Sonos One SL review
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Sonos One SL review


A smart speaker without voice control? Horror … or … rejoice! There are those who love Alexa, and Amazon’s voice assistant, Siri, or Google Assistant control music, house lights, and more. However, there are people for whom the very idea of ​​a voice assistant on the latest and best Sonos speaker is a break.

Cue the Sonos One SL, a Sonos One (Gen 2) without microphone always on, and therefore without Alexa, or any other voice-activated assistant. Indeed, it is a direct replacement of the Sonos Play: 1.

If you think this makes the Sonos One SL a retro device, understand that there are three main reasons why the Sonos One SL exists and will work well. The first is confidentiality. If we had been told a decade ago that we would all be actively buying gadgets with networked microphones still on to spread in our homes, no one would have believed it. For those who don’t want voice assistants around, the Sonos One SL is a welcome product.

(Image credit: Future)

The second reason is for a person who thinks that voice assistants are stupid and useless. They’re not bothered by light switches and are happy to use apps to check the weather and, yes, to send tunes “manually” to a wireless speaker.

The third reason is, of course, replication. If you already have a lot of voice-activated and other speakers, the arrival of another is unnecessarily confusing. This doubles if you already have a Sonos One at home.

Price and availability

As a bonus, the Sonos One SL ($ 199 / £ 179 / AUS $ 269) also represents a small saving on the Sonos One with Amazon Alexa (Gen.2) ($ 199 / £ 199 / AUS $ 299).

All of this leaves the Sonos One SL as a completely sane, if slightly unexpected, product that should do very well as it should appeal to a wide range of people.

However, it is not what is missing from the Sonos One SL that makes it an essential product, but what it has inside its elegant and resolutely modern chassis.

(Image credit: Future)

Design

With the same monochromatic color finish as One, One SL is also a clear stylistic advance from Play: 1. The top of the unit, available in black or white, has a soft matte fingerprint-proof finish which contains some capacitive touch controls. This is where there is a big difference between the One and the One SL. Since voice control has been transferred, there are no microphones or dedicated microphone “button”, just the play / pause, volume up and volume down buttons, which also function as controls track jump if you scan the entire area. There is also a small LED status light to indicate when the One SL is connected to the network.

A matte white or black grid of tiny oval holes sits on the speakers, which winds almost 360 °, while leaving a small space in the back for a pairing button and an Ethernet port. As with the One, the power cable attaches to the bottom of the unit, which is an interesting idea in every way.

There is a subtle light gray Sonos logo on the front. It’s small, it’s hidden and it’s almost impossible to see. This is exactly how we like our logos.

(Image credit: Future)

Install

Like the One, the One SL does not have Bluetooth connectivity. This is not strictly true. Like the One, it has Bluetooth Low Energy, but only for configuration. This initial configuration is painless, although there is also a choice between connecting the One SL to your home network via this wired Ethernet port or via Wi-Fi. The concept of a smart speaker only in network is not without potential drawback; what to do if the home network goes down? This would leave the Sonos One SL completely without function.

Unless a network armageddon follows, the next steps – but only if you’re using an iPhone and downloading the Sonos app – are to follow a simple process to get the One SL on your home network, choose where you want to place the One SL and hire Trueplay, the Sonos tuning software. The latter is a breeze to use. Invited by the Sonos app, the wizard begins when the One SL emits various strange pulses. They are received by the microphone of your smartphone, and the application calculates how the sound waves resonate on furniture, walls, etc. and calibrate an acoustic profile for a One SL in a specific room. The small drawback is that you have to gradually move around the room by moving your iPhone up and down. The One SL then matches. Everything works well and it only takes a few minutes.

However, this is one of the lesser known features of Sonos speakers that perfectly justifies the existence of the One SL; stereo coupling. As with many wireless speakers, the One SL can be daisy chained to the One, each acting as a left or right channel in a stereo soundstage. It’s simple, it’s great, and if that’s what you intend to do with the Sonos One SL, you will understand why there is no reason for it to integrate Alexa. The One and One SL can also be connected to a playbar, PlayBase or Beam and act as rear speakers in a home theater setup.

(Image credit: Future)

Sound quality

Although it has Bluetooth Low Energy, the One SL does not support Bluetooth streaming. Do we miss it? No, no, we don’t. The One SL is for Apple Airplay 2, which means you can stream anything – music physically on your phone, Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Netflix (and 100 streaming services in total) – to from an iPhone.

The sound and acoustic properties of One and One SL are identical. Inside are two class D digital amplifiers, a mid-woofer and a tweeter, and together they create a pleasant soundstage that is best described as both warm and precise. There’s bass, but not too much, and there’s enough power for high volume, high octane music, but still without distortion. It also handles speech very well; the One SL is a great all-rounder.

While we don’t doubt the value of Trueplay, it doesn’t make drastic changes to the sound quality of the One SL. We know this because we did the tuning process in one room, then unplugged the One SL and used it elsewhere. Has there been a drop in performance? Maybe very slightly, but in practice it didn’t make much difference.

(Image credit: Future)

Final verdict

The popularity of Amazon Alexa allows brands like Sonos to thrive, but there is a privacy schism at the heart of the smart speaker market that Sonos One SL intends to address.

While it soothes those who hate voice control, this smart speaker without a microphone can actually receive music from an iPhone that is itself controlled via Siri. It’s really about avoiding replication. Able to be paired in stereo with a One and also used as a home theater system if you have a playbar, a Playbase or a Sonos beam, the One SL saves you from paying for features you simply don’t no need.

However, we have a question that no one seems to be able to answer; what does SL mean?

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