Sonos ultimate guide: The best Sonos speakers, creating a Sonos setup & more

Everything you need to know about a Sonos multi-room audio system

The best Sonos speakers
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Sonos is the biggest name in multi-room audio. Sure, the likes of Amazon's Echo range and Apple's HomePod have added some much needed mainstream competition, but Sonos is still the name that regular folk associate with sorting a multi-room speaker setup for their homes.

Sonos is so simple to set up, whether you want one speaker, a stereo-pair, or in-sync speakers in various rooms; and the array of playback options is staggering – think local storage, streaming services, internet radio, TV audio and more. Cost-wise, there are better priced options, but you're certainly getting what you pay for in terms of performance with Sonos.

It does lack somewhat on the smart home front, compared to its dedicated smart speaker rivals, but that's an area where it's continuously improving – not only with its own Alexa-packing speakers, but now with Google Assistant support too, along with other platforms like AirPlay.

It can be daunting deciding which are the best Sonos speakers to invest in, but we've got you covered there with our guide below.

Read on to discover everything you need to know about Sonos.


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The best Sonos speakers

There are an ever-expanding range of different Sonos speakers available, all of which have Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity as standard. Below you'll find a selection of the ones you need to know about, with some key details about each.

But first, you need to know out the new S2 app. Sonos has stopped updating its 'legacy products'. That's the original Zone Players, first-generation Connect and Connect:Amp, the first-generation Play:5, the CR200 and the Sonos Bridge.

You still have the option of carrying on using your Sonos setup, as is; you just won't receive software updates and new features as they launch.

However, if your Sonos system comprises even just one of those legacy devices and a bunch of the newer speakers, you'll have to ditch your old one, or condemn your new speakers to the same no-more-updates fate.

You can split your system apart - which is completely a non-runner for most Sonos setups - or simply let your old Sonos speakers die. You can also upgrade your old Sonos kit using a 30% credit trade-in program, but that still won't stop your old speaker from life in a landfill.

It's all a bit of a PR nightmare for Sonos, to be honest. However, if you are still thinking of building, or adding to, a Sonos system then there are some great speakers to choose from...

The best Sonos speakers

Sonos One

Buy now: Amazon , sonos.com | $199

The Sonos One is the entry-level speaker into the Sonos ecosystem. It's not actually the cheapest – the SL is – but it is the cheapest if you want Google Assistant/Alexa integration.

You can also control your non-Alexa Sonos speakers through your Echo devices, but the One has the smart assistants built in, i.e. you can use it to control your lights, locks and the like, as well as asking for Alexa or the GA's help with various digital tasks. It's also an AirPlay 2 speaker, so it can be grouped up with HomePods and other AirPlay 2-enabled speakers.

In March 2019, Sonos refreshed the One with the Gen 2 model: differences include a faster processor and more memory – and the addition of Bluetooth Low Energy, making it easier to set up the speaker initially.

It's white or black as standard – but there are also HAY Sonos One Limited Edition versions (of gen-1 Ones), which add a splash of color for $30 extra.

The best Sonos speakers

Sonos One SL

Buy now: Amazon, sonos.com | $179

The Sonos One SL replaced the Play:1 and is essentially a Sonos One without the smart assistants. In fact, it's barely distinguishably by its slightly smarter twin, with only the lack of microphones the giveaway here.

Who is this for? Anyone who wants the cheapest "in" to the Sonos ecosystem but also doesn't care or want Alexa or the Google Assistant. Maybe you don't like the idea of putting microphones in your home. Maybe you just don't care about that stuff.

The One SL is a bookshelf speaker that's ideal for bedrooms, offices, kitchens and the like. It's a powerful little speaker on its own but it also works brilliantly in a larger room, paired up to form a duo of stereo speakers.

More than Sonos' mic drop, the SL offer plenty of audio bang for its buck, with two Class-D digital amplifiers, a tweeter for clear high-frequency response and a mid-woofer for mid-range vocal frequencies. It's also cheaper than the One by $20.

The best Sonos speakers

Sonos Move

Buy now: Amazon, sonos.com | $399

Sonos has finally built a Bluetooth speaker, bringing its expertly-tuned sound to the great outdoors. And it sure as hell wants you to know about it .– the Sonos Move is loud.

It's also a speaker of two parts. Indoors, it connects to your Wi-Fi like any other Sonos speaker and behaves just like a Sonos One: there's Alexa and Google Assistant built in, AirPlay 2 support, and easily slips into your multi-room system. But hit that Bluetooth button on the back and you're free to roam, with up to 10 hours of battery life to play with (so long as you're playing at a "moderate volume").

The Move also has Automatic Trueplay, which will automatically optimize its sound for the space around it – but only when it's on Wi-Fi.

