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Sonos Simplified: Which Sonos Speakers are Right for You?

There’s the Sonos One, the One SL, and the Five. The Arc and the Beam. Yes, the Sonos product line is flexible and diverse, and just about anyone can find a solution for their needs. But with plenty of options also comes the paradox of choice — Where do you start? What Sonos speakers are best for you? What's the difference?

If you’re asking yourself those questions, you’ve come to the right place. We put this guide together to demystify and simplify Sonos, and bring you closer to delivering beautiful, wireless music in every room in your home.

Before we dive in, let's take a quick look at Sonos and wireless multi-room audio. 

(Already familiar with Sonos? Jump ahead to the "Choosing the right Sonos speakers" section.)

What is Sonos?

Sonos is a multi-room wireless streaming system. Let's take that one step at a time. A Sonos “system” consists of a streaming device, amplifier, and speaker, all contained within one unit, like the Sonos One speaker or Arc sound bar. You plug the speaker into a wall power outlet, download the free Sonos app onto your smartphone, iPad, or computer, and Sonos will walk you through setup, step-by-step so that you're off and running in no time.  Every Sonos product connects to your home's Wi-Fi, so you can play your music wirelessly from a music streaming service like Spotify or TIDAL, or from your smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

When you add more than one Sonos speaker to your home, you can play a different song in each room or listen to the same one throughout the house, which is where "multi-room" comes in. From small and compact for a kitchen or bathroom to larger and versatile speakers for a home theater surround sound, all are designed to deliver big, room-filling audio anywhere you put them. (Sonos speakers will even optimize it based on your room's acoustics, thanks to the easy to use, built-in audio calibration technology called TruePlay.)


Wait — what's music streaming? 

Instead of buying music song by song, wireless streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Qobuz, or TIDAL give you instant access to almost any song or album recorded, ever, via a monthly or annual subscription of about $15 (or roughly the price of one CD). You don’t own the music; you are listening to it, continuously streaming over your Wi-Fi and into a pair of Sonos speakers. This is very different from Bluetooth, where you are transmitting the music from your phone (and as a result, every alert and sound your phone makes, too). With Sonos, the music continues (even if you get a phone call) and does not drain your phone's battery.

Choosing the right Sonos speaker for you.


You can start small and purchase any Sonos piece a la carte over time, mixing and matching your way to suit your audio needs. Every Sonos product works great on its own, but the real magic of Sonos happens when you expand your system. Before we get into building your multi-room audio system, let's meet the Sonos lineup.

Sonos One
Sonos One

The One

Reg. $199   |   Shop now

Similar to the original Play:1 in size and sound, the One comes with Amazon Alexa built-in, so you can control your music with simple voice commands and access all of Alexa's awesome skills (get weather and news updates, turn the lights on and off, etc.). The One also gives you voice control over other Sonos speakers in your home, so if you have a One SL (which doesn't have voice built-in) in the kitchen, you can tell the One to play a song through that speaker. Pretty cool. (Read our full take on the Sonos One here.)

Other features we like:

  • Capacitive touch controls, so you can change songs and adjust the volume with simple swipes and gestures.
  • Humidity resistant (perfect for damp environments, like a bathroom or kitchen).
  • Pair two Ones together for stereo sound.
  • Use two Ones as home theater rear speakers when you add to a Sonos Sub and Arc or Playbase.
  • Can mount on a wall or stands with compatible accessories.
One SL
One SL

One SL

Reg. $179   |   Shop now

The Sonos One SL is a powerful microphone-free speaker that gives you the same rich, room-filling sound and all of the same features as the Sonos One, just without voice control built-in. The "SL" stands for speechless - so Sonos quite literally dropped the mic on this one. You can control the One SL with the Sonos app or Apple AirPlay 2. If you already have voice control capabilities or simply don’t need it, the One SL is the way to go.If you already have voice control capabilities or simply don’t need it, the One SL is the way to go. (Watch our video on the Sonos One SL here.)

The compact design fits just about any space and is humidity resistant so you can even put it in the bathroom. Pair it with another One SL in the same room for true stereo separation and more detailed sound or use as home theater rears in a 3.1 or 5.1 system.

If you're looking for voice control, simply include at least one other Sonos smart speaker in your setup, like  or the Beam or the One. Or you can use Amazon Echo and Google Home products to control One SL with your voice. There is no benefit to having multiple products with built-in voice control in the same room. With the One SL at a lower price point than the One or the Beam, this allows you to save some money on the rest of your system.

Sonos Five
Sonos Five

Five

Reg. $499   |   Shop now

The largest speaker in the Sonos family designed for delivering the richest audio into larger rooms. The Five sounds incredible on its own, but it is designed to work best as a stereo pair, thanks to the six Class-D amplifiers and six dedicated speaker drivers inside. And depending on how you orient the Play:5, you'll get a different audio experience: lay it horizontally for a wide sound stage or vertically to create a more direct sound stage. Watch our video on the Five here.

