Best Sonos alternatives 2023: multi-room music systems

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: multi-room music systems
(Image credit: Future)

Looking to build a wireless audio system that can spread into every room in your home? Whether you want one room or five rooms of sound, it's worth thinking about your multi-room options before you get started. There are now speakers, soundbars and surround sound systems to consider, all of which allow you to send music to every corner of your home, playing from streaming services and connecting to your TV to double up as a home cinema set-up.

Sonos has long been the leading choice in the wireless multi-room speaker market, thanks to its easy-to-use app and its extensive support of streaming services. Its line-up has just got even better, with the addition of the Era 300 and Era 100 speakers (the Sonos Move 2 is also rumoured to launch soon). But it's not the only game in town – there are now plenty of excellent Sonos alternatives on the market for multi-room music.

Whether you want something cheaper than Sonos, or simply offering a different set of features (such as hi-res audio or Bluetooth across the range), we've rounded up the best Sonos alternatives on the market. And many of them might just suit you better...

How to choose the right Sonos alternative

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Before you dive right in and spend a fortune on a Sonos alternative, wait. You don't have to buy a complete off-the-shelf system, you can start with just one or two speakers and expand it on a device-by-device basis, going room to room. This will help you spread the cost over months – or even years – and take a more considered approach to which rooms really need adding to your multi-room set-up.

App control is now pretty standard, and most systems also work with voice assistants like Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa. Deep into Apple's/Google's/Amazon's ecosystem? Make sure your Sonos alternative is compatible with your smart assistant of choice, or switch allegiance.

Multi-room systems let you listen to the same song in every room, or a different song in each room, ensuring a harmonious home in more ways than one.

There's a vast choice of multi-room speakers and systems on the market, but which is best? Sonos is the most recognisable brand, but there's plenty to choose from besides. Let's take a look...

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Audio Pro

This plucky, likeable upstart doesn't quite rival Sonos' dominance, but it is a very good prospect in its own right. (Image credit: Audio Pro)
The best Sonos alternative we've tested for price and performance.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: Yes
Outputs: Optical, RCA
Streaming: AirPlay, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer, TuneIn, Qobuz
Voice control: No
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Insightful and expressive sound 
+
Old Addon speakers can be incorporated
+
Excellent value

Reasons to avoid

-
App lacks slickness and sophistication

Audio Pro has made its mark on the multi-room market in a short space of time. We're big fans of the Swedish company's wireless speakers, which look and sound superb, and together they make an excellent Sonos alternative.

The Audio Pro Addon C3, Addon C5A and Addon C10 MkII all deliver excellent audio performance for the money. (In fact, the C3 and C10 MkII both won 2022 What Hi-Fi? Awards.) They're entertaining, musical performers and superior to a lot of rivals at similar money. Crucially, they also offer Bluetooth and line-in inputs on many of their models, giving even more flexibility.

The Audio Pro range doesn’t include the same home cinema components as some of its multi-room rivals, and the app is simple rather than full of features. But for sound quality at the price, this system is currently unbeatable. 

Read the full Audio Pro multi-room system review

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Apple HomePod 2

It might look a lot like its predecessor, but the HomePod 2 contains plenty of improvements... (Image credit: Future)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. The best-sounding wireless speaker for Apple fans.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: No
Outputs: None
Streaming: AirPlay, Amazon Music, Deezer, Pandora
Voice control: Siri
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Natural, solid and energetic sound
+
Atmos adds spaciousness
+
Brilliantly well made

Reasons to avoid

-
Only for Apple users
-
Siri can't control Spotify, Tidal etc
-
Rivals sound more direct

The HomePod 2 is the latest speaker from big tech heavyweight Apple that we’ve reviewed. It’s the pricier option in Apple’s current lineup, sitting well above the smaller HomePod Mini featured in this list, and a successor to the first generation HomePod we tested all the way back in 2018.

Though it looks a lot like its predecessor, under the hood it’s a completely different beast and a clear sonic step forward for the brand. Our tests revealed it to be one of THE best sounding smart speakers you’ll find, blowing its closest rival, the Amazon Echo Studio, out of the water and offering a much more precise low end than the first generation HomePod.