Sonos ultimate guide: The best Sonos speakers, mastering a Sonos setup and more

Sonos Five

Buy now: sonos.com | $499

The flagship bookshelf speaker, one of the latest Sonos speakers, is actually a highly-evolved version of Sonos' first ever speaker. It boasts six Class-D digital amplifiers, six dedicated speaker drivers, three tweeters and three mid-woofers.

The Five replaces the second-gen Play:5 and, like its predecessor, has a line-in on the back for CD players, turntables and the like, and also offers up a pair of Ethernet ports so it can act as a handy switch or extender for your wired devices. It can sit in either portrait or landscape too, and comes in a choice of all black or all white.

Compared to the One and One SL, the Five offers a much fuller sound, with an improved mid-range especially – something that feels rather hollowed out on the other two.

Sonos ultimate guide: The best Sonos speakers, mastering a Sonos setup and more

Sonos Arc

Buy now: sonos.com | $799

The new Sonos Arc soundbar has just been revealed, offering Dolby Atmos surround sound and also HDMI connectivity (ARC or eARC) and 270-degree multi-directional sound from that curved grille.

Coming in matte black or white, it's a step-up from the hugely popular Sonos Beam, offering a dedicated TV speaker that isn't just Atmos-equipped, but also stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 friendly too.

Featuring 11 drivers in total; 8 elliptical woofers and 3 angled silk-dome tweeters, the Arc uses Sonos Trueplay software to make sure you get the optimum sound for your room and setup.

Whether your voice assistant of choice is Google Assistant or Alexa, the Sonos Arc has you covered and it's also an AirPlay 2 speaker as well.

While the Arc itself is capable of a 5.0.2 surround sound stage, you can eliminate the virtual parts by adding dedicated rear speakers (any of the Sonos One range is usually the best bet) and a Sonos subwoofer - but more on that in a bit.

The best Sonos speakers

Sonos Beam

Buy now: Amazon, sonos.com | $399

The most compact member of the Sonos gang, the Sonos Beam can, of course, be used as a regular Sonos speaker but really it's designed to beef-up your TV's audio – it connects via HDMI ARC.

It boasts a single tweeter in the middle and three passive radiators, as well as four full-range woofers. There’s also a five-mic array for voice control, which makes it easy for Alexa or the Google Assistant to hear you from a distance over whatever is being played through the speaker. AirPlay 2 is also on board.

The best Sonos speakers

Sonos Ikea Symfonisk

Buy now: Ikea | From $99

Ok, so technically this is the cheapest way into the Sonos ecosystem, but that's because it's not actually built by Sonos. Rather, Ikea's Symfonisk speakers put Sonos sound tech inside Ikea-built furniture. Right now there's a table lamp and a bookshelf speaker, but there's promise of more to come.

Both speakers share the same guts: two class-D amplifiers, one tweeter and one mid-woofer (though the size of these obviously varies between the two). In terms of quality though, they're a little less impressive than the Sonos One – but still sound great.

Sonos ultimate guide: The best Sonos speakers, mastering a Sonos setup and more

Sonos Sub

Buy now: sonos.com | $699

The Arc and Beam both add brilliant sound improvements to your home cinema setup on their own, but they can also be teamed up with other Sonos' speakers as part of a surround sound setup – and that's where the Sub comes in.

Looking more or less exactly the same as the 2nd-gen model, the new Gen 3 Sub has had its innards revamped with increased memory and faster processing power.

However, Sonos' subwoofer isn't just for a TV surround setup; it's also brilliant for adding bass to your music and, again, you can just throw it into a group as per a regular speaker.

Sonos ultimate guide: The best Sonos speakers, mastering a Sonos setup and more

Sonos Architectural by Sonance

Buy now: Amazon | From $599

Sonos also offers non-bookshelf speakers, in the form of the Sonos Architectural by Sonance lineup, which includes in-wall, in-ceiling and outdoor speakers.

They will need to be hooked up to the Sonos Amp to work, which means that embracing this new range of Architectural Sonos isn’t cheap. On top of the Sonos Amp, the Sonance line-up consists of the Sonos In-Wall ($799), the Sonos In-Ceiling ($599) and the Sonos Outdoor ($799).

The Sonos Amp auto-recognise and connect to the Sonance wall speakers, and you’ll be able to tune them via TruePlay.


The extras and Sonos components

Sonos missing manual: What you need to know about the multi-room audio system

That's your lot when it comes to audio output, but there are some additional accessories to make your Sonos system harder, better, faster, stronger.

Sonos Port

Buy now: Amazon | $449

Sonos' Port is an update to the older Connect systems, and will allow you to hook up your old speakers to your Sonos system, rendering what was once dumb very much smart.

Brilliantly, it also includes a 12V trigger, meaning it can turn those devices on and off without you needing to get up and do it yourself.

