Question

Limitations of Alexa in SONOS One

  • 26 October 2017
  • 34 replies
  • 21967 views

Userlevel 1
The Sonos One webpage states "Everything that Alexa does -
Play songs, check news and traffic, manage smart devices and enjoy all those other helpful Amazon Alexa skills using a single Sonos speaker." However, reading the forum and other sites, this doesn't seem to be quite true.

We've be using an Amazon Echo Dot for a while, and find it to be really useful. I was looking for a multi-room speaker solution for an extension that we are building, and was considering Sonos Play:1 until I saw the Sonos One. However, I am concerned that if the functionality of Alexa is limited, this will irritate us.

I realise that Sonos will be able to add software updates and new features, but we don't have a roadmap as such. Could we reasonably expect that the Alexa integration in the Sonos One will reach parity with Amazon Echo, or will it always be a poorer cousin?

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34 replies

Userlevel 4
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I realise that Sonos will be able to add software updates and new features, but we don't have a roadmap as such. Could we reasonably expect that the Alexa integration in the Sonos One will reach parity with Amazon Echo, or will it always be a poorer cousin?


That is what worries me. We know some basic skills don't work but we don't know why or what else won't work in the future. I doubt the calling features will ever work though as they're Echo units only.
Userlevel 4
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We've be using an Amazon Echo Dot for a while, and find it to be really useful. I was looking for a multi-room speaker solution for an extension that we are building, and was considering Sonos Play:1 until I saw the Sonos One. However, I am concerned that if the functionality of Alexa is limited, this will irritate us.Currently in multi-room it will almost certainly irritate you as it mutes music in all Sonos rooms when you talk to any Alexa device.
Userlevel 1
That is what worries me. We know some basic skills don't work but we don't know why or what else won't work in the future. I doubt the calling features will ever work though as they're Echo units only.

There is no technical reason for them not to work, other than Amazon making a decision not to open the whole platform.

I'm assuming that the Sonos One integration with Alexa supports Amazon Music natively (i.e. there is no need to specify the streaming source when asking to play music - happy to be corrected if this is not the case). Whilst this will make other services more cumbersome, this is an advantage for Amazon. Amazon is not looking for profit on the Echo devices so much as a gateway to their paid for services. Limiting Alexa in the Sonos One seems like a bad idea, so I am hoping that there were issues in the integration (this is two devices in one package, not a single device) and that this will be resolved over time. This could also be true for some of the more recent native features that Alexa supports: the Alexa firmware in the Sonos One at release will likely have been set in stone some months ago, but presumably could be updated to include these features. I guess it is all down to Amazon...
Userlevel 1
I agree with you. There are quite a few features like drop-in, flash briefings, voice calls unless you hook up through your home phone line, etc that do not function. When purchasing the one, I assumed I was getting an upgrade in sound, not losing functionality of Alexa. Not sure that trade-off is worth it, especially when Amazon has just launched devices with better sound. Hope this gets worked out quickly or it is going back to Best Buy and I love Sonos.
Userlevel 6
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Why not just get a dot and then Use a play 1, or even better a pair of them. The ot is small enough to be hidden in a bookcase or under a cabinet. That way you have best of both worlds?
Userlevel 7
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That is what worries me. We know some basic skills don't work but we don't know why or what else won't work in the future. I doubt the calling features will ever work though as they're Echo units only.


If the calling feature has hardware requirements, then yes, not going to happen.

As far as other features, go, I think many of them will happen, but how many and how quickly they come really depends on how much effort Amazon wants to put in to it, as far as I can tell.

So I think the question is, what will push Amazon harder to impliment these features?
1 - High sales of the Sonos One and other Sonos products. The larger the Sonos market, the more Amazon will be pushed to make it fully integrated.
2 - A successful Sonos/Google Home integration. If you can do things with Google Home that you can't do with Alexa, I'm sure Amazon will scramble to match.
3 - High sales of Homepod and Google Home. Even if the features aren't better in competiting products, Amazon has to make sure they are ahead of the competition.
4 - High sales of echos, specifically echo dots. It may be a little counter-intuitive, but the more echos sell, the more Amazon will be willing to throw resources into development I think.

Really, a combination of these things is what you want. I really think all are likely to happen over the Christmas retail season and soon after.

