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Which Sonos speaker should you buy?

Which Sonos speaker should you buy?
(Image credit: Sonos)

If you like the idea of multi-room audio, chances are you’ve considered Sonos. Over the last decade or so, the company has become synonymous with wireless multi-room audio, almost single-handedly shaping the market into what it is today. 

With competitive sound, lots of support for streaming services, voice control options and simple set-up, Sonos remains one of the most compelling wireless streaming solutions out there – even with the likes of Audio Pro and Bluesound knocking at the door. The experience has just got even better, too, thanks to the introduction of the Sonos S2 platform update. Needless to say, we recommend buying into the Sonos ecosystem if you're thinking about building a wireless, multi-room system. 

The core products in the Sonos family – Sonos One, One SL, Play:3 and Play:5 wireless speakers, the Arc and Beam 2 soundbars, Playbase soundbase and Sub, plus the portable Sonos Move and Roam speakers – all share the same DNA, but it’s more than just price and size that distinguish each product. Your particular needs will determine which one(s) you should buy, and how you should configure the best Sonos setup for your home.

Sonos ceased firmware update support for legacy products in 2020, so whether you're considering upgrading to a current model or taking the first steps on your Sonos journey, this page should help. Not sure where to start? Wondering which Sonos speaker is best to buy? Here's the lowdown on the complete Sonos range... 

Sonos Roam

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

(Image credit: Sonos)

The Sonos Roam is the firm's cheapest and smartest speaker. Portable, with Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity, the Toblerone-shaped Roam is a great alternative to the company's first Bluetooth speaker, the 2019-released Sonos Move (below).

Designed for both indoor and outdoor use, the (appropriately-named) Roam is rated IP67 waterproof and boasts a 10 hour battery life – despite being a sixth of the size of the Move. 

It comes with an excellent bag of tricks, too. Sonos Swap (exclusive to the Roam) lets you 'hand off' whatever music the Roam is playing to another Sonos speaker nearby, while improved Auto TruePlay uses the speaker's microphones to optimise the sound according to the speaker's surroundings.

Why should you buy the Roam?
Want the smallest and smartest speaker in the range? The picnic-friendly Roam could be just the ticket. Sound quality is seriously full-bodied, but it's fair to say other Bluetooth speakers offer a slightly more dynamic performance. Does that matter? Not really. Not when you factor in the Roam's nomadic abilities, AirPlay 2 support and robust build quality. All in all, a superb Sonos starter speaker.

Sonos Move

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

(Image credit: Sonos)

Launched in 2019, the Move was Sonos' first-ever portable Bluetooth speaker, giving users the option to take their audio into the garden, or even into to the bathroom to keep them company. 

As you'd expect, the Sonos Move is as much a Sonos wi-fi speaker as those before it – you get network music streaming, multi-room and voice assistant – but it's big, heavy and expensive compared to the new Sonos Roam (above). 

That said, the Move's 3kg heft enables it to deliver weighty sound that is spacious, loud and entertaining. All in all, it does a fine job of delivering the Sonos experience in a portable-ish package.

Why should you buy the Move?
If you want a light, portable, Bluetooth Sonos speaker you'll want to consider the newer, smarter Roam. However, while the Move is heavier and more expensive, it also delivers a sense of scale that the (much smaller) Roam cannot match. 

Sonos One

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

Sonos’s answer to the growing trend of smart speakers is a revamped version of the now-discontinued Play:1 with Amazon’s Alexa voice-control built-in – and it passes its smart test with flying colours. 

It's not the best-sounding smart speaker out there (for the money, that's probably the Apple HomePod Mini), but the One's solid, detailed, spacious and organised presentation impresses, and its Alexa is as seamless to use as on Amazon’s own speakers.

It has the crucial feature of being able to use Alexa to control Spotify, and it even supports AirPlay 2 and Siri, with Google Assistant due soon. The One is easily on eof the most well-specified and versatile smart speakers around.

Why should you buy the Sonos One?
You wouldn’t buy the Sonos One just for its AI smarts. But it's a great perk that's hard to ignore. If you want a good-sounding wireless speaker that’s your stepping stone into the world of multi-room streaming (especially the convenient, feature-packed Sonos one) that just happens to have the added bonus of voice-control – all for an affordable sum – then the One is the one for you.

Sonos One SL

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

(Image credit: Sonos)

The second cheapest wireless speaker in Sonos' range after the Roam, the One SL is essentially a Sonos One without voice control. To that end, it looks almost identical to the Sonos One, with a touch-sensitive top plate and pairing button at the back. And it sounds like one too, which is to its credit; the Sonos One sounds excellent. 

The sonic performance, streaming options and app-support are among the best we’ve tested at this level.

Why should you buy the Sonos One SL?
If you don't care for voice control and simply want Sonos integration, the One SL makes a lot of sense for you and your bank account. But it also serves another purpose for those who do want voice control: to work in a stereo pair with the One. Pair a One and One SL together in stereo – a set-up that looks and sounds good for the money – and you’ve created a pair of stereo speakers where the One can handle voice activation.