Sonos Amp

Buy now: Amazon | $599

A replacement for the Connect:Amp, the $599 Amp is twice as powerful as its predecessor, coming with support for up to four speakers with 125 watts per channel. It also supports AirPlay 2.


Sonos 5.1 surround sound system

Sonos missing manual: Everything you need to know about the multi-room audio system

As well as being able to pair up your Sonos speakers for stereo sound, and the multi-room synced music, you can also create a dedicated 5.1 TV surround system from within the Sonos app.

For this you'll need two key ingredients to get started – the Sonos Sub and one of the Sonos TV soundbars: either the Beam or the Arc. That's a 3.1 system right there and Sonos actually sells 3.1 bundles with these setups from $1,098 – that price is for a Beam-based system, you'll pay a bit more to get an Arc involved.

To get to 5.1 you obviously need to add a couple of rear speakers and you can do this with either a pair of Ones, One SLs or even a pair of the Ikea speakers. Technically, you could throw some Sonos Fives at the back, but that would be some level of overkill.

Looking for a Sonos 7.1 system? You're out of luck, there's no official way of doing this at present.


Sonos: How does it work?

Sonos started life way back in 2005, as a remote control (with a display) and an amplifying box – the ZP100 – that effectively made dumb speakers connected. The ZP100 had Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity and, using the controller, you could stream your locally stored digital music, as well as tapping into some internet radio services.

Nowadays, Sonos is effectively a collection of connected speakers that team up with an app – mobile or desktop – to let you stream your music from a huge array of sources. You can have just one Sonos speaker in your setup but the fun starts when you begin to team them up.


Setting up and Sonos Trueplay

Sonos missing manual: Everything you need to know about the multi-room audio system

Whether you're setting up a solo Sonos speaker, or connecting up a bunch of them (you can have a maximum of 32, by the way), you'll start by creating a Sonos account. On a PC or mobile device, operating on your home's Wi-Fi – the same Wi-Fi that your Sonos system will use (to begin with, at least) – get the Sonos app and create an account. You're then walked through the process of adding speakers to the mix.

The best way to do this is using an iOS device so you can make use of Sonos' Trueplay tech – essentially a calibration tool that uses your iPhone or iPad's microphone to measure sound reflections off your room's walls to decipher room size, layout, furniture, speaker placement and any other acoustic factors that impact on sound quality.

It takes a few minutes of you waving your iOS device around the room and then the app adjusts the speaker's woofer and tweeter for the best sound. Sure, the HomePod can do all this without you walking around a room with a phone in your hand, but it does mean the best possible sound from each speaker.


Sonos Multi-room audio

Once you've gone through the process of adding all of your Sonos speakers, naming them and assigning rooms (and creating dedicated pairs of stereo-speakers, if you wish), you'll have a multi-room audio setup at your fingertips.

You can choose to play back different music sources in different rooms, or you can group speakers so they play back the same source, at the exact same time, perfectly in sync. Once you create groupings, your Sonos system will remember these until you ungroup them – it really is as simple as checking or unchecking a box in the app. You can have as many groups set up as you like, but a speaker can only be in one group at a time.

These groups also stay intact when driving Sonos from another source. For example, you can associate Amazon Echo devices with Sonos speakers, creating groups where the Sonos speakers are the default music playback for a command heard by your Echo devices. Same with Google Assistant now too.


Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Boost setup and more

Sonos speakers are not Bluetooth speakers – they operate on the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi spectrum. That means a larger range, uncompressed audio and better control around your whole house. It also means that the speakers themselves are streaming the audio, rather than simply relaying what your phone sends over to them. The one exception to this rule is the Sonos Move, which can double up as a Bluetooth speaker when you take it off its charging cradle

When you first set up a Sonos speaker, though, by default it just runs on your home Wi-Fi network – and the speakers need to have a good signal to your router to operate without lag or drops.

But you can improve things by creating a Boost setup (sometimes referred to as 'Sonosnet'). What this means is a separate 2.4GHz mesh network that operates away from your home Wi-Fi, while at the same time still using your router's connection to the web for its internet-based sources.

The easiest way to do this, if possible, is to connect one of your Sonos speakers – any one will do – to your router using Ethernet. This will make your Sonos speaker a hub for the Boost network. However, the best setup – albeit at an extra cost – is to add a Sonos Boost ($99) to the mix; a dedicated wireless booster that broadcasts 360 degree signals around your house.


What you can play on Sonos

When Sonos started life it was essentially a streamer for your locally stored digital music – think MP3s stored on a NAS drive or within your iTunes library. And while the system is still capable of that, it now offers a whole lot more.

All of the major streaming services are on offer through Sonos speakers (you simply need to sync up your accounts in the app). The list includes: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, Qobuz and Tidal.

