The first smart speakers, the Amazon Echo and Google Home, broke new ground in voice control and artificial intelligence wizardry. But they simply didn’t sound very good for music. It took until the creation of the Sonos One for a relatively affordable smart speaker to couple voice assistants with proper sound quality.
The Sonos earns our Editors’ Choice Award for its sound and reasonable price. The Amazon Echo Studio is the One’s closest competitor and Amazon’s best-sounding Echo speaker yet. If you want to upgrade to a smart speaker with better sound, these are the two speakers I’d recommend first. But how do you choose between them?
The Sonos One is a compact smart speaker with a rock-friendly sound. It’s got a great app and supports lots of streaming services as well a choice of digital assistants. It’s a CNET Editors’ Choice Award winner for good reason.
The big Amazon Echo Studio has a huge sound that can fill a large room with music. It’s also more feature-rich than the Sonos One, and the sensitive microphones make sure Alexa can hear you over the music.
On paper the Echo Studio offers more features for the money than the Sonos One. One of the biggest is the ability to connect to a TV and replaystreams. Sadly, its claims to amount to a bit of a gimmick. Buying the Echo just for that, you’d run out of stuff to listen to pretty quickly.
The Sonos One’s killer feature is that you can control it with either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, though sadly you can’t switch between them on the fly — you have to use the app to switch. Sonos also supports dozens more music services than the Echo — and many, such as Spotify, offer direct control from the app. While Sonos’ app is still pretty easy to use, you can likely use your favorite service’s app instead. Be aware there’s no Bluetooth playback here, just Wi-Fi.
Sonos’ Achilles Heel, if there is one at all, was its microphone, but based on my tests of the second-gen Sonos One, the company seems to have improved the mic’s sensitivity. Play your music loud if you want, and Alexa can still hear you.
I had no issues with the microphones on the Echo Studio and was impressed by how it could still hear me, even though it was able to go much louder than the Sonos One. It’s the winner between the two if you want to play loud.
What do you want your smart speaker to do? Provide music in the kitchen, or connect to your TV to play movies? The Sonos One is one of the best speakers for background listening: just dotting around the place and playing music where you need it. It’s not going to have you on the edge of your seat, but it sounds good with almost everything. It also has surprisingly deep bass for such a small enclosure.
The Amazon Echo Studio, on the other hand, has absolutely zero chill: Everything sounds huge and exciting all the time. This is great if you’re watching Jack Ryan on TV or playing rock and roll, less good if you’re trying to listen to some relaxing music. The Echo Studio has a bigger soundstage too, great for filling larger rooms with sound.
Sonos has long been the master of multiroom music, and if you want to be able to listen to and control music in multiple rooms, then the Sonos One is the winner here. Sonos has been around a long time and despite being proprietary it’s supported by third-party vendors fromto .
Amazon Multi Room Music (MRM) is a decent stab at multiroom but only one non-Amazon product supports it — the Polk Command Bar. There are plenty of multiroom standards out there, but sadly MRM isn’t top of mind for many people.
Which should you buy?
The Sonos One is the speaker I’d recommend if you’re looking for a kitchen or dining area speaker. It also makes a great stereo setup if you buy two. But it doesn’t connect to your TV or use Bluetooth.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a fully-featured sound system the Amazon Echo Studio is a better choice, even if its large size makes it awkward to place next to a TV. Ais an even better choice for that, but if you really want to party the Studio is here for you.
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