Apple's hotly anticipated HomePod 2 smart speaker is finally available after years of speculation and, as our in-depth HomePod 2 review attests, it's really rather good.
However, the similarly small but significantly more affordable Sonos One is also a great smart speaker that, in a broad sense at least, offers a very similar feature set to the new HomePod.
So, which one is best and which should you actually buy? We've put both speakers through a rigorous testing process and compared them directly with one another in order to deliver a full, frank and unbiased verdict.
Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: price
Apple’s HomePod 2 is considerably more expensive than the Sonos One, coming in at £299 / $299 / AU$479. The Sonos One currently sells for £199 / $199 / AU$319 on the company’s official store, though we have seen it available for as little as £170 / $170 / $270 at various times from third-party retailers.
There is, of course, the question of value to address, but we'll get to that in the final verdict. For this round, we're interested purely in which smart speaker is the more affordable, and that's the Sonos One.
** Winner: Sonos One **
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 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.
The big difference between the two speakers is the top panels, though. The Sonos has neat and functional touch-sensitive controls, but the HomePod 2 has a very large, round touchscreen interface that swirls with coloured light as you interact with Siri. This, combined with the more modern, sophisticated woven casework, makes the new HomePod comfortably the more stylish of the two wireless speakers on test here.
** Winner: Apple HomePod 2 **
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.
Ultimately, while both speakers received five stars for sound quality at their respective prices, there's no contest when you listen to them side-by-side: the HomePod 2 is comfortably the better performer.
The HomePod 2 sounds fuller-bodied, more spacious, more rhythmically fluid and more dynamically subtle. Both speakers struggle with the super-deep bass of test-favourite track Limit to Your Love by James Blake, but the HomePod has a significantly better stab at it, at least getting the first note right before slightly losing its nerve slightly with the second, even deeper one. The Sonos gets very confused by the whole bass sequence and doesn’t really do a good job of it at all.
The Sonos is still a great-sounding speaker at its price, though, and it's actually more direct than the HomePod in its delivery of vocals, which it projects into the room slightly more effectively. The HomePod is certainly not bad in this regard and its all-round greater sonic sophistication and fluidity make it an easy winner in this round.
** Winner: Apple HomePod 2 **
Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: smart features
Smart functionality is obviously a huge part of the appeal of a smart speaker, and it's a key differentiating factor between the HomePod 2 and the Sonos One. The long and the short of it is that the HomePod isn't really worth considering unless you're already deep in the Apple ecosystem or prepared to get deep in there.
With the HomePod, Apple Music is the only streaming service of note that's properly supported via Siri. You can't play tracks from Spotify or Tidal, for example, using your voice.
There's also an argument that Siri just isn't as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant. That's debatable and at least partly based on the kind of requests you're looking to have answered or fulfilled, but Siri is certainly a good assistant in a musical context – assuming you are also an Apple Music subscriber. The range of commands you can use and the granularity of requests that are recognised are real highlights when it comes to living with the HomePod, and the "play something I'll like" command remains hugely powerful when you want to find a new jam.
The Sonos One, on the other hand, works best with the Alexa and Google Assistant systems, plus Sonos Voice Control, which is a music-only assistant that, while good for simply controlling music, isn't smart in the way of the others mentioned here. Many people maintain that Alexa and Google Assistant are "smarter" than Siri, and you almost certainly already have your own favourite, but neither is quite as accomplished as a personal DJ as Siri.
Which smart assistant you prefer will likely come down to what you're already used to and whether you also have other smart home devices that you'd like to use. The HomePod 2 certainly has the potential to be more useful here, in that it has built-in temperature and humidity sensors that allow for a certain amount of extra automation, and it supports the new Matter protocol, which is fast becoming the new standard for interoperability between 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.
** Winner: Apple HomePod 2 **
Apple HomePod 2 vs Sonos One: verdict
The Sonos One has been a brilliant smart speaker for a long time, and it's true that it will still be the best choice for a huge number of people, particularly those who are already invested in the Sonos ecosystem. In fact, it's a better choice than the HomePod 2 for everyone who isn't already a dedicated Apple user or is happy to become one.
But if you are already or are prepared to become a dedicated Apple user, there's no getting around the fact that the HomePod 2 looks and feels more premium, sounds significantly better and is, at least where music's concerned, smarter than its Sonos rival.
Price, of course, comes into it, and the Sonos One is significantly cheaper than its Apple rival, but we still feel that the HomePod 2 is the better performance-per-pound option, once again assuming that you're happy with the Apple deal.
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