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.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/18/sonos-one-review/

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.

https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/10/18/16490866/sonos-one-speaker-review-alexa

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.

https://www.wired.com/story/review-sonos-one/

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, MLB.com), 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

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.
Userlevel 7
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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.
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.
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.
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:-).
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. 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.
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.

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?
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.

Should I audition the LS50W speakers while I'm there? Or would that just suck more money out of my wallet? I'm curious to see how they'd compare to my PLAY:5 pair + SUB, which I'm rather enamoured with.

The only thing for certain is the money they would suck out if you fell for them.

The problem with all such comparisons is how to set these up to be as objective as possible by ruling out well known and universally caused psychological biases in favour of the better looking, the better known in HiFi circles and the more expensive. At a minimum they need to be done with both speakers kept in the same place in the same space, with the same music, at instrument matched sound levels for both and with the tested speakers not being seen by the tester. In laboratory terms, what is called a blind test, preferably one that is double blind.

With this in mind, auditions can be entertaining and have a better chance of being financially harmless.

I have a KEF pair that uses the same drivers as the LS50 and I have also compared a play 1 pair + Sub against speakers more expensive than the LS50, so this isn't just theorising. But I will also agree that if there is any audio component where the claims for better sound quality may be valid is where speakers are the component in question. Here again, though sound quality differences are more likely to be identified, it is also possible for preferences to still be for the cheaper pair if it is not known to be so.

At the point of asking for a track, I assume Alexa doesn't actually know if the request will succeed or fail as it doesn't know the entire contents of Amazon Unlimited. It then submits a request and either succeeds or fails. Why can't that be the case when requesting the same of the local index?


Because has built-in functionality to query the services it is already configured for, there is no need to interface with an external entity. External queries require the development of an API to allow the communication between the two. These APIs do not exist today (at least to the public), and are beholden to the technical (as well as financial, political, and legal) influence of all parties involved. Oh, and do not take the fact that "financial, political, and legal" is in parenthesis to mean it has a lesser impact; the opposite is more often true.
The Kef's are quite a bit better than anything from Sonos but also a lot more expensive. Of course you should listen to them 🙂
Userlevel 7
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I got my Sonos One's today and they do sound a little cleaner, richer, and fuller.
My other powered speakers are Kef LS50 W which cost $2200 but these are fine for the bedroom.
Really liking them so far and I prefer the matte black over the Play 1.


Nice. I'm planning to pick up a couple of ONEs at my usual local audio store tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

Should I audition the LS50W speakers while I'm there? Or would that just suck more money out of my wallet? I'm curious to see how they'd compare to my PLAY:5 pair + SUB, which I'm rather enamoured with.
I can only go by my lying ears :-)
I've seen different comments on sound quality compared to the Play 1. They either say they sound the same or slightly better. They sound noticeably better to me but my ears are tuned to some pretty high end speakers.
Userlevel 7
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What HiFi (and most other places I've read) say they initially thought it sounded a bit better (at the launch event) but now say they sound pretty much identical.
FYI, that's also why you can't play from your NAS or some other music service Alexa doesn't know about.
At the point of asking for a track, I assume Alexa doesn't actually know if the request will succeed or fail as it doesn't know the entire contents of Amazon Unlimited. It then submits a request and either succeeds or fails. Why can't that be the case when requesting the same of the local index?
I suspect that sound differences are so small that if you kept one for a few days, then switched to another, after a few days you would not be able to express a preference for either. Human audio memory is such that only large differences are remembered - a good thing that, IMO, if understood and used wisely. It then stops equipment churn.

I got my Sonos One's today and they do sound a little cleaner, richer, and fuller.
My other powered speakers are Kef LS50 W which cost $2200 but these are fine for the bedroom.
Really liking them so far and I prefer the matte black over the Play 1.
I suspect that sound differences are so small that if you kept one for a few days, then switched to another, after a few days you would not be able to express a preference for either. Human audio memory is such that only large differences are remembered - a good thing that, IMO, if understood and used wisely. It then stops equipment churn.

