Sonos is famous for its wireless multi-room speakers but it can be hard to know which one is best for you. We explain everything you need to know about Sonos including the app, controller, music services, features, reviews and more.
Founded back in 2002 in California, Sonos has been setting the bar and leading the way in the multi-room speaker market for a long time. Designed to be easy to use, stylish and sound great, there’s little not to like about the Sonos range of speakers.
What is Sonos?
In the company’s own words: “Sonos is the smart speaker system that streams all your favourite music to any room, or every room. Control your music with one simple app, and fill your home with pure, immersive sound.”
That’s a pretty accurate summary and Sonos is easily one of the easiest wireless speaker systems for consumers to get to grips with and set up. Watch the video at the top of the page for a nice visual overview.
Sonos speakers simply connect to the internet and each other via your home Wi-Fi network and you control them with the Sonos app which is available for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows (download it via here). The speakers also have buttons for basic functions. The Sonos Controller app has replaced the physical controller which used to be the traditional method.
There was a time when you needed the Sonos Bridge to connect the speakers together but those days are gone - although the Sonos Boost is available if you have poor Wi-Fi in your home. You just need to connect one to your router instead to create a Sonos Mesh Network. A handy feature is that the Ethernet ports on the back of Sonos speakers can be used to provided connectivity to other devices, like laptops, via the Sonos Mesh Network.
Sonos has previously been out of many consumers’ budgets but the Play:1 means the system is affordable at £149/$149 - while the Ikea Symfonisk bookshelf is even cheaper at £99/$99. Prices then go up to £699/$699 for the home theatre speakers.
There are two exceptions to that however: the company partnered with Ikea to make two different Symfonisk speakers - one in a bookshelf design, one designed to double as a lamp. Both of those speakers are available exclusively through Ikea - even the Sonos store doesn't stock them.
One of the great things about Sonos is you can simply start with one speaker and add more as and when you like (or can afford more). You can have as few or as many as you like. Adding a new speaker into the system takes a matter of seconds via the app.
Each speaker is assigned a zone, or room, and you can play different music in each zone from a number of different sources (see below) or you can group them up so the same tunes are playing throughout the house - this is great for parties.
It’s easy to move speakers around and there are many different sizes and prices to suit different needs (see below).
Features include the ability to create a stereo pair if you get two identical speakers, using any Sonos speakers as an alarm (with your choice of music or radio station to wake up to) and plugging in devices directly with the line-in port on the back.
One of the latest features is True Play which uses the microphone on your iPhone or iPad to tune the Sonos speaker based on various factors like the size and shape or your room and even where the speaker is placed within it. This doesn't work with Android devices though, as there's too much variation in microphone hardware.
In 2018, Sonos updated the system with AirPlay 2. That means you can stream directly to speakers from your iPhone or iPad without using the Sonos app. It works with Sonos One, Beam, Playbase and the second generation Play:5.
It also means you can watch video content on your device while using a Sonos speaker for the audio and controlling the system with Siri.
Once you’ve got a speaker (or many speakers) set up, it’s time to play some music and the choice is vast.
Via the app, it’s easy to choose where to play music from which starts simply with any stored locally on the device where the app is installed. Sonos supports AirPlay but doesn’t have Bluetooth. You can also stream music which is on any computers that are on the same network as the Sonos system. There’s also support for NAS (network attached storage).
Most users will want to use online music streaming services, though and there are plenty to choose from. There are too many to list here but the big names include: Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, Napster and Tidal.
There’s also TuneIn Radio so you can access more than 1,000 internet radio stations for free. As of January 2019, Sonos added YouTube Music as a supported service.
Check the complete list of supported services here.
Sonos splits its wireless multi-room system up into three categories: speakers, home theatre and components.
So, to start with the speakers, there are three sizes to choose from which gradually increase in price.
