With the introduction of voice controlled speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and the forthcoming HomePod, speaker company Sonos went from being a leader in offering the most cutting-edge speaker features to lacking a component that’s become par for the course for speakers. So, when Sonos executives announced on October 4 that the company would […]Read More »
When Sonos released the Play:5 speaker in late 2015, the Amazon Echo was still an unproven tech curiosity. But since then, Alexa and the Echo have grown rapidly in both popularity and functionality, inspiring competition from the likes of Google and Apple. Talking to a speaker is totally normal now -- but Sonos users haven't been able to do that. They've instead had to choose between the convenience of products like the Echo and Google Home and the superior audio quality that Sonos speakers offer.
Sonos has known for some time that this is a problem. In early 2016, then-CEO John MacFarlane cited the Echo as primary competition and promised that voice recognition would be a key technology for the company moving forward. Now we're finally seeing the fruits of that effort. The Sonos One takes everything that worked in the company's entry-level Play:1 speaker and adds in support for Amazon's Alexa, which means you can finally talk to a Sonos speaker and have it play music for you. But with Google, Amazon and Apple all working on music-focused speakers of their own, Sonos could get buried if the One doesn't do everything right.
If you've used the $199 Play:1 speaker, you'll feel right at home with the Sonos One. At a glance, it features the same rounded rectangular shape as the Play:1 but adds a few new design flourishes to match Sonos' current design language. The top of the One is completely flat now, with no physical buttons like the ones on the Play:1. Instead, the One's top surface doubles as a touch panel, with a play/pause button dead center. On either side are spots to tap to raise and lower volume, and sliding your finger left to right lets you skip to the next track. This setup is identical to what Sonos introduced on the Play:5 and carried over into the recently released PlayBase; I'm glad to see it here as well.
There are two LED lights on top of the speaker. One is a status light to show you when the device is working or having trouble connecting to the internet; the second is underneath a little microphone icon. As you'd expect, this shows you whether the six-microphone array in the One is active. Tap the mic icon to keep the speaker from listening in and the light goes out.
Other than updates to the top of the speaker, the only external difference between the One and the Play:1 is that the grille is now color-matched to the rest of the speaker, which comes in black or white. The Play:1's grille is gray, regardless of what color the rest of the exterior is.
The Sonos One uses the same audio components and speakers as those found in the Play:1, but the internal layout had to be completely redesigned in order to fit the microphones. But Sonos was able to make the necessary changes without affecting the size or weight of the One -- these specs remain unchanged from the Play:1.
Once you plug in the Sonos One, all of the setup is done on your smartphone. If you've never set up Sonos products before, you'll need to create a Sonos account; from there you just need to connect the speaker to your WiFi network. You'll then want to sign in to the music services you use -- Sonos supports essentially every available option: Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Pandora, Tidal, Amazon Music and many more.
The next part of the setup process is entirely new: enabling Alexa. You'll need to have the Alexa app installed on your smartphone -- the Sonos app will direct you there, at which point your new speaker will show up as ready to be configured. It's a pretty simple process, but you'll then have to enable your music services in Amazon's app as well.
That's where I encountered a hiccup. The speaker works only with music services supported by Amazon and Alexa, which currently include only Amazon Music (naturally), Pandora, iHeartRadio and TuneIn. Even though Spotify works with other Alexa-enabled devices, it doesn't yet work on the One, though Sonos says it'll be ready soon. Other music services that aren't supported by Alexa will work with the One through the app, and you'll still be able to use voice commands to pause, resume and skip tracks. But you won't be able to ask Alexa to play specific albums or playlists from your Play Music or Tidal account, at least for now.
One last word on setting up voice services. Over the years, Sonos has committed to supporting every audio service that it could, and it wants to do the same with voice control systems. As such, the Google Assistant will come to the Sonos One sometime early next year. So if you prefer Google's voice assistant, know that it should be available before too long. In particular, those using Google Play Music or YouTube Music will want to give this a shot.
