It wasn’t long ago that multi-room speakers were only for the rich and famous. But companies like JBL and Audio Pro have made 360 Bluetooth speaker systems more accessible than ever before. Cheaper and better alternatives are now hitting the market, and you can get an advanced 360 Bluetooth speaker for a fraction of what it used to cost back in the day.
Of course, when it comes to premium advanced speaker systems, Sonos continues to lead the pack in terms of brand valuation, but its grip on power is now slowly slipping from the commanding heights it once used to enjoy. And that’s a good thing because the benefits of cutting-edge speaker systems are tricking down to an impressive cross-section of people
Sonos is no longer the only company that brings an authentic multi-room speaker experience. A new generation of voice assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa and smart speakers have made multi-room audio more accessible. People are getting wiser about the options available to them.
These Sonos alternatives offer a stellar sound experience but without cutting back on streaming options and multiple-connectivity.
But this fact does little to detract from the fact that Sonos continues to be the market leader in this niche. Let’s deep dive into why Sonos is so influential.
- Why Sonos is so influential
- Best Alternatives for Sonos
- Wrapping Up
Why Sonos is so influential
Sonos has played one of the most significant roles in multi-room speaker technology since 2002. As a premier name in the home audio sphere, Sonos holds a considerable market share in the industry. With a fan base that spans every continent, these products arguably represent the world’s largest audio-focused ecosystems – by a mile.
All these years later, Sonos still dominates the market, towering over the competition. Sonos continues to develop new features such as collaborative playlists, aggregating music libraries, and unparalleled integration.
These inventions set the tone for which all other companies must compete.
Sonos has brought more than just new technological experiences to the table. In 2021 alone, Sonos is projected to generate revenues in excess of $1.44 billion, easily exceeding the $1.38 billion consensus among analysts polled by Refinitiv.
Not only do their products win points for their high build quality, but they also win for their convincing design. Sonos speakers boast a sleek design that blends easily into most interior decors while at the same time are easy to carry around the room.
Sonos develops their own proprietary companion app to control the multi-room speaker system, and using it is easy, simple, and very user friendly.
If you could distill all of their achievements and legacy into one product – which is a difficult job to do since their products are so diverse – the Sonos Move immediately comes to mind.
Sonos Move – In-Depth Review
Sonos isn’t known for making the most durable speakers, but the Move changes that. Sonos added an extra layer of durability to the Move featuring an IP56 weatherproof build, and apparently, it’s fully waterproof – you could dip it, splash it, and swim around with it.
We don’t recommend testing these claims – but, for the most part, you will appreciate the fact that the speaker is, indeed, built like a tank.
Caution: Never drop your speakers on concrete floors because even if it does survive, the soft plastic finishing will get damaged.
In terms of Design
The Move has this chic grille wrapping that firmly holds it together, but the top, bottom, and back have this plastic quality to them. The bottom of the Move is rubberized plastic, which is nice because it doesn’t scratch too easily and provides more grip for stability.
The Move features touch-sensitive controls that respond exceptionally well to touch, contact, and pressure. The speaker does not accidentally pause or play while in use, even if you’re using the speaker’s top as a platform for your phone. There is one tiny problem, though: it can be a bit tough to see the playback controls in darker environments.
There are tiny LED lights meant to improve visibility, but they’re usually not bright enough to correctly identify the controls.
Moreover, the volume icons on either side of the Move are identical. The simple + and – signs could have made things much simpler. Not that it matters because you’ll get used to it. Playback can be completely controlled by touch by tapping the ‘play’ symbol. Swiping across the three icons from left to right will skip to the next track, while swiping from right to left will play a previous song.
There are a few buttons on the back. These include the power button, connect button, and a small button that lets you toggle between WiFi and Bluetooth options.
The Bluetooth capabilities of the Sonos Move means that it can be moved around the room without interruption to playback. One feature that most users will appreciate is that it cozily stays in its charging bracket throughout the day. This means you won’t have to worry about whether the speaker is charged when taking it to another room. If you ever take your speaker out with you and forget to bring the charging cable, you can just as easily charge it with a USB C cable – which is very convenient.
