For a while, Sonos sound systems were pretty hard to beat. Sonos was able to bring a wireless speaker system to the market with style, functionality, and easy installation. Now, electronics manufacturers big and small are producing speaker systems that give Sonos and their speaker system a run for their money.
When it comes to the best alternatives to the Sonos speaker system for 2021, there are a few stand out options:
- Yamaha MusicCast
- Amazon Echo Devices
- Denon HEOS
There are a lot of benefits to using a Sonos system as we’ve argued before. From audiophiles to family rooms, Sonos’ speakers have stellar reviews. But if you are looking for alternatives, what products should you watch out for? There are tons of great speaker systems out there that can meet if not outperform Sonos speakers. Below you’ll find a list of some of the best Sonos alternatives for 2021.
Why You Might Want a Sonos Alternative
While Sonos provides customers with a great product, it’s not the only show anymore. Back in 2006, when Sonos came onto the scene, there was no wireless hi-fi option. To have truly crisp and clear audio playback at home, you need a clunky wired system.
This meant finding a place for receivers, speaker wires, and amplifiers. For your average listener, this was a bridge too far. While wireless speakers existed at the time, their capabilities were often at the expense of sound quality. Sonos aimed to fix this issue. They established three problems they wanted to remedy:
- Hi-fi components were too bulky and took way too much space.
- Cable wires are unsightly and can ruin otherwise well thought out interior design.
- There was no way to listen to a single audio source in multiple rooms.
Sonos, whose products almost all need to be connected to WiFi, has proved it can deliver a product to solve those problems. Since 2006, though, competitors have started to solve them too. While Sonos is still considered the king of multi-room speaker systems, there are some other great vying for that top spot. Before we dive into what alternatives are out there, let’s take a look at Sonos and some of its benefits.
Benefits of a Sonos Speaker System
The Sonos is a multi-room speaker system that enables you to listen to music throughout your home. Sonos provides a modern approach to traditional hi-fi systems, all packed in a user-friendly and stylish form factor. The speakers are built to be small yet powerful and can often fit perfectly into a room design.
Sonos uses your home Wi-Fi network to allow for wireless connection across rooms. With over 100 streaming services to partner with the Sonos system, music and podcasts choices are virtually unlimited. The Sonos app controls everything. This means you can conveniently change songs or speakers all with your smartphone. When it comes to what customers are saying about the Sonos, there are three main talking points. They are:
- Usability — With over a decade of support and updates behind it, the Sonos app is a dream to use. Browse music, join rooms together and control volume easily and without any lag time.
- Sound quality — You can’t be a good hi-fi alternative without providing the power. Sonos has worked tirelessly to fine-tune their speakers to produce unique clarity and tight bass tones.
- Longevity — Sonos speakers are built to last. To back that up, each speaker has a six-year warranty.
These factors, along with early adoption and marketing in the sense that they were the first to the scene, have catapulted the Sonos brand fairly far. But the system is not without its criticism. Let’s take a look at them and see why you might not want a Sonos speaker system.
Downsides of a Sonos Speaker System
There is a lot of good to say about the Sonos. But, like with any product, there are some downsides that pull customers away from the Sonos to other brands. While Sonos makes a great product, they split the difference between a true hi-fi system and lower-quality Bluetooth speakers. Sound quality is clear, but often Sonos gets criticism for not truly producing the kind of quality you can get with wired competitors.
The Denon D-M41 (on Amazon), for example, is an amazing entry-level hi-fi system that some say has the superior sound quality to the Sonos. At around the same price as a Two-Room Sonos System (on Amazon), those with a discerning ear and a tight wallet would opt for the Denon. This brings us to the next criticism of Sonos: the price.
When it comes to price, you are paying for more than just hardware. Much like other luxury tech brands, (looking at you, Apple), there is more to the product than the product itself. Behind the speaker is the amazing support from the Sonos app, the minimalist styling, and of course, the Sonos branding.
For someone who is concerned with value, a Sonos may seem overpriced. Conversely, someone who is looking for quality might find the price doesn’t quite reflect the performance. They are great speakers, but they could be better given the premium price. Luckily, the Sonos is no longer the only option. Let’s take a dive into other great alternatives and find the right multi-room wireless speaker system for you!