But how is the Sonos Five different than its predecessor, the Play:5? To start, it's got a chic new monochromatic look and new technology focused on increasing memory and processing power to provide improved performance. Enhanced TruePlay, Sonos' proprietary tuning technology, optimizes the sound for the unique acoustics of your room, calibrating the height channels for precise localization. 

One of our go-to ways to use the Five: Pair two of them in stereo and connect them to a turntable (with built-in preamp) via the in-line port for a competitive 2-channel setup that doesn't take up much space and that gives you the flexibility of going right from your favorite record, to your favorite digital streaming service. If your turntable doesn't have a built-in preamp, just add an in-line phono preamp.

Other features we like:

  • Three woofers and sealed design deliver big bass.
  • Top-panel touch controls.
  • Ability to connect to almost any audio source (turntable, MP3 player, etc.) via the line-in.
  • Connects to Amazon Echo or Dot for Amazon Alexa capabilities and voice control.
  • Pair two Fives together for stereo sound.
  • Use two Fives as home theater rear speakers when you add to a Sonos Sub and Arc or Playbase.
  • Can mount on a wall or stands with compatible accessories.
Sub (Gen 3)
Sub (Gen 3)

Sub (Gen 3)

Reg. $699   |   Shop now

This compact subwoofer adds a healthy layer of bottom end to all of your home entertainment; sound that you can hear and feel; deep full bodied bass that rattles the floorboards and shakes the walls. With the touch of a button, the Sonos SUB easily connects to all of your other Sonos speakers using your home’s WiFi network, making it easy for you to build the home audio system of your dreams. This wireless subwoofer contains two force-cancelling speakers to deliver all the sound without buzz or rattle.

Other features we like:

  • Can be positioned standing up or laying flat on the floor for placement under furniture.
  • Simple, one-button setup.
  • Add the Arc, Beam, or Playbase for 3.1 home theater sound — and add two Sonos One SL speakers in the rear for 5.1 surround home theater sound.
Sonos Playbar
Sonos Playbar

Playbar

Reg. $699   |   See deals on certified refurbished

The original Sonos sound bar, the Playbar, contains 9 speaker drivers and doubles as a music streaming player. The Playbar has built-in music streaming apps and plays your music over Wi-Fi, just like the rest of the speaker lineup.

Other features we like:

  • Can be placed flat on top of a media credenza or mounted to the wall.
  • Super easy set-up.
  • Works with your existing TV remote.
  • Connects to Amazon Echo or Dot for Amazon Alexa capabilities and voice control.
Sonos Beam
Sonos Beam

Beam

Reg, $399   |   Shop now

The most compact sound bar in the Sonos multi-room family, the Beam is ideal for small to medium-sized rooms — and comes with Amazon Alexa built-in. Tell the Beam what song to play, change the channel on the TV, turn the lights on and off, and access all of Alexa's capabilities. It's also Apple AirPlay 2 compatible, so you can directly play music from any iOS device. What's more: Google Assistant is coming later this summer. (Read more about the Sonos Beam in our review here.)

Other features we like:

  • Dialog clarity speech enhancement 
  • HDMI Arc connection for easy pairing with your TV and remote
  • Versatile placement (easily mount it to the wall or place the Beam on the media cabinet in front of or below your TV)
Arc
Arc

Arc

Reg, $799   |   Shop now

The Arc Dolby Atmos sound bar is the long-awaited sound bar update from Sonos. It's sleeker and sexier with curved edges and less overall depth than it's best-selling predecessor, the PLAYBAR. This 3D sound-enabled sound bar features 11 high-performance drivers for bass, clear dialogue, and a realistic 5.0.2 sound experience. Watch our video on the Sonos Arc here.

This multipurpose piece let's you play your music, check the news, set alarms, and more with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control built right in. Stream music, radio, and podcasts from your favorite services with the Sonos app or Apple AirPlay 2 when the TV is off. But, let's be real, this is a sound bar first and foremost... and, we're impressed.

The most obvious difference between the Sonos Arc and the Playbar (aside from cosmetic), is the addition of Dolby Atmos. Arc's 3D Dolby Atmos sound comes from its upward-firing drivers that create a multi-dimensional soundstage that moves around you. Arc's advanced processing creates five channels that deliver sound to your ears from all directions at the exact right moment. And, Sonos' Trueplay tuning technology optimizes the sound for the unique acoustics of your room, calibrating the height channels for precise localization. 

