Updated February, 2017: Added information about who each speaker is aimed towards and updated app screenshots to reflect new looks.
If you’re shopping for a whole-home audio system and you’re deciding between Sonos and Bose this means two things: you really care about premium audio quality and you’re ready to spend some money to get it.
Both systems connect beautifully for multi-room audio and support major audio streaming services. They’re both easy to expand by adding additional speakers as you grow your system. And both have excellent app integration to control your listening experience from your device or computer.
If you’re building your first whole-home music system, you’ll likely want to start with a few standalone speakers and build up from there. Eventually you may want to integrate a Bose or Sonos home theatre setup to your audio system, but you can get started by connecting individual speakers in different rooms of your house.
For the ultimate sonic experience in your home, Bose and Sonos offer similar speakers designed for open-concept spaces to be filled with wave after wave of high-quality audio.
Sonos Play:5 vs. Bose SoundTouch 30
The Sonos Play:5 is the most powerful of the speakers in the Play family. With the largest bouquet of speakers and drivers, the Play:5 pushes your music through six class-D amplifiers, which are designed to give you the purest, loudest audio in the smallest form possible. Three tweeters and three midrange woofers ensure the purest reproduction of vocals and instruments, all delivered with full-bodied bass warmed by the Play:5’s chassis.
Top-side buttons on the Play 5 allow you to control playback on your streaming music. On the back of the speaker you’ll find a 3.5mm input to connect additional audio devices. There is also a rear ethernet port to plug directly into an IEEE port for internet access or to add an AirPort Express, allowing your Sonos speaker to play audio through AirPlay.
The Bose SoundTouch 30 is the top-of-the-line speaker in the SoundTouch lineup. Using Bose Acoustic Waveguide Speaker Technology, audio will travel through a winding path of air tunnels within the speaker’s case to produce full, clear, stereo sound. Two drivers and a high-powered woofer faithfully reproduce the spectrum of frequencies in your favourite songs.
Six preset buttons on the top allow you instant access to internet radio stations you’ve programmed in through the SoundTouch app, even without a connected device. Additional buttons allow you to control playback and volume. On the front of the speaker you’ll find an OLED display providing connectivity status and information about the music you are streaming On the back of the speaker, you’ll find an ethernet port allowing you to add an AirPort Express for AirDrop compatibility or to plug directly into a router or ethernet port if you’re setting up the speaker in a part of your home with weak Wi-Fi. You will also find an auxiliary input on the rear of the SoundTouch 30 to plug in additional audio devices using a 3.5mm patch cable. The SoundTouch 30 also comes with a remote control with a 20-foot range.
Both the Sonos and Bose SoundTouch speakers allow you to send music wirelessly, though they work a little differently.
When you set up your first Sonos speaker, it will use your home’s Wi-Fi to create its own, dedicated wireless network called SonosNet. This wireless system exists outside of your home’s Wi-Fi and is the primary method your Sonos system will use to communicate with other speakers in the system and to stream music. SonosNet will reduce congestion on your home Wi-Fi, and will allow you to easily add additional speakers, making it simple to expand your home audio system.
The Bose SoundTouch system allows you to connect to their speakers through Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Primarily your speaker system will communicate with additional speakers and share music through Wi-Fi; however, it’s nice to have the Bluetooth option if you want to stream something from your phone (like Youtube) and have it come through your Bose system. Previous generations in the SoundTouch lineup supported AirPlay; however speakers in the third generation and on no longer support this feature. This means you can’t stream music directly from your iOS device, you’ll have to go through the SoundTouch app.
The Sonos Controller App and the Bose SoundTouch app have very similar features.
Both let you program and control speakers throughout your home to play music. You can choose to have the same music on multiple speakers, or different music on individual speakers.
With the Bose SoundTouch speakers, you have to use the app if you want to program internet radio stations to the preset buttons on the top of the speaker. When Bose first introduced their SoundTouch lineup, they had to be initially set up by plugging the speakers into a computer, configuring them, and then placing them in your home. Now set up can be completely done through the app.
The Sonos App will allow you to set up and manage new speakers as you expand your system. If you are using an iOS device, you can use Sonos Trueplay (which is built in to the iOS app) and it will use your device’s microphone to calibrate your speakers for optimum performance in whatever room you set up your Sonos. Keep in mind, though, Trueplay is only available on iPhone and iPad.
With the exception of Trueplay, the Sonos and Bose app experience are pretty similar. One important difference between the apps is the integrated services each system supports.
This is where you’ll find a major difference between Sonos and Bose.
Sonos supports significantly more streaming services than the Bose SoundTouch lineup of speakers. Both systems will play existing music on your computer or device one way or another, but the integrated experience between the Sonos Controller and supported music streaming services like Apple music is very slick.
It’s important to know the free versions of services (like spotify, Google Play Music, etc.) will not work with the apps on either systems, so if you’re planning on getting the best experience from your streaming services, you should be prepared to upgrade to the premium versions. A workaround for the Bose system is to stream via Bluetooth from the streaming app of your choice; however, this means you won’t be logged in through the speaker’s controller app, so you may only be able to stream on one speaker at a time.
If you’re planning on managing your streaming music through paid services like Apple Music and Spotify, then the Sonos family of speakers offer the best support.
Which is right for you?
For the streamers: Sonos
Sonos supports the larger number of streaming services, so if you like to stream radio, music, podcasts, whatever, Sonos is the best way to go. The audio quality is impeccable for wireless speakers and would even be considered excellent if they were wired. The ability to connect up to 32 speakers and create separate zones can fill your home with sound, making sure everyone is listening to whatever tickles their fancy.
For the brand loyalists: Bose
Bose has long been one of the top names in audio — and for very good reason. The SoundTouch 30 delivers powerful, warm bass and has wonderful connectivity features, including a great app experience. Go with Bose if you don’t stream a lot of music and like to listen to your own tunes. Sure, Bose offers eight streaming options, but that pales in comparison to Sonos. That being said, if you want Bose, you know you’re gonna go with the SoundTouch 30 because nothing else will do.