Listening to Apple Music’s Dolby Atmos version of The 1 by Taylor Swift, the vocals hold a wonderful clarity and warmth. Really pushing it with SBTRKT’s Trials Of The Past in Apple Lossless quality, the speaker delivers equally precise audio and avoids falling victim to sibilance, which is a common issue we encounter playing the song on speakers this price. The new HomePod has boundless energy; its enthusiasm is infectious, its rhythmic drive always exciting and engaging.

The deep integration with Apple’s ecosystem also makes it blissfully easy to set up. Paired with an iPhone all you have to do is scan for the speaker and run through a few on-screen commands to get it fully up and running and integrated with your smart home setup. The entire process only took us a few minutes. 

This includes a clever process where the speaker uses in-built sensors to optimise its sound settings for its position in the room. Testing the feature by moving it closer to a wall in our listening room, our reviewers could hear the HomePod 2 adjusting its sound in real-time. Very impressive.

The only real downside to the HomePod 2 is that it is very much designed for people embedded in Apple’s ecosystem. Its primary connection is locked to Apple’s AirPlay 2 tech, Apple Music is the only music streaming service natively supported and Siri is your only option for voice commands. This is a minor annoyance as services like Tidal or BBC radio still don’t work with Siri. This will limit its appeal to those who aren’t Apple fans or fully ensconced in the iOS ecosystem, and who might prefer more platform-agnostic options like Sonos, or another alternative from this list.

Read the full Apple HomePod 2 review

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Bluesound Generation 2i

If sound quality is a priority in your multi-room set-up, Bluesound is for you. (Image credit: Bluesound)
An excellent Sonos alternative, which majors in hi-fi quality sound.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: Yes
Outputs: Optical, RCA
Streaming: AirPlay, Spotify Connect
Voice control: Amazon Alexa
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Capable of 24-bit/192kHz
+
Highly musical
+
Punchy bass

Reasons to avoid

-
Some components feel a bit budget

In our minds, the first genuine alternative to Sonos was Bluesound, whose key hook of high-resolution audio support made it our preferred multi-room system for years (as multiple Awards trophies attest). 

Bluesound is a solid Sonos alternative with an improved BluOS app that makes daily use a breeze. If you have deep pockets and a library full of hi-res music, it's likely your best option.

Bluesound's current line-up includes the 2022 Award-winning Bluesound Node, Pulse 2i, Pulse Flex 2i, Node 2i, Powernode 2i and Pulse Soundbar 2i. You can add older Bluesound models into the mix, too.

Read the full Bluesound multi-room system review

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Apple HomePod Mini

Dot these around your house, and you'll be welcomed by a smart, sophisticated sound. (Image credit: Future)
What Hi-Fi? Awards 2022 winner. Apple’s Siri-powered smart speaker is small but mighty.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: No
Outputs: None
Streaming: AirPlay, Amazon Music, Deezer, Pandora
Voice control: Siri
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Sophisticated, engaging sound
+
Substantial smart skills
+
Impressive music discovery

Reasons to avoid

-
Limited third-party service support
-
Lacks a full control app

The HomePod Mini really is bijou. At just 8.4cm tall and 9.8cm wide, it’s quite a bit smaller than the similarly spherical Amazon Echo. In fact, it’s even dwarfed by the Echo Dot. Get its swirling orb of coloured light up and running (when Siri is listening or processing) though, and you realise you've got a classy performer on your hands.

In fact, this mini marvel won a What Hi-Fi? Award in 2022. 

After a short period of learning, Siri will respond to the phrase “Hey Siri, play something I'll like” not by streaming your most played track of the last few weeks, but by playing something that you may have never listened to before but is a good fit for what you often do listen to. It’s a really powerful way to discover new music, and Alexa is nowhere near as good at it.

It goes loud, too. From the moment we start playing music, it’s clear that the HomePod Mini comfortably outperforms its size and price, quite frankly embarrassing its direct competition with the sophistication and maturity of its sound.

Dot a few of these around the home, and you'll fill the place with sweet, sweet music.

