Nothing says premium home audio quite like Sonos, but if you're in the market for the Sonos Play:5 (or the slightly refreshed "Sonos Five"), you may be wondering what the rest of the wireless home speaker system is looking like right now. For this amount of money, it's worth considering what else is out there.
The best alternatives to the Sonos Five and Sonos Play:5 are:
So, if you're considering the Sonos Play:5 or the more current version, the Sonos Five (on Amazon), be sure to consider these alternatives. You may find that one of them works better for you, and you may be able to save a decent amount of money in the process. You may even come across features that Sonos doesn't have that are important to you.
So, if you've seen our write-up on whether or not expensive speakers actually sound better, you may be interested in some of these lower-cost options. And be sure to reference our guide on speaker specs if you start seeing some detailed discussion about amps and drivers and want to know more about what these terms mean.
The Audio Pro C10 (on Amazon) is an interesting option to consider. Audio Pro is a Swedish company specializing in high-fidelity audio equipment, and they've developed a system that, while not nearly as robust as Sonos', is certainly worth taking a look at. Especially if you're more interested in adding high-quality audio to a few key areas...not blanketing your entire house...Audio Pro speakers are a compelling option.
The Audio Pro C10 only has two tweeters and one woofer, which is the most obvious drawback when compared to the Sonos Play:5/Play Five. This is a huge reduction in the overall number of drivers that are pushing your content out, and it signals that the Audio Pro C10 is designed for music first and foremost, not necessarily higher frequency tasks like listening to podcasts and audiobooks (though it will definitely work for that).
The Audio Pro system is also not as robust as Sonos', with much fewer speaker options, but it does have multi-room streaming and speaker networking. So you can blanket your home with Audio Pro speakers about as easily as you can with Sonos speakers. On the backend, the software, no the experience will not be as polished or as feature-packed, but it will get you from A to B in the places that matter: streaming over Bluetooth or Wifi.
One of the standout features of the C10 is the ability to connect through RCA ports on the back. As if this weren't nice enough, there is also a sub-out port for you to connect up a powered subwoofer. This is the part that is really interesting when compared to the Sonos Play:5/Play Five, which only offers aux in.
With the Audio Pro C10, you can connect a record player or other analog source up without extra equipment. Not only are the Play:5/Play Five more expensive, but to get this added functionality you'll need to get a Sonos Connect or Sonos Port, each of which cost more than the Audio Pro C10 by themselves.
When the Apple Homepod came out, many said it was too expensive. It was being compared to other voice assistant speakers at that time, though, and manufacturers were trying to simply give them away just to take over that market share. When compared to the Amazon Echo Plus or Echo Dot (on Amazon), for instance, the Homepod seems almost comically overpriced.
But what Apple was doing with the Homepod was characteristically ahead of the curve. While everyone else was going after the voice-assistant market share on the low price end, Amazon, perhaps inspired by Sonos' success, decided to go after the premium speaker market. Since then, we've seen a bevy of high-powered wireless speakers enter this space, and the Homepod has it's own unique features.
When compared to the Sonos Five, the Homepod's price is no longer as eye-watering, and in fact, comes in a few hundred less than the Sonos Five. This makes it at least worth looking closer at. With seven tweeters and one woofer, the Homepod does lack a bit of punch when compared to the Sonos Five's three tweeters and three woofers. It's almost like the Homepod expects you to be doing more high-frequency listening like audiobooks and podcasts.
For the price, the Homepod is a great alternative to the Sonos Five, so long as you're not going to miss the Sonos ecosystem. You can connect up multiple Homepods, but you won't be able to do it in a way that offers a full surround-sound setup like Sonos can.
The Bose Home Speaker 500 (on Amazon) is another very interesting speaker competing in this niche. We've written on this blog before about the Bose Home Speaker series, especially compared to the Bose Soundtouch products, so it's worth doing a little explaining up front.
Bose does have two different in-home speaker ecosystems, Bose Music, and the older SoundTouch. The Bose Home Speaker 500 is designed to work with Bose Music. For practical purposes, this isn't anything you need to really care about unless you want to get this speaker or go deeper into the Bose ecosystem. If you do, it's worth a little Googling to make sure you're buying the right speakers. But for now, let's focus on the 500.
Coming in at a steep discount when compared to the Sonos Play:5/Sonos Five, the Bose Home Speaker has far fewer drivers overall, but the sound quality is enough to fill a room with music or other audio. The included voice assistant, Alexa, enables you to get a lot of virtual assistant support over this device, and the eight-mic array means that if you're really bought into this functionality, it will be seamless and pleasing to use.