In Terms of Connectivity
The Sonos Move can be connected via both WiFi and Bluetooth.
Whether you add the Move to your existing setup or just started out with it, your experience would be best if you’re on WiFi.
On the whole, WiFi is much more convenient than Bluetooth due to its longer range, and the speakers can draw from multiple audio sources. They can pull the audio straight from the internet. To enable this feature, you’ll need to download the Sonos app.
Sonos makes their own proprietary apps, which are really useful. The app makes it easy to connect the Move to your WiFi setup using a step-by-step guide. It also helps that the Move can integrate with most music streaming services (such as SoundCloud and Spotify). The app is available for download on both Android and iOS – and the process for either platform is nearly identical.
Once your speaker is properly connected to your home network, you can begin to add your streaming services. If you’re a Spotify user, simply log in with your Spotify account to gain complete access to your playlists and library. This works just as well with Apple Music, Pocket Casts, and YouTube Music accounts.
It won’t be long before you’ll begin to depend on the Sonos app for all your music needs.
Sonos Move Doesn’t Work with Dolby Atmos
Like most other products in the Sonos line up, the Move is not compatible with Dolby Atmos. However, if you want a Sonos product that supports Atmos, you might want to look into the Sonos Arc, which features Dolby Atmos.
Can Sonos Move Connect to TV Wirelessly?
It is possible to connect the Sonos Move to your TV but the process is a little more compatible than it should be. You can only connect via Bluetooth – and not all televisions have Bluetooth speakers as an output. However, some newer models of Samsung TVs feature Bluetooth as an output. With that said, even if your TV supports audio playback via Bluetooth, it won’t give you the best experience due to audio lag – something which Bluetooth is notorious for.
That said, there is another workaround to the Bluetooth method: connecting your Sonos Move to a Sonos ecosystem that is already hooked up to your TV. For example, if you have a Sonos soundbar for your TV, then you can simply add the Sonos Move to the group via the standalone app.
Battery Life for the Move
Sonos claims that the Move comes with a battery life of 10 hours when you’re not docked on the charging cradle. Most users complain that the actual playback time is roughly 6 to 8 hours. It’s clear the Move isn’t designed for extended usage – which is disappointing if you were expecting true portability.
However, if you manage your expectations for outdoor usage well, the Move should last you long enough to get good use out of it before returning home. For those of you who want something that lasts even longer, the Move isn’t for you.
All in all, the Sonos Move is more powerful than a regular Sonos One. However, if you want something a bit more capable but not so portable, then the Sonos Five may be a better option for you.
Pros and Cons of the Sonos Move
|Strong audio with bright highs and rich bass depth||Heavy|
|Water and dust resistant||Expensive|
|Google Assistant and Voice Control||Connecting to a TV isn’t straightforward|
Click here to check prices on Amazon.
Should Sonos be Scared of the Competition?
In short, hell yes!
Sonos has mostly stayed ahead of the curve thanks to its unparalleled user experience, easy to use app, powerful multi-room experience, and support for a broad range of streaming services. However, it’s not the only ecosystem out there. You will find many excellent Sonos alternatives for multi-room music.
Best Alternatives for Sonos
Sonos speakers are not for everyone. They sell at a premium starting at a whopping $100 for just a barebones bookshelf speaker.
Going all in on Sonos means spending a mini fortune for an authentic wireless music listening experience throughout your house.
When looking for Sonos alternatives, you should be aware of a few differences between WiFi and Bluetooth speakers. Both systems are wireless, but Bluetooth can only pair with a single device, such as your phone or laptop, but WiFi systems can connect to a central hub in your home network.
All of the Sonos alternatives that we will be discussing below have WiFi, which offers a stronger signal, longer range, and the ability to connect to multiple speakers at the same time. Some options also have Bluetooth capability, which may come in handy should you decide to take the device outside for quick pairing with an electronic device of your choice.
If you’re looking for premium audio quality but without breaking the bank, we’ve rounded up many affordable alternatives to Sonos that you can buy. And there’s something for everyone!