Other features we like:

  • Control it with your remote, the app, Apple AirPlay 2, or your voice (via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice control built-in)
  • Mount it with the optional mount, place it under or directly in front of the TV on a shelf or console.
  • Built for TVs larger than 49"
  • Requires a TV that supports Dolby Atmos and Atmos-encoded content.
  • Turn on Speech Enhancement in the app to clarify dialogue when characters talk quietly or action intensifies.
  • Expand your system by wirelessly connecting a Sub for deeper bass and a pair of matching rear surrounds for an even more immersive listening experience.
Sonos Playbase
Sonos Playbase

Playbase

Reg. $699   |   Shop now

With all the same functionality as the Playbar, this sound base has 10 speaker drivers and the most bass of the entire Sonos speaker lineup. With a super slim, low-profile design, it can lay flat on top of your media cabinet and under your TV. The Playbase also has built-in streaming apps, so you can boost audio for both movies and music.

Other features we like:

  • Supports TVs up to 77 lbs.
  • Connects to Amazon Echo or Dot for Amazon Alexa capabilities and voice control.
  • Super easy set-up.
  • Works with your existing TV remote.

Music in every room with Sonos Sets.


Now that you've got a lay of the Sonos land, there are many different ways to configure your Sonos system. You can mix and match Sonos speakers to your liking, or take advantage of pre-bundled 
Sonos Speaker Sets. Each set is designed to make it easier (and more affordable) to set up the multi-room audio system or home theater surround sound you need. Our Sonos customers particularly like the Sonos "Group" feature, which allows you to fill every room with music with the touch of a button. No more walking around the house in and out of music “dead zones.”

Two Room Set

Features two Sonos speakers (either a pair of Ones, One SLs, or Fives). Place one speaker in the family room and one in the kitchen, or pair two together for stereo sound.

Three Room Set

Features three Sonos speakers. Add one speaker to three different rooms, or set up a stereo pair in the family room and one speaker in the kitchen.

Four Room Set

Features four Sonos speakers. Place them wherever you like - one in every bedroom in the house, a stereo pair in the basement and a pair in the family room, etc.

Two Room Premium Set with Play5
Sonos Premium Two Room Set with Five and Sub Gen 3

Bring movies to life with home theater surround sound.


Whether you're a movie buff or your week centers around family movie night, mix and match Sonos speakers to create a wireless 3.1 or 5.1 home theater system. 

3.1 Home Theater Set 

A Sonos Arc, Beam, or Soundbase plus a Sub make a simple, room-filling home theater setup. Choose the Beam + Sub for smaller rooms and the Arc + Sub for filling up larger rooms. The Soundbase would be your go-to if space is a concern. With a super slim, low-profile design, it can lay flat on top of your media cabinet and under your TV.


Sonos 31 Home Theater Set
3.1 Home Theater Set with Sonos  Beam and SUB

5.1 Home Theater Set

For home theater surround sound, take your 3.1 Beam or Soundbase + Sub setup and add two rear speakers, like a pair of One SLs or Fives for a 5.1 system.

5.1.2 Home Theater Set

Add a pair of One SLs or Fives to your Arc + Sub setup, and you've got a full-blown, jaw-dropping Dolby Atmos home theater with 3D surround sound that will blow you away.

There are many configurations for home theater sound, but keep in mind you can expand upon your Sonos Set no matter where you start. You might have a home theater set in the family room, and a few Ones in other rooms around the house for multi-room audio. The beauty of Sonos: there’s a ton of flexibility.

Sonos 512 Home Theater Set
5.1.2 Home Theater Set with Sonos One SL Pair, PLAYBAR, and SUB

Add wireless streaming to your non-Sonos products.


The Sonos CONNECT is a small device that connects to your existing audio system to add Sonos streaming. Plug in the power cord, connect an audio cable to any empty input on your system (e.g., tape, tuner, aux, etc.), and you’ll be able to stream music from your favorite apps, like Spotify, Qobuz, Pandora, TIDAL, and more.

Sonos CONNECT
Sonos CONNECT

Give your current loudspeakers a wireless upgrade.


Sonos' amplifier/streamer, known as the Connect:Amp gives any pair of "traditional" wired speakers a wireless upgrade. Simply run a wire from the Connect:Amp to each of your speakers, and you have a complete Sonos system in that room. Many homeowners even use a Connect:Amp to power wired outdoor speakers for a clean, wireless sound system in their backyard.

When you open the app, you will now see both the TV room and the Connect:Amp room , and you can have them playing different things. Or, you can group them together and listen to the same source at the same time.

Extend your Wi-Fi for stronger, more reliable Sonos sound.


Every time you add a Sonos piece to your home, it acts like a “booster,” extending the Sonos Wi-Fi coverage. With that said, Sonos also makes a piece called the BOOST, which takes your Sonos off your regular home network and creates a new, powerful dedicated Sonos network that will reach further. Since it’s under $100, we recommended it to anyone with “less than perfect” Wi-Fi in their home. It plugs into your router and gives greater coverage.

Bring the Sonos sound home.


Ready to bring wireless music into your home? Shop all Sonos products a la carte or Sonos Sets today.

Have questions? Our Sonos experts are here to answer them — contact us via phone, online chat, or email. If you're in the PA area, visit one of our showrooms to hear Sonos in action!

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