In November 2021, Sonos released a software update to finally add DTS audio decoding to the Arc, Beam, Playbase, and older Playbar (and the Sonos Amp, which has HDMI ARC)but this decoding support only includes the standard DTS surround format, not the higher-quality DTS-HD and DTS:X formats. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing to save people time, energy and money when making buying decisions. Although the quality of this upmixing has drastically improved since the Echo Studios release, it can still be a little inconsistent with some music, especially some of the radical stereo mixes of the 1960s, like The Jimi Hendrix Experiences The Wind Cries Mary. This is somewhat less of a problem if you pair two Studio speakers in a stereo group. The Amp, Arc, and Beam support 802.11n 2.4GHz only. The Echo Studio can also upmix stereo music into a simulation of 3D audio. clarity soundbar sonos dialogue Rokus new Wireless TV Speakers are impressively easy to set up, and they sound pretty goodbut theyre not right for everyone. Currently, it offers support for over 130 streaming services, although not all of them are available worldwide; many other systems offer a half dozen or fewer. Sonoss tight control of its ecosystem means youre limited in terms of the speaker brands you can add to your setup (unless you buy Sonos devices specifically designed for you to add your own speakers), but the companys offerings come at a variety of prices and all sound excellent. The Google Home wireless speaker (powered by Google Assistant, a cousin to Apples Siri and Amazons Alexa) offers decent sound and promising smart-home control for Google users. You can read our impressions of the Roam here. The problems created by trying to use Sonos Voice Control when you dont subscribe to the supported services arent immediately obvious or easy to figure out. But its not too difficult. After multiple voice requests to play somethinganythingby Thao Nguyen, the closest Sonos Voice Control got was some songs by The Well. In other respects, Alexa and Sonos get along quite well. Consider one of the Routines that my wife and I use most frequently: As were going to bed, we say Good night to the Echo Studio in our bedroom. Esposito will respond to a request for that song as if you asked for the square root of -1. Connect and Connect: Amp models manufactured after 2015 still get updates, as do Play:5 v2 units. It supports 5.1-channel surround sound using wireless speakers, and it covers a wide selection of devices. Theoretically, voice commands should be processed nearly instantaneously, and perhaps at some point they will be. Alexa doesnt support nearly as many music services as Sonos (in the US, its mainly limited to the best-known apps such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn, and Vevo), although any music service it does support is controllable via voicesomething Sonos cant claim. If youre looking for a more affordable multiroom wireless music system that still sounds greator if advanced voice control is especially important to youAmazons Echo family of smart speakers is a good alternative to Sonos. It certainly doesn't hurt that the system sports the voice of actor Giancarlo Esposito, whom many will recognize due to his work on Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and The Mandalorian. It may not seem intuitively obvious why Sonos chose to develop its own voice control system when many of its products are already compatible with other digital voice assistants. These systems, connected via Wi-Fi, let you play different tracks on each speaker or group them together to play the same track throughout the home. 2022 Wirecutter, Inc., A New York Times Company, smart TVs, media streamers, and nearly any other online device, The Best Surround-Sound Systems Under $2,500, The Best Bookshelf Speakers for Most Stereos. Even after a mere few minutes with the system, it didnt even occur to me to look up specific voice commands to send the music I was listening to on the Sonos One in the living room to the Sonos Five in the front bath. Theres also the wireless Sonos Sub, which you can pair with any existing Sonos speaker to add some oomph. It supports the widest variety of streaming services, the speakers sound great, and its apps are practically foolproof. The main drawbacks to the Sonos ecosystem are that it is a closed system (so you have to use Sonos products) and, though many Sonos speakers have both Alexa and Google Assistant built in, the systems voice-control capabilities are not as advanced as those platforms own smart speakers. This means that if both you and your neighbor have Sidewalk enabled, you might be using a bit of their internet connection and they might be using a bit of yours. You could also add the more affordable Echo Dot to the mix if you have Bluetooth speakers in and around the house that you want to add to your multiroom music system. Any Alexa device on your system (such as a standard Echo or a Dot) can initiate a music stream to any other Sonos or Alexa device on your systemwhether to an individual speaker or to a group. IKEA offers Sonos speakers, too. The data includes customers Wi-Fi signal strength, IP address, music