Best Overall Value: Audio Pro Addon C3
Unlike Sonos, Audio Pro isn’t a household name, and most audio aficionados probably haven’t heard of it. But the Swedish manufacturer has earned quite a reputation over the years for its powerful speakers. Like most products in their lineup, the Audio Pro Addon C3 continues to pack a punch with impressive fidelity for wireless connectivity.
In Terms of Design
Audio Pro’s design strategy for their Addon range of wireless speakers is minimalism. The Addon C3 is very much like the Addon T3, except it’s got WiFi connectivity and is capable of multi-room connections with nearby Audio Pro speakers.
It comes with a rear-firing bass reflex port that has been reengineered by Audio Pro for more impressive sound quality – but don’t quote us on that!
The dimensions for the C3 are mostly identical to the T3, and they also share the same sophisticated, minimalistic design that Audio Pro is known for. This includes the embossed leather carry handle and textured surfaces that users have gotten used to at this price range.
Audio Pro had to make a few sacrifices to enable WiFi and multi-room features. For instance, the C3 doesn’t come with a rear USB port that was previously found on the T3. Along with this, you also lose the ability to charge your smartphone. In its place, you’ll find an Ethernet socket if you want to hardwire the speaker to your home network.
The Audio Pro C3 gets an updated top panel with a busier design but it’s nicely laid out with a new source selector button and an LED indicator for WiFi, Bluetooth, and 3.5mm input.
You also get four preset buttons that can be assigned to your favorite playlists on most music streaming services and various internet radio stations. This allows you to playback music without ever connecting to your phone.
In Terms of Connectivity
The C3’s wireless capabilities have taken quite a toll on the battery life. You will get around 9 hours of playback at max volume and up to 15 hours of playback at 50% volume, compared to 12 and 30 hours respectively with the T3.
The Audio Pro Addon C3 supports most streaming options including Apple Music, Qobuz, Tidal, and Spotify.
You can control the device using a proprietary app called Audio Pro Control for Android and iOS. It’s not as seamless and user-friendly as Sonos’s companion app, but this only speaks to the latter’s capabilities.
Setting up the Audio Pro Addon C3 is relatively straightforward, whether you choose a WiFi connection or Bluetooth. This also applies to any multi-room speaker setup, in which case the app will start searching for other Audio Pro speakers nearby on the same network.
From this point on, you can use an intuitive drag and drop interface to connect to a group of speakers in stereo mode, pairs, or multi-room configurations. You can also make adjustments to bass and treble if you wish.
It is worth pointing out that when you control the music through the app, you’ll notice a tiny lag between issuing commands and the speaker following through with your request. However, this minor problem doesn’t detract too much from the overall experience.
The C3, by default, uses Alexa control through the official Alexa app. For the most part, the user experience is pleasant enough, but Alexa only works with Amazon Music, so if you’re subscribed to Spotify, Tidal, and other platforms, you’ll have to use the accompanying app.
What’s the Sound Quality on the C3 Like?
Audio Pro derives their success from legitimate engineering excellence and widely agreed-upon sound quality than just marketing trickery. Their biggest selling point is their emphasis on high-quality audio and technical prowess.
So it comes as no surprise that the C3 offers excellent sound quality and the bass feels good. Audiophiles will be impressed by the level of refinement in such a tiny device. You won’t find negative traits such as harshness and sibilance with the C3 music listening experience.
For the most part, the C3 can easily fill a decently sized room with great quality sound. The speaker excels at both high and low volumes, sounding punchy and dynamic when the need for it arises but can slow the pace and communicate in a subtler way should the track demand.
Audio sounds natural, and the Addon C3 easily captures the rhythmic essence of any track thrown at it. The C3 manages to render each note on tracks with great details and textures. By multi-room speaker standards, this is as good as it gets.
|Minimalistic look that works well in most rooms||The app can be problematic sometimes|
|Superb features at this price point|
|Chunkily informative sound|
Best for Waterproofing: JBL Charge 3
Equipped with a slew of features and touting a traditional design that most audiophiles will appreciate, the JBL Charge 3 is a 360 Bluetooth speaker that you can take anywhere with you.
It’s targeted specifically to beach enthusiasts who crave loud entertainment – but without the fear of water splashes ruining the fun.
