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Nest Audio vs. Sonos One: Which should you buy?

Nest Audio
Nest Audio (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Nest Audio

Nest Audio Render

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A Google Home replacement built to be 75% louder and have 50% stronger bass than its predecessor, the Nest Audio is also the best Google Assistant speaker available today thanks to a speedy voice processing chip. Despite not being the most powerful speaker, it offers excellent dynamic range and crystal clear sound.

Nest Audio

New upgrades, better price

Three highly receptive microphones
Audio clarity and dynamic range
Multiple colors and blended-in buttons
Best for Google Assistant commands
More affordable
No AirPlay or Alexa
Narrow soundstage

Sonos One

Sonos One Smart Speaker

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Despite launching in 2017, the Sonos One has mostly kept pace, or even stayed ahead of new smart speakers on the market, particularly in sound quality. The S2 app supports a thorough list of music libraries, since you cannot stream them on the One using Bluetooth. If you want to control devices with Alexa and Google Assistant at once, or pair with other Sonos tech, this is a good option.

Sonos One

Older tech, better audio

Integrated Alexa and Google Assistant
AirPlay 2 support for iOS users
Ethernet port
Room-filling sound
Pairs with other Sonos cams
No Bluetooth support
Expensive
Microphone quality is mediocre

Breaking down the Nest Audio vs Sonos One comes down first and foremost to smarts versus audio quality. Sonos has made incremental upgrades to its premium speaker since it launched in 2017, but the more affordable Nest Audio brings vastly improved 2020 tech to the fray, and makes an admirable effort to live up to the beautiful audio quality of the Sonos One. Is Sonos One still the best smart speaker in 2020? We'll give you our verdict below.

Nest Audio vs Sonos One: Spec showdown

We've collected all of the key information you need to know about the Nest Audio vs. Sonos One features — or, at least, the information that was available. Unlike most speaker manufacturers, Sonos isn't completely upfront about the tech that goes into its speakers. We know that the Sonos One 2nd Gen received a new processor and upgraded memory, but Sonos doesn't actually say what the old or new components were, or how significant the change was. Nor do we know how large its speaker drivers are, or the device's wattage.

Still, the data we could find, combined with our reviews of both products, should help you get a clear sense of how they compare to one another.

Nest AudioSonos One
Size4.89" x 3.07" x 6.89", 2.65 lb4.69" x 4.69" x 6.36", 4.08 lb
ColorsChalk, Charcoal, Sage, Sand, SkyWhite, Black
ProcessorQuad Core A53 1.8 GHz with TeraOPS ML hardware engineUnknown
SpeakersOne 2.95" woofer, one 0.75" tweeterTwo Class-D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, one mid-woofer
Wi-fi802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz / 5 GHz)802.11 b/g, 2.4 GHz
Bluetooth5.0No, only BLE for setup
Ethernet portNoYes
Wattage30WUnknown
Voice assistantBuilt-in Google AssistantBuilt-in Google Assistant, built-in Alexa
AirPlay 2NoYes
LED indicator for assistantFour circular lights on frontWhite microphone light on top
MicrophonesThree far-field microphonesSix-microphone array
Smart home techWorks with Nest Security devicesCan control any Alexa or Google Assistant-compatible device
Pair two for stereo sound?YesYes
Line-out with 3.5 mm cableNoNo
Dolby processing / AtmosNoNo
Use as a TV speaker?NoNo

With its cylindrical frame, flat button-filled top and small LED indicator that shines when the mic is listening, the Sonos One has a very "traditional" body. It lacks the 3.5mm port for connecting to another speaker, but does sport an ethernet port that will help it keep a consistent internet connection. By contrast, the Nest Audio has a more exciting, unusual design. You can buy it in colors besides black and white, it has a more uniform build without the flat plastic top, and has four clearly visible, front-facing LED indicators for when the microphone is listening to you.

The Nest Audio works with more Wi-Fi standards, streams content from mobile devices via Bluetooth and (we believe) has a faster processor, which will allow it to respond to voice commands or perform actions more quickly. You can control it with native Google Assistant commands designed specifically by Google for the speaker, picked up by the speaker's hypersensitive mic array.

The Sonos One is really a Three-in-One speaker with Alexa, Google Assistant and AirPlay compatibility built in.