The range starts with the Ikea Symfonisk bookshelf speaker, which at £99/$99 is as affordable entry point into the system, especially since you can buy two of them and get stereo sound for less than £200/$200.
The cheapest in the core Sonos range is the Play:1, which is very compact and affordable making it suitable for anywhere in the house. It can even be used in the bathroom or as a rear surround in conjunction with the home theatre speakers - the other ones can but they are far less suitable due to the size and price.
We’d say the Play:1 is the best Sonos speakers for bedrooms and other small rooms. The Sonos One is essentially the same speaker but with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built-in. We also have a round up of the best smart speakers.
For roughly the same price as the Play:1 you can get the other Ikea speaker: the table lamp model. This oddity features very similar sound to the Play:1, but a more minimalist, Google-esque design, and is also a lamp. Obviously.
Next up is the Play:3 which will fill larger rooms but still isn’t too big so can be tucked away on a shelf etc. Like the Play:1 you can wall mount the speaker if you want and you can also stand it on end. The Play:3 is the best Sonos speaker for the lounge unless you want to use it with the TV (see the Playbar below).
If you want to go big, the Play:5 is suitable for filling the largest of rooms making it the best Sonos speaker for big lounges and similar rooms. It, along with the Play:1 and Play:3, can be made into a stereo pair if you buy two.
Moving onto the home theatre options which start with the Playbar; Sonos’ soundbar which is made for TVs. It’s one of the best wireless speakers for TV because it looks great, can be controlled with your existing remote (via Infrared) and sounds excellent with its three-channel system.
If you want to make it a 3.1 system for more of a cinema style experience then the Sonos: Sub. It’s big and heavy but isn’t the kind of subwoofer you want to hide away behind the TV stand and it really does pack a punch.
Although the Sub is designed to be paired with the Playbar, you can actually match it up with the other speakers in the range and the Connect:Amp. As mentioned earlier, the regular Sonos speaker range can be used a rear surround speakers to create a wireless 5.1 home theatre.
Offering a slightly different experience to the excellent Playbar, the Playbase is 58mm thin and packs a whopping 10 drivers – six mid-range, three tweeters, and one woofer each with a Class-D amplifier.
There’s no HDMI input but the Playbase has an optical port and like the Play:5 has touch sensitive controls and LED lights for volume control and playback.
The latest edition to the range is the Sonos Beam which is a more compact soundbar, complete with AirPlay and support for Amazon Alexa. It's also a lot cheaper than the other soundbars.
1. Sonos Play 1
- Reviewed on: 5 November 2013
For most people, the Play:1 is the best all-round Sonos speaker to choose.
It's compact so you can put it almost anywhere in your house. It's the most affordable in the entire range and the sound quality is excellent, too.
There's very little to dislike here - you just might want to spend the extra on the One to get Alexa and smart features.
Read our Sonos Play 1 review.
2. Sonos One
- Reviewed on: 15 July 2019
The Sonos One is a top-quality smart speaker, essentially a Play:1 with Alexa and Google Assistant voice-control built-in. We'd have liked some Sonos-related voice commands that most people will expect.
It's more expensive than many other smart speakers but it's worth the extra if you want those smart speakers. And compared to non-Sonos rivals it offers much better build quality and sound.
The Sonos One has Google Assistant added in the US, and from July it will be supported in the UK, Australia, Canada and other countries.
Read our Sonos One review.
3. Sonos Beam
- Reviewed on: 22 November 2018
For most people, the Beam will be the easy choice when comparing the Sonos soundbars.
It's more affordable, more compact and yet still sounds excellent. Plus it has features not found on its bigger brothers like Amazon Alexa and HDMI ARC. Only those with a much larger room and budget need to opt for the Playbar or Playbase.
Since Alexa is built-in, the Beam is also a smart speaker and a great choice if you're looking for one to sit in the living room.
Read our Sonos Beam review.