Since the Sonos One has the same audio hardware as the Play:1, sound quality was essentially indistinguishable between the two, and that's a good thing. The Sonos One impressed me with clear, dynamic and loud sound that far outstrips Google Home or the original Echo (the second-generation model, announced three weeks ago, is supposed to have better audio). Of course, you're paying a bit more for the One,, but $199 is a totally reasonable price for the sound quality you get here. The One lacks the bass performance, stereo separation and improved clarity you'll get from a larger, more expensive speaker like Sonos' own Play:5 or the forthcoming Google Home Max, but the price-performance ratio here is excellent.
As with the rest of the Sonos lineup, you can tune these speakers using a feature called "TruePlay." It uses the mic on your iPhone to analyze your room and optimizes the sound of the speaker based on where it has been placed. I've been impressed with TruePlay since it was unveiled two years ago, but it's worth noting that Google and Apple are both releasing speakers that can tune themselves any time you move them. Since no Sonos speaker (until the One) has had working mics, this hasn't been possible, and the One still uses the same tuning process as the rest of the Sonos lineup.
The downsides to the One mostly come down to bass, as I mentioned earlier. There's only so much you can get out of such a compact speaker. The sound still sounds balanced -- I didn't feel like the music was lacking when listening to the One on its own -- but the low end is not as strong as what you'll get from larger (and more expensive) speakers.
The One is also a mono speaker, but you can pair two of them together to get stereo sound as well as increased volume. I've tried this before with a pair of Play:1 speakers and it makes a significant difference in the music quality and listening experience. One speaker is just fine for background music, but people serious about audio quality will appreciate having a stereo pair.
Unfortunately, it's not possible to pair a Sonos One and Play:1 together in stereo, despite the fact that they're essentially the same speaker. Sonos said that most customers pair speakers together when they buy them in a pair, but there are also probably people who've bought one Play:1 to try Sonos out who'd be interested in adding a One for voice control and stereo playback. The company did at least say that this feature could be added in the future via a software update.
Otherwise, the One works with the rest of the Sonos lineup just as well as you'd expect. If you have other Sonos speakers and want to group the One with them for multi-room playback, you can do that right in the Sonos app.
But if you're buying the Sonos One, you don't want to use the music player app -- you want to control it with your voice. Assuming you're using a service that works with Alexa, this works basically the same as an Echo. This means that you can ask your One to start play any song, album, artist, playlist or anything else in your music library. The Alexa app also lets you pick different services for your "music library" and "stations," if you're so inclined. That lets you access playlists and albums from one service but have another play genre-based stations (what Pandora has focused on for so many years).
Once you've started playing some tunes, you can ask Alexa to raise and lower the volume, skip tracks or pause your music entirely. You can also send music to other Sonos speakers in your setup using Alexa. You can tell Alexa to play music on other speakers the names that you've assigned them in the Sonos app (living room, office, etc.). Overall, music control with voice works just fine, whether using a music session you kicked off with your voice or something you started in the Sonos app. If you've used Alexa on one of Amazon's own devices before, you'll mostly be right at home with the Sonos One voice commands.
Unfortunately, there were a few times I ran into some strange and frustrating bugs -- the speaker wasn't recognizing that it was playing music, so "pause" or "next track" requests didn't work. Amazon Music also occasionally got confused and told me it was playing on another device so it couldn't play on the speaker I asked for. Sonos helped me troubleshoot the problem -- just asking Alexa to "discover devices" cleared things up. It seemed to re-sync the Sonos skill with the speaker, essentially, and then I was happily playing tunes again.
I also occasionally had trouble getting the One to hear my cries of "Alexa" when I wanted its attention. That was only when I had music playing pretty loudly, and I'm pretty sure that was the cause of my problem. It's not a deal-breaker, but it's probably worth noting that you might have a hard time getting Alexa's attention if you're cranking some tunes.
Alexa integration means the One can also do almost anything that Echo devices can do. You can install skills for managing smarthome devices, sync your calendar and reminders to Alexa, get weather forecasts and news updates, ask random trivia questions and add the many third-party skills that Amazon's service supports.
