Sonos Voice Assistant is a new option for hands-free speaker control coming next month to all existing Sonos speakers with built-in microphones.
As you might know, Sonos speakers were some of the earliest third-party devices to offer Alexa and Google Assistant. These days the best smart speakers stem from a larger variety of companies, though Sonos is betting some customers don’t consider support for Amazon’s and Google’s assistants a priority.
Instead, Sonos is offering a way to launch playlists, control playback and move sound around a Sonos system using just your voice. Unlike with Alexa and Google Assistant, you can’t ask the Sonos Voice Assistant for a weather report or the current Yankees game score. The assistant’s abilities are intentionally limited to the music-listening experience.
I suppose it makes sense, not everyone is keen on bringing AI assistants into their homes. The Sonos Voice Assistant won’t look to learn more than your preferences, so it might know your obscure music tastes but there are no ties to your smart home devices, search queries or communication platforms. All processing takes place on-device, which is expected for most voice-equipped products these days but nonetheless attractive to those with privacy concerns.
Sonos Voice Assistant can open and search music from Sonos Radio or Apple Music, though notably not Spotify. The company hasn’t said when or if Spotify support will be added; however, if you launch music on your Sonos speaker via AirPlay or casting, you can still control Spotify playback by saying “Hey Sonos.”
When awoken, the microphone stays active for 6 seconds so that you can change the volume more than once without saying “Hey Sonos” each time. Some other reasons to use the voice assistant is to search new radio stations, find out the name of an unfamiliar song that came up on a playlist and move your music around your Sonos system. Though SL speakers can’t field Sonos Voice Assistant queries, they can be controlled by voice through another Sonos speaker with a microphone.
For limited phrases, the assistant can speak back to you, and there’s a chance you’ll recognize the voice. Sonos worked with actor Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Mandalorian) to give the voice assistant some personality.
This tool also adds new functionality to the Sonos Roam and Sonos Move portable speakers, which previously only supported voice control when connected to Wi-Fi. Even when in Bluetooth mode outside or on the go, the Sonos Voice Assistant can control playback. It can also check the battery life of these two speakers, if asked.
Speaking of the Sonos Roam, it’s now available in three new Sonos Roam colors. In other Sonos news, the company just announced its most affordable soundbar yet — the $249 Sonos Ray. The Sonos Ray scales back the best soundbars from Sonos with a small space-friendly speaker. Microphones are one of the tradeoffs, so the Ray doesn't incorporate Sonos Voice Assistant, despite being announced at the same time.