Don‘t Buy a Sonos One Until You Read This

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Over the past 20 years, Sonos has built a reputation for high-end WiFi speaker systems and multi-room audio. The Sonos One, released in 2017, represented their first push into the competitive smart speaker market dominated by Amazon, Google and Apple.

Priced at $219, the Sonos One promised premium, Alexa-enabled sound. On paper, it was poised to be the audio-enthusiast‘s smart speaker. However, from both critics and customers, a few consistent complaints have emerged.

This in-depth guide will analyze key disadvantages potential buyers should weigh before purchasing the Sonos One:

Overview: Sonos One Features and Price

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

First, let‘s do a quick rundown on what the Sonos One actually offers:

  • Alexa voice assistant built-in, Siri and Google Assistant compatible
  • Proprietary Sonos app for WiFi streaming
  • Touch controls plus far-field microphones
  • Compatible with 100+ streaming music services
  • Designed for room-filling sound
  • 2 Class-D amplifiers, 1 tweeter, 1 mid-woofer
  • Apple Airplay 2 support

Sonos One Specifications

Frequency Response50Hz to 16kHz
Sound StageMono (can be paired for stereo)
Maximum Volume86 dB
Power Output2 x Class-D amplifiers
NetworkingWiFi b/g/n (2.4GHz/5GHz)
Unsupported ProtocolsBluetooth
Dimensions6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 inches
Weight4 pounds

In terms of pricing, the $219 MSRP positions the Sonos One squarely as a premium smart speaker option:

Sonos is betting the boost in audio quality justifies the increased cost. But does the listening experience live up to expectations?

Common Complaint #1: Expensive Compared to the Competition

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

There‘s no doubt the Sonos One sits at the top end of the market in terms of pricing. As CNBC notes, consumers can buy an Amazon Echo Dot plus six Philips Hue smart bulbs for the price of just one Sonos One.

To put the pricing in more context:

  • Global smart speaker sales saw over 30% growth to reach 147.7 million units shipped in 2021 [1].
  • However, average selling prices continue declining. The overall market average dropped to $41 per unit last year. [2]
  • Yet Sonos prices nearly 5.3 times above that typical level.

It‘s simply very difficult for mainstream consumers to justify paying that large of a premium. Sonos loyalists understand the brand‘s reputation for premium build quality and audio fidelity. But to new smart speaker buyers doing initial product research, that price gap to competitors appears extremely steep.

Common Complaint #2: The Setup Process Can Be Painful

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Being the first Sonos WiFi-only speaker (sans Bluetooth connectivity), getting the One configured on home networks has drawn user frustration.

As an example, see the 1-star review excerpt below from BestBuy complaining about convoluted setup:

Sonos One BestBuy Review

Getting it configured was 45 minutes of pure PAIN […] Had to connect to it‘s own WiFi signal, open my wifi settings to manually connect them. [3]

Having no quick Bluetooth pairing option, the Sonos app tries to walk you through the process with mixed results. Owners have complained about struggling through the "networking gymnastics" as the above review put it.

By comparison, Amazon Echo and Google Nest devices feature Bluetooth and a straight-forward app that gets everything connected in under 5 minutes. For a premium $219 speaker promising an improved experience, first impressions can definitely disappoint.

Common Complaint #3: Lack of Bluetooth Causes Major Headaches

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

In 2023, it seems unthinkable for any audio product to lack Bluetooth – but alas, the Sonos One soldiers on without it.

And this isn‘t merely a missing "nice to have" feature. The impacts of no Bluetooth support significantly reduce the Sonos One‘s overall flexibility:

  • No ability to directly play audio from your phone/tablet music library
  • Cannot easily move the speaker between rooms (would require reconnecting to WiFi)
  • No linking with Bluetooth-enabled TVs or computers
  • Lack of a pseudo headphone jack via Bluetooth passthrough to other speakers
  • Inability to take voice calls from your smartphone via the One

Essentially, the set of key use cases supported heavily revolves around WiFi streaming. By not supporting direct device pairing, Sonos caters primarily to listening to cloud services.

And that tunnel vision flies in the face of other smart speaker makers. Amazon and Google integrate Bluetooth into even their cheapest models to maximize versatility.

By refusing to add Bluetooth alongside WiFi, Sonos intentionally limits what you can achieve from their hardware for questionable reasons. Modern consumers expect flexibility not arbitrary restrictions.

