Sonos vs Bose: Comparing the Up and Coming w/ the Legend

“I’m not rich enough to buy cheap things” is a proverb I stick to in life, and this is most true when it comes to speakers. Cheap speakers are just not worth your time or money, trust me! So, which brands first come to mind when I think of high-quality speakers? Bose is one of the first to spring to mind, but a newer brand, Sonos, has also been gaining traction in the new millennium.

While Bose has the experience and its innovative approach, Sonos hit the ground running with its own innovative approach. Both are priced pretty high compared to your run-of-the-mill speakers, but they offer a lot for their price. But how do Sonos vs Bose compare to each other, and which is the best choice for you? Keep reading to find out.

The History of Bose and Sonos

About Sonos

Sonos, founded in 2002, is one of the new kids on the block. Their aim? Simple — to transform home sound systems for the digital age. They pioneered the concept of wirelessly connecting speakers throughout your entire house, not just one room, and doing it with ease via their app. Sonos has been considered a software-focused company since its inception.

It’s the flexibility and functionality of its speaker systems that have cemented Sonos’s place in the high-end speaker range. When they started, you could connect up to 32 speakers to a single Sonos system, whereas now, the number is virtually unlimited. The new Sonos S2 app has brought many new features into play, enhancing their offering even further. 

About Bose

Bose was founded in 1964 by Dr. Amar Bose, a Ph.D. MIT graduate who argued that audio system measurement techniques were not effective and that the best measure of audio quality is the listener’s perception, a study known as psychoacoustics (he wrote papers on this). He donated his controlling share of the Bose company to MIT in 2011.

The Bose company never went public regardless of its huge market share over the years because it placed research over profit, allowing it to concentrate on the sometimes risky furthering of technology instead of making sales. The only condition on which the company was donated to MIT was that it was never sold off.

Sonos vs Bose: Overview and Products

Sonos Overview

Sonos

Since Sonos is not yet old enough to drink, its product list is much shorter than that of Bose. Nevertheless, it does offer a lot, including a great app that allows you to tailor your personal listening experience according to your space and surroundings. Pretty cool if you ask me. Sonos has also partnered with more than 100 companies that offer music services.

The Sonos app and software options are considered some of the best on the market. Sonos is also considered the No.1 brand for multi-room speaker setups. Sonos designs its speakers so that they take up the least space possible in your home and offer the most usability so that any average Joe can set them up easily and use them.

Pros

  • Innovative
  • Great sound quality
  • Usability
  • Great app

Cons

  • Price tag
  • Doesn’t work well with Android

Bose Overview

Bose

I heard a rumor that Bose’s Acoustimass speakers were designed so well in the series 1 model that Bose has not updated the actual drivers since then. As Bose is very protective of its specifics, this is unverifiable, but I’ve visually compared my series 1 AM-5 drivers to both the series 2 and 3, and I must say I don’t see much of a difference, lending worth to the legend.

I tried to verify this with Bose support, but they don’t give out such information and would neither confirm nor deny the legend.

Back to facts, Bose was the first company to produce hi-fi sound reflecting stereo systems, the first noise cancellation headphones in 1979, and a home entertainment system in 2005 that monitored and stored CD listening preferences and played songs according to the listener’s taste. That was a decade before streaming services caught up to the concept.

Their Acoustimass 5 was released back in 1987 and is continuously produced and visually upgraded to this day, currently selling as part of the Lifestyle home entertainment systems. That goes to show that Bose knows how to make a speaker right. It’s also very well known for its headphones among consumers and its professional speaker segment among professionals.

Pros

  • Experienced
  • Innovative
  • Exceptional sound quality
  • A wider range of products

Cons

  • Price tag
  • Not the best app around

Product Offerings

Soundbars

Sonos soundbars currently come in three sizes called Ray, Beam, and Arc. The Ray is the smallest, and the Arc is the largest. You can purchase any of these bundled up with a Sub and/or two One SL speakers or by themselves.

Bose’s soundbar offering is similar. Bose currently has the Bose TV Speaker (the smallest), the Bose Smart Soundbar 300, the 700, and the 900 (the largest). You can purchase a Bose 300 bundle package with a Bose Bass 500 Module (subwoofer) and another one called Bose Premium Home Theater System which comes with a sub and two Bose Surround speakers.

