If you’re not interested in voice assistants, the One SL is a smarter choice than the Sonos One. Slightly cheaper, it offers the same great features and sound. Whether you’re after a standalone speaker or want home cinema rears for your Sonos system, the One SL is a super choice.
- Great sound
- Skips privacy concerns by dropping voice assistants
- Compact and convenient size
- Wide integration with music streaming services
- No Bluetooth
- Requires Trueplay tuning every time its moved
- Review Price: £179
- Sonos Radio
- AirPlay 2
- Sonos S2 compatible
- Black/white finishes
- Trueplay tuning
- Class-D digital amplifiers
The Sonos One SL is the Sonos speaker to get if voice assistant smarts aren’t of interest, with the same audio quality as the One for a few pounds less.
Announced alongside the Move Bluetooth speaker, the Sonos One SL replaced the now discontinued Play:1 in Sonos’ home speaker range. It’s the same as the Sonos One aesthetically but does not have built-in microphones, removing the option to use voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Alexa.
As such, the One SL is the workhorse of the speaker lineup. You can pair it to the One or another One SL for stereo listening. If you purchase two, they can act as rear speakers for the Beam soundbar or Arc Atmos bar to create a surround sound environment.
And in case you were wondering, the SL stands for ‘speechless’.
Sonos One SL Design — Minimalist design lets the audio the talking
The One SL is effectively the same speaker as the One. It’s the same size (161.45 x 119.7 x 119.7: HWD, mm), weighs the same (1.85kg) and comes in either white or black finishes with matching matte grilles.
On the top surface panel are responsive touch capacitive buttons for playback and volume, plus a LED that indicates the speaker’s status. Around the rear is an Ethernet socket (for a wired connection), mains cable and the ‘Join’ button, which facilitates connection to the Sonos wireless mesh system. And that’s pretty much your lot when it comes to design.
The unit is reassuringly hefty and it’s neither too big nor too wide, so it can sit in a number of places whether on a bookshelf, bedside table or kitchen counter.
It’s attractive in a minimalist way, which means it can sit in an environment and not draw attention to itself, letting the audio performance do the talking instead.
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Sonos One SL Features — No voice assistants but still smart
The main difference between the One and the One SL is the omission of the built-in microphones. While you can mute the microphones on the One for privacy concerns, the One SL removes this complication altogether.
That doesn’t mean that the One SL isn’t smart – it’s just less emphasized. In setting up the speaker and connecting to the Sonos ecosystem, it opens up a pathway to a wide range of features.
Aside from the Move which supports Bluetooth, the One SL continues Sonos’ Wi-Fi focus. As such, control over the speaker is through the Sonos app available on Android, Fire OS and iOS. There are two versions available: the Sonos S1 and the new Sonos S2 app.
The One SL can work with either, but if you have newer Sonos products released after May 2020 and want to group the One SL with them, you’ll need to migrate/set-up on the S2 app.
Access to either Sonos app affords the user the ability to tap into the varied ecosystem that Sonos offers. Spotify, Tidal and TuneIn are just a few of the streaming services integrated into the app, offering easy and simple access to music streaming libraries.
The new app’s UI is slightly tidier, a bit greyer and features increased security, but works similarly as before. Speakers can be assigned to various rooms, volume adjustments made and speakers grouped together. You can fire music at a group of speakers or send audio to just one etc.
New for 2020 is Sonos Radio, which works similarly to Apple’s Beats 1, acting as a reservoir for music discovery with thousands of radio stations from around the world in one place. Every Wednesday is the Sonos Sound System where an hour of radio is curated by a current musician.
With its controller, Sonos has built an app where everything feeds into it. If there’s an audio app you subscribe to, odds are good you’ll be able to find it here and start playing on a Sonos speaker. It’s slick in its approach and very seamless in its integration of other services.
For iOS users Sonos supports AirPlay 2, so you can fling audio to the speaker if you’re watching Apple TV+ on your iPad or TV box. Through AirPlay 2 you also get Siri integration for any commands you wish to do when using Apple Music, for example.
The One SL uses Trueplay to tune the speaker’s audio to its environment. This is only available on iOS as Sonos trusts the consistency of Apple’s microphones more than variable clusters across Android devices. This is not the same as the Auto-Trueplay that the Move speaker has, so everytime you move the One SL, you’ll have to repeat the same tuning process.
Sonos One SL performance — A cracking, well-balanced and articulate listen
Tucked inside the One SL are two Class-D amplifiers powering a single tweeter and a mid-bass woofer. It’s the same configuration as the Sonos one and for all intents and purposes, the audio quality is the same – which is to say that it’s another great-sounding performer.
Once Trueplay tuning is done, the One SL proves to be a formidable and talented compact speaker. It puts a premium on clarity and detail with a midrange that’s spacious and uncluttered. The clarity of vocals stands out, separated from the hubbub of a track and given the space to breathe so every word can be caught.
Tonally it’s spot on: the presentation clean, attacking and neutral. Compared to a similar speaker, the Denon Home 150 for example, it’s capable of more acuity and subtlety. Rhythmically it’s terrifically engaging – What Did I Miss? from the Hamilton soundtrack moves swiftly on with a near-perfect sense of timing and dynamics.
Bass is evident, and though other speakers can exert more force in this sense, none of them do so with the sense of control that the One SL offers. For a compact speaker it unsurprisingly lacks a bit of weight and heft, and every now and then there’s just a stray sibilant tone that you can catch, such as in the Prelude track from the 21 Bridges soundtrack, but treble performance is mostly sharp and clearly defined.
Well-balanced, with a bigger, louder sound than its size suggests, whether it’s to be used in a standalone setup, in a stereo pair or within a Sonos home cinema system, the One SL is a fantastic little speaker.
Should You Buy the Sonos One SL?
The question as to whether to buy the One SL comes down to whether you want to engage in the Sonos system. Considering the breadth of features it offers, there’s no compelling reason not to.
The Sonos system offers plenty of features and integration with streaming services, and is simple enough to use. If you have the Beam compact soundbar or Arc Atmos bar, two of the One SL speakers would make for excellent rears to complement the front-facing delivery.
It’s probably not the best-sounding smart speaker – the honours go to the Apple HomePod – but it is a capable and superbly communicative compact speaker. Sonos dubs the One SL as the essential home speaker, and it’s easy to see why on the basis of this performance.