Read the full Apple HomePod Mini review

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Denon HEOS

Denon's HEOS system is a great all-rounder with support for hi-res. (Image credit: Denon)
A simple yet sonically-capable multi-room set-up.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: Yes
Outputs: Optical, RCA
Streaming: Spotify Connect, Amazon Music
Voice control: Amazon Alexa
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Smooth, spacious sound
+
Hi-res audio support

Reasons to avoid

-
Audio Pro pips it for sound quality

Denon might be better known for its AV receivers, but it also offers soundbars, subwoofers, amplifiers and wireless speakers. What's more, all of that kit can be connected up through Denon's HEOS platform. 

Since launching, HEOS has been upgraded with support for high-res audio and additional support for streaming services such as Amazon Music. You also get more Alexa skills, allowing you to control playback with vocal commands.

Sound is smooth, spacious and replete with insight. And while Audio Pro's offering just edges it on sound quality, the HEOS makes a superb all-rounder – and it offers a wider choice of pick 'n' mix components.    

Read the full Denon HEOS multi-room system review

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Amazon Echo (4th generation)

The Echo is affordable, decent-sounding and very user-friendly. (Image credit: Amazon)
An excellent and affordable alternative to Sonos with added Alexa smarts.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: No
Outputs: 3.5mm
Streaming: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer
Voice control: Amazon Alexa
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Expansive bass in a small design
+
Lots of smart features
+
Classy build and finish

Reasons to avoid

-
Slightly underwhelming treble
-
Not fully omnidirectional

Amazon's multi-room-supporting Echo speakers are a great cheaper alternative to Sonos. The Amazon Echo, Echo Plus and Echo Dot are all considerably cheaper than the entry-level products from Sonos or Audio Pro, while you can also buy products with video screens, such as the Echo Show 10.

The standard Echo is a great place to start. It has a fuller, richer sound than the Echo Dot, but is still very affordable. The Alexa app makes placement and multi-room configurations a breeze, and there are plenty of music streaming options available across multi-room.

The Echo (4th generation) is a solid cornerstone from which to build your smart home and easily betters its predecessor for expansiveness, subtlety and bass weight. And on a budget, too.

Read the full Amazon Echo (4th Generation review

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Amazon Echo Dot (5th Generation)

Another worthy entry into the Amazon Echo family, and a wallet-friendly Sonos alternative. (Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)
The 5th Generation of Amazon’s Echo Dot really hits the spot.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: No
Outputs: None
Streaming: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer
Voice control: Amazon Alexa
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Impressively expansive sound 
+
Great Alexa integration
+
Pleasing, understated aesthetic

Reasons to avoid

-
Sound distortion at the higher ranges

The fifth incarnation of the Amazon Echo Dot doesn’t exactly break from its predecessor in the looks department, retaining that round shape and understated aesthetic that served the 4th Generation so well. It's lost the 3.5mm audio output, but can still be connected to another speaker via Bluetooth.

Like other Echo speakers, it prioritises Amazon's services, but isn't limited to them: SpotifyDeezer and Apple Music are supported alongside Amazon Music, though sadly there's no Tidal.

Amazon promises clearer vocals, deeper bass and vibrant sound in any room thanks to a single 44mm front-firing speaker, larger than the previous gen’s 40mm. It sounds very impressive indeed, especially given its diminutive dimensions and price. The bass carries some weight, but isn't as clear as with pricier speakers. And crank the volume up and distortion starts to creep in.

Nevertheless, this is another stunning entry to the Echo speaker range.

Read the full Amazon Echo Dot (5th Generation) review

Best Sonos alternatives 2023: Google Nest Hub (2nd Generation)

The Nest Hub is almost three times cheaper than the equivalent Amazon Echo model. (Image credit: Google)
Google offers smarts, sound and a screen at a budget price.

Specifications

Wi-fi: Yes
Ethernet: No
Outputs: 3.5mm
Streaming: YouTube Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Netflix, Disney+
Voice control: Google Assistant
Bluetooth: Yes

Reasons to buy

+
Great streaming service support
+
Good-value screen
+
Sleep Sensing tech

Reasons to avoid

-
Making calls requires app
-
Basic sound

To put the Google Nest Hub’s 7in (1024 x 600) touchscreen into context, the display real estate is only slightly smaller than the iPhone 14 Pro Max's when measured on the diagonal – and here, there's no camera for selfies, video calls or security duties.

