Sonos launches voice assistant, but it won't rival Alexa

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(Image credit: Future)

Sonos has finally unveiled Voice Control, a voice assistant that will allow you to control your Sonos speakers with (you guessed it) your voice.

Voice controls are nothing new on Sonos speakers  – the Sonos One has inbuilt Google Assistant and Alexa controls and your sound system can be paired with external smart speakers to issue them commands. But now Sonos is billing its own Voice Controls the best way to control your sound system with verbal instructions.

Ahead of the announcement TechRadar’s own Matt Bolton had the chance to speak with Sonos’ Product Creation Leader Brandon Holley and learned some details about the new feature.

Sonos is focusing on privacy above all else

One of the first things that Holley admitted to us about the subject is that the new system “is not an Alexa competitor”. Voice Control is instead about give Sonos speaker users a simple and speedy way to control their setup.

That being said, it will feature one major improvement: better privacy. Voice Control won’t pose as much of a privacy risk to users as Holley explains “we’re not sending transcripts of audio to the cloud – it’s all being done locally”.

Holley added that the team’s hope is that this will make Sonos speaker owners more comfortable to use Voice Control. Not only because it’s simple to use but because it’s not sending your recordings off to external Sonos servers.

This follows previous Sonos speakers' footsteps in its concern for your privacy – the Sonos One SL dropped the microphone entirely and shaved $50 off the price for folks who were leery about the potential intrusion on their privacy. 

How does it work?

According to Sonos, all microphone-equipped products dating back to the Sonos One should have the ability to use the assistant after an update.

To get the assistant's attention, all you need to say is 'Hey Sonos' and then ask it to play music from Apple Music, Amazon Music, Deezer or Pandora. Unfortunately Spotify isn't currently on the list of supported services, but that could change at a later date.

While other smart speakers offer a way to tap into the smart home or an ever-expanding knowledge graph, Sonos wants its voice assistant to primarily focus on getting you to your music as fast as it can and allowing you to control that music. One example of a command that the Sonos voice assistant has that other smart speakers lack is that it can move music from one speaker to another or play the song on every speaker in the house with a simple voice command.

We'll need to spend some more time with the platform before we can draw any conclusions, but in a market absolutely bursting with similar-performing Alexa and Google Assistant devices, Sonos will soon have something that no one else has.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.

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