly used today (though some of them do use 5 GHz to communicate with each other). I have yet to notice loss in fidelity or have dropouts on a Sonos, but the lack of support for today’s Wi-Fi standards, including N/AC, may eventually haunt these speakers. If you do have issues, the best solution is to connect one of your Sonos speakers directly via ethernet. It will share its faster connection with the others. Sonos’s soundbars (except the Beam) also rely on optical cables, lacking modern ports like HDMI, and newer standards like Dolby Atmos. They do still sound amazing, though.
No Batteries or Bluetooth: None of the speakers have battery power or Bluetooth, so you cannot use them outside of your home. You can unplug and move them from room to room, but it’s not exactly encouraged—the app has you tune their sound to each space and give them names like “Kitchen.”
You Must Use the Sonos App (mostly): Sonos has done an admirable job updating its speakers with new features through its app, but the app is still the only way to listen to some sources of music. Sonos is slowly freeing services from its app, allowing you to directly broadcast to any speaker within the normal Spotify, Tidal, Audible, and Pandora apps, for instance. For others, you’re still stuck using the Sonos app, which functions fine, but isn’t ideal.