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HOME / Audio / Apple HomePod vs Sonos One vs Google Home Max
Before we get into the weeds, let’s run through a quick overview just in case you aren’t 100% familiar with smart speakers. All three of these devices are equipped with a virtual assistant. The HomePod uses Siri, Sonos uses Amazon Alexa (with Google Assistant being added in the future), and the Google Home Max uses Google Assistant. There are a number of tasks that your virtual assistant can complete for you, including playing music, telling you about current weather and traffic conditions, providing news and sports updates, and controlling various smart home products. It’s more complicated than that, but at least you know the basics now. At the end of this section we’ll put a larger list of specs and commands that you might find helpful.
Apple HomePod sounds the best
We’ve had a chance to extensively test dozens of speakers and the HomePod is in fact the best sounding smart speaker on the market today. It sounds incredible with very balanced, deep, rich audio. It handles high and low volumes very well. And it has surprisingly good bass. Here’s a video that we produced that compares the audio quality of the HomePod to other popular speakers, including the Sonos Play 5, Google Home Max, Amazon Echo, and others. Make sure to plug in headphones for the full experience.
Part of the reason the HomePod sounds so good is that it automatically and continuously senses the room around it to adjust its sound settings so that you always get the best listening experience. This is a really complicated system that Apple has devised, but below is a GIF that demonstrates at a high level of how the HomePod senses the room.
HomePod senses the layout of the room to automatically adjust its sound.
You can’t tell that the HomePod is running its spacial awareness system, but it produces some seriously impressive audio. The speaker is also equipped with six microphones, a high-excursion woofer, seven tweeters, and an A8 chip. You will also notice that the HomePod emits 360° of audio, while the other two have only front-facing speakers. That means the HomePod can be placed in the center of a room to project audio out equally, whereas you’ll want to put Sonos and the GHM in a corner or against a wall.
This is sort of a “no duh” section, but it’s worth mentioning. Since Apple created the HomePod and your iPhone (MacBook, iMac, iPad, etc.), they work together brilliantly. The setup process is mindlessly easy (way easier than that of Sonos and Google). You can even control the HomePod with several other Apple products. First off, you set up the speaker using the Home app on your iPhone.
Display lights up when Siri is listening.
You can also beam via AirPlay any song that you’d like to the HomePod using other Apple products. For example, if you’re playing YouTube Music on your MacBook, you can have the HomePod be your audio out device. You can also designate your HomePod to be the audio out device for your Apple TV (as long as you have a 3rd generation or newer Apple TV).
With the HomePod, you can also reply to and have your messages read aloud. However, the HomePod does not currently have voice detection, so, technically, anyone could request to read and reply to your messages, which is somewhat scary. But our point here with the integration is that a reminder, for example, created via the HomePod shows up with iOS. Same for alarms, messages, and so on. You can even use the HomePod as the speakerphone for your phone call. Here’s a demonstration on how that would work.
On-device track management
This is a minor point, but the HomePod and Sonos One provide you more controls on the device. For example, with the Google Home Max you cannot skip a track by pressing a button, but you can with Apple and Sonos.
Controls on HomePod.
Apple HomePod vs Sonos One vs Google Home Max – Comparison Chart
We’ve even seen Sonos bundles that get you two speakers for $350. That’s 2 Sonos One speakers for the price of one HomePod. We don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sonos announced that bundle the same day HomePods became available for orer. And even at full price, you can get two Sonos Ones for the price of one Home Max.
Sonos One works with more smart home devices
Sonos One is equipped with Amazon Alexa while the HomePod and Google Home Max use Siri and Google Assistant, respectively. If you’re really into smart home products (or you think you may be in the future), Alexa is probably the way to go. Amazon works with hundreds of devices and brands in the smart home space. In fact, it’s rare to see a product that works with HomeKit or Google Assistant that doesn’t also work with Alexa.
To be fair, the Google Home Max and HomePod work with quite a few devices across the major categories within the smart home industry as well (lights, switches, thermostats, cameras, etc.), but they mostly stick to the large brands such as Philips Hue, Nest, iHome, and ecobee. Amazon works with most (if not all) the well known brands as well as plenty of obscure, lesser-known brands.