Note that both brands allow you to connect additional speakers to these setups if you want to, but the price increases significantly with every speaker or pair of speakers you add.

Also Read: Bose Soundtouch 300 vs Sonos Playbar

Portable speakers

Sonos Portable Speakers Product lineup
Sonos Portable Speakers Product lineup

Sonos has a smaller offering than Bose when it comes to portable speakers, three models total, to be exact. They are the Roam, the Roam SL, and the Move, all of which can be purchased separately or in bundles. These can be paired with each other and with other Sonos speakers and soundbars to make up a multi-room setup or for use at a great outdoor party.

Bose Portable Smart Speaker
Bose Portable Smart Speaker

Bose currently offers us ten portable speaker models to choose from. The majority are paired via Bluetooth. Using the SimpleSync feature, you can pair them with each other and with other Bose speakers, soundbars, and even Bose headphones. Check out the latest Bose SoundLink models and prices on Amazon.

Also Read: Bose Soundlink Mini 1 vs Mini 2

Multi-Room Speakers

Sonos Wireless Speakers and Home Sound Systems
Sonos Wireless Speakers and Home Sound Systems

Sonos utilizes its portable speakers for multi-room (whole home) setups with the addition of other speakers from their offering, while Bose relies on its Smart Home Speaker line of products to achieve the same. The Sonos app is the real magic behind Sonos’s multi-room configuration, allowing you to easily build your own multi-room setup.

Bose offers great options too, but their apps just don’t cut it, and setting up their systems requires a bit more effort and knowledge than with Sonos.

Also Read: Sonos Play 5 vs Play 3: Which is better?

Car Speaker Systems

Sonos has only just stepped into this segment of the speaker trade by signing a contract with Audi to feature an eight-speaker + subwoofer audio system in the Audi Q4 e-tron, as of 2021.

Bose, on the other hand, has had its feet in the automotive audio industry since 1982. In fact, Bose was the first company to introduce a premium in-car stereo system, helping launch a completely new industry (note the innovation). Bose’s audio systems have been featured in Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Hondas, Porches, Mazdas, Mitsubishis, and many others.

Dr. Amar Bose even earned a spot in the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2007 due to his work on automotive sound systems and (believe it or not) vehicle suspension.

Professional Audio Systems

No self-respecting high-end speaker manufacturer can call themselves so if they don’t have a line of professional products. It’s one thing to have the power to listen to your favorite music at home, and quite another to feel the full force of concert speakers. Both companies have a professional line of products, but they vary greatly.

While Sonos offers speakers for conference rooms or entire office buildings, consisting of their regular portable speakers and some additional speakers to choose from, including in-ceiling models, Bose has been producing professional speaker solutions for twice as long as Sonos has been around.

Bose Professional ShowMatch array loudspeakers
Bose Professional ShowMatch array loudspeakers

Bose systems are the force behind many auditoriums, houses of worship, sports arenas, dance clubs, and live music venues all around the world.

Sonos vs Bose: Features Face to Face

Sound Quality

I subscribe to Dr. Bose’s view that sound is perceived by the listener, so I can’t say that one is definitely better than the other. It would be my opinion alone. I can say that Bose has a huge following of people who say that its audio quality is unsurpassed, especially when compared to Sonos. Nevertheless, Sonos wouldn’t be comparable to Bose if it lacked in sound quality.

Bose has its critics, of course, but they mostly refer to Bose speakers being overpriced, whereas no one says they’re of bad quality. It just wouldn’t be realistic to state this. With Bose, you get a crisp sound in the high and medium tones and very powerful bass (I speak from first-hand experience).

Sonos is not far behind, with many followers stating that they sound fantastic. The same can be said for Sonos as for Bose — they may seem overpriced, but you won’t find fault in their audio playback quality.

Winner: Bose

Also Read: Are Bose speakers worth the money?

Technology & Apps

Both Sonos and Bose boast a huge number of patents on which their products are based, and both companies stem from innovative approaches to the industry of audio equipment. As mentioned, Bose has been investing in research since its inception, often pushing the envelope for the entire industry. However, Bose lacks in its apps, and this is where Sonos really shines.

Sonos S2 App
Sonos S2 App

The current Sonos S2 app is a platform that brings together all of your streaming, voice, and control services (Bose uses several apps to achieve the same results). Sonos is partnered with more than 100 streaming services, all of which are available through the app. Sonos S2 is also the control center of your home entertainment system.