Common Complaint #4: Sound Quality Fails to Scale

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Engineers recognize there‘s always an inverse relationship between speaker size and maximum sound output. Smaller drivers physically can‘t move enough air to fill larger spaces.

And at six inches tall but packing quality components inside, the Sonos One sounds fantastic on paper…for personal listening or confined rooms.

But how does real-world performance hold up?

The Sonos One:

  • Reaches only 86 dB loudness – nearing the limits of safe volume
  • Houses drives less than two inches wide inside the speaker body
  • Contains limited DSP processing for digitally enhancing acoustics

As users quickly realized, those hardware factors cause clear struggles filling bigger areas:

"I have 150 square foot basement area I wanted to fill […] Suffice to say this did not work." [4]

"I have 20‘ ceilings and the One doesn‘t put out enough volume to provide sufficient coverage." [5]

"I have high ceilings in the living room, and the One lacks the power I‘d hoped for to fill the space." [6]

Despite the speaker‘s fantastic audio components, physical limits to small form-factor systems emerge when placed in larger living spaces. Performance doesn‘t scale up accordingly.

Common Complaint #5: Music Sounds Restricted in Mono

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

With the Sonos One containing only a single tweeter/woofer, audio playback defaults to a mono channel instead of stereo.

And unfortunately, various owners run into thin, narrow reproduction from modern songs:

"Some songs definitely lose their energy and the experience isn‘t nearly as good."

"The stereo effects are decreased and dimensionality suffers using only one Sonos One."

"Complex mixes sound very centered and lacking in atmosphere."

What explains the difference listeners note over Bluetooth speakers producing stereo audio?

Modern music mixing heavily utilizes the spatial environment afforded by left/right separation. Engineers carefully pan different instruments and elements across two channels to infuse space and energy.

Collapsing that expanded soundstage into just a single channel removes vital dimensionality from recordings. Vocals stay locked front and center while previously immersive flourishes suddenly vanish.

You can group two Sonos One speakers as a stereo pair of course. But that requires buying an extra $219 speaker…not ideal. Out the box, the mono limitation definitely disappointed more discerning listeners.

Common Complaint #6: Large, Bulky Body

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Given the significant technological components inside like dual amplifiers and loud drivers, the Sonos One carries a surprisingly hefty footprint:

  • 11% wider than the Amazon Echo
  • Over twice as heavy at 4 pounds
  • 30% taller than even the Apple HomePod Mini

Space comes at a premium in the age of minimalist interior design. And owners have mentioned struggling to properly place the substantial Sonos One chassis in their intended rooms.

The thick body prevents discreet mounting versus rival speakers fitting unassumingly into shelves. And the additional height/depth only exacerbate matters – frequently pushing the Sonos One awkwardly outside the bounds of where owners prefer positioning it.

Is the elevated internal hardware ultimately worth the mammoth footprint? For those such as apartment renters with limited space to spare, probably not in retrospect.

Bottom Line: The Sonos One Still Shines for Ardent Audio Enthusiasts

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

If held purely on sound quality alone in a controlled setting, few smart speakers available can match the rich acoustic profile produced by the Sonos One.

It provides audiophiles unmatched wireless streaming fidelity at this price point thanks to quality drivers, specialized tuning, and the proprietary Sonos software platform tying everything together.

However, several core aspects demonstrate clear areas where Sonos missed the mark designing their first WiFi-centric voice assistant speaker. Both critics and customers widely panned key limitations like:

  • Prohibitive pricing
  • Overly complex installation
  • Lack of Bluetooth flexibility
  • Inability to sufficiently fill larger spaces
  • Downmixing to inferior mono sound

Do those cons outweigh the tempting prospect of owning a superb-sounding Alexa speaker?

That depends on your personal listening preferences and use cases.

Casual listeners prioritizing convenience may be better served saving money on an Amazon Echo or Google Nest. What you lose in absolute audio precision gets offset by smart integration, intuitive controls and stereo separation.

But for devoted music enthusiasts playing high-resolution lossless streams who demand the best fidelity possible, the Sonos One still shines despite its shortcomings. Just ensure your expectations properly align with reality before purchase.

Did you own or consider buying a Sonos One smart speaker? Weigh in below on whether this review helped even out the pros vs cons. And please share your own experience with the Sonos ecosystem!

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