As far as echo/alexa only being a tool to sell music services, I think it's a lot more then that at this point. I think Amazon wants to be involved in the infrastucture of your home, involved in everything you do, so they can profit off of everything you do. Kind of like credit cards, where Visa is 'everywhere you want to be', Amazon wants to help you get whatever it is you want to get, and take a cut out of each transaction.
Userlevel 4
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The Sonos One marketing slogan of "Does everything that Alexa does" clearly needs clarification. I was under the impression that as and when new Alexa skills became available, they would work on the Sonos One without Sonos needing to be involved, e.g. flash briefing, why does Sonos need to 'code' this to work on the Sonos One? What else are they going to need to do in future when new skills are released?
The Sonos One marketing slogan of "Does everything that Alexa does" clearly needs clarification. I was under the impression that as and when new Alexa skills became available, they would work on the Sonos One without Sonos needing to be involved, e.g. flash briefing, why does Sonos need to 'code' this to work on the Sonos One? What else are they going to need to do in future when new skills are released?

Because the Sonos One is not an Echo but rather an "Alexa enabled speaker" it must work through the Amazon provided API. Sonos has to wait until any given feature is made available in the API by Amazon and then do some coding to implement the feature on the Sonos One.
Userlevel 1
Why not just get a dot and then Use a play 1, or even better a pair of them. The dot is small enough to be hidden in a bookcase or under a cabinet. That way you have best of both worlds?

I have 2 dots, and Echo and a Show. I am currently upgrading all the hardware to the new and improved versions and I came across the One, which I thought was a better alternative for sound cause the dots are not good for sound.

Just normal functions are too low to me. I also like that the one is going to be integrating the Google assistant so it seemed like a no-brainer. Google's AI is leaps above Amazon, but I have already committed to the Amazon Ecosystem and it does not make sense to have separate Google hardware and Amazon hardware.

However, if the One will do both then problem solved. However, a lot of the functions I like about Alexa are not currently available. I am a patient person so as long as they are coming then no problem.

Maybe I missed it but Sonos made it seemed like it was a marriage between Alexa and Sonos. I read the Spotify was not available yet, but I did not see these other issues listed. If it was, then it was not clear.
Userlevel 4
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The Sonos One marketing slogan of "Does everything that Alexa does" clearly needs clarification. I was under the impression that as and when new Alexa skills became available, they would work on the Sonos One without Sonos needing to be involved, e.g. flash briefing, why does Sonos need to 'code' this to work on the Sonos One? What else are they going to need to do in future when new skills are released?

Because the Sonos One is not an Echo but rather an "Alexa enabled speaker" it must work through the Amazon provided API. Sonos has to wait until any given feature is made available in the API by Amazon and then do some coding to implement the feature on the Sonos One.


I'm aware of that, I'm talking about Alexa Skills, not Echo features (calling etc.). All Alexa skills should work on the Sonos One with no intervention from Sonos.
While waiting for the Sonos skill to get the bugs worked out there is still the option to just plug a Dot into a ZP120 or Play5. This gives you the full fidelity of Sonos with the full functionality of Alexa since the Dot is an actual Echo and doesn't depend on the Amazon API. It is unfortunate that there is no line-in on the Play1 or Sonos One but if you have one of the products that does have line-in it is a pretty good option.
The Sonos One marketing slogan of "Does everything that Alexa does" clearly needs clarification. I was under the impression that as and when new Alexa skills became available, they would work on the Sonos One without Sonos needing to be involved, e.g. flash briefing, why does Sonos need to 'code' this to work on the Sonos One? What else are they going to need to do in future when new skills are released?

Because the Sonos One is not an Echo but rather an "Alexa enabled speaker" it must work through the Amazon provided API. Sonos has to wait until any given feature is made available in the API by Amazon and then do some coding to implement the feature on the Sonos One.


I'm aware of that, I'm talking about Alexa Skills, not Echo features (calling etc.). All Alexa skills should work on the Sonos One with no intervention from Sonos.


Yes that was a surprise. I think everyone assumed things like Flash Briefings were handled entirely by Alexa processing and could not be impacted by what Alexa device was in use. I still assume the issue is technical rather than an intentional restriction from Amazon. What would be the motive to limit something like that?
Userlevel 1
The Sonos One marketing slogan of "Does everything that Alexa does" clearly needs clarification. I was under the impression that as and when new Alexa skills became available, they would work on the Sonos One without Sonos needing to be involved, e.g. flash briefing, why does Sonos need to 'code' this to work on the Sonos One? What else are they going to need to do in future when new skills are released?

Because the Sonos One is not an Echo but rather an "Alexa enabled speaker" it must work through the Amazon provided API. Sonos has to wait until any given feature is made available in the API by Amazon and then do some coding to implement the feature on the Sonos One.