Sonos IKEA Symfonisk bookshelf speaker

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

(Image credit: Sonos/IKEA)

We didn't know what to expect when IKEA and Sonos released a bookshelf that could sing... but the results are actually quite impressive. The Sonos IKEA Symfonisk WiFi bookshelf speaker can be wall-mounted (or stand upright) and hold up to 3kg of books, ornaments or any other clutter you decide to place upon it. But as well as that, it also has all the Sonos wireless multi-room functionality you'd expect.

Though it was never likely to rival the Sonos One for sound quality – and doesn't – the same character is there. This Symfonisk bookshelf speaker sounds bold and focused, only lacking a little refinement compared to the best speakers at this price.

Why should you buy the Sonos IKEA Symfonisk bookshelf speaker?
Do you like the design? Do you want a Sonos speaker that's also a bookshelf? Do you want the most affordable way to get a piece of the Sonos magic? Look no further. But if you value sound quality and are prepared to spend a little more, we'd go for the Sonos One instead.

Sonos IKEA Symfonisk lamp speaker (2021)

Sonos Ikea Symfonisk lamp 2021

(Image credit: Sonos, Ikea)

Ikea and Sonos' second generation Symfonisk table lamp is official This time round you can snap up the base separately, pairing it with two different types of shades – a glass offering, or a softer fabric shade.

The bases and shades are available in black and white, while a revamped design shifts the controls over to the lamp itself. This makes for a sleeker design, as the new base has ditched the foot section of the original model, which previously housed the controls. 

New acoustic architecture has been promised along with the makeover, with continued support for Apple AirPlay 2 and Sonos multi-room audio. Unlike the original, it also features a "custom waveguide" which will apparently offer "a wider and more room-filling sound", regardless of where you place it. It's compatible with a wider range of bulbs too, thanks to a new E26 / E27 socket.

We were impressed with the sound offered by the original lamp (which can currently still be snapped up on sale), so we have high hopes for an even better experience here. Price-wise, the new Symfonisk lamp will be available in Ikea’s US stores and “select markets in Europe" from 12th October. 

Why should you buy the Sonos IKEA Symfonisk lamp speaker?
There is nothing else quite like it on the market, but the real plus is that you aren’t forced wholly to sacrifice sonic prowess to accommodate the quirky design. And again, it's one of the most affordable ways to introduce Sonos technology into to your home.

Sonos Beam Gen 2

Home cinema soundbar: Sonos Beam Gen 2

(Image credit: Sonos)

The Sonos Beam Gen 2 is a direct replacement for the multi award-winning original, and has some pretty big shoes to fill. It aims to up the ante by cramming in Dolby Atmos capabilities into the same miniscule form factor, and achieving this without any upward-firing speakers, no less.

It sounds like a crazy risk but, as you can read in our Beam Gen 2 review, we can confirm that its use of forward-facing drivers (configured into five separate arrays rather than the original's three), combined with more processing power, results in a product that's even better than the original.

The end result is a soundbar that can handle Dolby Atmos more capably than many more expensive soundbars with actual upward-firing drivers. The end result is a more spacious soundscape, with an impressive sense of height.

Atmos aside, it sounds incredible, besting the Gen 1 with more refinement, a warmer treble, and a wider dynamic range. Overall the listening experience is richer, more nuanced, and varied. And that's without even mentioning the return of the usual features like Apple Airplay 2, Alexa and Google Assistant support, and eARC connectivity.

Why should you buy the Beam?
The compact dimensions are ideal for those who can't fit the larger, pricier Arc into their homes, though getting the full spectrum of Sonos's multi-room and streaming features for a more affordable price will be hugely popular, too. Ultimately, the Beam Gen 2 is comfortably the best Dolby Atmos soundbar at this price point.

Sonos Arc

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

(Image credit: Sonos)

The Arc is Sonos' stunning Dolby Atmos soundbar. In our review, we called it "simple to set up, lovely to live with and supremely capable". It's a current What Hi-Fi? Award winner in the soundbar category too, if you needed further convincing.

The Arc is certainly big – at 114cm wide, it is a bit wider than a typical modern 49in TV – so it's best partnered with a 55in TV (for comparison, the Playbar is 90cm wide). But if you can accommodate it, you won't be sorry.

Unlike the Beam, the Arc supports eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel), so it can handle Dolby Atmos signals from compatible TVs. And, in short, it delivers one of the most convincing Atmos presentations of any soundbar we’ve heard.

Why should you buy the Arc?
If you want one of the most convincing surround sound performances from a soundbar on the market, plus all the usual Sonos functionality built-in, the Arc would be an inspired choice. The Sub can be added for more grunt (although we don't feel it necessary) and other Sonos speakers can be used as dedicated surrounds if you wish, just as with the Beam (above) and Playbar and Playbase (below).