You can use it to set up individual speakers, pair them with others, fine-tune them to their surroundings (room size), group them by room or area to play in sync, customize settings, and much more. All in all, the app is considered one of the best on the market and most easy to use.

Winner: Sonos

Portability

Every Sonos speaker is wireless. Sonos prides itself on this and has built the company around the concept from the beginning. It’s what allowed Sonos to become such an important player in the industry.

While Bose has many portable speakers, not everything Bose produces is easily portable. Home systems, such as the Lifestyle home entertainment systems, are still wired, as are Bose professional products. On the other hand, Bose has a wider range of strictly portable speakers, which are considered the best of the best on the market currently (no surprise there).

Winner: Draw

Connectivity

Until recently, Sonos speakers didn’t support 5GHz Wi-Fi networks, so Bose had the upper hand there. But even now, Sonos only uses 5GHz for communicating between speakers in a 5.1 setup, and any multi-room setup uses its own dedicated 2.4GHz network (called Sonosnet), separate from your regular Wi-Fi. Bose wireless speakers are dual-band and support Bluetooth.

Both Sonos and Bose have integrated options for voice assistants, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri (via AirPlay only for Bose). Sonos, among its many partnerships, offers its users Apple Music natively, something that’s not easily available for Bose users. 

Both Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa work great with Sonos and Bose smart speakers, turning your home audio into personal assistants that can tell you the weather faster than you can glance out of the window.

Your choice of mobile phone can also affect your choice between Sonos vs Bose because Sonos works great with Apple Music and iOS but is not as impressive on Android devices. Also, Siri can only control Bose systems through AirPlay, but it doesn’t have access to playback commands such as play/pause, next, etc., unlike on Sonos systems.

Winner: Draw

Also Read: How to Connect Multiple Bluetooth Speakers to One Device

Setup

It’s generally accepted that Sonos is much easier to set up than Bose, but if you know what you’re doing, both are pretty straightforward. If you’re a newbie, Sonos is the way to go. You can find a setup walkthrough for Sonos systems here and the same for Bose here.

Winner: Sonos

Design

Surely not the dealbreaker when purchasing speakers, but the design does come into play somewhat. Thankfully, both Sonos and Bose offer a very minimalist approach to their design and remind me somewhat of each other. This is, of course, an issue of personal preference so take your time when choosing. You can’t go wrong either way in terms of design.

Winner: Draw

Standout features

Bose Headphones

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700
Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Of the two companies, Sonos has yet to release its first pair of headphones, while Bose has been in the business for almost 45 years. Bose created the first ever noise cancelation headphones in 1979 after the idea struck him during a flight the previous year.

Bose even went through a lawsuit in which it accused Beats of stealing its noise cancelation technology (patent infringement) from Bose almost ten years ago.

Bose Wearables

Bose Audio Sunglasses
Bose Audio Sunglasses

Another segment that Sonos has yet to step foot in, is “wearables.” Specifically, Bose produced AR sunglasses with built-in speakers. How practical this is, in reality, is debatable, but their product ratings were always just above 4 out of 5, and many people were sorry to see them discontinued.

Sonos and IKEA

Sonos Lamp
SYMFONISK: Sonos and IKEA’s Table Lamp Speaker

Sonos has partnered with IKEA to create a few more affordable (it’s IKEA, right?) and unconventional speakers. You can find them here.

Price

I can’t really pinpoint a price difference as some Sonos products are more expensive than Bose products and vice versa. Generally speaking, Sonos is considered higher priced than Bose, but that is not always true. Bose’s top soundbar bundle is priced at roughly $100 more than Sonos’s equivalent, and Sonos’s One SL speaker is priced lower than Bose’s equivalent.

Conclusion

If you ask me, experience trumps innovation any day, especially when the accomplished company gained its experience through many years of innovation. So, when I compare Sonos vs Bose, I have to go with Bose. Maybe that’s because I have the experience so that their slightly more complicated setup process does not daunt me.

If you’re a newbie who likes modern tech and an overwhelming array of features and options, go with Sonos, you won’t regret it! If you’re just into listening to your favorite tracks, or enjoying a movie with enveloping sound that is truly exceptional, go with Bose.

You might struggle to set a Bose system up for the first time, but once you’re done, you’ll never get it wrong again, trust me. And you won’t regret it!

About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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