HomePod vs. Sonos: What's the difference?

First things first … What's a HomePod?

It's Apple's long-rumored, Wi-Fi-connected smart speaker. Apple is positioning the HomePod as the quintessential in-home listening device. It also comes with Siri — use the wake phrase, "Hey, Siri," and it can do anything Siri can do!

You can control your HomeKit-enabled accessories (even when you're away from home, since the device acts as a HomeKit Home Hub), listen to music and other content with the device's excellent speakers, set timers and reminders, check your calendar, send messages, etc.

HomePod FAQ: Everything you need to know!

Gotcha, gotcha. And can you remind me about Sonos?

Sure thing. Sonos offers several Wi-Fi-connected, high-fidelity speakers that you can use to stream music throughout your home. The company says the Sonos system is a Home Sound System, meaning you can quickly and easily set up multiple speakers throughout your home and stream music (and other audio) all day.

Sonos offers multiple Wi-Fi-connected music streaming speakers and a couple devices (opens in new tab) you can use to turn your existing setup into a Sonos streaming setup.

Interesting. How many Wi-Fi speakers is Apple offering?

White HomePod on a dresser

White HomePod on a dresser (Image credit: Apple)

Just the one. Apple's touting its beam-forming, room analyzing, AirPlay-2-featuring HomePod as the one solution to rule them all.

So, I'm big into music. And I hear both Apple and Sonos are offering some pretty incredible listening experiences. But I'm curious, what am I going to be able to listen to?

Great question! Your answer follows:

Integrated music streaming services

  • Sonos: Apple Music, Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music Unlimited, Google Play Music, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, Deezer, TuneIn, Napster, iHeartRadio, 7digital, AccuRadio, Anghami, Audiobooks.com, Bandcamp, Batanga, CalmRadio, Classical Archives, Concert Vault, CustomChannels, DAR.fm, DASII, Daytrotter, FIT Radio, Focus@will, Gaana.com, Groove, Hearts of Space, Hotelradio.fm, Hype Machine, Live Phish, Mixcloud, MLB.com Gameday Audio, Mood:Mix, Murfie, Nugs.net, Radionomy, RadioPup, Rockbot, Rusc, Saavn, Slacker Radio, Soundmachine, Spreaker, Stingray Music, Stitcher Radio, Tidal, Tribe of Noise, and your personal library
  • HomePod: Apple Music and audio streamed via AirPlay 2


  • Sonos: Wirelessly via the Sonos app
  • HomePod: Wirelessly via AirPlay and on-device Apple Music

Wow, quite a difference there. So, say I want a home assistant to control my lights and tell me when I need to leave for work … which is best?

Apple's HomePod. Sonos is not a smart speaker in the sense that it doesn't feature some sort of smart assistant you can talk to. Apple's HomePod has a speaker array capable of hearing — and responding to — your commands. Sonos is strictly music listening. With Apple's HomePod, you can listen to music and control your home all via one device.

Gotcha. I suppose now's the time to ask for some specs, eh?

Probably. Here's what you need to know!

  • HomePod: 7 beam-forming tweeter array, 1 4-inch, Apple-designed woofer, 6-microphone array, Siri support, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO, multiroom speaker support with AirPlay 2, capacitive touch controls on top of the device
  • Sonos Play:3: three Class-D amplifiers, one tweeter, two mid-woofers, bass radiator, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, multiroom speaker support over Wi-Fi

Thanks for that. Now here's a question for you … how do either of these devices compare to, say, hooking up some great speakers to an Amazon Echo Dot?

Well, it depends on what you're looking for. If you like Amazon's Alexa smart assistant and don't mind any audio degradation from Bluetooth streaming, you're probably better off with some great speakers hooked up to Amazon Echo Dot … that goes double if you decide to stream from the Dot itself. Sonos sounds great but it's expensive and each individual device is only that: an individual device. Same goes for HomePod: It's one speaker with a lot of impressive technology packed in, but you might be able to replicate much of that — sound-wise, at least — with a coupla good speakers and the Amazon Echo Dot.

I was afraid you were going to say that. So tell me, how much are these things going to set me back?

How to set up HomePod

How to set up HomePod

Lucky for you, HomePod is only gonna be calling for your wallet at one price. I can't say the same for Sonos. Here's what you need to know price-wise:

Hrm. OK, bottom line. What do I need to know (and be thinking about) regarding the HomePod and Sonos?

First thing's first: Sonos is going to give you more options for multi-device listening. If you want to build out a home theater surround sound system, Sonos has the woofer, the tiny tweeters, the mid-range, the big sounds, and everything in between. You can buy and sync up loads of differently sized Sonos speakers and get the sound you want.

