Sonos One v. Heos 1 Comparison

  • 12 May 2018
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So…here goes the Sonos v. Heos Comparison…version 2.0. As noted previously, the former draft disappeared, never to be seen again. Which is sad, it took a while to write.

As you may recall, I have been irritated with Heos over the last couple of months and have been looking at Sonos as a viable competitor. Sonos is the market leader so there must be something good going on there right?

My comments below primarily concern sound quality, as this is the most important factor to me in any speaker. On a ten point scale, sound quality gets 5 points, app 2, design 2, and reliability 1.

Sonos One v. Heos 1

Reliability

This is the hardest category to judge as it requires months or even years to sort out, and unless you are reviewing dozens of copies, a failure of one particular device doesn’t really tell you a whole lot. What I can say is that at present I own no less than six Heos speakers, some since the inception of the line and they all still work, nor have the even given a crackle. Denon is known for making quality products. Also, Denon offers a 2 yr. warranty. In short, they have earned a point for reliability.

I have had my Sonos One for all of three days. Sonos is known for being reliable as well. The only negative I can say is that Sonos only offers a 1 yr. warranty. I attribute this not to product quality but because Sonos can get away with it as the market leader. It hasn’t exactly earned a reliability point but I tend to think they would given enough time.

Winner, draw. (1pt. each)

Design

This is easily the most controversial topic. Sonos’s designs are what might be called retro modern mixed with Ikea where as Heos’s designs are more postindustrial mixed with Z Gallerie. It’s a question of taste but for me, the Heos speaker line looks much better. That said, the Heos 1 and the Sonos One have slightly different design aesthetics than the rest of their respective lines. The harsh gray of the grill and the awkward angles of the Heos 1 leave it looking a bit dated and awkward. In short, not very pretty, especially when compared with the Heos 5 or 7.

On the flip side, the Sonos One, especially the update from the Play:1 looks very sleek. Placed on a shelf or in a corner, it almost hides. You would not know it is there until you start playing some music through it. Even then it might take a moment to figure out where the music is coming from.

Winner, Sonos. (2 pts. v. 0 pt…the Heos 1 is ugly)

App

Heos gets a point for having the prettier App, the screens are easy to navigate and the black background on all screens is a plus. All apps should have a black screen mode, imho. This is where the Heos advantages stop however. The App is simplistic to its detriment. And every time you open Spotify it takes you to the dedicated Spotify App instead of using the Heos App. It ends up being this weird back and forth between the two apps as you attempt to add speakers and change stations. Also, it crashes at least a couple times a week. Sometimes it will get stuck on a specific song, other times it will close as soon as it opens. Also, there is a definite delay from when you press the buttons in the App to when the volume or song changes. Oh, lastly and most importantly, the App has lost features due to the lawsuit Denon is currently losing with Sonos. Most notably, you can no longer change the volume of a group of speakers with one slider. Instead you have to go to the volume control for each speaker and change them one by one. Denon told me over the phone that this feature was removed as a result of feedback from their customers indicating that the feature was not wanted. Really? Why wouldn’t customers want this feature.

The Sonos App by contract, is fast. Very fast in fact. Speakers and song changes are near instant. Also, the ability to search for songs or artists across streaming platforms is very addictive. Now that I know an app can do this, it will be hard to let go of the feature. The only negatives I can offer is that many of the screens are bright white and there are a lot of settings that require research in order to understand what they do. For instance, using the ‘loudness’ feature seemed to do absolutely nothing.

Winner, Sonos…by a good margain. (2 pts. v. 1 pt…Heos gets props for the black background on all screens)

Sound Quality

As mentioned above, this one is what is most important to me.

Diving right in, loudness. The Heos 1 seemed to achieve slightly higher volume than the Sonos One. Considering the physical size of the Heos is about 20% larger than the Sonos, I suppose this is not too surprising.

The soundstage is fairly different between the two speakers. The Heos 1 has a narrower soundstage with the vocals more forward. The Sonos’s soundstage is wider but with the vocals more recessed. This was a bit of a surprise, as I expected quite the opposite. The mids are much more prominent with the Sonos and the bass is much heavier. It only takes a minute or so listening to each one to hear that the Sonos One has the better sound of the two. I suppose it’s possible to tweak the setting to get it just right, but the only thing the Sonos One really needs is sharper vocals and this is coming from someone who leans more toward bass as the primarily desirable tone in songs.

Winner, Sonos…again. (3 pts. v. 2 pts…in this size speaker, neither were likely to sound great, the Sonos though sounds better than its size would indicate)

So there you have it. I’ll try to do another one as soon as I can. If anyone wants to send me a free product to review, I’m game. If not, my bank account will determine when the next comparison is done.

Till then, happy listening.

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6 replies

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It lives (rescued from the spam filter). Thanks Ryan.
Userlevel 7
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It lives (rescued from the spam filter). Thanks Ryan.
You're welcome. Thanks for taking the time to write this up (again).
Userlevel 5
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Atari Prime,

It is not surprising the sonos one sounds a bit better then the heos 1. Sonos has a digital amp for the woofer and separated digital app for the tweeter. The Heos 1 has 1 digital amp that powers both driver. So the sound of the sonos should should fuller. This was my impression of the Heos 1 when I hear them as well.

Looking forward to your next comparison.
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Atari Prime,

It is not surprising the sonos one sounds a bit better then the heos 1. Sonos has a digital amp for the woofer and separated digital app for the tweeter. The Heos 1 has 1 digital amp that powers both driver. So the sound of the sonos should should fuller. This was my impression of the Heos 1 when I hear them as well.

Looking forward to your next comparison.


I've heard that mentioned several times before about the amps, however often there are those that state this information is incorrect. Supposedly the amp claim is largely based upon a prominent video that was posted on Youtube a couple of years ago. I am unsure whether the Heos 1 has separate amps or not. Does anyone have the tech specs that can confirm?
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https://usa.denon.com/us/heos-1-portable-wireless-speaker
it state 2 channel amplification. Meaning 1 amp, with 2 channels. Not 2 seperate digital amp.
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To add to the conversation, from Sonos's website, the Sonos One has 'Two Class-D digital amplifiers'.

In this size speaker that seems to make a difference.