A Multiroom Wireless Speaker is that the easiest method to concentrate on music, podcasts, and other audio entertainment in additional than one room at a time, and that we think Sonos is the best option. It supports the widest variety of streaming services, the speakers sound great, and its apps are practically foolproof. The competition is catching up, but Sonos is still the most complete and reliable package overall.
If sound quality, easy setup, and intuitive operation are your top priorities during a multiroom wireless loudspeaker , Sonos is our recommendation. Sonos has made these systems for extended than anyone, and its experience shows at every level. The mobile and desktop apps are among the most polished available and offer unified search across every service you subscribe to—including Apple Music.
Sonos’s tight control of its ecosystem means you’re limited in terms of the speaker brands you can add to your setup (unless you buy Sonos devices specifically designed for you to add your own speakers), but the company’s offerings come at a variety of prices and all sound excellent. Sonos One is a great entry point. It costs less than most high-end Bluetooth speakers, yet its audio performance measures as accurately as that of speakers costing several times as much. For better sound or bigger rooms, the higher-end Sonos Five creates a large soundstage on its own, and a pair can compete with similarly priced midrange bookshelf speakers—without the need for a separate amplifier. There’s also the wireless Sonos Sub, which you can pair with any existing Sonos speaker to add some oomph. And you can even add Sonos to your TV using the company’s Arc or Beam smart soundbar, either of which can pair with a sub and two other Sonos speakers to form a surround system. Or if you want it all at once, you can get an Atmos-capable wireless home theater system in one package.
In June 2020, Sonos unrolled a brand-new OS and a few updated hardware. The new S2 operating system adds support for higher-resolution audio, along with newer audio formats such as Dolby Atmos (specifically on the Arc soundbar), and it features an even simpler and more intuitive design, making the entire ecosystem easier to use than ever before.
The Sonos system is the best multiroom wireless speaker system because it supports the most services and has a wide selection of great-sounding speakers, comprehensive search features, and a well-organized app that runs on almost all major mobile platforms. Sonos continues its platform current by refreshing its speakers, adding more services, and adding new features such as Trueplay room-correction technology. The Sonos user experience is the most reliable of any of the multiroom wireless speaker systems currently accessible, and it has only gotten better with the entrance of the new S2 operating system, issued in June 2020.
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The Sonos Lineup
Sonos offers speakers that start at the budget end with the small Sonos One and Sonos One SL (which lacks voice control) and extend to the Arc and Beam soundbars for use with a TV. You can use a single speaker, combine two into a stereo pair, or even build a 5.1-channel home theater system using a soundbar along with two other speakers for surrounds and the matching Sub.
If you already have passive speakers that require an amp and you’d like them to work with your Sonos system, you can use the Sonos Amp. The Amp also has a stereo analog input if you want to connect a turntable, a CD player, or some other audio source device, as well as an optical digital audio input and an HDMI input to connect a TV. Before you go that route, though, it’s important to consider your specific needs. If you’re just looking for a stereo setup, you can get a pair of the impressive Sonos One speakers for a lot less; the most serious audiophiles might consider upgrading to a pair of Sonos Five units. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking to bring your record collection into the Sonos ecosystem, you’re probably better served by the Sonos Port, which features a single analog input that can work with your turntable, as well as analog and digital outputs that you can connect to your receiver.
For portable listening, the Sonos Move adds a battery and Bluetooth, so you can take it with you and use it outside of the range of your Wi-Fi network. It is one of the larger Sonos Multiroom Wireless Speaker, with a carrying handle on the back, and it sits in a small charging base. It can play louder with more clarity than the much smaller Sonos One, but it isn’t as detailed and offers less stereo separation than the Sonos Five.