When it comes to actually getting content on the device, the Home Speaker 500 has all the functionality you need, with support for local Bluetooth pairing, Airplay 2 streaming, and, of course, WiFi streaming as directed through the Bose Music app. The app is not as polished as the competing offering from Sonos, but it works, and at this price point it's certainly enough to get the job done.
Lastly, there's the Bose Home Speaker ecosystem to discuss. While the Sonos Play:5/Sonos Five have tons of other speakers they can connect up to, the Bose Home Speaker ecosystem is a little smaller, but only a little. Compared to the other options on the list, Bose does stand out with more wireless speakers addressing the edge cases like when you want your soundbar connected for whole-home audio.
The Denon HEOS 5 (on Amazon) is one of the more compelling alternatives to the Sonos Play:5/Sonos Five. The first thing that jumps out at you is just how robust and original the design of this speaker is. Some may not really like the shape of this unit, but you have to give Denon props for trying to make the product their own and not just pantomime Sonos. Like the Bose Home Speaker 500 with it's LED screen, the HEOS 5 stands out.
With two tweeters and two woofers, all powered by four Class D amps, the sound quality won't leave you wanting here. It's not as many drivers total as the Sonos Play:5/Sonos Five, but you're not going to notice a huge gap either. The HEOS 5 has no problem filling a room with sound. Notably, there's a lack of microphones on this unit--it's not designed to have a virtual assistant interacting with you through it.
The ecosystem other HEOS speakers is also comparable to that of both Sonos and the Bose Home Speaker line. With smaller units like the HEOS 1 and 3, as well as a larger HEOS 7 and even a HEOS HomeCinema package that includes a wireless soundbar and sub, HEOS makes the most compelling case for a whole Sonos alternative system. There's even a HEOS Amp and Link, which allow you to expand the system as needed.
The HEOS app is usable, with integrated support for Spotify, Pandora, etc. -- it'll give you deja vu to say this, but again, the app is just functional enough to not really be worth commenting on. It's not as polished as Sonos, but who is? The lack of Airplay 2 support is a bummer compared to the other alternatives on our list, but if that's not a killer feature to you, then no worries. The HEOS 5 does have Bluetooth, though, to close any local streaming gaps.
The Yamaha MusicCast 50 (on Amazon) stands out with its oval design, and further investigation reveals an interesting take on the whole-home audio solution from Yamaha. The MusicCast 50, and it's smaller MusicCast 20, are not part of big wireless speaker ecosystems at all. Instead, there's just the MusicCast 20 and 50, which you can mix and match to fill most needs.
When it comes to connectivity, the MusicCast boasts both Bluetooth and Airplay 2, which along with the MusicCast app mirrors all the functionality you'd get from Sonos and/or some of the other alternatives discussed on our list. The inclusion of the Alexa Virtual assistant also gives you more options on how to use this speaker: you may choose to put it somewhere central like the kitchen so that it fills the role of a virtual assistant speaker better.
With two tweeters and two woofers, the MusicCast 50 also has n problem filling a room with sound. Like many of the alternatives on our list, it's not as many drivers as the Sonos Play:5/Sonos Five, but it's all the sound you're going to need to simply fill the space. And with the ability to combine up to 10 MusicCast speakers in a whole-home system, you have basically all the sound networking you need covered. It's a bit strange there's a limit at all though.
The number of MusicCast speakers is lower than you might hope, with no options for soundbars or other edge-case devices. There isn't an equivalent to the Sonos Port necessarily, but the MusicCast system can allow you to get analog sound into your speakers through a proper receiver like the Yamaha Aventage. In fact, the MusicCast 50 can be used in a stereo arrangement when paired with that receiver, which is an interesting feature.
By now you probably have a better understanding of if you really want a Sonos Play:5/Sonos Five speaker. Although the Sonos Play:5/Sonos Five have all the high-class features you'd expect at this price point, they do lack some that you'd really hope for like Bluetooth and built-in virtual assistants. The alternatives on our list are, for the most part, cheaper, and most include Bluetooth by default.
Some, like the Bose Home Speaker 500, prioritize the virtual assistant usability that the Sonos offerings lack, while others, like the Audio Pro C10, focus more on connectivity options like the available RCA input and sub outputs.
You have tons of options to pick the right speaker for your space, and hopefully, this list gives you the confidence to know what's out there, and to make an informed decision.