There are a couple of notable Alexa services that aren't enabled when using the Sonos One: voice calls and messaging. Those features are saved for Amazon's own hardware at the moment. Sonos said that those features could be added in the future, but the company wanted to focus the experience more on music than the full suite of Alexa features -- a reasonable claim, but the One can do nearly everything else that Alexa can do, so it feels more like this is something Amazon wanted to save for itself. This one feature aside, though, the Sonos One is a strong option for getting an excellent music speaker that also taps into nearly everything that Alexa can do.
Sonos products have historically been pretty unique, but as we've mentioned, the last year has seen some major players get into the music speaker market. With Alexa on board, the new Echo and Echo Plus are the Sonos One's most direct competitors. We haven't fully reviewed either, but I'd be surprised if either offered audio quality that's on part with the One. But at only $99, the standard Echo will offer an improved speaker compared to its predecessor. Plenty of people were already listening to music on the Echo, and now new buyers will end up with an even better speaker. For lots of people, the Echo speaker will be good enough.
The Echo Plus is slightly bigger than the standard Echo, and as such has a bigger tweeter. That said, improved audio over the standard Echo isn't a selling point Amazon has mentioned, so it's safe to assume it'll provide a similar listening experience. We can't say for sure yet, but we'll be reviewing both of them soon.
Apple and Google are both launching their own music-focused, voice-controlled speakers this winter: the HomePod and Home Max, respectively. Based on the various demos we've had, both seem like they'll outperform the Sonos One from an audio standpoint. But, that's to be expected -- the Home Max costs twice as much ($399), and the HomePod comes in just under that at $350. And in both cases, you won't have access to Alexa; you'll have to be content with the Google Assistant or Siri as your digital assistant.
If you're thinking of spending that much money on a speaker but would prefer the Sonos ecosystem, you might as well consider the $499 Sonos Play:5. No, it doesn't have voice control built in, but you can pair it with an Echo Dot and get the same level of voice control that the Sonos One offers, with audio quality that far surpasses any other connected speaker you could buy.
None of these options match the Sonos One's $199 price point; the speaker really does sit alone in this category. It's better than an Echo or Google Home, but probably not as good as what Google and Apple have coming up. But if you have even a passing interest in playing music around your house, the Sonos One hits a sweet spot, offering great music quality without breaking the bank.
The Play:1 has been Sonos' best-selling speaker, and with good reason. It offers significantly better music quality than your average Bluetooth or smart speaker without breaking the bank. It's also a great first step into a multi-speaker setup for your home. The Sonos One does all of that and adds voice controls without raising the price. Those voice controls may have a few bugs to work out, but aside from one frustrating afternoon it worked well for me.
Anyone who is considering an Echo or Google Home would do well to consider the Sonos One, as well. In a world where white earbuds, laptop speakers and Bluetooth devices have come to dominate the music-listening experience, a lot of people have forgotten how good a dedicated music speaker can sound.
The Sonos One is a great way for most people to significantly upgrade your audio setup while also getting the convenience of voice controls. I wish that both Spotify voice commands and the Google Assistant were supported at launch, but this speaker will keep getting more features through upcoming software updates. Given that, I have no problem recommending it now. It'll work right out of the box as an Alexa-enabled device, it'll support more music services over time and it's a great way to dip your feet into the Sonos ecosystem. Just don't be surprised if you end up wanting to buy a few more.Read More »
Bigelow Aerospace has been working on inflatable space habitats for a while now. The company sent a small inflatable unit to the ISS that added a small living area on the space station and it partnered with United Launch Alliance (ULA) last year on plans to launch its B330 module to Low Earth Orbit. Now, the company has just announced that it will continue the partnership and send another B330 inflatable habitat to Low Lunar Orbit by 2022.
This new module, about a third of the size of the ISS itself, is first set to launch to Low Earth Orbit via on a Vulcan 562 rocket that's currently in development by ULA. Once it's in orbit, Bigelow Aerospace plans to outfit the habitat and make sure all is working well. When it's ready, ULA will use two more Vulcan ACES rockets deployed in low earth orbit to push the B330 into low lunar orbit. The idea is to provide a platform for lunar business development as well as a place for NASA to train astronauts and launch longer-term exploration programs.