services, product use history, names of products or rooms, and other functional data. You can now ask the Sonos One to play music or to turn off a smart light, just as you can with any Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. Currently, your only options are the $450 Port, the $500 Five, or the $650 Amp. Google has introduced the new Nest Audio smart speaker ($100) to replace the Google Home. Since playing a song or album is an audio action, the Sonos One will not perform that Routine. For portable listening, the Sonos Move adds a battery and Bluetooth, so you can take it with you and use it outside of the range of your Wi-Fi network. In August 2017, Sonos established a privacy statement outlining the data it collects from customers systems. The competition is catching up, but Sonos is still the most complete and reliable package overall. But thats not a wholly satisfying workaround, and its no replacement for being able to independently control the volume of Alexa relative to the volume of the Sonos speaker. Klipschs The One II Bluetooth speaker is a great way to get full, satisfying sound in the home with no need for complicated setup or special apps. That said, if youre already invested in Google Assistant, theres nothing about the Nest Audio that would make us recommend avoiding it. The Samsung HW-Q900A is our favorite soundbar because of its excellent voice clarity, enveloping sound, and easy-to-accommodate design. We wouldnt normally focus on such smart-home functionality in a guide about wireless music systems, but since this deficiency specifically relates to audio playback, its relevant. Overall, we prefer Sonos as a complete system: With Chromecast, you cant do 5.1 surround sound, it lacks room correction like Trueplay, it doesnt support Alexa (which is not surprising), and grouping rooms is more complex since you have to start playback from an app and then switch to the Google Home app and merge it there. The standard Amazon Echo (4th Gen) and the larger Echo Studio are both great picks, and the latter in particular offers something that no other compact wireless speakers do: Dolby Atmos support (which adds a height element to make the sound even more immersive). Sonos keeps its platform current by updating its speakers, adding more services, and introducing new features such as Trueplay room-correction technology. However, you can still opt out of some data collection even if you agree to the policy. A speaker tucked into the corner of a kitchen counter, for example, is likely to sound extra boomy in the bass because of its proximity to the walls. The Sonos Five easily fills large spaces with full-range, detailed sound comparable to that of nice bookshelf speakers. Unfortunately, it still offers support for only around a dozen music services and doesnt support Apple Music or Google Play Music, nor is it capable of gapless playback. The second selling point is that Sonos Voice Control is designed for music and multiroom audio control only, not for operating your lights or playing Jeopardy J6 or counting down the days until Halloween or telling you what time it is in Guadalajaraalthough it will tell you what your local time is if you simply ask, Hey Sonos, what time is it? Since Sonos isnt trying to sell you audiobooks or remind you to reorder your shampoo, youll find that your music is interrupted by intrusions much less frequently, and although it takes a bit of time to get used to the lack of audible feedback when a voice command is received and processed (it doesnt doop the way Alexa can when its wake word is recognized, for example), interacting with Sonos Voice Control can feel more conversational. Using the Spotify app or Apple Music, you can send music directly to a Sonos speaker, just as you would with a Spotify Connect speaker or the Apple HomePod, respectively. Lastly, Sonos made some serious PR missteps in early 2020, when it announced that the original Play:5, Connect, Connect:Amp, and Bridge, along with the original Zone Player and the CR200 wireless controller, would no longer receive feature updates after May 2020. If you have your Echo speakers configured to control your smart-home devices, you can also create Routines that include music and home-automation tasks such as lighting levels and thermostat settings. Sonos has made these systems for longer than anyone, and its experience shows at every level. If the system told you, Im sorry, that song isnt available on any of the supported music services, it might be a little easier to figure that sort of thing out. This doesnt affect multiroom music playback, but its worth noting for those whove built a Sonos surround sound system. Right now they support Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify, along with a handful of other streaming services, but they dont support Google Play Music. These were created in conjunction with Sonance, a company with a long history in architectural speakers, and the lineup includes in-ceiling, in-wall, and outdoor models. *At the time of publishing, the price was $500. If you want to add immersive 3D audio playback capabilities to your multiroom wireless music system, the Echo Studio is the easiest and most affordable way to do so.