The Charge line of Bluetooth speakers offers high performing sound – better than most smart speakers at this price point. They’re called ‘Charge’ because you can listen to music while charging your device.
Being waterproof enables the Charge 3 to be used at a pool or the beach without worrying about splashes and other water-based accidents.
The Charge 3’s predecessor, JBL Charge 2, gained mainstream acceptance due to its high-end build quality, excellent sound, and massive battery life. As it turns out, the JBL Charge 3 improves upon the Charge 2’s legacy, albeit with a few minor flaws – we’ll address those shortly.
In Terms of Design
We’ll have to admit that the JBL Charge 3 is very bulky and occupies a lot of space for a ‘portable speaker’. At 213 x 87 x 88.5 mm, the Charge 3 is heavy and weighs nearly 2 pounds. On the flip side, this bulky framework allows the Charge 3 to support massive batteries that can provide up to 20 hours of playback.
As mentioned earlier, The Charge 3’s biggest selling feature is its waterproofing. It is rated as IPX77, which means you can dip the speaker in depths of water of up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. For obvious reasons, we don’t recommend you doing this with your Charge 3.
At the top of the speaker, you’ll find buttons for Bluetooth pairing, volume control, power, play/pause, and a special JBL Connect button. The last button allows you to connect with other JBL Connect speakers nearby. This way, you can playback two speakers as a stereo pair.
There’s a built-in microphone that can be used as a speaker for conference calls. Do keep in mind that since this is a secondary feature, you shouldn’t expect it to compete with the likes of the AKG Pro Audio microphone.
The Charge 3 comes with external passive radiators that add a visual element to your music. You’ll see the radiators bounce about when you play tracks with heavy bass.
From a design viewpoint, this leaves the speakers extremely vulnerable to damage. That said, both radiators have a rubber guard around them that lets you prop the Charge 3 vertically.
In Terms of Performance
When it comes to sound playback, size often does matter – as you’ll find out with the JBL Charge 3.
At max value, these speakers have no problems filling up a large room. If you take them outside, they can project sound at distances of over 15 feet.
For a portable Bluetooth speaker, the Charge 3 offers deep and powerful bass that you probably won’t find anywhere else. The bass response works best when placed on a flat surface that can resonate some of the sound, such as a table. You can place the Charge 3 vertically, but this could negatively impact the sound. For best results, you should arrange the speaker horizontally.
The Charge 3 works with a variety of genres of music and will impress audiophiles with just how well it handles everything. The speaker plays everything loudly without any distortions.
One thing that we would like to point out is that at very high frequencies, the sound isn’t as detailed or fleshed out as we would like them to be. This is probably due to the waterproof construction of the speaker and is a common trend among other waterproof competitors.
With that out of the way, most listeners wouldn’t find much to complain about because the addition of waterproofing is a great feature to have, even if it comes at the cost of slightly muted highs.
|Excellent bass response||Bulky frame|
|Very loud sound||Exposed woofers|
Best Budget-Friendly Option: Polk Omni S6
You’re probably already familiar with Polk. The company has delivered many high-end outdoor speakers, including the Polk Audio RC80i, Polk Audio TL250, and the Polk Audio 2-Way In-Wall Speakers.
The Polk Omni S6 is a top of the class streaming speaker that builds on the company’s legacy. At this price tag, the sound and feature set are very appealing but you might find the app to be a tad bit underwhelming.
In Terms of Design
The Omni S6 seems to take design cues from most of its Polk range of products. It looks like most Polk speakers – a minimalist frame – albeit on a much larger scale.
It’s a curved speaker that slopes on both sides and the entire front face is covered with a speaker cloth. You can find the Omni S6 in both black and white colors, so depending on your home décor, you might want something more compatible.
It measures 12.5 inches wide, 5.9 inches in depth, and 8.7 inches in height.
As such, the Omni S6 bucks the trend for multiroom speakers that are usually not as bulky. It’s easy to see why most users would treat the Polk Omni S6 as a centerpiece speaker, one which can act as a standalone speaker, while also being one that can act as a driving force for a more cohesive and varied setup. This is probably what Polk seems to be after with their Omni S6.