"We are excited to work with ULA on this lunar depot project," said Bigelow Aerospace's president, Robert Bigelow. "Our lunar depot plan is a strong complement to other plans intended to eventually put people on Mars. it will provide NASA and America with an exciting and financially practical success opportunity that can be accomplished in the short term." Such a program could re-energize human interest in returning to the moon, too.
Source: United Launch AllianceRead More »
In what appears to be a first, Amazon’s Alexa will act as a guide for a board game called When in Rome, according to the startup Sensible Object. Due out in March 2018, When in Rome will be the first of six voice-augmented games Sensible Object plans to release next year. Each game in the series […]Read More »
Cities have been desperately trying to attract Amazon’s second North American headquarters — but some groups want to know exactly what kind of jobs "HQ2" will bring.
On Tuesday, 73 civic groups, including unions, nonprofits, religious organizations, and political parties sent an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with a list of "expectations" for the company.
"We love jobs, we love technology, and we love convenience—but what you’re looking for will impact every part of our cities," the letter reads. "We built these cities, and we want to make sure they remain ours." Read more...More about Amazon, Jeff Bezos, Hq2, Tech, and Work Life Read More »
Volvo and its Chinese parent company, Geely Holdings, just announced that they'll invest about $755 million together to create Polestar, which will manufacture electrified vehicles in China. The new brand will be a "fully consolidated Volvo Cars subsidiary," focused solely on creating electric, performance-first vehicles.
The plans for the Polestar were unveiled at an event in Shanghai, where the first vehicle from the brand, the Polestar 1, also made its debut. The brand new two-door coupé isn't an all-electric car, but it has a hybrid engine that the company claims will offer an estimated 93 miles per charge of range running on electricity alone, which would give it more range than any hybrid currently on the road. Read more...More about Electric Cars, Electric Vehicles, Volvo, Hybrid, and Polestar Read More »
(Reuters) — Netflix Inc added more subscribers than expected around the world in the third quarter and projected growth in line with Wall Street forecasts, saying it had a head start on rivals as internet television explodes globally. Shares of the world’s leading online video streaming service touched a record high on Monday and rose […]Read More »
Taking steps to reporting and removing revenge porn, a.k.a image-based abuse, can be arduous, both emotionally and regarding the amount of steps required to get it done.
Australia's government is aiming to make the process simpler, with the launch of a national portal for reporting instances of image-based abuse.
The portal will allow victims to report revenge porn online, and provide immediate access to support that had been previously been unavailable, according to a statement. A pilot phase will examine the complexity and the volume of the reports before the portal officially launches early next year. Read more...More about Tech, Australia, Social Media, Revenge Porn, and Tech Read More »
While Google might soon switch VIPs over to advanced protection in the form of physical keys, the rest of us are fine with typical security practices -- so long as we follow them. To better secure your Google account, the company has a new version of its Security Checkup feature that points out vulnerabilities. Instead of needing to run through the same generic checklist of questions, the tool will instead identify weak areas in your account setup and bring them to your attention.
None of the security suggestions (removing certain extensions, for example, or enabling 2-step verification) are new, and it still uses green checks marking safe setup and yellow/red checks denoting areas that need fixing. Only the personalized system is new, but hey, any time not spent glossing over what you've already correctly set up is more mental bandwidth to make your account less vulnerable. Visit the Security Checkup page to see the updated version.
Source: Google blogRead More »
The fall TV heavyweights are back, and this week that includes AMC's The Walking Dead, returning for season number eight. Sports fans can get ready for NBA action, while gamers can finally get a fresh taste of Gran Turismo. South Park's long-awaited game is finally arriving as well, while Spider-Man Homecoming tops the 4K Blu-ray list and Netflix premieres season two of Miranda Sings' Haters Back Off. Look after the break to check out each day's highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed).