I'm aware of that, I'm talking about Alexa Skills, not Echo features (calling etc.). All Alexa skills should work on the Sonos One with no intervention from Sonos.


Yes, that was a surprise. I think everyone assumed things like Flash Briefings were handled entirely by Alexa processing and could not be impacted by what Alexa device was in use. I still assume the issue is technical rather than an intentional restriction from Amazon. What would be the motive to limit something like that?


Agreed. Though I am sure Amazon would like to sell you the hardware, the real money and motivation should be getting everyone into their Ecosystem. Google is making a real push lately and their AI is leaps beyond Amazons. It is the ecosystem that gives Amazon their edge. Many people will be using Alexa for the first time though the Sonos One, you would think they would want it to show all the available feature that makes Alexa the must have device.
Sonos has stated that things like Flash Briefing and Sports updates are not an intentional restriction by Amazon, they simply need more tweaking (whether that tweaking is to the Amazon API or the Sonos API, we don't know). They have also stated that some features offered like Calliing and Drop In are "Echo only" (Not "Alexa only", for those examining marketing slogans like the frames of the Zapruder film) and will probably never come to Alexa enabled devices.
Userlevel 1
Sonos has stated that things like Flash Briefing and Sports updates are not an intentional restriction by Amazon, they simply need more tweaking (whether that tweaking is to the Amazon API or the Sonos API, we don't know). They have also stated that some features offered like Calliing and Drop In are "Echo only" (Not "Alexa only", for those examining the marketing slogans like the frames of the Zapruder film) and will probably never come to Alexa enabled devices.

Good to know. Def could have an impact on my decision to keep it. The calling and drop in are a really cool features. I wonder if Google will open up the calling when they integrate? If they do, then I am sure Amazon will follow.
Userlevel 1
While waiting for the Sonos skill to get the bugs worked out there is still the option to just plug a Dot into a ZP120 or Play5. This gives you the full fidelity of Sonos with the full functionality of Alexa since the Dot is an actual Echo and doesn't depend on the Amazon API. It is unfortunate that there is no line-in on the Play1 or Sonos One but if you have one of the products that does have line-in it is a pretty good option. That is a solid idea. Actually.
I agree with you. There are quite a few features like drop-in, flash briefings, voice calls unless you hook up through your home phone line, etc that do not function. When purchasing the one, I assumed I was getting an upgrade in sound, not losing functionality of Alexa. Not sure that trade-off is worth it, especially when Amazon has just launched devices with better sound. Hope this gets worked out quickly or it is going back to Best Buy and I love Sonos.

Don't count on the new Amazon devices having better sound. From reading a few early reviews of both the Gen 2 Echo and the Echo Plus, at most the sound seems to be very similar to the Gen 1 Echo, while at least one reviewer says that to them the original Echo sounded richer with better bass.

It is very disappointing that all the little restrictions, omissions and shortcomings of the Sonos device has kept me from getting one myself.

Will some of the issues get worked out? Features that the Echos have get added? Right now it's basically unknown. Can the microphones be improved to be as sensitive as those in an Echo by software alone? I doubt that.

Is much better sound quality worth the trade-off in features (+$100)? Honestly, to me it's not.
Userlevel 7
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Will some of the issues get worked out? Features that the Echos have get added? Right now it's basically unknown.


Except it's not entirely unknown since Sonos has stated what features they feel comfortable saying they are working on and when they expect to be able to deliver them.


Can the microphones be improved to be as sensitive as those in an Echo by software alone? I doubt that.


Sonos has stated that it can be adjusted through firmware update.


Is much better sound quality worth the trade-off in features (+$100)? Honestly, to me it's not.


I think I pretty much agree with this, however, only when you don't consider the multiroom, variety of products, and music source features that Sonos brings to the table that Amazon does not. And those features don't have to matter to everybody.

Will some of the issues get worked out? Features that the Echos have get added? Right now it's basically unknown.

Except it's not entirely unknown since Sonos has stated what features they feel comfortable saying they are working on and when they expect to be able to deliver them.

I didn't know that. Is there a document anywhere that has a list of these or a timeframe for implementation? All I have read is that Sonos likes to be vague and not give to much info out.


Can the microphones be improved to be as sensitive as those in an Echo by software alone? I doubt that.

Sonos has stated that it can be adjusted through firmware update.


Good news for sure, but again its unknown how much they can be improved. Reviews I've read say they have quite a ways to go to be the equal of a true Echo.


Is much better sound quality worth the trade-off in features (+$100)? Honestly, to me it's not.

