Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: is it worth paying more?

Apple HomePod 2 and Sonos One pictured together
(Image credit: Future)

Apple has finally unveiled its hotly anticipated HomePod 2 smart speaker, after years of speculation. 

But, with the new Apple tech looking incredibly similar to one of What Hi-Fi?’s favourite smart speakers, the Sonos One, you may be wondering which one is best for your specific needs and budget.

To help give an early steer, we have created this guide, based on our expert knowledge of the market and experience using the Sonos One and first-generation Apple HomePod.

To be clear, this is an early versus feature – we haven’t had the new Apple HomePod 2 in for review yet. We will update this page with our final verdict on which is better when we have put the new Apple speaker through its paces in our test rooms, so make sure to keep checking back with What Hi-Fi? in the coming weeks!

 Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: Price 

Apple’s HomePod 2 is considerably more expensive than the Sonos One, coming in at £299/$299 in the Apple Store. The Sonos One currently sells for £199/$199 on the company’s official store, though we have seen it available for as little as £170/$170 on competing outlets such as Amazon and RicherSounds. 

 Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: Release date

The Apple HomePod 2 was launched and made available for pre-order on 18 January 2023 and will start shipping on 3 February. The Sonos One (second generation) we are comparing it against is much older, having come out all the way back in 2019 – a year after the first generation Apple HomePod made its debut. The original first-generation Sonos One is, of course, even older, having launched in 2017. 

Apple HomePod 2 main image black background

(Image credit: Apple)

 Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: Design 

At first glance, the HomePod 2 and Sonos One look fairly similar. Both are available in black or white colour options and are similarly tall –  the HomePod 2 is 17cm (6.6in) tall while the Sonos One is a slightly stubbier 16cm (6.36in). But up close the two speakers do have some obvious differences.

For starters, the Apple HomePod 2 has a 360-audio, cylindrical shape, while the Sonos has a rounded-edge square design. On top of that, for the environmentally conscious, the HomePod 2’s woven finish speaker grille is made of “100% recycled materials”, according to Apple. There is no such guarantee on the Sonos.

Up top, while both have capacitive controls, the Apple HomePod’s interface includes a backlight.

 Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: Sound

Under the hood, both also have fairly different speaker setups. The HomePod 2 features a single 10cm (4in) woofer paired with five tweeters and five microphones. This is a change from the original HomePod which had seven tweeters and seven mics. The Sonos One features a set-up pairing two Class-D digital amplifiers with a single tweeter and mid-woofer.

We haven’t reviewed the HomePod 2 speaker yet, so can’t make any definitive comments on how its audio compares with that of the Sonos One. However, we can make some inferences based on our experience with Apple’s first-generation speaker and the Sonos.

We gave the first-generation HomePod and Sonos One five stars each when we reviewed them. A big part of this verdict was how much better they sound during our tests than competing smart speakers, including the newer Amazon Echo Studio we tested last year.

Our expert testers went so far as to report “at no point in our test do we play a single piece of music that sounds anything other than absolutely correct” for the HomePod. They gave equal praise to the One, listing it as being “top of the sonic charts for wireless speakers at this price point.”

We will be interested to see how the two compare when we get the new HomePod 2 into our test rooms.

Our review process will include how well they sound in specific setups and locations. Both speakers feature beam-forming technology, which lets them scan their environment and optimise their audio settings accordingly. They also feature the ability to run in stereo with other speakers from the same family, such as the microphone-free Sonos One SL or another current-generation Apple HomePod 2. Sadly Apple's new speaker can't be synced with a first-generation HomePod or HomePod Mini.

In the past, we have found that some speakers are much better than others at optimising their sound and running in stereo and multi-room setups. 

Party Up on a UE speaker, such as the recently tested Wonderboom 3,  is nowhere near as precise and lacks the directional quality we experience using multiple paired Sonos speakers, for example.

Sonos One lifestyle shot with phone

(Image credit: Sonos)

 Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: Smart features

Thus far you may justifiably be wondering why the HomePod 2 is so much more expensive than the Sonos. From what we have seen, the answer appears to be the new speaker's advanced smart functionality.

For Apple users, the HomePod 2 features a lot more smart home functionality than the Sonos One.

For starters, The HomePod 2 features built-in temperature and humidity sensors. These, according to Apple, will let users create smart home automations to do things such as playing a siren when it detects smoke or carbon monoxide. The mics can also reportedly be set to alert you if the speaker detects certain noises, such as signs of a break-in, say.

The HomePod 2 is also the only one of the two to support the Matter standard. This is a new smart home standard used by most big tech companies, designed to let devices communicate. On paper, this means the HomePod 2 can act as a control station for all Matter-compatible smart home devices, including alarms, smart lights, routers and cameras. 

The flip side of this is that the controls will be locked to Apple’s Siri assistant, which isn’t as good for people who don’t own a recent iPhone or iPad, or who favour the competing Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa platforms – which the Sonos One supports on top of Siri.

Early thoughts 

At first glance, the HomePod 2 looks like a very compelling piece of kit, especially if you want to use it as a smart home control center, thanks to its Matter support.

The big question for us, though, is how good it sounds. Until we know that it’s hard to call which is better; despite the lack of Matter support and the additional sensors, the Sonos One is a lot cheaper and has brilliant multi-room functionality.

It also works with a wider range of digital assistants, which on paper makes it a more flexible choice for people outside of Apple’s ecosystem. So the deciding factor will largely be the one area we have no direct experience of with the new HomePod 2: audio quality. 

MORE:

Read our in-depth Apple HomePod 2 review

Check out our Apple HomePod 2 vs HomePod (1st gen) guide

Read our Apple HomePod 2 vs HomePod Mini  comparison 

Check out our picks of the best smart speakers

Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time.