Best Sonos Alternatives and How They Compare
Sonos provides listeners a lot when it comes to benefits. But their product has spawned a whole new generation of speakers that offer similar experiences. To help you get the most out of your shopping, we have found some of the best Sonos alternatives. We’ve developed this list with a few considerations. They are:
- Ecosystem — What kind of support does the system have? How usable is the software, and what kind of products are available.
- Multi-room — Does the speaker system support multi-room functionality like the Sonos? Can you get whole-room audio wirelessly?
- Speaker options — Are there soundbars, subwoofers, and multi-channel options?
- Sound quality — The Sonos turns heads with its stellar sound quality. Can these alternatives stack up when it comes to sound quality?
Bose Home Speaker System
When it comes to home speakers, Bose certainly has made a name for themselves. They cornered the small-compact hi-fi player market early on and have been making amazing products since. When it comes to wireless hi-fi multi-room speaker systems, they came in heavy with their Bose Home Speaker 500 (on Amazon).
The Bose 500 is a wireless speaker with built-in smart integration. This means if you have an Echo system, you can manage your audio playback via voice commands. To cut through the audio coming from the speaker, Bose has included a noise-rejection microphone that can listen to your voice from any part of the room.
When it comes to sound quality, the Bose comes to play. Within the speaker, you’ll find two custom drivers that can provide the power to fill a room with sound. For ecosystem and speaker options, the 500 is part of a line of Bose smart speakers. This includes other small speaker designs as well as a soundbar.
Connecting to other Bose smart speakers is a cinch, and multi-room listening is always on the table. They are all controlled through the Bose smart app. The simple and easy-to-use app makes browsing your music collection easy. Manage playlists from multiple streaming sources.
Yamaha has been a trusted electronics manufacturer for decades. Their attempt at a hi-fi multi-room speaker system is the Musicccast (see on Amazon). While slightly higher in price than the Sonos, the speakers come packed with features. The Yamaha Musiccast comes with:
- Innovative speaker design featuring multiple drivers in a compact form factor. This means immersive sound is available for music or even home-theatre applications.
- Compatible speakers to add to the sound. This includes a subwoofer, the Musiccast Sub (on Amazon)
- Surround sound capabilities when two or more Musiccast speakers pair together.
- Voice control with Amazon Echo or other smart hub systems.
- Multi-room functionality.
The Musiccast offers some great sound quality for the size, but in other aspects, it falls a bit short. Two main criticisms pop up commonly in reviews. The first is the price. At around $500 per speaker, creating a multi-speakers system with the Yamaha Musiccast can get pricey.
Another common problem plaguing the system is the ecosystem. While there are other Musiccast speakers you can add for a multi-room experience, there are always hiccups. Sometimes things will disconnect and need troubleshooting. Additionally, the app that powers the system is far from perfect. Relative to other apps like Bose or Sonos, and there is no question which is better.
Denon HEOS and Denon Home Systems
Denon is known for their hi-fi systems. Before Sonos came to the party and turned everything wireless, wired hi-fi systems were king, and Denon was part of the monarchy. They have consistently put out stellar audio products from speaker systems to DJ turntables. Their launch into the wireless multi-room speaker game was inevitable.
In direct competition with the Sonos system, in price and look, is Denon Wireless 150 HEOS (link to Amazon). It works over Wi-Fi like the Sonos, it packs the sound quality of the Sonos. It and comes in at $50 less. Additionally, you can expect smart home support with integrated Echo and Airplay compatibility.
When it comes to the speaker ecosystem, there is a lot to love about the Denon. Not only are there several options to choose from, but things like wireless subwoofers and soundbars are part of the selection. The HEOS can also support music playback from several popular streaming services, including Spotify and others.
Amazon Echo Studio
We would be remiss if we failed to mention the offering from the smart speaker giants. While you might not get the same kind of whole-home audio as the Sonos, for the average ears, the Echo Studio (on Amazon) is an amazing product.
To say this speaker is well designed might be a failure to illuminate its clever engineering. Amazon has managed to pack not just two or three but five total speakers in this thing. Moreover, engineers design some drivers to point up. This bounces audio off the ceiling, giving a truly immersive and surround-sound experience.
When it comes to the speaker ecosystem, you can easily pair two studios together, and there is even an Echo Sub (see on Amazon) to add if you want more bass. Where the Studio really shines is in the integrated Alexa support. Since the product is native to the Amazon smart home system, you can expect easy connection and butter-smooth playback.