IKEA now offers a pair of Sonos speakers. The Symfonisk WiFi Bookshelf Speaker is the cheapest Sonos speaker yet, coming in under $100, while the Symfonisk Table Lamp (yes, it’s a speaker built into a lamp) is $190. The Symfonisk bookshelf speaker doesn’t sound quite as good as the Sonos One, with more distortion in the bass as you play louder, but you can create a stereo pair for almost the same price as a single Sonos One, and it has a different design that may blend into certain rooms better. The lamp design inspires mixed reactions and doesn’t sound as good as the other models do. If you want music and light from one device, it achieves that odd goal. As surrounds in a home theater setup or as a reading-lamp-and-speaker combo in a bedroom, it fits a niche, but for the best sound, we’d stick with the Sonos One.
Sonos also offers a series of architectural speakers designed to be combined with the company’s updated Sonos Amp. These were created in conjunction with Sonance, a company with a long history in architectural speakers, and the lineup includes in-ceiling, in-wall, and outdoor models.
Using the microphone of an iOS device, Sonos’s Trueplay software offers room correction for your Sonos speakers at no extra cost. This is handy, since most people tend to place multiroom wireless speaker where they’re convenient, not where they sound best. A speaker tucked into the corner of a kitchen counter, for example, is likely to sound extra boomy in the bass because of its proximity to the walls. Trueplay uses test tones to measure how the room influences the speaker and then corrects for that. After using Trueplay, we found that it always improved the sound of our Sonos speakers, helping to produce less boomy bass and a clearer midrange.back to menu ↑
The Sonos experience
The Sonos app is well designed and runs on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS. From the app, you can control all of the speakers or zones, group them in any combination, adjust the volume of each individual speaker (even if they’re grouped), find music, create playlists, mark your favorites, and more. The speakers themselves offer very few controls—only volume and a play/pause button in most cases. The app handles the rest. It also makes setting up and configuring a system very easy no matter how technically inclined you are.
Having access to your favorite music is the most important feature of a multiroom wireless speaker system, and the Sonos system continues to lead the way in that regard. Currently, it offers support for 126 streaming services, although not all of them are available worldwide; many other systems offer a half dozen or fewer. The major ones are here, including Amazon, Google Play, Pandora, Spotify, and even Apple Music—as are social services such as Bandcamp, Mixcloud, and SoundCloud. You’ll also find more niche services such as Concert Vault, Murfie, 7digital, and Tidal. You can playback your local music library (with some limitations for iOS users) and subscribe to podcasts, too. With the release of the new S2 operating system, Sonos now also features its own Radio app, which combines the core functionality of TuneIn and iHeartRadio and offers access to more than 60,000 stations from around the globe. No matter how or where you get your music, the odds are good that Sonos will support it.
With access to so many music services, being able to find what you want to listen to is also important. Sonos gives you direct access to all of the supported streaming services through a single app for your computer or smartphone; many other systems make you use the individual app for each service. Sonos’s unified service approach lets you search across every service you subscribe to, which makes it easy to find the music you want to listen to.
Because some people prefer to use native streaming service apps, such as those for Spotify and Apple Music, Sonos is starting to make its speakers compatible with those. Using the Spotify app or Apple Music, you can send music directly to a Sonos speaker, just as you would with a Spotify Connect speaker or the Apple HomePod, respectively. Sonos has said that this compatibility will be available for more services in the future but has not provided a timeline or named specific services.
The Sonos One is almost identical in form and sound to the original Sonos Play:1 but allows any Sonos system to become Alexa or Google Assistant-enabled. You can now ask the Sonos One to play music or to turn off a smart light, just as you can with any Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. Any Alexa device on your system (such as a standard Echo or a Dot) can initiate a music stream to any other Sonos or Alexa device on your system—whether to an individual speaker or to a group. Using voice this way takes some getting used to, and it has some drawbacks that we detail in our standalone review of the Sonos One. It’s really powerful and useful once you get the hang of it, but if voice control is your main consideration, you may be better off with an Amazon Echo system, for reasons we’ll discuss in further detail below. The Sonos One also supports Google Assistant, if that’s your preferred virtual assistant.
