Amazon's original Echo speaker has been joined by the smaller, more affordable Echo Dot, but the larger device is still the "flagship" of Bezos' smart speaker line. However, as Amazon has allowed Alexa to be built in to more and more third party devices, it's also seen more competition on the speaker front.
Sonos has jumped in as the most interesting third-party smart speaker maker, combining its audio quality with Alexa (and one day Google Assistant) to make the Sonos One, its first (but not only) smart speaker.
So which flagship speaker is the one for you? What device should you invest in to anchor your smart home? That's what this showdown is all about.
Sonos One v Amazon Echo: Design
The second-generation Echo is a major improvement over the original in design. It's shorter with a fabric exterior, giving it a more homely, less robot-in-the-kitchen feel. It can slot better into your home, and it comes in a variety of designs.
It's very easy to forget that the Echo is around until you use it, and then you'll see that iconic blue Alexa ring to let you know it's working its little AI brain. The Sonos One, on the other hand, is on a different wavelength.
The Sonos One looks like a lot like the Play:1, Sonos' older, dumb, speaker. There's a flatter top with touch buttons, which aren't necessarily worse or better than the Echo's physical buttons. Its Alexa light, which is a white light at the top rather than a blue ring, is also more obscured than the Echo's.
The Sonos One doesn't have the same decor-matching style that the Echo does, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that it's designed to be a speaker first. This is a device that serves a function: music. It's built to pump out the best possible sound quality, and does so with aplomb.
If fitting a smart speaker into your room of choice is important to you, the Echo will provide more variety and options. If you don't care so much, you'll need to choose based on some of the other categories we're evaluating.
Sonos One v Amazon Echo: Voice and Sound
The Echo has seven far-field microphones, and it's specifically designed to be able to hear you and answer your request. On this, we haven't had many problems using the Echo to talk to Alexa on a day-to-day basis.
In fact, we've found Amazon to be one of the best at minimising false wakes. The Sonos One, on the other hand, doesn't fare as well. It's not terrible, but we have noticed that the Sonos One is less consistent at hearing us than the Echo.
A lot of this is because Amazon can build their tech to best take advantage of Alexa's capabilities, and it knows what it needs to do. Sonos, on the other hand, has to balance Alexa with its own needs, and that leaves Alexa a little harder of hearing.
Read this: The best multi-room music systems
However, when it comes to sound quality there's no doubt: the Sonos is the clear winner. It's clear at every frequency, it doesn't distort at high volumes, and it has punchy bass that doesn't drown out the rest of the sound. It can also evenly distribute sound at 360 degrees. Plus, you can use Sonos' Trueplay feature to tune your audio specifically for each room.
The Echo's sound quality isn't bad. It's certainly an upgrade from the original Echo, carrying a punchier sound, but it lacks the clarity and depth that the Sonos One provides. You can listen to music on the Echo just fine, but the difference can be pretty stark.
If you care about listening to music at a great quality, the Sonos One is the obvious winner here. If you're not a huge music listener and just want a good vehicle for Alexa, then the Echo is a better match.
Sonos One v Amazon Echo: Features
One major way Amazon has been able to fortify itself against third-party Alexa speakers is that it has a host of exclusive features reserved for its own devices. The biggest of these is multi-room music support, Amazon's own multi-room music mode which only uses Echo devices. There's one exception to this ‚Äď the Polk Command Bar.
Of course, Sonos made its name on multi-room music. It's the original, and its system is one of the easiest to use. You need Sonos speakers to make use of Sonos' multi-room music system, but it's begun pushing out a number of new types of speakers, like the Sonos Beam, which will make all of this a bit easier to wrangle.
For the most part, the Sonos One handles Alexa about as well as an Echo device can. Previously you had to specify which device you wanted to play music on, but now there's an update that allows you to pair a Sonos speaker to Alexa. That means you can skip the specification.
You'll still get your flash briefings and weather reports and timers, but you won't get things like Alexa Calling and Messaging. You also can't pair Alexa Gadgets like the Echo Wall Clock to the Sonos One.
Read this: How to use Sonos and Alexa
The Alexa ecosystem just isn't as rich on the Sonos One as it is on an Echo ‚Äď for obvious reasons. The Sonos ecosystem is pretty good, though. It's more geared towards music, rather than making your smart home more automated, as the Echo is. However, the Sonos One will get Google Assistant at some point, which means you don't just have to rely on Alexa. If you want to switch to Google Assistant, you can.
The Sonos One also gives you more platform versatility in general. It's an AirPlay 2 speaker for instance, and has support for around 73 music services. You've got Spotify, Deezer, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn, Pandora, SoundCloud, SiriusXM, Napster, Calm, Saavn, Slacker Radio and much more.
Echo, on the other hand, has 11 services. That's not including Google's services, like YouTube Music, due to a corporate spat between Amazon and Google. The easy way to boil that down is this: Sonos One provides platform versatility, from assistants to music services. The Echo is all about staying in Amazon's Alexa ecosystem.
Sonos One v Amazon Echo: Price
This one turns out to be a clear winner for the Amazon Echo. You can get the Echo for , with Amazon continually running deals and slapping it into bundles with smart home products.
The Sonos One, however, is considerably more expensive. It'll cost you , which is double the price of the Amazon Echo. All of that is in the name of much better sound quality.
Sonos One v Amazon Echo: Final verdict
In the end, you're not going to lose by going with either smart speaker. The big difference here is one of values. Do you want to stay in Amazon's Alexa ecosystem and have the best Alexa experience possible? If so, the Amazon Echo is the winner here thanks to its better hearing and exclusive Alexa features.
If you care about sound quality, then the Sonos One is the clear champion. Not only are you getting a better audio experience, you have support for seven times more music services. You can also pair that up with a Sonos Amp to get a better listening experience.
Of course, there are some other considerations. If you're a big HomeKit user and want some Alexa in your life, the Sonos One is a great way of striking a balance. If you're unsure about committing to either Google Assistant or Alexa, the Sonos One will eventually be able to offer both.
Of course, if price is a consideration the Echo is a clear winner here. You can still listen to music and do the Alexa things, but for a considerably lower amount.