You can play back your local music library (with some limitations for iOS users) and subscribe to podcasts, too. Unfortunately, if your system consists of a mix of newer and older models, the new models also wont receive updates because updating the new models would remove compatibility with the older ones. Plus, its Alexa and Google Assistant enabled. These devices include hi-res audio and MQA support, as well as a CD-ripping vault. In 2021, Amazon introduced a new feature of its Echo devices known as Sidewalk, a private, low-bandwidth connection between devices, even if theyre not on the same home network. Having access to your favorite music is the most important feature of a multiroom wireless speaker system, and the Sonos system continues to lead the way in that regard. Complicating things is the fact that Sonos Voice Control sometimes simply doesnt understand what youre asking for no matter how clearly you speak. The only Sonos devices that offer Bluetooth audio support are the portable Move and Roam. The major ones are here, including Amazon, Google Play, Pandora, Spotify, and even Apple Musicas are social services such as Bandcamp, Mixcloud, and SoundCloud. Instead of the cylindrical form factor weve come to associate with Amazons smart speakers, the new model has a spherical design and has been upgraded to include two 0.8-inch (20 mm) tweeters instead of one. Weve tested the new Sonos Voice Control function and added our thoughts. Grouping AirPlay 2 speakers via HomeKit isnt as intuitive as it is with Sonos or Amazon, either.

Unfortunately, its not a complete system approach and thus not a true competitor in this arena. You can read more about our stance on Sidewalk, and get more details about how it works, here. The Marshall Multi-Room system is based on the companys line of Bluetooth speakers, which we really like, but the whole-home system functions more like a Bluetooth speaker than a fully integrated system. For one thing, if you want to add or remove speakers from playback or adjust the volume of individual speakers, you need to do so via a widget found in the iOS Control Center. Sonos says that support for more services is on the way, but theres no indication as to when services like Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz will be controllable via voice commands. The Echo family isnt as diverse as Sonoss offerings, but it does include a couple of good-sounding speakers: the Amazon Echo (4th Gen) and the Echo Studio, both of which also support Bluetooth. If, on the other hand, youre just looking to bring your record collection into the Sonos ecosystem, youre probably better served by the Sonos Port, which features a single analog input that can work with your turntable, as well as analog and digital outputs that you can connect to your receiver. We independently review everything we recommend. Among smart speakers, we prefer Amazons ecosystem and its diversity of product offerings. He served as East Coast contributing editor for Home Entertainment magazine and is now senior editor at SoundStage! To help clarify its new privacy statement, Sonos published this blog post outlining what data it collects and why. In addition, Sonos notes that it does not collect recordings of your voice.

The upside of the dual tweeters is that the new Echo delivers a reasonably effective stereo effect. Sonos gives you direct access to all of the supported streaming services through a single app for your computer or smartphone; many other systems make you use the individual app for each service. The Naim Mu-so system looks and sounds great, and it lets you control everything from a single app, but the companys cheapest model is still much more than most people want to pay. A wireless multiroom speaker system is the easiest way to listen to music, podcasts, and other audio entertainment in more than one room at a time, and Sonos is the best option. On its own, the Dots sound quality is pretty solid for a $50 speaker, but its small size and lack of bass mean you probably only want to use it for the most casual music listening or for podcasts and audiobooks. Your answer may affect which system you choose.