HomePod is going to give you incredible sound in a single package. It's also going to give you smart assistant support with Siri. Sonos can't control your smart home accessories; Siri can. If you're in the market for a smart speaker with really friggin' great sound, HomePod is going to be great for you. If you don't really need Siri on board, Sonos is probably the best place to look.

If both seem a little too pricey and you're OK sacrificing sound quality for some great home assistants, check out Google Home or Amazon Echo.

HomePod vs Google Home vs Amazon Echo: What's the difference?

Further questions or unanswered comparisons?

Sound off in the comments!

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Mikah Sargent

Mikah Sargent is Senior Editor at Mobile Nations. When he's not bothering his chihuahuas, Mikah spends entirely too much time and money on HomeKit products. You can follow him on Twitter at @mikahsargent if you're so inclined.

  • Its just a dumb speaker, no Spotify or such! Siri needs to get smarter, I can't even get her to play Spotify music. 😂 Here's a speaker but you can only listen to Apple music but let's compare it Sonos 😂
  • It's nice. Ill probably buy two of them
  • The real question is will they both work together?
  • Will they work together well in the same room? No. In the same house? Sure. The thing that I don't like about Sonos is that they don't support AirPlay in the device (You need to hook up an Express or Apple TV to them). And AirPlay is amazing. I bought a Sony portable Bluetooth speakers with AirPlay a while ago because I love AirPlay so much. It's great to be able to just open up the music app and stream whatever is on my iPhone, Mac, or iPad to my speaker. If you're already into AirPlay the HomePod is for you. If you prefer to use an app on your phone to tell your speaker to start streaming music from a service, well then Sonos might be more up your alley. But most of the reviewers have been saying that HomePod's intelligent way it breaks down the sound and enhances it, is really unlike anything Sonos or any other speaker maker in this price range is doing.
  • The thing worth keeping in mind is, you can tell the speaker to get music from Apple's service. But if you love Spotify you can also stream to it from your iPhone through AirPlay. In many ways the HomePod is a lot like the AirPods, in the sense that if you're someone who has a windows PC, and a Samsung phone, there's not nearly as much of a reason to get the HomePod. Sure it'll work well on it's own ... I think. Actually they said you configure it by holding your iPhone nearby. So you might legit need to own an iPhone in order to set it up. Especially since voice recognition probably largely requires an internet connection to process the voice stuff on the back end. Either way, for someone not invested in Apple hardware, this would be a weird first product. But if you want to walk into your study, set your iPhone down to charge, and then sit down to draw with your iPad Pro and Pencil, then this is going to be the speaker you buy, period. All the hands on stuff I've heard about it says that it sounds better than the major competitors. Is it pricer than an Echo? Sure. But a steak is more expensive than a McDouble, but you're still gonna buy a steak sometimes. There's currently 20 million people paying for Apple Music. So there are a minimum of 20 people who don't care about Spotify, Pandora or any other service (Which again the speaker can play music from, it'll just be routed from your iPhone). This is a device that is designed to show off how much better things can be if you have the speaker and the service made by the same company. This is also a device that if you get you're going to stay subscribed to Apple Music for, because switching to Spotify afterward would be a hassle.
  • You can use airpods to make and receive phone calls. I haven't seen anything to indicate you can do that with homepod. There will be no way I would get one of these things if I cant make phone calls on it. If it served as a high quality speaker phone and it sounded good for music, I would buy one, even if Siri functioning remains inferior to the competition.
  • Sonos also integrates with analog systems and offers several types of versatile speakers including their excellent, beautiful PlayBar.
  • HomePod is a day late and many dollars too expensive. It's limited capabilities are a joke compared to Sonos (dumb speaker) or Echo or Google Home (smart speakers). Nope. Epic fail on this one, although I'm certain many true believers will opt to pay nearly $400 US for the privilege of owning a "cutting edge" AirPlay speaker.
  • Umm, Sonos speakers are not cheap or smart. I have a few Sonos speakers. They sound great when they work. They can be very fickle about connecting to my network.
  • Get a Luma. Your network is the problem. I have quite a few Sonos and no connectivity issues.
  • I haven't seen anything that says you can make phone calls or facetime audio calls with this speaker. You would think that would be one of the first features they emphasized. I won't consider getting one unless it can make and receive phone calls.
  • If i'm buying speakers to make a system, I'd easily pick Sonos. Iphone already has Siri. But if you want the best sound, get a wired system and invest in a good receiver. A homepod may be good for rooms where you don't care about 5.1 or just want one speaker. Then again, amazon's or google's offering may fill that role. Once again, Siri is good about timers, alarms, reminders, and iphone stuff. It's getting better with apple music. Internet searches, general questions, and the like, stay away...this is google's strength. Siri will always blow in this regard given what it's hooked into pales against google. Same thing with Apple Maps.
