SONOS is a premium brand that has built its reputation on creating immensely impressive, high-performance wireless speakers. But even if you’re on a budget, you still have options in the SONOS ecosystem…
The cheapest SONOS speaker you can buy right now is the SONOS One SL (it costs $179/£179); it’s a medium-sized wireless speaker that, unlike SONOS’ other One speaker, does not come with a microphone or Google Assistant and/or Alexa. It retails for £179/$179 and is the perfect device for getting acquainted with SONOS’ way of doing things.
Available in black or white, the SONOS One SL packs in a raft of innovative speaker technology that combines to create a clear and extremely powerful sound. If you want the SONOS One with a microphone (meaning it has Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa) it’ll set you back an extra $20/£20 at $199/£199.
SONOS One SL Specs
- SIZE: 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 inches
- WEIGHT: 4.08 lbs
- AMPLIFIER: Two Class-D digital amplifiers
- SPEAKERS: One mid-woofer, one tweeter
- CONNECTIVITY: 802.11 b/g 2.4GHz Wi-Fi, one 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port
- SUPPORTED AUDIO FORMATS: MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, FLAC, ALAC, AIFF, WAV
- SUPPORTED OS: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows
SONOS One vs SONOS One SL
Is it worth ponying up the extra cash for the SONOS One? As always: it depends. Voice assistants are handy, for sure, but I don’t think they’re essential. Not in a device like the SONOS One SL, anyway.
Case in point: I have a Google Nest Hub Max in my kitchen and the only thing I really use Google Assistant for is setting up timers for my eggs, my son’s bottles, and other cooking-related tasks. I find Google Assistant temperamental, especially when attempting to use it with Spotify, so most of the time I simply use the share options inside the Spotify app to set up the streaming myself.
If you’re running on a tight budget, or you’re getting this speaker as a gift for someone, I think you’d be perfectly fine with the entry-level SONOS One SL over the SONOS One w/ voice assistant support. The internet spec, the stuff that really matters, is exactly the same between the two models – you just pay extra for the microphone-functionality on the SONOS One.
SONOS One SL Speaker – What’s Inside…
The SONOS One SL runs a single mid-woofer (this delivers the low end, so bass notes and such), two Class D amplifiers, and one tweeter for the treble. The speaker itself is only six inches, so it’s pretty small. But despite this the sound it produces is extremely impressive. For its size, I think it is, perhaps, one of the best options around at this price point.
The speaker works best when it has plenty of room to work with; you don’t want to put it on a bookshelf, flanked closely by hardbacks. I have mine on our kitchen’s breakfast bar and it sounds great, filling my relatively large kitchen even at lower volumes. However, there is a way to get better sonic performance from the SONOS One SL…
It’s called TruePlay and it is a SONOS technology that essentially “reads” the layout of the room in which the speaker is located. You run TruePlay via the SONOS app on your phone and the speaker will take a sonic reading of the room. Once this reading is complete, the speaker will know the exact dimensions of the space it has to fill and it will augment its sound accordingly.
It sounds fancy, and it is. But it also works great too, so if you do go for this wireless speaker, make sure your use TruePlay when you set it up. And if you move the speaker into another room, be sure to run TruePlay again in order to get the best possible sound quality.
This is Just The Beginning…
SONOS’ whole business model is all about selling you more speakers. In SONOS’ ideal world, you’d have a network of speakers throughout your home which can either work in unison or be used individually. This is the core concept of SONOS – and it is the #1 reason why most people have multiple SONOS speakers in their home. I have three, for instance.
If you have two SONOS One SL speakers, you can pair them together and they’ll act as stereo speakers. In this context, you could have two either side of your HDTV to bring improved sound quality to your gaming and movie watching. It’d also be a lot cheaper than buying SONOS’s uber expensive but ultra-cool Arc speaker which is designed for use with HDTVs and consoles.
It’s also worth noting that ALL SONOS speakers, save for the SONOS Move, are designed for use indoors only; they require a wired connection to the mains and an active internet connection to function – even the SONOS One SL. If you want a rugged, outdoor SONOS speaker, your only option is the £399/$399 Move which is a large, ultra-powerful wireless speaker with a very impressive 10 hours of playback per charge.
Given all of the above, the SONOS One SL, in my opinion, is not only the cheapest way to get on the SONOS train but also one of the best too. It features excellent sound, supports all of SONOS’ latest technology, including the new SONOS App and TruePlay, and, most importantly, it sounds incredible even at lower volumes.
You wouldn’t use it as a studio monitor nor would it provide adequate power for a large function room, but for rooms in your home like the kitchen, study, bedroom, and living room it is perfectly suited. As noted earlier, I’ve had one in my kitchen for years and I use it literally every day for music, for podcasts, and for listening to audiobooks and the radio.
In terms of frequency of use, next to my phone and my Kindle, it is probably one of my most-used items of technology in my home. Would I prefer the voice-activated SONOS One model? Honestly, no. I’m not a massive fan of Google Assistant or Alexa. I find them annoying to use and temperamental. This is why I opted for the standard SL model over the SONOS One in the first place.
Whichever model you go for, you’re going to get great performance, however, as the internal components that power the sound are identical on both the SONOS One and the SONOS One SL.
Richard Goodwin has been working as a tech journalist for over 10 years. He is the editor and owner of KnowYourMobile.