- Reviewed on: 7 August 2019
Believe it or not, the Symfonisk lamp sounds just as good as a Sonos Play:1, with all the same Sonos functionality, while managing to include a light fitting on top. The design will be divisive, but if you like the look and don't want to make the space for a separate lamp and speaker, this is a surprisingly good solution.
This collaboration between Ikea and Sonos essentially fits the Play:1 into the body of a table lamp, which will take a regular E14 (in the UK) or E12 (in the US) light bulb fitting - including support for smart bulbs if you so fancy.
The sound profile is almost identical to the Play:1 (though like that speaker it has no voice assistant support), and the Symfonisk lamp is fully supported by the Sonos app, including support for stereo or surround sound.
Essentially, this is a Play:1 that looks a bit different and has a lamp. You can only buy it from Ikea directly, but it costs the same as the Play:1 in the UK (£150) and a little more in the US ($179).
Read our Ikea Sonos Symfonisk Lamp Speaker review.
- Reviewed on: 11 December 2015
The Play:5 is fairly pricey but it's an amazingly powerful wireless speaker capable of filling the biggest of rooms. You really could have a pretty big house party with just one.
It's pretty chunky so you'll need space for it, but like others it looks great and we like the touch sensitive controls. It's easily the best sounding of the regular Sonos speaker range but doesn't offer the same value for money.
Read our Sonos Play 5 (2015) review.
- Reviewed on: 4 March 2013
The Playbar has been around for a while but it's still our favourite soundbar on the market.
It costs a lot of money but sometimes you get what you pay for. It looks great, is extremely well-built and has fantastic sound quality - plus has all the advantages you get with the Sonos experience.
We actually prefer it to the newer Playbase, namely on design but both are excellent products.
Read our Sonos Playbar review.
- Reviewed on: 8 August 2019
Sonos hasn't managed to perfectly recreate its classic sound in the £99$99 Symfonisk, but it’s done a decent job if you don’t mind compromising a little on the bass. Throw in the fact that you can wall mount it to double as a bookshelf or hang it from an Ikea kitchen rack, and it's a handy little speaker for smaller homes.
Otherwise, the bookshelf is appealing for two sets of people. First up, if you’re an Ikea regular looking for a more affordable entry point into the world of Sonos, these are a budget-friendly way to get into the app - though be warned, before long you’ll be eyeing up the pricier models to add on.
The bookshelf will be just as appealing to Sonos regulars looking either for a friendly way to bring that Sonos sound into the kitchen, or for a cheaper way to upgrade to surround sound. This is as close as you can get to a cheap Sonos tweeter to bolster a home cinema setup, and £200/$200 plus some extra for wall mounting will get you a massive audio upgrade - and a couple of extra shelves to boot.
8. Sonos Play 3
- Reviewed on: 22 August 2011
The Sonos Play:3 is looking a little dated in design but it's a good middle ground in the range offering a combination of size, price and power.
For £249, you're getting a great sounding speaker you can use in different orientations. Like others, you can create a stereo pair if you like. We'd pick newer models in the Sonos range but the Play:3 is by no means a bad buy.
Read our Sonos Play 3 review.
- Reviewed on: 15 December 2017
The Playbase is expensive and you can certainly get a soundbar for a lot less if this is a problem.
Like with most Sonos products, you get you what pay for so the Playbase offers superior sound quality, design and all the additional features that Sonos has. This really comes down to design and whether you want to sit your TV on top of the speaker.
We still prefer the older Playbar, hence the lower chart position here.
Read our Sonos Playbase review.
10. Sonos SUB
- Reviewed on: 30 July 2012
The Sonos SUB seamlessly integrates into the Sonos system wirelessly (of course) but we don't think many customers will feel the need for it.
Partly because it costs as much as the Playbar or Playbase and those both offer pretty good bass anyway. You're more likely to notice a complimentary difference if you use the SUB with some of the smaller Sonos speakers.
Just make sure you have the space for it, and friendly neighbours.
Read our Sonos SUB review.