Blu-ray & Games & Streaming
- Annabelle Creation (VOD)
- The Dark Tower (VOD)
- Spider-Man: Homecoming (4K, 3D)
- Girls Trip
- Samurai Jack: The Complete Series
- Serenity (4K)
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
- Apollo 13 (4K)
- Barry Lyndon
- American Gods (S1)
- Stranger Things (S1)
- Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)
- The Jackbox Party Pack 4 (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch)
- Life is Strange: Before the Storm - Episode 2 (PS4, PC, Switch)
- Let's Sing 2018 (PS4, Wii)
- South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Xbox One, PS4)
- Elex (Xbox One, PS4)
- Dungeons 3 (Xbox One, PS4)
- Megaton Rainfall (PS VR)
- Rogue Troper Redux (PS4, Xbox One)
- WWE 2K18 (Xbox One, PS4)
- Colts/Titans, ESPN, 8:15 PM
- Lucifer, Fox, 8 PM
- The Big Bang Theory, CBS, 8 PM
- The Voice, NBC, 8 PM
- 9jkl, CBS, 8:30 PM
- Dancing with the Stars, ABC, 8 PM
- WWE Raw, USA, 8 PM
- Supergirl, CW, 8 PM
- 3 Hikers, Starz, 9 PM
- Valor, CW, 9 PM
- The Gifted, Fox, 9 PM
- Kevin Can Wait, CBS, 9 PM
- Me, Myself & I, CBS, 9:30 PM
- Scorpion, CBS, 10 PM
- The Brave, NBC, 10 PM
- The Good Doctor, ABC, 10 PM
- Desus & Mero, Viceland, 11 PM
- The Mindy Project, Hulu, 3 AM
- Patton Oswalt: Annihilation, Netflix, 3 AM
- Slasher (S2), Netflix 3 AM
- Celtics/Cavaliers, TNT, 8 PM
- Rockets/Warriors, TNT, 10:30 PM
- The Flash, CW, 8 PM
- Finding Your Roots, PBS, 8 PM
- The Voice, NBC, 8 PM
- Lethal Weapon, Fox, 8 PM
- NCIS, CBS, 8 PM
- WWE Smackdown, USA, 8 PM
- The Middle, ABC, 8 PM
- Fresh Off the Boat, ABC, 8:30 PM
- DC's Legends of Tomorrow, CW, 9 PM
- Black-ish, ABC, 9 PM
- Bull, CBS, 9 PM
- The Mick, Fox, 9 PM
- This is Us, NBC, 9 PM
- Inside the NFL, Showtime, 9 PM
- Fantomworks, Velocity, 9 PM
- The Mayor, ABC, 9:30 PM
- Brooklyn Nine-nine, Fox, 9:30 PM
- The Mane Event (series premiere), BET, 10 PM
- Undercover High, A&E, 10 PM
- Cyberwar, Viceland, 10 PM
- Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, ABC, 10 PM
- Law & Order: True Crime, NBC, 10 PM
- NCIS: NO, CBS, 10 PM
- American Horror Story, FX, 10 PM
- The Challenge, MTV, 10 PM
- Tosh.0, Comedy Central, 10 PM
- Weediquette (season premiere), Viceland, 10:30 PM
- 90s House, MTV, 11 PM
- Desus & Mero, Viceland, 11 PM
- Chance, Hulu, 3 AM
- Freakish (season premiere), Hulu, 3 AM
- 76ers/Wizards, ESPN, 7 PM
- The Blacklist, NBC, 8 PM
- Empire, Fox, 8 PM
- The Goldbergs, ABC, 8 PM
- Survivor, CBS, 8 PM
- Lucha Underground (season finale), El Rey, 8 PM
- Riverdale, CW, 8 PM
- Speechless, ABC, 8:30 PM
- Dynasty, CW, 9 PM
- Modern Family, ABC, 9 PM
- Law & Order: SVU, NBC, 9 PM
- Seal Team, CBS, 9 PM
- Star, Fox, 9 PM
- American Housewife, ABC, 9:30 PM
- Timberwolves/Spurs, ESPN, 9:30 PM
- Mr. Robot, USA, 10 PM
- Shannara Chronicles, Spike TV, 10 PM
- Criminal Minds, CBS, 10 PM
- Chicago PD, NBC, 10 PM
