Sonos speakers are some of the best around if you’re into home audio. You can get a single speaker just for your room, or multiple speakers to arrange an entire 5.1 surround sound system in your living room. Even though the Sonos lineup isn’t all too vast, it’s still hard to parse apart one model from the next. In this article, we break down the differences between the best Sonos speakers in order to help you find the best one for your home.
Whether you’re new to Sonos or a veteran in the game, the Sonos Move is one of its cheaper offerings yet, so let’s dive right in.
Editor’s note: this list of the best Sonos speakers was updated on June 22, 2021, to address an FAQ about streaming services.
Anyone can benefit from the Sonos Move
The Sonos Move does exactly as its name suggests: it allows you to move around with it. You can take this IP56-rated Bluetooth smart speaker anywhere, so long as you don’t mind a little lifting. When you use the Move speaker in your home, you can connect it to all of your other Sonos speakers over your Wi-Fi network.
Sonos MoveFull Review
Sonos claims that you’ll get 10 hours of constant playback, but our testing falls short of this; we recorded 6 hours, 24 minutes of playtime over Bluetooth. While this can’t compare to some of our favorite JBL Bluetooth speakers, it’s more than enough to host a backyard barbeque.
It has Amazon Alexa built-in if that’s something that you want. So you can skip between songs or change the volume with just your voice. You can also set up Google Assistant voice access, or mute the microphones completely. If you want to learn more about the Sonos Move, check out our video review here.
The Sonos Playbase is the best TV stand soundbase
If you want to build a new entertainment system or add to a pre-existing one, the Playbase might be for you. This multifunctional soundbase is perfect for anyone with limited space: it works perfectly as a stand-alone solution to your TV audio or as a part of a large surround sound setup. Sure, there are several cheaper soundbars that will get the job done but only the Playbase pairs up with other Sonos products.
Sonos PlaybaseFull Review
The Playbase differs from some of the other Sonos speakers because it’s more than just a speaker: it’s also a TV stand. Its max load capacity is 35kg, so you can upgrade your audio output without rearranging your entire living room. It can wirelessly connect to a subwoofer and a pair of surround speakers for a more immersive experience too.
The Sonos Beam is a great all-in-one solution
The Sonos Beam is a smart soundbar designed for your TV. Unlike the Playbase, you can’t place your TV on it. But the Sonos Beam is compact enough that you should be able to fit it in front of your TV without issue. Alternatively, you can also mount the Sonos Beam to the wall.
The Beam fully supports Amazon Alexa, so you can control music and ask it questions the same you would to any Alexa device. It also has some great features tailored for different use cases. You can enable “night mode,” so you don’t wake up everyone in the house. You can also turn on the TV when you ask Alexa—though this requires a compatible TV with an HDMI Arc input.
The Sonos Arc supports Dolby Atmos
If you want the most immersive home theater experience that money can buy (from Sonos), you need the Sonos Arc. Currently, the Arc is the only Sonos speaker to support Dolby Atmos but it shares other features with the Sonos speaker lineup like smart assistant voice access, AirPlay 2 support, and more.
This large soundbar houses 11 drivers for loud, engaging audio reproduction and its low-profile design allows it to blend in with the rest of your furniture. Avid movie watchers will enjoy the Speech Enhancement feature which is a separate sound profile that’s specifically tuned to prioritize dialogue clarity during scenes when actors speak quietly or when loud action occurs in the background.
As with all other Sonos speakers, you can easily connect the Sonos Arc to other first-party peripherals like the Sonos Sub and Sonos One speakers. The Arc is made for TVs larger than 49″, while the Beam is for TVs smaller than 49″. They’re very similar soundbars, though the Beam lacks Dolby Atmos support.
Don’t want Alexa or Google in your home? Get the Sonos One SL
If you don’t want to spend too much money on your first Sonos product and don’t care about (or don’t want) voice assistant integration, then you should pick up the Sonos One SL. It’s cheaper than, and identical to, the Sonos One—minus the microphones. It’s the most affordable entry point into the Sonos ecosystem and you don’t even need to sacrifice too much. You still get the touch-capacitive buttons and Apple AirPlay 2 support.
Sonos One SL
You can buy two of these speakers for the price of a Sonos Move, but you sacrifice portability and Bluetooth connectivity. The One SL requires an outlet and a Wi-Fi signal at all times. Still, it’s hard to beat for the price.
What you should know about Sonos speakers and accessories
What is the Sonos ecosystem?
Sonos is synonymous with home audio because it has refined its ecosystem over the years. Similar to Apple, all of Sonos’ products work together seamlessly and you get complete control over everything via the free app. Whether you want to play different songs on different speakers, play a podcast throughout the house, or just watch a movie, Sonos has you covered.
Sonos is fastidious about updating its products, keeping them updated for years. You can rest easy knowing that if you buy some Sonos speakers today, they’ll work with your future Sonos products down the line.