In terms of radio playback, you can tap into the millions of digital stations from around the world through TuneIn or SiriusXM - or even make use of the newly launched Sonos Radio service.

Finally, you can also use a Sonos device with a line-in option, or a Sonos TV speaker with digital optical audio, to stream pretty much anything you like around your house – whether that be sound from your ancient hi-fi's cassette deck, the audio from a TV broadcast or even your record player's vinyl.

One piece of advice – if you are planning on streaming anything other than compressed digital music (i.e internet radio, stored MP3s, Spotify and the like), then you'll want a Boost setup to avoid choppy playback.


Sonos ultimate guide: The best Sonos speakers, mastering a Sonos setup and more

What is Sonos S2?

Sonos is about to launch its biggest software date ever. On 8 June, the S1 (old) and S2 (new) systems will go live.

At the start of the year Sonos announced that it would stop updating 'legacy products'. This list includes original Zone Players, Connect, and Connect:Amp, the first-generation Play:5, the CR200 and the Sonos Bridge.

Sonos S2 is not only the name of a new app, that will launch in June, it's also a new OS, for your non-legacy Sonos speakers.

The new app looks pretty slick and there is going to be some sweet new software features for upgraders, such as preset groupings that you can use for speakers at certain times of day, or for events - think 'Good morning', 'Party' and so on.

But the biggest deal is perhaps that Sonos is promising that S2 will "enable higher resolution audio technologies for music and home theater". We're hoping that means high-resolution audio for the likes of Tidal and Amazon Music HD. The first signs of this are the Dolby Atmos features of the new Sonos Arc.

Sonos S1, which will launch alongside the new S2 experience, is basically Sonos as it is now. When S2 goes live, you'll see a pop-up asking you if you want to upgrade your system. If you choose not to, you'll be able to carry on using your Sonos speakers as you do today.


Sonos in the smart home – Alexa, Google Assistant and more

Sonos missing manual: Everything you need to know about the multi-room audio system

As we said in the intro, Sonos is getting better on the smart home front – its Works with Sonos program has partners like Wink, Lutron, Logitech and Yonomi on board, making things like automation recipes possible.

Alexa is also friendly with Sonos – Amazon's assistant lives on the Sonos One and Beam (alongside the Google Assistant), but also via the Sonos Skill, so any Echo can control your existing Sonos speakers. In essence, that means you can add voice control for as little as $30 using an Echo Dot, and totally transform your setup.

Check out our guide to Sonos and Alexa to find out exactly what you can and can't do – but remember, you'll need a Sonos One with Alexa on board to actually control things in your smart home.

You can also now associate Amazon Echo devices with Sonos speakers using the Alexa app; creating groups where the Sonos speakers are the default playback for a command heard. Sonos has also fixed the problem of its speakers lowering the volume every time you talk to Alexa on your Echo, but it's a little tricky – check out our guide on how to fix it.

Google Assistant integration has also now arrived (check out how to enable it right here) and works much the same as the above, which includes using any Google Assistant speaker to control older Sonos models.

However, while Google Assistant and Alexa are both available inside the Sonos One and Beam, they can't cohabit – so you'll have to choose which one you want. Don't worry, you can swap them at any time, and you can even have different assistants running on different Sonos speakers in the house.


Sonos and AirPlay 2

Great news – Apple's AirPlay 2 plays nicely with your Sonos system. Sort of. Some of it at least. The Sonos One, One SL, Sonos Move, the second-gen Play:5, the Playbase and the newest soundbar, the Beam, are all AirPlay 2 enabled speakers and can sync up with the HomePod and other AirPlay 2 speakers.

The rest of the bunch are not – but you can include them by pre-grouping them with one of the speakers listed above in advance. That's because the new Sonos speakers will act as "hubs" while the old ones will just stream the music or audio they need to.

Sonos streaming vinyl from your record player

Sonos missing manual: Everything you need to know about the multi-room audio system

We've spoken about adding a Port, Amp, Connect or Connect:AMP to the mix in order to bring your non-connected audio equipment into your Sonos groups, and one of the most common requests is for people to stream their vinyl record collections over their Sonos speakers.

The good news is that it's not only possible but also easy to set up. You can either use a Port or Amp as stated – using the line-in port – or just go straight into a Five's line-in port.

Simply group up speakers to whatever Sonos device your record player is connected to, click play on the Line-in source and you're away.


Sonos and IFTTT

IFTTT compatibility lets Sonos users integrate their speakers into the wider smart home in a number of interesting ways. For example, you could add a recipe that starts Sonos playing your favourite song when your smart lock registers you arriving home, or a recipe that stops all music playing when your Nest Protect alarm detects smoke.

IFTTT has control over the basic playback functions: pause/resume/next/previous, and the volume controls. The integration is in beta right now, and Sonos says it will be adding more functionality as the beta develops.

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