But there are plenty of music streaming and TV services available, including All 4, Deezer, Netflix and Disney Plus – and remember, Amazon's smart products don't currently have 'skill' support for Disney Plus. The headline-grabber, however, is Sleep Sensing (which costs extra). As the Nest Hub includes Google’s Soli sensor for motion detection, plus light and temperature sensors, not only can you stop and resume tracks by simply showing your Hub the palm of your hand, the chip housed within the speaker can tell you how long you slept for and how restful your sleep was. It's something different and trying to align your 'sleep circles' with a good eight hours is quite addictive. 

Amazon's Echo Show 10 – a similar smart-speaker-with-screen concept – is almost three times the price and is bigger, beefier, and comes with a snapper. But thanks to Disney Plus, Sleep Sensing tech and a good (if not great) sound, the Google Nest Hub is a great Sonos alternative that's a realistic proposition for most rooms in the home.

Read the full Google Nest Hub (2nd Generation) review

How we test Sonos alternatives

At What Hi-Fi? we comprehensively test and review every product we recommend, from soundbars to speakers, headphones and TVs. And it's no different for Sonos alternatives.

As a rule, we do comparative testing – ensuring new products are tested against their rivals according to product type, features and price. Almost all the testing is carried out by our team of expert reviewers at our dedicated test rooms.

Multi-room speaker systems are tested for sound quality, features, ease of set-up and use, and overall performance. And we aim to test multiple products in each family, usually involving at least two wireless speakers and a soundbar but this will vary depending on each system's product line-up.

As with all products we test, all review verdicts are decided by the team rather than one reviewer in order to avoid possible bias. There's no input from PR companies or our sales team when it comes to the verdict, with What Hi-Fi? proud of having delivered honest, unbiased reviews for decades.

FAQ

What is a good alternative to Sonos?

Sonos is the best known of all the multi-room systems, but there are plenty of alternatives. Big names like Apple, Amazon, Google and Bose offer speakers that can work together wirelessly as a multi-room system, as do less mainstream brands like Audio Pro and Bluesound.

Our best Sonos alternatives are ranked in order of preference, so we think the Audio Pro devices are the best alternatives around. But depending on your needs, you'll find any of the systems on this page a treat.

Why is Sonos so popular?

It's a combination of factors. Sonos has been in the game for a long time, so it's built up a reputation. Its ecosystem is one of the most comprehensive out there, with all the main streaming apps and services covered, and an 'everything just works' approach.

Over the years it's also built up a portfolio of products that covers every need, from portable speakers (Sonos Roam), to soundbars (Sonos Ray), and everything in between. So whatever kind of system you're building, there's a Sonos speaker (or three) for every room in the home.

Of course, it helps that Sonos' app is first class, as is its sound quality.

Is Bose or Sonos better?

Both Bose and Sonos offer speakers and soundbars that can talk to each other wirelessly to create a multi-room system. Our tests have shown Sonos' devices have come out on top overall, thanks to the reasons listed above. But Bose does make some excellent speakers, while its noise-cancelling headphones are some of the best in the business.

Sonos is rumoured to be working on a pair of wireless headphones, so who knows, there might be less to separate these two brands in future...

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.

  • arcadelt
    I recently discovered that when the Internet is down, not only do Alexa and Google Assistant not work, but the apps do not work either. I don’t own an Echo or Google Home based multiroom audio system, so don’t know exactly how they are controlled, but I suspect lack of connectivity might render them useless too. On the other hand, in that circumstance my Sonos system continued to work flawlessly with local content.
    Reply
  • rodanger75
    Is there a multi room music system that can receive a stream from a local PC over Wifi in multicast ? Sonos devices can't (although they can receive AirPlay from a Mac), and all I see on other systems is Bluetooth input (which is good but not as good as multicast for range and quality).
    Reply
  • arcadelt
    rodanger75 said:
    Is there a multi room music system that can receive a stream from a local PC over Wifi in multicast ? Sonos devices can't (although they can receive AirPlay from a Mac), and all I see on other systems is Bluetooth input (which is good but not as good as multicast for range and quality).

    you can set a computer as a music source for a Sonos system, and the Sonos app can then reach into that source and play that music over WiFi. Is that similar to what you are asking?
    Reply
  • SonosSucker
    What Hi-Fi? said:
    Sonos might be among the best in the business, but it isn't your only option if you want to go multi-room.

