What is Sonos? A beginner's guide to the wireless speaker system

Everything you need to know about Sonos, the wireless speaker system that lets you listen to all your music throughout your house.

Sonos is a multi-room wireless speaker system that lets you play music all around your home with a single app.

The speakers can play music from Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube Music and more. It can connect to your TV and some of them even function as a smart speaker like Amazon’s Echo to answer questions or control your smart home. If you're thinking of entering the world of smart speakers here's handy guide on how to get started with Sonos.

How does Sonos work?

Sonos speakers use your home wi-fi network in order to stream music either from the internet or from your smartphones and tablets. Sonos doesn’t support Bluetooth for the simple reason that the Bluetooth signal may not carry through your entire home and is not reliable enough for high-quality audio streaming.

All Sonos speakers are primarily controlled using the Sonos app which is available on iPhone, iPadAndroid tablets and smartphonesAmazon devices and finally PC and Mac.

 

The app acts as the main remote control for all the Sonos speakers in your house and lets you control them individually, group them into ‘Rooms’ or have every speaker playing the same thing. That means you could have two people playing something completely different in different rooms, or group all the speakers together for a party.

What makes Sonos so versatile is that it lets you play music from a huge range of sources, whether it's a music service, directly from your phone or even from a turntable. There are also accessories that let you use your current speakers, bringing them into the Sonos app.

Do services like Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music and YouTube Music work with Sonos?

Yes, you can add your music streaming service to the Sonos app and then have instant access to all of your music. Sonos supports around 80 music services globally. The company recently just announced support for YouTube Music but the list also includes Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, Deezer and Napster.

It also supports audiobook services like Audible and audiobooks.com and it’ll even 'bookmark' your audio book so you can start listening on your phone and carry on in the same place using the Sonos speaker.

Does Sonos work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri?

All of Sonos' speakers can be controlled by any device that supports either Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant. Sonos also offer two dedicated smart speakers with the Sonos One and Sonos Beam. These have microphones built-in and can act as a replacement for an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Sonos is compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, so whether you’re using an Amazon Echo speaker or one of Sonos’ new voice-activated speakers, you can use your voice to request songs or control compatible smart home gadgets such as the lighting or heating.

To request a song simply say "Alexa, play Yellow by Coldplay in the living room" and Sonos will oblige. As Sonos speakers are split into rooms and names you'll need to specify where you want the music to start playing.

Sonos is now compatible with Google Assistant so if you have a Sonos One or Sonos Beam you'll be able to control your smart home, ask it questions and set timers all direct through the speaker.

It's worth nothing that while Sonos now supports both Alexa and Google Assistant it cannot run both of them on the same speaker so you'll need to decide which voice assistant you use the most and connect it to that one. You can of course change it back at any time through the Sonos app.

Which speakers does Sonos make?

Sonos has a range of speakers designed to accommodate all room sizes and home types. They all connect to each other and to your smartphone via wi-fi although some of them have also been designed for use with a TV and so connect via an optical or HDMI cable.

Sonos Play:1

This is Sonos’ entry-level speaker. Small enough to be placed in a bedroom or on a kitchen top, the Play:1 is perfect for people who want the convenience of a wireless music system but aren’t hugely fussed about hearing every minute detail. Saying that, it still packs plenty of punch both in the bass and the treble.

Sonos One

Similar in size to the Play:1, the One is Sonos’ first voice-activated speaker which means that on top of smartphone app control you now also get full access to Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. You can also swap Alexa for the Google Assistant, depending on your preference. The sound is very similar to the Play:1.

Sonos Play:5

This larger speaker is one for the music lovers. Its larger body produces what Sonos claims is studio-quality sound, while touch-sensitive controls on top of the unit make it a doddle to use. It can be used on its own or for the full effect paired with another Play:5 to create true stereo sound. It works flat or on its side and comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack for traditional input.

Sonos Beam

This is a compact smart soundbar for your TV, combining expansive room-filling sound with a speaker that supports Amazon’s Alexa (and, later this year, Google Assistant). While more than capable on its own, you can pair the Beam with two Play:1s or Ones and create your own surround sound system.

Sonos Playbar

Playbar is Sonos’ premium soundbar. Larger than the Beam, Playbar has nine drivers which push floor-shaking audio into your room to create an incredibly wide soundstage and give you the feeling that what’s happening on screen is happening all around you. Just like Beam it can also be paired with two Play:1/One speakers for a virtual surround sound experience.

Sonos Playbase

Not everyone has room for a large soundbar, and that’s where Playbase comes in. Designed so you can place your TV on top of it, Playbase essentially offers the same expansive sound as a conventional soundbar but without the extra footprint. Just like Beam and Playbar you can pair it with two of the smaller speakers for surround sound.

Sonos Sub

Last but by no means least is Sonos Sub. This wireless subwoofer can be paired with Playbar, Beam or Playbase to create a truly window-shaking home cinema experience. Either pair it to those speakers alone or with two smaller Play:1/One speakers for the ultimate 5:1 home cinema setup.

Does Sonos work with my old speakers?

Yes. In addition to its own speakers Sonos also makes a range of accessories that allow you to connect your older speakers, stand-alone CD players and even your vinyl turntable to the Sonos network. 

Sonos Connect has two conventional analogue inputs on the back, giving your old speakers or turntable an instant upgrade.

For the music lover there’s Sonos Amp and Sonos Amp:Connect which offer even more options including optical input, HDMI ARC input and more.

Does Sonos work with my TV?

Sonos Beam, Playbar and Playbase are designed specifically to work alongside your TV. Alternatively you can connect your TV directly to Amp:Connect via HMDI giving you control of your TV’s volume.

What music formats does Sonos support?

In addition to all of the music services mentioned above, Sonos also supports music stored locally on your phone or laptop.

You can play the following audio formats through Sonos:

 

More from BT