Amazon Echo (2nd Gen) and Echo Plus hands-on review

The icing on the cake? Once in place, you can start interacting with Alexa by saying her name out loud. If you've completely bought into the Amazon eco-system, including music subscriptions and shopping, then having Alexa easily accessible from your auto while you commute to and from work will certainly be useful. A light-up LED ring, which is also used as a visual representation of Alexa interactions, will glow green when it's time for you to pay attention and make a specific maneuver. But Alexa hasn't had a big presence in the drivers seat yet. Compared to the Sonos One, the Google Home seemed distant and clock radio-like. Amazon's rapidly expanding Alexa as it aims to convince home users that voice control is the future of technology.

Still, setting timers and alarms, asking about the weather, connecting to third-party services like OurGroceries, and asking for traffic and directions worked just fine on Sonos One in all our tests. Alexa can handle more than just tapping Garmin's navigational database, though.

Sonos made it clear that while they took the PLAY:1's enclosure and worked to fit the Sonos One inside it, the guts are largely all re-engineered. You just have to apply the code at checkout. Inspired by the architecture and sound profile of the Play:1, the One is offered in black or white to blend into any room decor.

The Sonos One looks almost identical to the Play:1 though Sonos says that the speaker has been "built from the ground-up to deliver a voice platform for multiple voice services".

One other major difference: The new speaker has a pairing button where the ¼-inch threaded mount is located on the older model.

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You don't need an exact address to search for locations while driving. For better or worse, Alexa doesn't sell its own higher-end speaker. And where Chester Thomposon's frenetic work on the Hammond B3 seemed to have hard emerging from the Play:One, it happily bubbled up to its due prominence on the Sonos One. They're different beasts, despite their looks.

Beyond the color of the grill, the most noticeable difference between the new and old speakers is the top.

My second complaint: As with Amazon's own Echo speakers, Sonos offers no way to ask Alexa to play music that's stored on my own local network.

Sonos has packed in a 6 microphone array into the Sonos One. Sonos engineered the light and the microphone into the same circuit so that it's impossible for one to be on without the other. The good news: Sonos says it will be Amazon's first partner to gain that privilege later this year. The touch controls let you swipe to skip a track, and tap to turn up the volume. The unit is created to be interacted with using voice, such as asking Alexa to ask Garmin for directions to the nearest grocery store or asking Alexa to play the audiobook you've been listening to. Will Alexa transform how you experience music?

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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