- Designated Survivor, ABC, 10 PM
- Liar, Sundance, 10 PM
- Are You the One, MTV, 10 PM
- Channel Zero, Syfy, 10 PM
- You're the Worst, FXX, 10 PM
- Garage Squad, Velocity, 10 PM
- South Park, Comedy Central, 10 PM
- Broad City, Comedy Central, 10:30 PM
- Rosehaven (season finale), Sundance, 11 PM
- Desus & Mero, Viceland, 11 PM
- Bomb Scared, Netflix, 3 AM
- I Love You America, Hulu, 3 AM
- Grey's Anatomy, ABC, 8 PM
- Superstore, NBC, 8 PM
- Gotham, Fox, 8 PM
- Supernatural, CW, 8 PM
- Chiefs/Raiders, CBS, 8:30 PM
- The Good Place, NBC, 8:30 PM
- The Eleven (series premiere), A&E, 9 PM
- Arrow, CW, 9 PM
- Scandal, ABC, 9 PM
- Van Helsing, Syfy, 9 PM
- The Orville, Fox, 9 PM
- Will & Grace, NBC, 9 PM
- Great News, NBC, 9:30 PM
- The Walking Dead: Behind the Dead, AMC, 10 PM
- Chicago Fire, NBC, 10 PM
- Better Things, FX, 10 PM
- The Mist, Spike TV, 10 PM
- Bong Appetit, Viceland, 10:30 PM
- The Rundown with Robin Thede, BET, 11 PM
- The Timeline, NFL Network, 11 PM
- Desus & Mero, Viceland, 11 PM
- Haters Back Off (S2), Netflix, 3 AM
- Wheelman, Netflix, 3 AM
- The Day I Met El Chapo (Episodes 1 - 3), Netflix, 3 AM
- Red Oaks (S3), Amazon Prime, 3 AM
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, CW, 8 PM
- Macgyver, CBS, 8 PM
- Once Upon a Time, ABC, 8 PM
- Tackle My Ride, NFL Network, 8 PM
- Jane the Virgin, CW, 9 PM
- Marvel's Inhumans, ABC, 9 PM
- Active Shooter, Showtime, 9 PM
- Z Nation, Syfy, 9 PM
- The Exorcist, Fox, 9 PM
- A Football Life: Sam Mills, NFL Network, 9 PM
- Tough Guys, Showtime, 9 PM
- Superstition (series premiere), Syfy, 10 PM
- The Walking Dead: Walker World, AMC, 10 PM
- Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus, Cinemax, 10 PM
- Superstition, Syfy, 10 PM
- Tracey Ullman's Show (season premiere), HBO, 11 PM
- Comedy Central Stand-Up Presents, Comedy Central, 12 AM
- Too Funny to Fail, Hulu, 3 AM
- Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, BBC America, 9 PM
- The Walking Dead: The Journey So Far, AMC, 9 PM
- The Toy Box, ABC, 7 PM
- Outlander, Starz, 8 PM
- Shark Tank, ABC, 8 PM
- The Simpsons, Fox, 8 PM
- Falcons/Patriots, NBC 8:20 PM
- Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access, 8:30 PM
- Ghosted, Fox, 8:30 PM
- Wisdom of the Crowd, CBS, 8 PM
- Outlander, Starz, 8 PM
- The Walking Dead (season premiere), AMC, 9 PM
- Family Guy, Fox, 9 PM
- Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, CNN, 9 PM
- Poldark, PBS, 9 PM
- Ray Donovan, Showtime, 9 PM
- The Deuce, HBO, 9 PM
- The Last Man on Earth, Fox, 9:30 PM
- NCIS: LA, CBS, 9 PM
- Talking Dead (Season premiere), AMC, 10 PM
- Good Behavior, TNT, 10 PM
- Madam Secretary, CBS, 10 PM
- Curb Your Enthusiasm, HBO, 10 PM
- Ten Days in the Valley, ABC, 10 PM
- This is Life with Lisa Ling, CNN, 10 PM
- Unsung Hollywood, TV One, 10 PM
- Vice Principals, HBO, 10:30 PM
[All times listed are in ET]Read More »