They make it easy to expand your system by simply adding another speaker or zone. Just let it play, and it will adapt itself to the new room over time. If youre using your iPhone to control your music playback, as most people are likely to do, there are some frustrating limitations. You even have the ability to add dual Subs to home theater setups. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. At $100, the standard Echo (4th Gen) is $80 less than Sonoss cheapest speaker (the One SL), and although it doesnt sound as goodthe bass isnt as dynamic, high frequencies arent quite as sparkling and its upper bass/lower midrange is somewhat boomy and uneven by comparisonit still sounds quite good for the price. The Sonos One is almost identical in form and sound to the original Sonos Play:1 but allows any Sonos system to become Alexa or Google Assistant enabled. Chris Heinonen, who wrote previous versions of this guide, has reviewed speakers and other audio/video equipment since 2008. The lack of Apple Music support makes this system easy to pass up for now. The UE Wonderboom 2 is the all-around best portable Bluetooth speaker because it sounds good and looks cool, and its the most rugged model weve ever tested. But the subwoofers functionality is somewhat limited, and reviews have been mixed, so we cant really recommend it. For instance, if you want voice commands, alerts, timers, and reminders to come out of the Echo Dot by the kitchen sink, but you want any music that Dot plays to come out of the Sonos Five sitting atop the refrigerator, its simple to configure. If a streaming service is missing, getting it onto your Sonos devices without using AirPlay is difficult. Youll also find more niche services such as Concert Vault, Murfie, 7digital, Tidal, and Qobuz. You can, within the Alexa app, create speaker groups of Sonos speakers, but you cannot include Sonos speakers and Echo speakers together in the same group. Sonos says it uses this information to keep the products functioning and to improve service; the company also says that it never sells the data, although it may share some data with third-party vendors, music services, and voice services. For example, if you primarily rely on Spotify, Qobuz, or Tidal for your music listening and you find yourself in the mood for Cakethe song Comfort Eagle, perhapsMr. These models were released between 2005 and 2011, so its not surprising that theyre no longer receiving new features, but the company didnt clearly articulate the news, which created a lot of confusion. If you want music and light from one device, it achieves that odd goal. And it desperately needs this functionality, since Alexa is simply way too loud by comparison. You can launch these Routines with a short verbal command that you can name anything youd like, such as Alexa, good night or Alexa, bath time. One of the shortcomings of the Alexa support built into some Sonos speakers is that they do not initiate any Routines that include an audio action, so this capability is a big bonus of native Echo devices. It can play louder with more clarity than the much smaller Sonos One, but it isnt as detailed and offers less stereo separation than the Sonos Five. If you live in an apartment or condo, the large number of 2.4 GHz routers in such a building can make those signals less reliable than 5 GHz, and the added range isnt important. In other words, grouping S1 devices and S2 devices together to create a truly whole-home wireless music system is no longer possible. The Echo and Echo Studio can also pair wirelessly with Amazons Fire TV streaming media players, and a combination of the Echo Studio and Fire TV gives you Atmos audio playback capabilities for movies as well as music. Any combination of words that the average person would understand to mean turn up the volume is also recognized as meaning such by Sonos. Since we first published this guide in 2013, we have considered more than a dozen different multiroom wireless speaker systems and called in many of them for testing (see the Competition section for more details). Sonos speakers with Alexa built in also have some other voice-control shortcomings when compared with proper Echo devices. As surrounds in a home theater setup or as a reading-lamp-and-speaker combo in a bedroom, it fits a niche, but for the best sound wed stick with the Sonos One. In contrast, multiroom wireless audio systems access the music sources directly and dont use your phones battery life. Apples HomePod sounds excellent, but its Apple-centric design can feel limited next to other smart speakers. It also theoretically gives Sonos a responsiveness advantage, since all voice commands are processed locally by your Sonos speakers themselves. Its a noticeable improvement in the sound quality over the 3rd Gen unit. With such a split system, only devices within the S1 system can be grouped together, and likewise only S2 devices can be grouped together.

