Sonos One vs Apple HomePod: The Sonos One and the Apple HomePod are two of the best-sounding smart speakers, but which should you get?
The Sonos One is the ‘smart’ successor to the Sonos Play:1, offering excellent sound quality and boasting a choice of voice assistants. Since its release, Sonos has produced a second gen version of the One, which has the same features, but packs an updated processor, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and increased memory.
The HomePod is Apple’s first smart speaker. Released in 2018, it’s one of the best-sounding speakers on the market though, as with many Apple products, it’s iOS-centric and comes at a price (though it is considerably cheaper nowadays). There are rumours of a HomePod update in 2020, but nothing has turned up. There have also been plenty of rumours that Apple wants to buy Sonos…
So, in the Sonos One vs Apple HomePod battle, which smart speaker fares best?
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Sonos One vs Apple HomePod – Price
Sonos lists the speaker at £199, but the white version is available for £189 on Amazon.
If you purchase directly through Apple, the HomePod costs £279. However, it’s available for £249 on eBay and on John Lewis it can be had for as low as £200.
That would make them evenly matched in terms of price, but it’s worth taking a closer look at what you get for that price.
Sonos One vs Apple HomePod – Design
In the general scheme of things, these are both speakers that stand upright; come in black and white finishes and feature touch controls on the top surface. So far, so similar.
The Sonos One is 6.36 x 4.69 inches, while the HomePod is 6.8 x 5.6 inches wide, making the HomePod larger than the One. The HomePod is also heavier at 2.5kg to the One’s 1.85kg. They’re both designed for the home, with a mains cable attached for power meaning they’re not for outside.
The touch controls can be used to play, pause, adjust the volume and skip tracks. There’s a button on the Sonos to mute the voice assistant, while holding the touch button on the HomePod activates Siri without requiring the wake word.
Each speaker is kitted out with a six microphone far-field array so voice assistants can hear voices better. The One also features an LED indicator, so you always know when it’s listening.
As far as drivers go, the One is packed with two Class-D amplifiers, a mid-woofer and a tweeter. The HomePod features a high-excursion woofer with a custom amplifier and seven 360-degree tweeters. Plus it has an internal low-frequency calibration microphone for automatic bass correction.
There’s not a huge amount of difference here. The Sonos is smaller and weighs less, taking up less of a footprint. If a slight saving on space is of interest, the Sonos is the victor, but honestly we’d call this a draw.
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Sonos One vs Apple HomePod – Features
One of the biggest benefits of Sonos is that its platform agnostic. The One supports both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, while also supporting Siri via AirPlay. You can use your Sonos One to play music, check the latest news, set alarms, ask questions and more.
The HomePod uses Apple’s Siri. A HomePod can be used to play music, get travel updates, news and sport, set timers, make calls or schedule appointments.
Not only is the HomePod comparatively limited in terms voice assistant support, it’s also smartphone limited. If you don’t have an iOS device, the HomePod isn’t for you. Set-up is via Apple’s Home app and without an iPhone there really isn’t another way to configure it. That said, configuration with an iOS device is fast and easy.
Another unfortunate aspect about the HomePod is that it’s built to work best with Apple Music. For Apple Music subscribers this is great news. Switching playback between your phone and the HomePod is seamless and, for those with a multi-room setup, different tracks can be played in different rooms. You can use Spotify or Tidal, but neither are integrated into the speaker. The HomePod is also capable of automatically calibrating sound based on the surround environment.
As well as running multiple third-party assistants, the Sonos One is slightly less limited in terms of set-up. To set the speaker’s room compensation feature up, you’ll need an iOS device for Sonos Trueplay. This is because Sonos trusts the consistency of Apple’s microphones more than the various options across the Android ecosystem. You’ll need to recalibrate the speaker each time you move it, which can get annoying.
To control the speaker, both Android and iOS devices can be used. The speaker allows for basic commands with Spotify, Tidal, Pandora, TuneIn Radio and Amazon Music. You can set two speakers up in stereo or play different tracks in different rooms if you have a multi-room setup. As the speaker supports AirPlay 2 so you can stream audio from AirPlay-enabled devices.
The less restricted nature of the Sonos ecosystem means it takes the win here. But, if you are an iOS devotee and happy with Apple’s walled-garden approach, there’s enough keep you sated.
Sonos One vs Apple HomePod – Sound
The Sonos One offers a full-range sound, so it’s capable of reproducing bass, midrange and treble frequencies. While treble can be soft, it’s much preferable to a hissy sibilant tone. Bass is impressively deep and controlled, while the midrange sinks its teeth into plenty of detail. It can can go loud too – you’ll rarely feel the need to go beyond 70%.
Sound quality is where the HomePod really shines. It’s versatile and sounds great across a number of genres. The sound is balanced, capable of moving between booming bass and quieter, more subtle tunes with no trouble at all.
The HomePod also has a more spacious sound compared to the One and, though it is a mono speaker, the seven 360-degree tweeters do a convincing job of immersing the listener in the presentation that’s far better than you’d expect from a traditional mono speaker.
The HomePod deservedly takes the honours here. It’s the best-sounding smart speaker on the market regardless of price.
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Sonos One vs Apple HomePod – Verdict
The Sonos One and the Apple HomePod are both impressive smart speakers, but overall the Sonos One takes the victory as it is best suited for a wide range of people and needs.
If you’re an Android user, the HomePod’s lack of compatibility with non-iOS devices is a bugbear. Sonos is the more considered option, with plenty of support for voice assistants, great audio and can be had for less.
For iOS users the Apple HomePod will suit you down to the ground. While it costs more, it’s a smart speaker that’s easy to set up and features truly impressive audio.