I think I pretty much agree with this, however, only when you don't consider the multiroom, variety of products, and music source features that Sonos brings to the table that Amazon does not. And those features don't have to matter to everybody.

This would be a first Sonos purchase for me, basically a way to get better sound into my bedroom for casual listening. Also it would be nice to have access to content on my NAS without using my phone as a Bluetooth server to my Echo. But even with the Sonos it appears I would still need to use my phone to play NAS content.


This would be a first Sonos purchase for me, basically a way to get better sound into my bedroom for casual listening. Also it would be nice to have access to content on my NAS without using my phone as a Bluetooth server to my Echo. But even with the Sonos it appears I would still need to use my phone to play NAS content.


Not ideal, but there is an option to upload your local library to Amazon and play it via Alexa on Sonos. It is $24.99 per year for 250,000 tracks.

Also, you can initiate play of any and all services via the Sonos app, and then control playback; pause, resume, skip, previous, volume, even ask "Alexa, what is playing" via Alexa. Again, not ideal, but it is something.
Userlevel 1
I agree with you. There are quite a few features like drop-in, flash briefings, voice calls unless you hook up through your home phone line, etc that do not function. When purchasing the one, I assumed I was getting an upgrade in sound, not losing functionality of Alexa. Not sure that trade-off is worth it, especially when Amazon has just launched devices with better sound. Hope this gets worked out quickly or it is going back to Best Buy and I love Sonos.

Don't count on the new Amazon devices having better sound. From reading a few early reviews of both the Gen 2 Echo and the Echo Plus, at most the sound seems to be very similar to the Gen 1 Echo, while at least one reviewer says that to them the original Echo sounded richer with better bass.

It is very disappointing that all the little restrictions, omissions and shortcomings of the Sonos device has kept me from getting one myself.

Will some of the issues get worked out? Features that the Echos have get added? Right now it's basically unknown. Can the microphones be improved to be as sensitive as those in an Echo by software alone? I doubt that.

Is much better sound quality worth the trade-off in features (+$100)? Honestly, to me it's not.


I don't think the tradeoff as it currently stands is worth it. The Alexa experience leaves a lot to be desired on the Sonos One. The microphone is absolutely horrible compared to the Gen 1 products I have and that supposedly got better. She is not as much fun to talk to either. Stuff like Alex will you be my friend gets nothing or I don't know that. If this is just temporary then Sonos should have waited to release cause this Alexa is a distant relative of the one I have gotten used to. Not even in the same ballpark.
Userlevel 1

Will some of the issues get worked out? Features that the Echos have get added? Right now it's basically unknown.


Except it's not entirely unknown since Sonos has stated what features they feel comfortable saying they are working on and when they expect to be able to deliver them.


Can the microphones be improved to be as sensitive as those in an Echo by software alone? I doubt that.


Sonos has stated that it can be adjusted through firmware update.


Is much better sound quality worth the trade-off in features (+$100)? Honestly, to me it's not.


I think I pretty much agree with this, however, only when you don't consider the multiroom, variety of products, and music source features that Sonos brings to the table that Amazon does not. And those features don't have to matter to everybody.


The microphone update is needed ASAP. The sensitivity is downright awful. The sound though is 1000 times better. I will give it a few weeks and see what updates come through. If things do not improve then the One has to go back. I already have tons of Sonos speakers all throughout my house to get by with and use via the Sonos skill. I wanted this because it was the best of both worlds, but currently, it is really only another speaker that I really do not need though don't mind having.
Userlevel 7
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Interesting discussion everyone. Just a note on the microphones, we’re going to be constantly working with the Sonos One and Alexa to improve the microphone's ability to pick out just the right sounds. This’ll get better over time as the Sonos One learns and gets better and distinguishing false calls and successful calls.
The trade off is deffinately not worth it. With an Echo you learn something new that Alexa can do all the time. With Sonos One you learn of features that your device doesn’t support all the time. This is extra disappointing because most of these are features you used to use.
No Audible support
No Flash briefing
No drop in
No voice calls

For surround you need 2 Sonos One, a Sonos One and a Play 1 can’t be used.

And I think there has been sufficient discussion on the ineffective microphone.

I hope it improves, but I regret buying these things. Extremely disappointed.
Userlevel 1
Having placed a couple of messages on here complaining about the senstivity of tbe microphone i have to say that i believe that my Sonos One is now reactiving to the wake word more readily. Not sure if there has been an update or whether the unit is just learning from the backgroud noise in my living room. I'm still frustrated that lots of the Alexa skills dont work, but we are assured that Sonos is working on that, so i am happy to wait a little longer.