This speaker can easily connect with compatible devices and can easily provide input to additional speakers. If you look at the back of the speaker, you’ll notice a 3.5 mm input. If you connect another device directly to the speaker, the Omni S6 will drive the other speakers too. This cannot be done the other way round.
The app is the main focal point for controlling the speakers. If you decide to set up more than one speaker, the app will easily let you determine which speaker does what.
The app also gives you various customization options through the setting menu, although most of these are fairly generic settings such as ‘pause during call’ and ‘keep phone on’.
The app could have been more fluid. Its user interface leaves a lot to be desired. For instance, when you first open the app, you’ll be shown all the available sources of music. There is plenty of free space on the display screen to neatly arrange the music icons.
However, the app makes the process frustrating by splitting them across two separate dashboards, leaving the lower portion of the display entirely empty, and forcing you to switch back and forth. That’s just redundant and can be extremely frustrating if you’re in a bind.
In Terms of Performance
The Omni S6 comes with two 4-inch drivers that provide cover a wide spectrum of frequency ranges. The two drivers come with dual tweeters for a more defined high-end. All in all, this setup allows the Omni S6 to comfortably offer 70 Hz to 18kHz.
Unfortunately, there is no Bluetooth on offer with the Omni S6. The system connects using a dual-band WiFi adaptor to other Play-Fi devices. If you’re obsessed with Bluetooth, you can add a 1/8-inch aux input for legacy devices for an extra $30.
Like most multi-room audio systems, you can stream the same track to several compatible speakers (by switching to party mode). It’s also just as easy to stream different tracks to different speakers. You can control the volume levels individually or as a group. It is possible to link two Omni S6 speakers as a stereo system.
And this is where Omni S6 delivers superior performance than the competition (we’re looking at you Sonos) – it can playback high-res tracks with up to 192 kHz sampling rates and 24-bit resolution. Play-Fi does this by downsampling such tracks to a sampling rate of 48kHz and 16-bit resolution before it starts to stream.
Play-Fi supports WAV, AAC, ALAC, FLAC, and MP3 files. If you enable Critical Listening in the companion app, you can stream a 24-bit/96kHz track without the issue of transcoding or downsampling.
|Loud and prominent sound||Sound may distort at higher volumes|
Best for Parties: Bluesound Pulse Flex 2i
Bluesound has announced their 360 Bluetooth speaker, the Pulse Flex 2i shares a similar design with the larger Pulse Mini 2i model.
Bluesound is known for its lineup of high performing multiroom speaker platforms, but how does it fare with the new competition?
In Terms of Performance
It offers good overall sound quality and the bass has this kick to it. It is prominent, boomy, and goes very deep.
With that said, the midrange can be quite soft and underwhelming. The treble is a bit extended but smeared and sizzly. Wireless sound quality is similar to line-in quality. It provides a decent volume level in a large-sized room. When the two units are used as a stereo pair, sound quality changes with the pair sounding.
In Terms of Design
This speaker is mostly compact but on the heavy side of things. It weighs in at just over 2.6 lbs., which means you definitely can’t carry it around for long without sweating bullets.
However, the industrial design looks very trendy and is available in both white and black finishes. A cursory look shows that Bluesound design engineers paid great attention to detail with the Pulse Flex 2i. The cabinet comes with a single mold and has a high-impact tactile finish. Its metallic mesh grille features perforations in different sizes, which suggests that they’ve done this for the best possible sound clarity.
Behind the grille is a 25mm tweeter and a 102mm woofer.
If you look at the top, you’ll find bright playback controls and music presets that you can configure later.
At the back, you’ll find an Ethernet LAN port as an alternative to WiFi, micro-USB, a 3.5mm aux input, and a USB media reader.
You can also connect an optional battery pack for nearly $100.
In Terms of Connectivity
The Pulse Flex 2i features a slew of connections. Wirelessly, it supports Bluetooth 4.1, WiFi, as well as the aptX codec. This allows you to play music from both Windows and Mac computers connected to the same network. You can effortlessly connect to various streaming providers such as Spotify, Amazon Music, tidal, Spotify, Deezer, and others.