I was looking for third party sound quality comparisons with the play 1 when I found this. The first part isn't true, but the latter is in line with what Sonos has said.

I suspect if anyone opened a Play:1 and Sonos One, the innards would be identical, speakers that is.


Sonos has stated publically many times that the innards are completely different.
Most of the reviews I have seen don't get into audio quality very much or comparison with the Play 1 except the gadgeteer review which says the One is clearer and more detailed. Sonos has also said the One has slightly more bass.
Are you aware what Beta means? Of course it has bugs, that is why it is in public Beta to try and find the issues no amount of private testing would do. Have you used it yet? What is dodgy about it? It works great for what I suspect the majority, and if you already happen to have Amazon Unlimited it is a boon.
.


The shipping Sonos One is not supposed to be in beta only the Echo to Sonos connection.
Userlevel 4
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The first few reviews of the Sonos One are emerging.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/10/18/sonos-one-review/

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.

https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2017/10/18/16490866/sonos-one-speaker-review-alexa

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.

https://www.wired.com/story/review-sonos-one/

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, MLB.com), 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.


The only bug reported in your post is in the first review -- Engadget. The Verge talks about the process for setting up being difficult (not buggy); Wired talks about limitations, which aren't bugs, but known limitations (and leaves out the fact that ANY stream can be voice controlled for basic play back commands once initiated via the app -- you just can't initiate it via the app).

I think you post mischaracterizes the general tenor of the reviews. Which are all very positive.
The only observation in these reviews that raises questions/is of interest is about Alexa in Sonos One not being quite as responsive as that in Echo.
These are reviews of Sonos One, right? So why are people focusing on the public beta aspect only?

I would expect a public beta to work better than it does. If I ask it 'play (song name) in the back room' it says ' I can't find (song-name-in-the-backroom)' which is pretty dumb. It should be able to separate the registered device name from the requested song title as a matter of basic operational function. If I ask just to play something by (artist) in the backroom it says 'ok' and then plays something completely different.


That sounds like a problem with Alexa, not with the Sonos side of things. Your echo (or Sonos One) takes your voice command to the Alexa cloud where it it's translated to text, and then interpreted. If it can't figure it out right there, it stops...right there. Sonos isn't given a command. to execute.

FYI, that's also why you can't play from your NAS or some other music service Alexa doesn't know about.


If I ask just to play something by (artist) in the backroom it says 'ok' and then plays something completely different.


Tell your echo to play that same artist without specifying 'in the backroom'. I bet your echo will play the same 'something completely different' as your first test case. So is that a problem with Sonos or with Alexa?



There's bugs and there's poorly implemented software . . .as it stands it's unuseable. Maybe my system has something wrong with it, I can't believe they'd release something this bad. It's a shame, the hardware is excellent but becoming redundant now with Alexa pairing to decent bluetooth speakers with multiroom abilities.


So do another test. Rename your 'backroom' Sonos zone to say 'zone 1' and try to play your song title in 'zone 1'. Does it work? Then rename one of your echo's to 'backroom' and tell Alexa to play the same song in the backroom again. I would be surprised if Alexa is able to complete that command all of a sudden.

To reiterate the point, before you make judgements about poorly implemented software on the Sonos side of things, it would be wise to consider if the fault really lies with Sonos or if it is an issue/limitation of Alexa itself. As a consumer, I can see why it's irrelevant, since you just want it to work. However, to imply you're going to get a better voice controlled, multi-room experience with echo'ss alone...I can't see the logic in that.
Yes; but the same review also says this!
"Over the years, though, the mobile app in particular has grown a little bloated with new features that make it harder to simply find a song and press play. Fortunately, a recent update has seen it drastically streamlined; it’s now a lot more usable and just generally faster, although adjusting to the new layout does take a bit of getting used to."
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https://www.stuff.tv/sonos/one/review

This one is quite worrying, it suggests that you need to speak commands louder than when using the dot, will have to test that when the One arrives.