Amazon Echo (3rd Gen)
If you’re looking for a more affordable multiroom wireless speaker music system that still sounds great—or if advanced voice control is especially important to you—Amazon’s Echo family of smart speakers is a good alternative to Sonos. Although none of the Echo speakers sound as good as anything in the Sonos lineup, the latest generation of Amazon speakers is a big improvement over previous efforts. Using voice commands to operate a synchronized multiroom wireless speaker music system requires a little more in the way of setup—and isn’t quite as intuitive as Sonos’s app control—but the Echo system’s configuration and operation don’t require an unreasonable amount of effort. The standard Amazon Echo (3rd Gen) and the larger Echo Studio are both great picks, and the latter in particular offers something that no other compact multiroom wireless speaker do: Dolby Atmos support (which adds a height element to form the sound even more immersive).
You could also add the more affordable Echo Dot to the mix if you have Bluetooth speakers in and around the house that you want to add to your multiroom music system. But on its own, Dot’s sound quality is too thin and tinny for it to be a satisfying music player in its own right.
If a Sonos system costs a little more than you’re willing to spend, or if you value advanced voice-control functionality more than pitch-perfect sound fidelity, we also really like Amazon’s Echo ecosystem as an alternative. The Echo family isn’t as diverse as Sonos’s offerings, but it does include a couple of good-sounding speakers: the Echo (3rd Gen) and the Echo Studio, both of which also support Bluetooth. Amazon’s multiroom music platform isn’t as robust and intuitive as Sonos’s, but it continues to improve, and you can use more precise nuanced voice control.
At $100, the standard Echo (3rd Gen) is $80 less than Sonos’s cheapest speaker (the One SL), and although it doesn’t sound as good—the bass isn’t as strong, high frequencies aren’t quite as sparkling, and there’s just a little too much emphasis on the midrange by comparison—it still sounds quite good for the price.
For $200—the same price as the Sonos One—you might instead opt for the Echo Studio, which features a front-firing 1-inch tweeter, two side-firing, and one upward-firing 2-inch midrange drivers, and a 5.25-inch down-firing woofer. The result is much beefier bass than you can get from the standard Echo, but even the much larger Echo Studio doesn’t quite beat the Sonos One in terms of balanced, unbiased sound, nor can it suit the sheer output of the Sonos Five. But it does have one trick up its sleeve that no other compact speaker in our roundup can claim: Dolby Atmos capabilities to add a more immersive height effect to the sound.
The Echo Studio doesn’t support direct streaming of Atmos-mixed music from Tidal, but it does support a reasonably large library of 3D-audio tracks available on Amazon Music HD ($15 to $20 per month) mastered in both Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio spatial audio codec. The Echo Studio also can upmix stereo music into a simulation of 3D audio. Although the standard of this upmixing has drastically improved since the Echo Studio’s release, it can still be a touch inconsistent with some music, especially a number of the novel stereo mixes of the 1960s, like The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s “The Wind Cries Mary.”
The Echo Studio also has a feature similar to Sonos’s Trueplay called Automatic Room Adaptation, which according to Amazon “analyzes the acoustics of the room and continuously adjusts audio filters during music playback to optimize sound output regardless of placement.” Unlike Trueplay, this feature doesn’t require you to use your mobile device to measure the sound of a series of test tones. Instead, the Echo Studio listens to itself while it plays music and makes tweaks to the sound over time. The Echo Studio runs through a setup process for room calibration upon initial setup, but there’s no easy way to rerun that calibration should you move your speaker from one room to another, short of resetting the device and going through setup again. But since the process is constantly running as long as the device’s mics aren’t muted, this shouldn’t be necessary. Just let it play, and it will adapt itself to the new room over time.
Both the Echo and the Echo Studio support the stereo pairing. They’re also theoretically compatible with the Echo Sub if you would like more bass than either speaker delivers. But the subwoofer’s availability has been limited, and reviews have been mixed, so we can’t recommend it.
One potential advantage that the Amazon Echo lineup has over Sonos speakers is two-way Bluetooth support. You can connect your phone or tablet to your Echo or Echo Studio and send audio directly to the speaker, or you can pair an Echo device with a bigger Bluetooth speaker for improved sonic performance. The Echo and Echo Studio can also pair wirelessly with Amazon’s Fire TV streaming media players, and a combination of the Echo Studio and Fire TV gives you Atmos audio playback capabilities for movies as well as music.