They support both local media libraries and online streaming services, allowing you to access music from almost any source. Sonoss unified service approach lets you search across every service you subscribe to. Bluetooth speakers also require your phone or computer to be the streaming source. We previously had the Chromecast Audio platform as a pick for anyone who wanted an inexpensive multiroom wireless option, because you could get in the door with just the $35 audio dongle. If you care only about playing music in a single room and dont need built-in voice-control capabilities, other options work well for less money. But in our preliminary testing, we found that theres still a perceptible lag between when you say the request and when it happens. Whisper Mode means that, if you whisper a question or command to Alexa, it whispers to you in response. Overall, were not happy about the fact that Amazon chose to make this service opt-out, rather than opt-in, but other than that, were not as concerned as other outlets are. But since the process is constantly running as long as the devices mics arent muted, this shouldnt be necessary. As it turns out, Cakes library is only available on Amazon Music Unlimited, not Amazon Music Prime, which is the sort of thing you would notice when using Sonos in-app universal search, but its not clear at all when using the Sonos Voice Control function. The speakers themselves offer very few controlsonly volume and a play/pause button in most cases. The Dayton Audio SUB-1200 is the best way weve found to add awesome (and affordable) bass to a stereo or home-theater system. Logitech has added multiroom support to UE Boom speakers, but they still stream the music from your phone over Bluetooth and communicate over Bluetooth, so the range is lacking. In spring 2022, Sonos also introduced its own voice control feature, whichunlike Amazon and Googles digital voice assistantsis purely tailored to music playback and multiroom audio control. The first major advantage of Sonos Voice Control is that it doesnt record your voice and upload it to the cloud for processing. Whats more, creating groups of Echo speakers isnt quite as intuitive via the Alexa app as grouping is with Sonos. For better sound or bigger rooms, the higher-end Sonos Five creates a large soundstage on its own, and a pair can compete with similarly priced midrange bookshelf speakerswithout the need for a separate amplifier. The downside is that the Echo is now a more directional device than the previous iterations. This is a moving target, as the functionality is regularly updated, but as of this writing the most frustrating quirk is still the fact that the volume of Amazons digital voice assistant cannot be adjusted relative to the volume of the speaker itself. Do you want a system that you control via an app, or do you prefer voice control? *At the time of publishing, the price was $100. The conversational aspect is aided by the fact that the system responds quite well to naturalistic speech and doesnt require you to memorize very rigid syntax in order to make it work, as Alexa and Google Assistant did in their early days. Before you go that route, though, its important to consider your specific needs. On a related note, we would like to see a cheaper way to add a line input for hooking up a Bluetooth receiver, record player, or other device. We put the speakers all around the house to make sure range wasnt an issue. Subscribe now for unlimited access. Its 3-inch (76.2 mm) woofer is also placed at the top of the speaker instead of the bottom. No matter how or where you get your music, the odds are good that Sonos will support it. The Sonos One is a great entry point. With access to so many music services, being able to find what you want to listen to is also important. It also makes setting up and configuring a system very easy no matter how technically inclined you are. Trueplay uses test tones to measure how the room influences the speaker and then corrects for that. We just like Echo a little better overall. We also added the new Sonos Ray as a more affordable soundbar option. What this means is that if you install your speaker in the center of a room (say, on a coffee table) or between two rooms (e.g., on a counter between a semi-open kitchen and family room), the sound quality of the speaker, as well as the stereo effect, shifts depending on where youre standing or sitting. You can also pair the Five to enjoy great stereo sound. But in our long-term testing, weve found that maintaining the stereo pairing of two Studio speakers can be frustrating and inconsistent, so we cant recommend it. WiSA is an alliance that is licensing its technology to different speaker manufacturers. Using the microphone of an iOS device, Sonoss Trueplay software offers room correction for your Sonos speakers at no extra cost. If a Sonos system costs a little more than youre willing to spend, or if you value advanced voice-control functionality more than pitch-perfect sound fidelity, we also really like Amazons Echo ecosystem as an alternative. However, Google has discontinued that dongle, so now you must buy other devices (speakers, soundbars, smart speakers, and the like) with Chromecast built in. But that eats up an analog input that could probably be put to better use, and it isnt nearly as simple as having a unit with Bluetooth built in.