Sonos plays nicer with more tech ecosystems, supporting Alexa, Google Assistant and AirPlay all at once. Theoretically, it's like you're buying a Sonos Three-in-One, since you would need an Echo, Nest Audio and a third Apple-compliant speaker just to get the same compatibility. Unfortunately, it doesn't support Bluetooth, but the Sonos S2 app gives you access to all of the music streaming platforms that you would normally need Bluetooth to access.

We don't know the exact sizes of the Sonos One's tweeter and woofer, making it difficult to compare them against the Nest Audio's. Yet we know that the Sonos One is wider, longer and heavier (though a bit shorter), which suggests its speakers may be a bit larger. Plus, Sonos uses digital amplifiers meant to boost the speaker's volume capacity.

Nest Audio vs Sonos One: Is better sound worth twice the cost?

Sonos One in white next to a pool

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

In our Nest Audio review, we specificially weighed the Nest Audio versus the Sonos one in audio performance. Our reviewer had this to say:

"There's an airiness to music that comes out of the Sonos One that feels more compressed and isolated on the Nest Audio, but they both reproduce vocals and instruments wonderfully. The Sonos One is more precise and has a cleaner, more enjoyable low-end, but not by much".

The Nest Audio's uncompressed sound is actually by design, according to the official Google announcement). The engineers decided to "minimize the use of compressors to preserve dynamic range", meaning quiet or loud moments retain their audible contrast from one another even if the volume is low or turned up to 11.

Our Nest reviewer praised the Audio's performance, saying that "the low-end is clean and inviting, vocals come through beautifully, and there's no sharpness or sibilance at the high-end." While it doesn't match up with the Sonos One in quality, it comes close at a lower price. In fact, you could buy two Nest Audios for the price of one Sonos One, then pair them together for stereo sound.

On the other hand, the Nest Audio's sound is highly directional by design. Placed on the right shelf, it can deliver music to a sweet spot right to where you typically sit in the living room. But it won't fill a room like the Sonos One will, thanks to its wider soundstage and better drivers.

Nest Audio vs Sonos One: Smart speaker IQ test

Nest Audio

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers all generally work with the same library of commands. In fact, Google just recently added new commands to help you navigate third-party apps using simple "Hey Google" phrases on phones or smart displays.

Even though Sonos took over a year to add Google Assistant to the Sonos One, it did eventually manage it. Now, both speakers have access to the same assistant tech. Considering Sonos also grants users access to Alexa commands, one would assume that Sonos is the logical choice for a versatile smart speaker.

Sonos' six mics don't hold up against Google's three far-field mics for better voice detection and comprehension.

In practice, you must look carefully at their microphone tech. Sonos placed six mics into its One speaker, but our Sonos One reviewer wasn't impressed, claiming that all of his Echo smart speakers understood his Alexa commands better than the Sonos One. That was three years ago, before the Audio even existed, but unfortunately for Sonos nothing has changed: when we tested the Nest Audio against the Sonos One, the Nest Audio could discern words more easily.

You'll also get faster Google Assistant answers, thanks to the speedy processing chip and machine learning technology that Google shoved into the device. Our reviewer claimed that the Nest Audio carried the "most responsive Google Assistant has ever been on a speaker".

Keeping that in mind, you will likely prefer a speaker with one excellent voice assistant, than a speaker with multiple assistants that all have trouble deciphering what you want!

Nest Audio vs Sonos One: Which should you buy?

Nest Audio Colors Wide

Source: Google (Image credit: Source: Google)

We lean towards recommending the Nest Audio, but there are several scenarios where buying the Sonos One makes sense. Frequent Apple users may prefer Sonos due to its AirPlay support, as Google has no plans to support Apple apps in the future. Or, if you have spotty wi-fi, Sonos' ethernet port is a good way to make sure your music streams don't constantly jitter or buffer.

If you own other Sonos devices, you'll want to stick with that ecosystem and link them all together for a multi-room setup. Particularly if you own a Sonos soundbar like the Arc, since you can use the One as a rear speaker and improve the soundbar's Dolby Atmos performance, while also letting it serve as an assistant.

Otherwise, we think the Nest Audio is the better choice. It has impressed us with its Google Assistant speeds, automatic EQ adjustments based on the type of content being played, automatic environmental tracking to determine if the room is loud and the volume needs to climb to compensate, and a more reasonable price.

Michael spent years freelancing on every tech topic under the sun before settling down on the real exciting stuff: virtual reality, fitness wearables, gaming, and how tech intersects with our world. He's a semi-reformed Apple-to-Android user who loves running, D&D, and Star Wars. Find him on Twitter at @Michael_L_Hicks.