When Amazon added multiroom music streaming to the Echo lineup in 2017, it was in a severely limited capacity. Back then, if any of your Echo devices were connected to a Bluetooth speaker, that connection would drop when you initiated multiroom playback. And none of the Echo speakers available at the time sounded good enough on their own to justify their use as your main music system. But in the years since, the audio fidelity of Echo speakers has improved, and the multiroom functionality has gotten steadily better. Bluetooth connectivity is now supported, so if you have an Echo Dot paired with, say, a Monoprice Soundstage3 in your home office, that duo can sync up with the rest of your Echo devices just fine.
Alexa doesn’t support nearly as many music services as Sonos (in the US, it’s mainly limited to the best-known apps such as Amazon Music, Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, Deezer, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn, and Vevo). What’s more, creating groups of Echo speakers isn’t quite as intuitive via the Alexa app as the grouping is with Sonos. But it’s not too difficult.
The only major frustration of using Alexa as your primary multiroom music platform is that adding or removing individual speakers during playback isn’t supported. So, for instance, if you’re taking note of a podcast or audiobook within the bedroom and need to feature your front room and kitchen speakers to the stream in real-time, that’s currently not possible.
If you have your Echo speakers configured to control your smart-home devices, you can also create Routines that include music and home-automation tasks such as lighting levels and thermostat settings. You can launch these Routines with a short verbal command that you can name anything you’d like, such as “Alexa, good night” or “Alexa, bath time.” One of the shortcomings of the Alexa support built into some Sonos speakers is that they do not initiate any Routines that include an audio action, so this capability is a big bonus of native Echo devices.
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How we picked and tested
Since we first published this guide in 2013, we have considered more than a dozen different multiroom wireless speaker systems and called in many of them for testing (see the Competition section for more details). We focused on the following criteria for what’s important in a multiroom speaker system:
- Sound quality: A decade ago, it may have been unrealistic to expect these speakers to sound great, but since so many of today’s multiroom wireless speaker deliver excellent performance, there’s simply no excuse for those that don’t.
- Support for the widest selection of online streaming music services: A speaker is no good—no matter how great it sounds—if it can’t play your music.
- A wide selection of models at a wide range of prices: Having a model that works for each situation in your house, without being too expensive, allows you to integrate your whole home into the music system.
- Easy control of the speaker system via apps or voice control: An audio system that requires you to physically adjust the volume or skip tracks on the speaker itself is not as useful as one that lets you do those things from anywhere in the home.
- Ability to group speakers together: Your system should be able to stream the same music around the whole house or allow you to combine two speakers into a stereo pair for a more dedicated listening experience.
- Streaming from the source directly, not through a computer or phone: Some multiroom music systems require your phone or tablet to be the source, which means the music won’t play if you take your phone out of range. This arrangement is also more prone to dropouts and other issues.
- Bluetooth or AirPlay as a fallback option: This is beneficial when a streaming service isn’t carried.
- Ability to add more speakers or zones on your own: Lots of advanced custom-install options are available, but every time you want to expand one of those, you need to have your dealer come back out and set it up. Being able to pick up another speaker from a major retailer and add it yourself when you want to expand is a much easier solution.
Some other points aren’t necessary for a whole-home audio listening system:
- Portability lets you take your music outside with you or even on the road.
- A surround-sound option allows you to create a 5.1-channel home theater system for watching movies.
- Dual-band Wi-Fi support helps in situations where you have too many devices on the 2.4 GHz spectrum and it causes too much interference, such as in an apartment or condo building.
- Hi-res audio support is a bonus but not something most people will ever need or even take advantage of.
We tested each system in different houses and apartments, with both local music libraries and streaming music services such as Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify. We put the speakers all around the house to make sure range wasn’t an issue. In the case of soundbars and subwoofers, we watched movies and TV, as well.