Here’s how and why Sonos wants its own voice control feature
There are countless wireless home speakers, both portable and fixed. Despite so many competing models, few are manufactured to deliver true high-resolution audio. Sonos speakers are the exception. They provide a quality listening experience across all music genres. Sonos also offers seamless room-by-room control schemes.
To even further increase usability, Sonos is about to implement its own voice assistant, called Sonos Voice Control. Unlike the AI-driven tools from Google, Apple and Amazon, it won’t be a catchall system for controlling smart home devices. Instead, it will focus entirely on the music listening experience.
Why is Sonos making its own voice assistant?
At first glance, it’s tempting to think that the move is designed to protect Sonos’ intellectual property. Sonos recently won a lawsuit against Google, saying that Google stole speaker management features from Sonos during their multi-year partnership. Further statements from Sonos, however, indicate that there are much more consumer-friendly reasons for the upcoming voice control system.
Significantly increased security
To lessen consumers’ security fears and encourage the use of their high-fidelity home speakers, Sonos’ new voice assistant is tailored specifically to control your music and little else. This specific focus on home stereo control eliminates a speaker’s push to incorporate every wireless-enabled device it can find.
The most direct security improvement the Sonos Voice Control system offers is on-device command processing. Popular assistants such as Alexa and Siri take your commands to the cloud. At that point, they’re processed not only to perform the right task but also to squirrel away data on your preferences as a music listener or product buyer. This has long been one of the most controversial parts of voice assistants. It’s an issue that Sonos’ new implementation does away with entirely.
Enhanced voice control performance
Since everything happens on the smart speaker’s own hardware, there’s also a major performance increase. Without the need to access the internet, Sonos soundbars and other devices should respond markedly quicker to voice commands. While it may not seem like a couple of seconds makes a big difference, eliminating that small amount of lag makes voice control noticeably more convenient.
More control over functionality
Until now, Sonos was beholden to Google and other voice assistant publishers when it came to available features and specific controls. That’s part of what spurred the infamous lawsuit between Google and Sonos, which began in early 2020. With the new implementation, Sonos retains complete control over functionality. That means whenever it wants to implement a new feature, it’s as simple as pushing that fix to speakers via a software update, with no corporate finagling required.
A silky new voice to talk with
If you’ve binged on some of the most popular television dramas in the past couple of decades, you might recognize the distinct timbre of Sonos’ new voice assistant. It’s none other than Giancarlo Esposito, whose unique tone is part of what made him so popular in series such as “Breaking Bad” and “The Mandalorian.”
A better understanding of everyday speech
A quick “Hey, Sonos” will activate the assistant, and then you have the liberty to speak to it casually. For example, instead of “increase the volume,” a simple “turn it up” works fine. This makes it less important to code-switch when talking to the assistant, resulting in a more consistent and user-friendly operation.
The main drawbacks to Sonos Voice Control
No Google Assistant support
There are a couple of downsides to Sonos’ new voice assistant. While Alexa support is baked into all voice-enabled Sonos speakers, Google Assistant fans are out of luck. After the Sonos and Google lawsuit, it’s unlikely that will change anytime soon.
It doesn’t work with all streaming services
Additionally, Sonos Voice Control won’t work with a few popular streaming apps, at least not as of the June 1 launch date. At the moment, unsupported apps include Spotify, Tidal and YouTube Music. It’s unclear if Sonos will eventually enable voice control over those services.
Limited Bluetooth functionality
If you’re connected via Bluetooth to a portable Sonos speaker such as the Move or Roam, you won’t have the same in-depth voice control options. You’ll only be able to perform what Sonos refers to as essential functions. Essential functions currently include pausing the music and adjusting the volume.
Which Sonos speakers support Sonos Voice Control?
Indications are that every voice-enabled Sonos speaker does or eventually will support the new voice assistant. To get the best functionality and playback quality, you’ll want Sonos’ most recent and high-performing devices.
One of Sonos’ most popular releases, the second-generation One delivers surprisingly rich sound for its size. You can even configure it alongside one of the company’s premium soundbars for a true surround sound experience with supported media.
Premium engineering and relatively large drivers mean this battery-powered speaker blows the average tiny portable speaker out of the water. For that matter, it’s also IP56 dust and water-resistant and supports advanced streaming protocols including Apple AirPlay 2.
It’s roughly the same size as the common Bluetooth speaker but sounds far better. Now, it offers some of the best voice control, too.
Sold by Sonos
If you’re looking for a wireless TV soundbar that delivers true-to-source cinematic audio and doubles as an impressive home stereo system, this is the one for you.
It’s more compact and reasonably priced than other premium soundbars and supports the Dolby Atmos protocol for simulated spatial audio when watching compatible movies.
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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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