HomePod and Sonos One: A Cage Match No One Will Soon Forget

I’ve lived with a Sonos One and HomePod in my house for a year and wanted to share an update.

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 4 min read
HomePod and Sonos One: A Cage Match No One Will Soon Forget

Or, you know, let’s just compare them.

First, a moment on my speaker history. Before the HomePod, the most expensive speakers I’d ever owned were a pair of $99 Bose Companion 2 speakers for my computer. When I got a HomePod in February 2018, it sounded great to me! I got a second one that summer and started using them in a stereo pair. In early 2019 I was using Android more and wanted a speaker I could use from an Android device, so I picked up a Sonos One.

Overall HomePod Impressions

I like my HomePods quite a bit. They sound amazing and have gotten quite a few updates to Siri over the past 2 years to fill in many of the gaps I thought the product had when it launched.

It’s not perfect though, as I wish it was less buggy when acting as an Apple TV speaker, I wish it could talk to my Android devices, and I wish it had a wired connection so I could plug things like my PS4 into it and get great sound from my video games.

The HomePod was $349 at launch, and I thought that was too high. It now costs $299 which is better, but still a bit steep for a lot of people, but if you see it on sale for $249 or less, I think it’s a great buy (so long as you and everyone you live with are 100% bought into Apple’s ecosystem).

Overall Sonos One Impressions

The Sonos One has been kind of a dream for me. It does not sound as good as the HomePod (although not everyone agrees) but it definitely still sounds good. It has less bass, which for music makes it sound not as good to me, but for things like podcasts and audiobooks it makes no discernible difference to me.

The big disappointment for me was that while this does work with Android phones, it only works via the Sonos app, which I deplore. You can’t just be using something like Pocket Casts on your Pixel and cast to the Sonos, instead you have to use the Pocket Casts app inside the Sonos app to play directly on the speaker. This does not sync listening position or anything like that, so it’s a pretty garbage option for Android, in my opinion.

However, as primarily an iOS user, it’s amazing because it’s also an AirPlay 2 speaker which makes it show up right next to my HomePod and it can do all the fancy AirPlay 2 things you’d want.

Here’s my pitch for selling Sonos Ones to iOS folks: The Sonos One sounds great, is a first class AirPlay 2 speaker, and has Google Assistant/Alexa built in. It’s the best assistant with the best wireless speaker tech, all inside something that sounds almost as good as a HomePod. Oh, and it’s $199. And if you don’t care about the voice assistants, Sonos sells the Sonos One SL for $179 and the only difference is it does not have a microphone.

The Comparison

Both of these speakers have similar problems.

  1. Neither has a wired input to act as a dumb speaker.
  2. Neither uses Bluetooth audio to connect with any device you want.
  3. Each is entirely dependent on the internet to really function (aka in 20 years there’s a good chance neither of these function).

But these also share many good features.

  1. They work great with Apple devices since they support AirPlay 2.
  2. They sound wonderful.
  3. They support multi-room audio if you buy a few of them.
  4. They can be configured into stereo pairs.
  5. They look nice.
  6. They have voice assistants built in (and can be disabled if you don’t want that).

The notable differences to my eye (ear?) are:

  1. HomePod sounds slightly better.
  2. HomePod is better at hearing me talk to it over music.
  3. HomePod setup is so much simpler (aka none, compared to a minute long “walk around your room, waving your phone around” Sonos setup)
  4. Google Assistant on the Sonos is so much better than Siri at most things.
  5. HomePod looks nicer, but they both look good.
  6. Sonos has an option for Android users, even if I don’t think it’s a really good option (I’d much rather they make it a cast device so Android users could get a similar experience).

My Recommendation

I think both of these speakers will make most people happy, as long as they know what they’re buying. For me, the Sonos One has a better assistant, works like a dream with my iOS devices, and costs $100 less than the HomePod, so it’s the one I’m likely to recommend first to people. Also, if you ever decide to switch away from the iPhone, it doesn’t become an expensive paperweight.

But don’t discount the HomePod. I think it sounds better by a decent margin, and for some people Siri is going to be a more useful assistant since it is better integrated into iOS’s core services. If they were the same price I think it would be a toss up on which one each person should get. At a $100 premium, I think you really need to care about the HomePod advantages and not have much interest in the Sonos’s differentiators.

Buy whatever you want, of course. Either way, you’re going to get a good speaker that you’ll probably enjoy.