Sonos One Reviews are starting to appear... 'Good hardware.. buggy software'. What a surprise !!

  • 18 October 2017
  • 35 replies

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The first few reviews of the Sonos One are emerging.

Unfortunately, there were a few times I ran into some strange and frustrating bugs -- the speaker wasn't recognizing that it was playing music, so "pause" or "next track" requests didn't work. Amazon Music also occasionally got confused and told me it was playing on another device so it couldn't play on the speaker I asked for.

The process of enabling Alexa was a different matter and left me, a tech reviewer, feeling pretty stupid. Alexa could answer general questions and control my smart lights just fine within minutes, but would give me a “Something went wrong” error when I asked for music (or podcasts) with voice commands.

Once you get things humming, the limitations of the voice controls become clear pretty quickly. The Sonos One can do most everything Alexa can do, but it can't do everything Sonos can do. So, when you ask it to play music, the Alexa living inside the One can only summon streams from the services Alexa supports. If you want to play something from your local MP3 library or one of the 80-odd services supported by Sonos (Apple Music, Google Play Music, Mixcloud,, you have to pull out your phone and tap.

All are very complimentary about the hardware (it's a Play 1 after all) but have picked up on the unreliability of the software on several counts and the limited services that can be controlled by voice.

I'd be showing more empathy and urgency if I was Sonos as this will not go away and needs fixing quickly.

A dodgy public beta after so long since the announcement doesn't look good.

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35 replies

Are you talking about the passive LS 50 or the LS 50W.
Which Kef's do you have because having the same "drivers" is far from the only determining factor and there are no passive Kef's that sound like the LS 50W's..
I don't think you are telling anyone anything new about auditions.

I don't think you are telling anyone anything new about auditions.

That rather depends on the person that reads what I have written, don't you think?
It’s not really clear what your point was but in any event I’m sure your average person can figure out where and how you listen to something impacts sq.
My reference speakers are QUAD ESL-63s. They take up a lot of room, need to be positioned well away from the walls, but sound splendid in the sweet spot. My Play:1 pair fit nicely on the desk in my tiny home office. They are at ear level, near field. They sound every bit as splendid in this setting as the QUADs do in their much larger setting, because Peter Walker and Sonos had exactly the same goal; accurately reproducing sound, without the nonsense so many "high end" audio companies succumb to.
Can they? Perhaps. But I am sure that fewer understand how psychological biases of the kind I referred to work in very powerful ways to determine human perception. This is the reason why scientists in different domains use double blind test protocols to verify outcomes. In the field of audio, there is also a need to take into account how human hearing works - from what is conveyed by the ears to what is believed to be heard by the brain.

To anyone that reads what I have written a couple of posts preceding, a caveat: although I have over ten years of exposure to high end HiFi kit of many brands, I do not have trained/tuned ears.
My reference speakers are QUAD ESL-63s.
Every time you write about these, I am reminded that I need to find a way to listen to Quad ESLs at least once in my life; I have no big desire to listen to any of the other standard tweeter/woofer in a box kind on offer anywhere, passive or active - not even those with a dozen drivers that sit in boxes that are taller than my six feet height. Unfortunately, the present Quad ESL versions are both hard to find for an audition and way out of reach to order a pair:-).
My Play:1 pair fit nicely on the desk in my tiny home office. They are at ear level, near field. They sound every bit as splendid in this setting as the QUADs do in their much larger setting
I have the exact same set up for my desk, and based on comparison with other than ESL HiFi speakers, I agree. And this without a Sub. In fact I think sound staging in stereo is the best on my desktop because there is little effect of room acoustics to muddy the waters.

With a Sub, and using the 1 pair as satellites with care over placement of the three units, sound quality isn't easily excelled by anything else in a room that isn't too large for these. I would very surprised to see that happen to an extent that is noticeably audible, without a doubling of price points. And at that and higher price points, I can pick a lot of sets ups that would sound worse.

So as long as no one is complaining that the One is sonically inferior to the play 1, Sonos have a winner on their hands if the Alexa card has been and continues to be well played.
Digressing a little though with reference to the KEFs; I was intrigued enough to read some reviews. The LS50W seem to be active versions of the passive LS50, still sold in the KEF range. The difference between the two seems to be built in amplification - one amp for each of the two drivers in the box, and DSP (The play 5 has six amps for each of its six drivers, the play 1 has two for its two drivers and both have DSP including that needed for Trueplay). With just this difference many reviews claim a day and night difference between the two KEF siblings.

Is this hype, or is this truly the benefit of active tech? - no one has taken the trouble of supplying the LS50 with 200wpc external third party amplification and then comparing their sound with the W version that has a 200wpc amp built in. So that is one strike against the review quality. And a reason why the review comparisons cannot be used to determine the benefit of active tech for delivering better sound quality in this case - there are too many variables flying around. The answer to the question at the beginning of this paragraph therefore is that it is some combination of both. For what it is worth knowing, there is a lot of active tech + DSP in Sonos kit.

Most reviews for all audio kit suffer from similar defects and are, at best, entertainment and eye candy. The only useful bits are those about features and how well these work, And fewer buyers can offer anything more useful about sound quality except give subjective opinions. I freely admit to being one of these, the only good blind test I have done is one for DACs.
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Interesting discussion, thanks. If I do audition the KEF LS50Ws, it'll be for fun only. Perhaps my local audio guys could set them up against a PLAY:5 pair + SUB in the same listening room, and I'll try to be open minded.
Not many dealers carry both the bits of the kit needed to do that, but if they do, it ought to be interesting. Carry music you are familiar with, in that case.