What’s the difference between the Sonos Port and Sonos Amp?
What if you already have a few home speakers and are just discovering Sonos? Rather than having to throw your gear away and start from scratch like a psycho, you can just get the Sonos Port or the Sonos Amp, but what’s the difference between these two products?
Learn more: How do speakers work?
The Sonos Port isn’t a speaker, it’s more like an adapter that allows you to connect your existing speakers to the Sonos network and stream music over Wi-Fi. It’s designed to work with powered peripherals like an amplifier (Sonos Amp) or a receiver. If you have an older wired system with a non-Sonos amp, you can connect the amp to the Port and stream over Wi-Fi, directly through your favorite music streaming services like Spotify, Qobuz, and Amazon Music HD.
If you have a lot of non-Sonos speakers that you want to link together, you should get the Sonos Amp or Sonos Port.
The Sonos Amp is its own amplifier and can power passive speakers, which is great for anyone with really high-end gear. If you plan to install in-ceiling or in-wall speakers, you’re going to need an amplifier, and that’s where the Sonos Amp really shines. This is great for multi-room playback across your non-Sonos audio system.
What is the Sonos mesh network?
The best part about Sonos is also one of the more frustrating parts: you can control all of your Sonos speakers through the Sonos app. During the setup process, Sonos products create their own mesh network exclusively for Sonos and this piggybacks off your wireless router. (This is how you can seamlessly stream music to multiple devices at once.)
When you play music through the mobile app, it directs your speakers where to play from; this differs from a direct Bluetooth connection. The Sonos app then pulls content from the internet all on its own (after you connect your relevant music streaming service accounts to it). As long as you’re connected to the same Wi-Fi network as your Sonos system, you can control your speakers.
Voice assistants, streaming services, and Sonos
Do Sonos products support Dolby Atmos?
This one is for the home theater nerds out there, because unfortunately, most Sonos speakers do not support Dolby Atmos, save for the Sonos Arc. Most Sonos products do, however, support Dolby Digital 5.1 which you can take advantage of if you have a classic 5.1 surround sound system.
What is Dolby Atmos?
Unlike the classic 5.1 system, Dolby Atmos is an object-based audio format, meaning that sounds can be packaged into “bubbles” of 3D audio that provide a sense of height and even more directionality to your movies or games.
Speakers that support Dolby Atmos, like the Sennheiser Ambeo, can bounce sound off of the ceiling to create a more immersive sound experience. And while it’s hard to explain without breaking out my “marketer language-to-English” dictionary, trust us when we say that the effect is actually really cool and it’s kind of a bummer that only the Arc supports it.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound system, on the other hand, uses regular surround sound and projects different sounds through different channels (speakers).
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Best Sonos speakers: notable mentions
- Sonos Roam: This is a portable speaker that operates over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and offers an IP67 rating. You can link it up with your Sonos system or take it out on the town. The Roam has a 10-hour battery life, which is pretty good for its compact size.
- Sonos Sub (Gen 3): If you’re looking to boost the low end of your music, this wireless subwoofer will create rich bass without unwanted booming and rumbling.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Follow this link to see the full list of audio streaming services that Sonos speakers support over WiFi.
To set up a surround sound system with Sonos, you’ll want a soundbar, so either the Arc or Beam, a subwoofer, and rear surround speakers. Sonos offers quite a few surround sound sets that you can buy for easy compatibility, and you can connect multiple speakers together through the Sonos app.
Yes, you can create Alexa groups with both Sonos speakers and Echo speakers. This is often done by the rooms in your house. For example, if you have an Amazon Echo and a Sonos One speaker in the kitchen, these two speakers will function as the kitchen group. When you issue a command to the group, it will be executed by both speakers.
Sonos’s website currently has Holiday Offers if you order select speakers directly from them. Some of their deals occur on a one-day-only basis, so if you’re in the market for a Sonos speaker, it would be worth checking the website every so often.
In a world of Sonos alternatives, Bose is definitely a close competitor. Both companies have smart home lineups, soundbars, and home theater speakers, but Sonos’ speaker options pretty much end there. Bose, on the other hand, also has a collection portable Bluetooth speakers. As for the value of each brand’s smart home speakers, soundbars, and home theater speakers, it depends a bit on which specific product you’re looking at. Overall, both Bose and Sony opt for a consumer-friendly sound signature that is pleasing to most average listeners. Whether or not you’re a tech whiz, Sonos speakers are typically easier to set up and the experience with the Bose app is usually more frustrating.
Sonos Trueplay is a technology included in all Sonos speakers except for the Sonos Port and Sonos Connect, and is partially supported in the Sonos Amp and Sonos Amp:Connect. It “tunes” itself to whatever room your speakers are configured in so that it can utilize the furniture and walls of the room in creating a soundscape.