    The best Sonos alternatives 2020: budget and premium multi-room solutions : Read more

    Sonos has become a terrible system.

    The Sonos S2 app is awful (I use it on MacOS and iOS,). It hasn't been updated but for bug fixes since it was launched - how many decent apps can say the same? Looking for music is difficult within each service. I use both Apple Music (primary) and Amazon (stations and playlists only). We used to use Spotify. The Apple Music sub-app doesn't allow for viewing by Composer or Genre (Amazon does), you can't filter searches at a minimum between Apple Music's offerings and your own content. Amazon sub-app doesn't allow any searches by artist or album. In all apps, including Sonos's own "favorites," playlists are lumped together with no folders or groupings). You can't jump through a huge list of artists or albums by typing a letter or using an alphabet scrollbar like other music apps. The lack of genre grouping is the most annoying and so easily fixed!

    There's no feedback from the app to any of the cloud services - so no updates to Frequently Played, Recently Played, Favorites. Adding songs to queue loses any artist or album grouping. Only a limited excerpt of song information displays. Sonos somehow picks up old album covers (that were incorrect and updated over a year ago) from my Apple Music songs. Amazon Music doesn't allow you to add the songs to your queue so you can't mix and match across services.

    Removing a service requires that service's ID and passcode - yet the reason I want to remove a service is because it's outdated and I don't have the login info! Updating, sure. But removing????

    The room grouping, ability to integrate the PlayBars as regular speakers, and ability to use a variety of streaming services is nice. The number of streaming services supported is excessive when the majority of music listeners focus on the three main ecosystems (Google, Apple, Amazon) and two primary apps (Spotify, Pandora). I'd prefer they spend the time on updating at least the app's UI!

    Sonos WAS a great system - in 2016. Today, its closed design is outdated. Bluetooth has been around forever, yet they only added it in the new system 3 years ago. The integration with smart homes is severely limited. It lacks a separate hub to connect it to wifi and smart home systems. And of course, they bricked the previous system without any way to update it (with a hub, for example) or find a way for it to play nicely with the current system. Infuriating.

    Sonos pitches itself as a premium system at a moderately expensive price that is easily expanded. It is none of those. It's no longer a good value with its limitations, outdated and difficult app navigation, lack of app updates, and blind ear (pun intended) to user feedback. Sonos has failed to keep up with the times. A closed loop that doesn't integrate with the web, cloud, or smart homes is NOT a system. It's an expensive set of wireless speakers with only average sound.

    Sonos bricked me, and I'm sure they'll do it again in 2-3 years. Unless I can figure out a way to get my 3 year old speakers to connect to a hub or something so I can bypass the app and use Apple's app, I'M bricking them! I'll be lucky to get $50 for a $2000 system on eBay or Craigslist. I might keep the TV soundbars despite the fact that they are IR/line-of-sight. *Sigh* Even introducing their "updated" system failed to use technologies (e.g. RF, bluetooth, hubs) that have long been accepted and used by everyone else. Heck, my Lutron lights have better options than Sonos!

    DON'T BUY SONOS is the only advice I can offer. I don't know what else to get; the options you gave were really limited.
    Reply
  • SonosSucker
    arcadelt said:
    I recently discovered that when the Internet is down, not only do Alexa and Google Assistant not work, but the apps do not work either. I don’t own an Echo or Google Home based multiroom audio system, so don’t know exactly how they are controlled, but I suspect lack of connectivity might render them useless too. On the other hand, in that circumstance my Sonos system continued to work flawlessly with local content.

    Yes, but if they had a hub, even an internet outage wouldn't affect it. I have cheap smart outlet plugs, several Lutron switches and recently added an AppleTV so I can access HomeKit when I'm away. When our internet goes down, unless our router blew up, we still have our home network - we just have no connection to the world. Our printers work. Our lights and outlets work. Sonos works. Apple speakers work. Other speakers work. You can't get streaming services, nor access to your music in the cloud, so I'm not sure what the point would be since no content is stored locally that I know of? Unless you use cellular data, in which case ANY Wifi connected speaker system would work.

    It's all a moot point when we lose power, which is frequent, though if we run the generator, I can have all of my connected devices (and yes, the Lutrons and cheap wall outlet plugs still work manually if that outlet/circuit is connected to our generator (which they aren't).
    Reply