The Pulse Flex 2i supports most audio formats including the usual suspects such as WMA, AAC, MP3, and others. It supports lossless compressed files including ALAC and FLAC, MQA encoded files, and uncompressed AIFF files. The Pulse Flex 2i can process sampling rates up to 192 kHz and bit depths of up to 24 bits; this makes it compatible with most types of high-res music.
You can control the Pulse Flex 2i easily with the companion app. The Blue OS Control app can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android devices. It lets you connect the speaker to your home network through WiFi. It is possible to control the speakers through the app.
Available settings that you can tweak through the app include treble adjustments, replay gain, output mode (including right, mono, left, stereo), and volume limiter. You can set your speaker up as an alarm clock if you want it to wake you in the morning.
The replay-gain setting deserves special mention here. It attempts to normalize the playback of music with different intrinsic levels. According to Bluesound, replay gain reads volume adjustment metadata tags to select the most suitable levels of volume. In other words, this setting probably won’t work if such data isn’t included with the file.
Because the app is so comprehensive, you might find the sheer selection of settings to be a bit overwhelming. It could have been more user-friendly and the interface looks cluttered.
For instance, getting to the settings from the home screen is easier said than done. You have to first go into the audio settings for one of the speakers and then tap Close, which will take you to the Settings menu. A better approach would be to have a Settings button and an Audio button for each speaker listed in the main menu.
|Detailed and rich sound quality||Timing can be improved|
|A slew of features||Lack of Bluetooth aptX HD|
Best Overall Smarthome Capabilities: Amazon Echo Plus (2nd gen)
The Echo Plus pairs smart features with amazing sound quality at a very competitive price point. This entry by Amazon is centered less around smart features and tries really hard to act as a standalone speaker – and we think it comes very, very close.
In Terms of Design
Under its cotton jacket is an 8cm neodymium woofer and 2cm tweeter that can emit sound in a 360-degree direction. The Echo plus is very tiny at 15cm tall and 10cm wide 360 Bluetooth speaker, which means it will struggle to offer room-filling sound. But this tiny cylindrical-shaped speaker does have enough presence and power to keep any indoor party going.
At the rear of the speaker are 3.5 mm aux inputs. The top of the speaker is unchanged from its predecessor, save for a gentle curve on the surface. It features the action button, a mic on/off switch, and volume control. These buttons are mostly redundant because this is an Alexa-controlled smart speaker.
In Terms of Performance
The Echo Plus delivers superior audio quality, which is definitely an upgrade over the original Echo. Most people will have no problems using this as the primary source of music for a party or get together. With that said, the Plus doesn’t deliver as much bass as the much larger Echo Sub, but it’s still much more louder and pronounced than its predecessor.
Although the range of frequencies are very good, the midrange tones tend to get a bit muddier. This should come as no surprise because the Echo Plus does not contain a midrange speaker. However, you could compensate for this with Alexa’s equalizer via the app or by issuing voice commands to Alexa, to adjust the mid, bass, and treble tones of any song.
The Echo Plus is a great Sonos alternative and gives both the Sonos One and Sonos Move a run for their money by delivering crisp audio quality.
If you’re not satisfied with the Echo Plus, you can easily pair it with a larger speaker, such as an Echo Sub or another Echo Plus.
This feature lets you play tracks from TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Spotify, and Amazon Music over multiple speakers. However, multiroom speaker support only works if you’re listening to a single music stream over multiple speakers.
Bonus Feature: Comes With Temperature Sensor
Amazon also added a temperature sensor to the Echo Plus. This allows the speaker to tell you what the ambient temperature of the room is like; this is besides giving you regular weather reports. It’s a relatively minor feature but helps you figure out your air conditioning and heating needs.
All in all, the Echo Plus (2nd gen) is a decent upgrade – with a focus on the speaker side of things as opposed to just smart features. If you want more smart features, you’re better off with the regular Echo. If you’re looking for a competitive Sonos alternative, the Echo Plus does an admirable job.
|The sound is balanced and detailed||Not much at this price point|
|Seamlessly pairs with other Amazon products|
Click here to check prices on Amazon.
If you’re looking for Sonos alternatives for your multi-room speaker arrangement, you can’t go wrong with the above options. What speaker(s) do you plan on buying for your home? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on social media!