Bottom line: Amazon is still on top in terms of compatibility with smart home products. Google is in second place. Apple is a very distant third place.
Sonos supports more streaming services… kind of
This is a little bit complicated so bear with me. There’s also a chart below that should clear everything up. Over voice search, Sonos works with essentially the same number of streaming services as the Google Home Max. Via Siri, the HomePod only works with Apple sources, including Apple Music and iTunes purchased music. It’s a real shame that Apple doesn’t open up a little.
Google Home Max
iTunes Purchased Music
Beats 1 Live Radio
iCloud Music Library
Other Sources via AirPlay
Google Play Music
Audible (as of March 2018)
Other Sources via Bluetooth, AUX, or Chromecast Audio
50 Other Sources via Sonos App
In any case, using the Sonos app, there are about 50 other sources—including Apple Music—that you can access. You won’t be using Alexa for those, but you can at least access those services and have your Sonos speakers play audio from them. Here’s the comprehensive list of services that integrate into the Sonos One. That way you only need to deal with one app to get ahold of all of your music, radio, podcasts, etc..
Having said all of that, since the HomePod works with AirPlay, you can pretty much beam any track that you’d like to the speaker (from your iOS device). For example, if you’re playing music on SoundCloud, you’d just AirPlay it to the HomePod. It’s not quite as convenient as the situation with Sonos, but there’s a way to make it happen. For Google you’d either Cast it or play it via Bluetooth.
Shop Amazon with Sonos One
As we mentioned above, Sonos One has Alexa and with Alexa comes the ability to shop Amazon. It’s a pretty nifty feature that makes lists obsolete and enables impulse buying. Jeff loves it.
With the Google Home Max, you get a similar function, but you’ll be shopping via Walmart rather than Amazon.
The HomePod doesn’t do online shopping. It thinks you have too many shoes already and believes that shopping on the internet is killing the economy. Just kidding, but the HomePod for real does not support voice shopping… yet.
Other advantages with Amazon Alexa
In addition to working with more smart home products, Alexa has far more “skills” than the other two speakers. What I mean by that is Alexa essentially has an app store within the Alexa app where you can download and try out new games, requests, commands, etc.. You even have more control over your news sources within the Alexa app. This is getting pretty into the weeds, but if you plan to use your smart home device to its fullest, you can just do more with Alexa.
Google Home Max wins on multi-room listening… sort of
Once you’ve experienced multi-room audio, it’s hard to go back. It’s a really neat experience to have the same song playing throughout your house and no matter where you go the audio follows you. Sonos is really the king of multi-room listening. Basically any Sonos speaker (including the One) can be paired together for multi-room listening. Sonos makes it really easy in their app to adjust volume levels, create groups, and control music playback. I have to mention that because Sonos is fantastic for multi-room listening, but Google has a few tricks up their sleeve.
Google Home Max can be set vertically or horizontally.
For example, the Google Home Max will pair with any speaker that has Chromecast Audio built-in, such as the JBL Link 300 or any speaker with a Chromecast Audio device [see at Walmart] plugged in. It’s really that second point that makes the GHM interesting. You can take any speaker with an AUX-in port and turn it into a Wi-Fi speaker that can be synced up with the GHM. The HomePod will only work with another HomePod speaker. Sonos only works with other Sonos speakers.
All three of these are Wi-Fi speakers, which we like because that means uninterrupted music streaming and better streaming quality versus Bluetooth. The Google Home Max, though, has three options for playing music: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and an AUX-in port. Having non-Wi-Fi options is nice if you have guests over or if your Wi-Fi is down for some reason.
UPDATE: You can now pair Bluetooth speakers to Google Home speakers.
Ports on Google Home Max
The HomePod and Sonos One are not Bluetooth speakers, nor do they have an AUX-in port. With that said, the HomePod supports AirPlay, so that essentially replaces the need for Bluetooth for Apple users and AirPlay 2 is supposedly coming to the Sonos One (whenever AirPlay 2 is released).