Our guide to the best smart speakers rounds up the most popular models out there. But for me, by far the best-sounding smart speaker is the Sonos Five, and I've never written about it.
The new Sonos Era 300 ($449 / £449 / AU$749) is the smart speaker grabbing most of the headlines right now, thanks to its eye-catching design built to maximize the spatial audio experience. But despite the fanfare and its immersive audio capabilities, it's not actually the company's flagship speaker. That honor goes to the Sonos Five ($549 / £499 / AU$799), which has been around for more than 10 years in various iterations and launched its most powerful version in 2020.
Despite its status as the flagship model by the multi-room speaker champion, it's fair to say that the Five's more traditional box-like design and Hi-Fi categorization are likely to be main reasons it's often overlooked. I haven't seen any sales figures for any Sonos speaker, but my gut feeling is that it's not the most popular model on the smart speaker market.
There aren't too many reviews of it around, and we haven't reviewed the flagship model in Tom's Guide mainly because of the higher price tag and bulky styling that gives it a more niche appeal compared to the majority of smaller and more style-lead smart speakers on the market. But I think the Sonos Five deserves a closer look for anyone seeking the best sound from the heroes that introduced the wireless music system to the home.
I can almost hear potential buyers asking why they need to spend more than twice as much on the Sonos Five compared to the new Sonos Era 100 ($249 / £249 / AU$399) smart speaker, or $100 more than the Sonos Era 300? But there are plenty of reasons to consider building a home music system around a Sonos Five (or two), and here's why I think it's Sonos' best-sounding speaker ever.
Forget the Sonos Era 300, the Sonos Five is bigger and better
First, I'll address the elephant in the room and confess that the size and slightly bland styling are the reasons I didn't factor the Sonos Five into my recent rundown of my 5 favorite systems for sound and style. Nevertheless, the Five's size is one the factors that makes it the company's best-sounding speaker, and important to take into account when considering the kind of sound you want to hear when playing music at home.
It's no secret that smaller speakers simply can't push out the amount of air that's needed to achieve the kind of infectious bass energy to make anyone who hears the beat want to get up and dance. Although many of the best Bluetooth speakers do a stellar job at defying the laws of physics and achieve a bigger sound than they have any right to given their compact dimensions, the Sonos Five's (8 x 14 x 6 inches) proportions are a big part of why it sounds so good. While the fact that it can be placed in an upright orientation and configured as a left or right channel speaker when partnered to a second and spaced apart for Hi-Fi stereo sound, is the reason why Sonos categorizes the Five as a Hi-Fi speaker.
Sonos Five: A practical solution with premium sound
As the owner of a pair of Sonos Fives configured in stereo in my kitchen (and a third Sonos Five speaker placed in the space that is my upstairs landing) taking care of music playback from many of the best music streaming services I'm subscribed to, I am well acquainted with the sound of Sonos' premium speaker.
Additionally, I have a Sonos Era 300 in my home office, and have been enjoying trying out its room-filling spatial audio capabilities from a single speaker with some of the best Apple Music spatial audio tracks I've discovered. Spatial audio is a fundamental part of the Era 300's distinctive design, and although certain audio tracks sound so big they defy belief that they're coming from a relatively compact speaker design, the Sonos Five sounds better.
For a bit of extra context, another confession is that even though I have a main hi-fi setup in my living room made up of large floor standing speakers driven by a 500W power amplifier, it's my Sonos Five 'second-room' setup that gets the most use.
My Sonos Five speakers are in use all day, every day I'm at home, with both the kitchen speakers and the landing speaker linked together, filling the areas of the house I use most often with sound. As a morning radio listener, they're literally the first thing I switch on when I wake up. I even have a timer set to automatically switch them on at 8:00 A.M. when the daily routine allows, all controlled by the robust Sonos S2 control app.
Sonos' Trueplay allows me to tune the speakers to integrate the sound to the slightly odd L-shaped kitchen/dining space, and the sound delivery is always seriously impressive. Even though I have one speaker placed on the floor and the other on the bottom shelf of a bookcase, the way the two speakers integrate and deliver a great stereo sound in the challenging acoustic space never fails to impress anyone that hears them.
The sound is big enough to mean that they still sound great even when I throw open the doors to the backyard, and let the sound of my Sonos Five setup spill out. It projects just the right balance of sound while I'm outside doing yard work, and has enough sonic balance to let me listen to whatever my mood has me playing while keeping the level low so as not to disturb the neighbors. When the circumstances are right, though, the Sonos Five can kick out an impressive amount of bass energy but with more finesse than most party speakers I've heard, which for me is what it's all about.