  • Kevinh8053 said: "Umm, Sonos speakers are not cheap or smart. I have a few Sonos speakers. They sound great when they work. They can be very fickle about connecting to my network." Please re-read my comment. I called Sonos a "dumb" speaker, and I never said they were cheap. I did say Echo and Google Home are smart speakers. IMHO, they are a much better value than the HomePod, since they are way cheaper and are more flexible and have more potential since they are not restricted to the Apple ecosystem for providing other services.
  • I understood your comment the first time I read it. Imore called my first attempt to comment "spam" and forced me to edit it. The short story is that I have Sonos speakers and know very well what their capabilities are. I also have both Echos and an Echo dot. I use them to control a smart home and get weather, traffic info, set timers ... They suck for music as the sound quality is just not there. When I look at the price of Sonos and the price of Echo, the Home Pods price is about right. I am assuming the sound quality is about on par with the Sonos Play 3s.
  • This is a good speaker if you don't care about a home theater experience. I can't comment on the sound since i haven't listened to them yet, but there's no way they sound better than a home theater Sonos system. While i wish there were airplay on the Sonos, I care more about being able to listen to music AND have a great home theater experience, both without speaker wires, than a smart speaker when I already have a smartphone to use Siri on.
  • The one thing that is also nice on Sonos compared to the Apple speaker is that they have their own proprietary Wifi network. If you have one speaker hard wired into your network it can act as the hub for all the other speakers, and those speakers act almost like a mesh network. This takes the traffic out of your home Wifi. I never have any problems with connectivity once I set that up. I have speakers outside on a 3 acre lot and they work great and sync up nicely with my in-house Sonos setup. My Playbar currently is the acting hub for my Sonos network. Another cool thing I will point out about Sonos is that I am able to mix and match services in my Sonos playlists. As an example I have some local files in a playlist with Spotify songs and Apple Music songs. Lastly, and this is not the greatest thing in the world, I can start and stop play using Alexa through Smartthings ("Alexa, turn off Living Room Sonos"). It's not perfect by any means and typically I only use it to stop play. You can't choose what to play or skip songs. That said, I believe Sonos is working hard on making a skill for Alexa and hopefully will have that working by the end of the year. You can mount most of their speakers on a wall too. I don't see any mounting options for the Apple speaker. The quality of the build of the Sonos speaker is top notch. They are very solid and built to last a long time. What ever materials they use are not cheap plastic parts. Customer support is also top notch from my one time I contacted them. The Apple speaker looks impressive and I'm glad they came out with it. I like that there is more competition in the market. Current setup: 1 Playbar
    5 Play1s
  • I will just put this simply like this...if anyone here has been in a house where there's a playbar and 2 play1s connected together...or have a set of play1, 3 or 5s setup as stereo pairs from Sonos, they will quickly realize this debate is pointless...there isn't anything in the market like Sonos. As far as they being expensive, problem I think the consumer base have is realizing the value they are receiving for the prices they see listed. You can not compare the price of an Echo or bluetooth speaker to Sonos, that's comparing a low end Kia vehicle to a Mercedes...the quality you get is different therefore the price is different and when you look at the class of sound you get and the services that can stream from a Sonos speaker, not to mention the technical aspects (pairing speakers on the fly, endless number of music services, extending your wireless using a bridge or even how the speakers mesh which saves your bandwidth, bridging existing analog systems and bringing them into the Sonos ecosystem etc), the Sonos speakers are actually cheap if you compare to high end speakers delivering similar sound without even a quarter of the features. The last thing I would ever want to do is drop 400 dollars on a single speaker then next year I want to extend it to also work with my home theater system and I can't...with Sonos if you had a speaker or an amp from 10 years ago, it's still easy to add to it, bring in new Sonos or even bring analog...it's just an amazing experience.
  • both are a pretty firm pass for me. I'll give it time and see if more affordable options from apple arise; by that i mean far far far cheaper, so can't say I'm holding my breath.
  • For the $700 of two homepods I'd opt for a used pair of Sonos Play 1's and sub from eBay. I have 2 Sonos 5.1 setups, one with Play 3's and one with Play 1's, and several Play 5's. The component combinations are astounding, and the soundstage is fantastic, and getting better all the time.
  • This article needs an update. Sonos just launched the sonos one with Alexa built right in.
  • When Apple TV first came out it was pretty limited on channels as I recall. Then their channels grew as demands to expand increased, and competition intensified with more affordable TV hub options. I think the question isn't IF Apple will include Spotify and others to work with Siri over HomePod but WHEN. Apple knows that it'll be impossible to make the entire music world revolve around them. Even Sonos says they plan to build their own "smart" speaker. They just don't have the software engineering muscle to make AI their jam, yet. When that happens though, Apple will likely respond.