Setup is a breeze, and even for the most technologically illiterate folks can use this speaker without pulling out their hair. Speaker options are limited, and multi-room functionality isn’t necessarily the easiest. For these reasons, you might want to search elsewhere for a multi-room speaker system. But, for immersive sound in a small and affordable device, look no further.
BlueSound Speaker System
While the speakers on this list stand apart as great alternatives, they certainly fall short in some areas. There is only one real substitute for the Sonos system for some hi-fi enthusiasts, and that’s the Bluesound. What the Bluesound Pulse 2i (on Amazon) brings to the table is the sound quality. It includes 2 bass drivers and 2 hifi tweeters.
This all adds up to a system that provides clear mids, crisp highs, and stomach shaking lows. The BlueSound is the real winner for audio enthusiasts when it comes to a proper wireless alternative to hi-fi systems. Additionally, the BlueSound features a built-in preamp to make sure that the tunes you are playing are as high-quality as they can be.
When it comes to speaker choices, there are quite a few. Much like the Sonos, you can easily link speakers within a room or throughout your home. The dual-band wireless connection makes sure there are no drop-outs or audio lags. The Bluesound also features Bluetooth aptX connectivity. This means you aren’t always reliant on your Wi-Fi to get songs to play. The BlueSound app controls everything. It’s easy to use and makes speaker setup a breeze.
If there is one criticism you often see about the BlueSound, it would be the price. If you balk at the price of the Sonos, well, then the BlueSound will undoubtedly make your wallet shiver. But you pay for the higher quality speakers, which, for some, is priceless.
What About Dolby Atmos?
If you are wondering what Dolby Atmos is, just know that it’s going to be the next big thing in home-audio systems. Dolby Atmos is a way to provide a surround sound immersive without the need for multiple speakers. The hallmark of the Atmos system is the ability to add height to an otherwise horizontal sound stage.
This means directional speakers that map out a room and bounce audio of surfaces to give the auditory illusion of surround sound. Atmos speakers truly are revolutionary. But which products above support Atmos? First and foremost, we must mention the Amazon Echo Studio.
This product represents one of the first affordable consumer products featuring the technology. But that’s not to say it’s exclusive to the Echo. In fact, the Sonos Arc (on Amazon) is a stellar soundbar that also offers Atmos. It works well with other Sonos products and makes for a great addition to any home theatre system.
Summary of Best Sonos Alternatives
Now that we have explored some great alternatives to the Sonos speaker system, which is the best? While that question can come with a few answers, there are some stand-out options. Let’s explore those now based on a few considerations.
Best Budget Multi-Room System
When it comes to price, the Sonos is certainly outside of a lot of people’s budgets. Even if you have the money to drop on the Sonos, you might be curious if your cash is better put into another system. While there is no denying the Sonos’ quality, you can get a fairly robust and usable system for a cheaper price.
The best alternative budget system would be the Denon speaker system. At slightly under the price of the Sonos, you are getting a lot more sound quality. If you are looking for hi-fi, this is certainly a better option. Denon has been around the block and knows how to put out a stellar speaker.
Another great option would be the Echo Studio. While it runs at a similar price to a single Sonos unit, it packs many more functions and features. It might not be the same kind of multi-room experience as the Sonos, but with the intelligent driver design, the Studio can fill a room with sound.
Best Alternative for Sound Quality
If you are an audiophile, then the Sonos might fall short when it comes to sound. The speakers in the Sonos system indeed offer crisp and clear audio. Calling them hi-fi is a bit of a misnomer. If sound quality is a driving factor for your purchase, the BlueSound system is the way to go.
Not only does BlueSound offer similar functions and benefits as the Sonos, but they come packed with high-tech drivers. Combine that with the varied speaker selection, including the subwoofer, and you’ve got as close to a wired hi-fi system as you can wirelessly.
Sonos makes a great multi-room speaker system. With great support for their app and the excellent build quality of their speakers, for a time, there were no comparable alternatives, although, that has changed. It seems almost every speaker or audio device manufacturer has come to the table with their take.
While some are great, some don’t quite match the performance of the Sonos and all of its different models and products. Others can be as good if not better. Hopefully, by now, you have an idea of which speaker system is right for you.