Sonos One SL Review
Pros: Great sound quality, small, relatively inexpensive
Cons: No Bluetooth connection, not the thumpiest bass
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The One SL is the basic building block of the multi-speaker system offered by Sonos, but for those shopping on a budget we think it sounds great all on its own. The sound quality is impressive for such a small speaker, and it has plenty of volume for the average living room or small apartment.
The Sonos One is acoustically and aesthetically identical to the SL, but adds an array of microphones that allow you to use Alexa and Google voice assistants without any external accessories.
The SL is one of the best sounding small home speakers on the market. If you're looking for the boomiest bass possible, it may not be for you, but otherwise it's sure to please.
Sonos has largely built brand on the impressive clarity of its speakers, and the SL completely delivers on that front. Acoustic numbers heard on the speaker take on a largely live feel, with every slight tremble in a vocal or slide on a guitar string clear and audible. This characteristic also makes it a great device for listening to podcasts and talk radio.
When music with more low end enters the equation, the SL still sounds great. It pushes out impressively powerful bass notes given its small size, and manages to do so with very little of the muddling heard in many other small speakers. However, it just can't match the rotund bass offered by some of the larger (and generally more expensive) speakers on the market. For most styles of music that difference is more or less negligible. However, if your jam is bass-heavy hip hop, metal, or EDM, the SL may sound a bit thinner than you'd like. The being said, we have yet to find a bass powerhouse in this price range, so we'd still consider the SL a viable option for budget-conscious bass lovers.
The SL offers a great user experience, but with an important quirk you need to take note of.
No Bluetooth Connection
Most people expect modern home speakers to feature a Bluetooth connection, but that is a technology that Sonos has largely eschewed. Instead, this speaker forces you to stream music directly to the speaker via WiFi (or through a hard-wired ethernet connection) using the Sonos app on your phone/tablet/computer as a remote control with which to access your favorite music streaming services (Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, Apple Music, et cetera).
The only other option, which is only available to Apple users, is to use the SL's AirPlay compatibility. This essentially allows you to treat the SL as a standard Bluetooth connected device, playing audio from things like Netflix, youTube, or saved non-streaming files, but only if you have an Apple device that is connected to the same WiFi network as the SL.
Sonos has their reasons for not offering Bluetooth, with better quality streaming over WiFi and a lack of musical interruptions every time you get a text being chief amongst them. We've both tested and lived with Sonos systems for thousands of hours and generally haven't found the lack of Bluetooth limiting. However, if you have a Windows or Android laptop or tablet and want to be able to beam the audio to your speaker, the SL will leave you disappointed. Additionally, it's a bit hard for visitors to your home to take over DJ duties unless they're willing to log onto your WiFi and download the Sonos app. You might want to look at the similarly priced options from Bose, which all offer a Bluetooth connection, if this sounds like a limiting factor for you.
A Streamlined App
Sonos isn't the only speaker company that allows you to stream content directly over the internet, freeing you phone from its duty as an intermediary. However, the app it uses to accomplish such a feat is one of the best around. It's relatively easy to log into your Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, and other accounts within the app, and then search that combined library of music in one convenient place. You can then play any of that music on the SL while leaving your phone completely unencumbered. This app also works great for managing a multi-speaker system, if you ever feel inclined to get your SL some brothers and sisters.
Smart Home Compatibility
The SL is compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Home Voice assistants. The SL doesn't have any internal microphones, however, so you'll have to pair it with an external smart device if you want to summon it with your voice. If you want a voice assistant built-in you can spend just a bit more on the Sonos One (no SL), which is the same speaker but with virtual assistant capabilities baked right in.
Akin to its bass power, the SL sounds impressively loud given its relatively small size. When listening to it in an 800 square foot apartment, it was able to fill the entire space with sound, even with half a dozen people milling about. If you ended up having a raucous party with dozens of people wanting to dance to loud music, the SL might struggle just a bit, but otherwise we think it offers plenty of punch.
You can send music to the SL via WiFi using the Sonos app, also via WiFi using AirPlay and a compatible Apple device, or with a hard wired internet connection through the ethernet port. However, the SL lacks any way to connect to it without the internet. You can't send audio saved on a mobile device directly to the speaker via Bluetooth, and there is no physical audio port. Therefore, if your internet goes down, the SL loses all of its functionality.
The Sonos One SL provides impressive sound quality for a relatively reasonable price, making it a good option for an audiophile on a budget. It also offers almost limitless opportunities for expansion, making it a good option for those that want to spend a little to make their home system sound better now, but don't want that investment to dry up if you decidet to upgrade in the future.
If you're looking for good sound that won't break the bank, and have an AirPlay compatible device or aren't fussed by the lack of a Bluetooth connection the Sonos One SL will serve you well.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell