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HomePod vs. Sonos: What’s the difference?

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HomePod vs. Sonos: What’s the difference?

HomePod has high-fidelity wireless streaming, you say? I hear the same about Sonos, so what's the difference?{.intro}

First things first … What's a HomePod?

It's Apple's long-rumored, Wi-Fi-connected smart speaker. Apple is positioning the HomePod as the quintessential in-home listening device. It also comes with Siri — use the wake phrase, "Hey, Siri," and it can do anything Siri can do!

You can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories (even when you're away from home, since the device acts as a HomeKit Home Hub), listen to music and other content with the device's excellent speakers, set timers and reminders, check your calendar, send messages, etc.

HomePod FAQ: Everything you need to know!

Gotcha, gotcha. And can you remind me about Sonos?

Sure thing. Sonos offers several Wi-Fi-connected, high-fidelity speakers that you can use to stream music throughout your home. The company says the Sonos system is a Home Sound System, meaning you can quickly and easily set up multiple speakers throughout your home and stream music (and other audio) all day.

Sonos offers multiple Wi-Fi-connected music streaming speakers and a couple devices you can use to turn your existing setup into a Sonos streaming setup.

Interesting. How many Wi-Fi speakers is Apple offering?

Just the one. Apple's touting its beam-forming, room analyzing, AirPlay-2-featuring HomePod as the one solution to rule them all.

So, I'm big into music. And I hear both Apple and Sonos are offering some pretty incredible listening experiences. But I'm curious, what am I going to be able to listen to?

Great question! Your answer follows:

Integrated music streaming services

  • Sonos: Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, Google Play Music, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, Deezer, TuneIn, Napster, iHeartRadio, 7digital, AccuRadio, Anghami, Audiobooks.com, Bandcamp, Batanga, CalmRadio, Classical Archives, Concert Vault, CustomChannels, DAR.fm, DASII, Daytrotter, FIT Radio, Focus@will, Gaana.com, Groove, Hearts of Space, Hotelradio.fm, Hype Machine, Live Phish, Mixcloud, MLB.com Gameday Audio, Mood:Mix, Murfie, Nugs.net, Radionomy, RadioPup, Rockbot, Rusc, Saavn, Slacker Radio, Soundmachine, Spreaker, Stingray Music, Stitcher Radio, Tidal, Tribe of Noise, and your personal library
  • HomePod: Apple Music and audio streamed via AirPlay 2

Streaming

  • Sonos: Wirelessly via the Sonos app
  • HomePod: Wirelessly via AirPlay and on-device Apple Music

Wow, quite a difference there. So, say I want a home assistant to control my lights and tell me when I need to leave for work … which is best?

Apple's HomePod. Sonos is not a smart speaker in the sense that it doesn't feature some sort of smart assistant you can talk to. Apple's HomePod has a speaker array capable of hearing — and responding to — your commands. Sonos is strictly music listening. With Apple's HomePod, you can listen to music and control your home all via one device.

Gotcha. I suppose now's the time to ask for some specs, eh?

Probably. Here's what you need to know!

  • HomePod: 7 beam-forming tweeter array, 1 4-inch, Apple-designed woofer, 6-microphone array, Siri support, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO, multiroom speaker support with AirPlay 2, capacitive touch controls on top of the device
  • Sonos Play:3: three Class-D amplifiers, one tweeter, two mid-woofers, bass radiator, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, multiroom speaker support over Wi-Fi

Thanks for that. Now here's a question for you … how does either of these devices compare to, say, hooking up some great speakers to an Amazon Echo Dot?

Well, it depends on what you're looking for. If you like Amazon's Alexa smart assistant and don't mind any audio degradation from Bluetooth streaming, you're probably better off with some great speakers hooked up to Amazon Echo Dot … that goes double if you decide to stream from the Dot itself. Sonos sounds great but it's expensive and each individual device is only that: an individual device. Same goes for HomePod: It's one speaker with a lot of impressive technology packed in, but you might be able to replicate much of that — sound-wise, at least — with a coupla good speakers and the Amazon Echo Dot.

I was afraid you were going to say that. So tell me, how much are these things going to set me back?

Lucky for you, HomePod is only gonna be calling for your wallet at one price. I can't say the same for Sonos. Here's what you need to know price-wise:

Hrm. OK, bottom line. What do I need to know (and be thinking about) regarding the HomePod and Sonos?

First thing's first: Sonos is going to give you more options for multi-device listening. If you want to build out a home theater surround sound system, Sonos has the woofer, the tiny tweeters, the mid-range, the big sounds, and everything in between. You can buy and sync up loads of differently sized Sonos speakers and get the sound you want.

HomePod is going to give you incredible sound in a single package. It's also going to give you smart assistant support with Siri. Sonos can't control your smart home accessories; Siri can. If you're in the market for a smart speaker with really friggin' great sound, HomePod is going to be great for you. If you don't really need Siri on board, Sonos is probably the best place to look.

If both seem a little too price and you're OK sacrificing sound quality for some great home assistants, check out Google Home or Amazon Echo.

HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo: What's the difference?

Further questions or unanswered comparisons?

Sound off in the comments!

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