As such, the best of both worlds multiroom music system is a combination of Amazon Echo and Sonos devicesthe former in rooms where voice-assistant functionality is more important (or where you dont want Alexa yelling at you) and the latter in rooms where audio quality is the top priority. As we detail in our standalone review of the Sonos One, there are other significant limitations in the way Amazon Alexa is implemented on Sonos devices (including the One, Arc, Beam, and Move). As a result, users had to set up their disc players or other sources to convert DTS soundtracks to a different format before sending the audio to the soundbar. But we believe its in line with the data-collection policies associated with many other companies, including the makers of smart TVs, media streamers, and nearly any other online device. Ask for Joanna Newsoms Ys (which rhymes with lease), and the system responds that it cant find Joanna Newsoms Peace. That reportedly gives the service a leg up in terms of privacy, and removes some concerns about false-positive wake-word recognition. The mobile and desktop apps are among the most polished available and offer unified search across every service you subscribe toincluding Apple Music. Learn more. The solution to this problem amounts to creating two separate Sonos systems, with older devices controlled by the original Sonos app and newer devices controlled by the new S2 app. So you have to remember which virtual personality you last spoke with. The Sonos One sounds great and is an affordable entry point to the Sonos system. Sonos also features its own Radio app, which combines the core functionality of TuneIn and iHeartRadio and offers access to more than 60,000 stations from around the globe. We focused on the following criteria for whats important in a multiroom speaker system: Some other features arent essential for a whole-home audio listening system: We tested each system in different houses and apartments, with both local music libraries and streaming music services such as Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify. Although none of the Echo speakers sound as good as anything in the Sonos lineup, the latest generation of Amazon speakers is a big improvement over earlier Echo devices. The Symfonisk bookshelf speaker doesnt sound quite as good as the Sonos One, with more distortion in the bass as you play louder, but you can create a stereo pair for almost the same price as a single Sonos One, and it has a different design that may blend into certain rooms better. But at this point no other companiesaside from Marantz, which is part of Denons parent companyhave adopted HEOS. But this arrangement does complicate day-to-day use a bit, so if you value simplicity, your best bet is to pick one or the other for all of your multiroom music streaming needs. DTS Play-Fi is another open standard that is supported by a number of vendors, including Anthem, Onkyo, Paradigm, and Pioneer. Back then, if any of your Echo devices was connected to a Bluetooth speaker, that connection would drop when you initiated multiroom playback. Its really powerful and useful once you get the hang of it, but if voice control is your main consideration, you may be better off with an Amazon Echo system for now, for reasons well discuss in further detail below. And the voice-recognition system has a bias for traditional western-sounding names, often struggling to understand requests for artists whose names dont conform to such standards. The Sonos system is the best multiroom wireless speaker system because it supports the most services and has a wide selection of great-sounding speakers, comprehensive search features, and a well-organized app that runs on almost all major mobile platforms. If you already have passive speakers that require an amp and youd like them to work with your Sonos system, you can use the Sonos Amp. If youre just looking for a stereo setup, you can get a pair of the impressive Sonos One speakers for a lot less; the most serious audiophiles might consider upgrading to a pair of Sonos Five units. Thankfully, Sonos speakers with Alexa built in do support the Whisper Mode feature found on standalone Amazon Echo speakers, which helps a little. For powerful, precise bass in stereo and home theater systems, the best subwoofer is the affordable and compact Rogersound Labs Speedwoofer 10S MKII. Many mass-market AV receivers and even many TVs also feature AirPlay 2 connectivity. It supports Pandora and Spotify but not Amazon, Apple Music, or Google Play.