Sonos Arc SL

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

(Image credit: Sonos)

If you're on a tighter budget, Sonos offers a cheaper, mic-free version of the Sonos Arc called the Arc SL. Because there's no built-in microphone, you can't speak to control it (the same goes for the mic-less Sonos One SL)  but you can easily add voice controls by wirelessly connecting the Arc SL to a voice-enabled speaker such as the Sonos One, Amazon Echo or Google Home. Indeed, you might already have such a speaker in your home, in which case the Arc SL could be a canny buy.

It looks identical to the Arc and is just as capable as filling large rooms with immersive Dolby Atmos sound as a slightly more affordable price. The Arc SL is currently available at Costco in the US and Canada, for around $50 less than the Arc. Costco also carries this exclusive Arc SL 'Shadow Edition', which is the same product in a fetching dark grey finish.  There's still no word on when the Arc SL will arrive in the UK, if ever.

Why should you buy the Arc SL?
If you want convincing surround sound performance from one of the finest soundbars on the market, but you're not bothered about built-in voice controls, the Arc SL is a smart buy over the standard Arc.

Sonos Playbar

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

The Playbar was replaced by the Arc so has essentially been discontinued. But it's still on sale at retailers such as Richer Sounds – and at a hefty discount too. It's compatible with the latest Sonos S2 platform update, so owners won't miss out there, and generally a good option for those looking for a soundbar at this price.

The Playbar offers the same core functionality and streaming features of its speaker siblings, but can also connect to your TV (via digital optical cable only, not HDMI as with the Arc and Beam). As its size suggests, it offers a greater sense of height and a bigger spread of sound than the smaller Sonos Beam above, but it isn't as sonically mighty as the Arc and doesn't support Dolby Atmos.

If you want a more enveloping sound, any of the other wireless speakers can be paired with the Playbar to act as surround channels for a full 5.1 set-up. In this set-up, it can decode Dolby Digital and produce pseudo-surround from a stereo signal, but can't handle DTS or higher quality soundtracks such as Dolby TrueHD.

Why should you buy the Playbar?
The Playbar isn’t cheap, and the Dali Kubik One may give you better audio performance, but the fact it delivers TV sound and the Sonos music streaming package at a reduced price makes it a tempting buy.

Sonos Playbase

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

Another discontinued (but Sonos S2-compatible) product that's still on sale at chunky discount, the Playbase is quite simply a Playbar in the form of a soundbase. Stylish yet sturdy enough to plonk your telly on top, the Playbase makes perfect sense if you don't fancy using a soundbar. In fact, it's the only Sonos option if you're set on the soundbase form.

This Sonos product isn't flawless. Despite its huge, airy soundstage and energetic, solid bass (which sounds more natural than the Playbar) there's a sibilance to the treble that can be hard to ignore. It's punchy and dynamic, though, so we'd recommend giving it a try before you buy.

It's a breeze to use when going multi-room and you still get access to all those streaming smarts, but like the Playbar the lack of HDMI connections is something worth bearing in mind.

Why should you buy the Playbase?
The Playbase isn't perfect, but the core Sonos features we love – its ease of use, the extensive streaming features, the great S2 app – are all present. It's a sure step up from your flatscreen TV's sound, and there isn't any other soundbase that packs in so many useful features into one streamlined box.

Sonos multi-room system

Which Sonos speaker is best for you?

The great thing about Sonos is not only its wide range of products, long list of streaming services, user-friendly app and set-up, and consistently impressive performance. It’s also that your system can constantly grow – whether that's through adding wireless speakers to your soundbar set-up or planting them in another room. And if you want to add voice control into the mix, it's a seamless process.

While no longer compulsory, we would recommend anyone committed to the multi-room cause to hardwire at least one (a ‘master’) speaker to your network router, so you can take advantage of the proprietary peer-to-peer mesh network that makes Sonos so reliable. Alternatively, the more powerful Sonos Boost (£99) is designed to make your wi-fi signal twice as robust – ideal for large houses and thick walls.

Finally, it's worth noting that the Sonos S2 app now supports 24-bit 44.1/48kHz streaming via Quboz. The Sonos S2 app already lets users play 24-bit files from a local drive, but this is the first time that users have been able to stream hi-res tracks from a music service. 

Why should you buy the Sonos multi-room system?
As an entire ecosystem, Sonos is hard to fault – if you don’t mind sacrificing high-resolution audio support, of course. Sensibly priced, beginner-friendly and with an appealing expand-as-you-go ethos, it’s a multi-room mogul to be reckoned with.

Alternatives

Sonos is far from the only option when it comes to choosing a multi-room system. The company may have been first, but big players such as Bose, LG and Yamaha, and hi-res supporting brands, including Bluesound and Denon, have since joined the fray.

The increasingly popular (and cheaper) smart speakers from Amazon and Google also offer multi-room streaming across their various voice-controlled products, while the Apple HomePod Mini  boasts exceptional multi-room powers thanks to AirPlay 2 (which Sonos also has in select products).

While most rivals may not have been able to topple the multi-room giant, newcomers such as Audio Pro have shown it is possible to deliver great-value sound. 

Check out our full Sonos guide for everything you need to know about the company's speaker ecosystem and its alternatives.

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