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HOME / Audio / Harman Kardon Invoke vs Sonos One Smart Speaker
Harman Kardon Invoke vs Sonos One Smart Speaker
Comparison of two premium smart speakers featuring Microsoft Cortana & Amazon Alexa
If you aren’t familiar with the smart speaker category, here’s a little crash course. Amazon essentially created the entire category with their original Echo device. Since then, all the major speaker companies want in on the action, Harman Kardon and Sonos included. As such, Harman Kardon has teamed up with Microsoft and added Cortana into it’s latest speaker. Sonos, on the other hand, went with Amazon. So, as much as this is a comparison of Harman Kardon and Sonos, it’s a comparison of Cortana and Alexa.
But what’s the big deal? What will you do with a smart speaker? Well, firstly, you’ll listen to music. That’s by far the most popular request of smart speakers. And that’s why both Harman Kardon and Sonos focused so heavily on creating a speaker with premium audio.
Further, you might control your various smart home products, including cameras, thermostats, lights, and more. This is definitely a distant second place in terms of what you’ll do with the speakers, but you have the option with both. You might also ask about the weather and traffic conditions as well as start/stop timers, create reminders, and inquire about your schedule.
With all of that in mind, how is the Invoke different from the Sonos One and where do we give it the edge? I’ll warn you that it’s not on price since both are $200 at retail. For comparison, the Amazon Echo and Echo Plus are $100 and $150, respectively.
Harman Invoke vs Sonos One – Where does the Invoke excel?
While I won’t focus too much on design, the Invoke clearly looks great, as does the Sonos One. The Invoke has a conical tapered design that looks refined and elegant. And the internal audio components make this thing sounds great (more on that below). It has a touch capacitive sensor on top and a dial that allows you to control the volume level. Sonos has touch buttons on the top, which work fine, but we do prefer the dial of the Invoke. Here’s the official video for the Invoke. You can see that it makes a big deal of the design and speaker quality.
As far as objective advantages with the Invoke, it supports voice calling inside the US, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You can call phone and Skype contacts as well as just ask Cortana to dial certain numbers. The system works great and as of this post, Sonos does not have a voice calling feature.
On top of that, you can use the Invoke as a Bluetooth speaker if you or someone else would like to manually control your music. With Sonos, while you can connect it to other Sonos speakers, it’s not a Bluetooth speaker itself. The flipside of this is that the Invoke does not pair with other speakers via AUX or Bluetooth nor does it support multi-room listening, so that’s something to keep in mind.
Beyond those two things, the Sonos One really is ahead of the Invoke is most areas.
Where does the Sonos One best the Harman Kardon Invoke?
Let’s start with the basics. Since the Sonos One uses Alexa, there are a lot of features you get right off the bat with Amazon. But even beyond that, Sonos will soon incorporate Google Assistant as well as support Apple AirPlay 2. That means you’ll have your pick between Alexa and Google Assistant for voice services.
You’ll have more choices with Sonos and you’ll get the two major players in voice search, as opposed to Microsoft, which has much less experience in smart speakers. As such, we’ve found that Alexa is typically more accurate than Cortana when responding to voice commands. Occasionally, we’d have Cortana start a podcast when I asked for a music genre. There’s just little stuff that Alexa has already ironed out.
Also, since audio quality is of major importance when you’re purchasing a smart speaker, the Sonos One sounds better overall. It’s more clear with better range and you can even adjust the bass and treble from within the Sonos app. The Invoke sounds great as well—definitely a cut above many other speakers—but since you’re forcing me to choose a winner, I’d go Sonos in the audio department. With that said, one thing really appreciate with Invoke is that it has 360 degrees of sound whereas Sonos only has front-facing speakers.
Sonos also supports multi-room listening and can be paired up with other Sonos speakers, which is pretty great if you’re thinking about getting (or already have) a Play:1 Speaker, for example. The Sonos One also works with Play:3, Play:5, PlayBase, PlayBar, and Sub Woofer.
Sonos also has an ethernet port, which allows you to use wired internet for the best possible streaming quality. They even have something called Sonos Boost, which basically creates a secondary network for your other Sonos speakers to use so they’re on separate networks from your other Wi-Fi devices. This definitely will come in handy for when you have multiple Sonos speakers and do a lot of streaming music.
Compatible speakers with the Sonos One.
And speaking of streaming, Invoke works with Spotify, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn with Pandora coming soon. Sonos works with those four (Spotify voice coming in late 2017) as well as Sirius XM, and Amazon Music. With both speakers you can play music via voice search (i.e. Alexa or Cortana) and control the music playback from your phone. So you can actually view the your current music selection in their respective apps, which is pretty nifty.
UPDATE: Sonos One now supports Spotify over voice search – November 21, 2017.
Even more, within the Sonos app, you can opt to listen to content via Deezer, Napster, Slacker Radio, Stitcher, Audiobooks.com, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, Tidal, and dozens of other services. They aren’t supported through Alexa, but you can select them through the Sonos app. Would love to have Alexa support, but at least you have the option to use these services if you want. Having said that, since you can use the Invoke as a Bluetooth speaker, you can pretty much do the exact same thing, so it’s not really a reason to get the Sonos One.
One curious omission for Sonos is Audible. There’s a lot of folks that want to listen to their Audible audiobooks but there’s really no way to do that on the speakers as is. And since you cannot use it as a Bluetooth speaker, you can’t even beam your Audible audiobooks from your phone to the Speaker. With the Invoke, at least you can use the speaker as your Bluetooth speaker.
UPDATE March 2018: Sonos now works with Audible!
In terms of smart capabilities, one big feature that the Invoke lacks in the ability to shop via voice (at least as of the time I’m posting this). With the Sonos One you can shop via Alexa and purchase items on Amazon. As example, if you run out of batteries, you can request that Alexa add AAA batteries to your cart. It’s not a huge deal to be able to shop via Alexa, but it’s another reason that the One gets the overall win in our eyes.
Because of Alexa, Sonos also works with many more smart home devices than does the Invoke, although the Invoke supports the following brands currently.
And these brands are supposedly coming soon, alongside IFTTT:
– Johnson Controls
– Iris by Lowe’s
Compare that to the hundreds of devices that are Alexa-enabled and you get the picture that if you want to outfit a smart home, Sonos is a better bet right now than the Invoke. Having said that, you’ll notice that the Invoke works with SmartThings and Wink (so does Alexa), which aggregates a bunch of devices, giving you more smart home coverage than it looks like from the list.
Plus, the Invoke does cover the most popular smart home categories in thermostats (Nest, Ecobee, and Honeywell), lighting (Philips Hue, TP-Link, and Insteon), cameras (Nest and TP-Link), and switches/plugs (iDevices, Insteon, and TP-Link). And again, if you have a device that works with SmartThings or Wink, you’ll get access to even more brands. So, Alexa is way ahead of Cortana in the smart home game, but it still covers the basics to where you won’t miss all that much with the Invoke.
Sonos One vs Harman Kardon Invoke – Final Thoughts
For us, Sonos has too many pro’s and too few con’s. The Invoke is a heck of a speaker as well, but we’re still in the early days of smart speakers for Microsoft. Right now, the Sonos One has nearly everything in its corner. It’s hard to recommend the Invoke over it, considering they both have an MSRP of $200.