New Sonos 2017: Your guide to the next Sonos speaker and Amazon Alexa support

Sonos is working on a new speaker, and it’s probably going to be powered by the Amazon Alexa digital voice assistant. Here’s what you need to know about new Sonos products for 2017, including the next Sonos release date, specs, and possible price.

Anyone who’s considered buying a multi-room speaker system will have heard of Sonos. The US-based tech company is a big fish in the small pond of smart home audio, building high-quality speakers that can be controlled in sync using your smartphone.

But where Sonos has lagged behind is voice control. Unlike the Amazon Echo or Google Home smart speakers, Sonos devices don’t currently offer any digital assistant capabilities.

However, that’s expected to change with a new – and long-rumoured – Sonos speaker, which is tipped to launch later this year.

Credit: Sonos

New Sonos 2017 Specs and Features: What will the next Sonos speaker do?

The big idea is that Sonos will add smart voice control functionality to its next speaker (reportedly codenamed S13), a change that was reflected in a recent update to the company’s privacy policy.

“It’s no secret that we’ve been working on this for some time, and we want to make sure we’re preparing you well in advance of this addition,” reads an official Sonos blog post explaining the policy update. The post describes how the privacy policy has been adjusted to accommodate voice-controlled digital assistants working with Sonos – and even mentions Amazon specifically:

“The most important thing for you to know is that Sonos does not keep recordings of your voice data. It goes to the voice assistant service (for example Amazon) that you’ve activated on your Sonos system.”

It continues: “Because Sonos is a platform that partners with streaming services and other home devices, we do share some data with our partners that is necessary for making the partner service work on Sonos and providing a quality experience.”

Credit: Sonos

The post, penned by Sonos Chief Legal Officer Craig Shelburne, adds: “When information is shared, it will be with a product or service you have requested or authorised. We’ve included this information in past versions, but in the current version we’re much more specific and clear about what information we are collecting and sharing with these partners.”

At present, the only way to get an Amazon Alexa device to work in conjunction with a Sonos is by using a 3.5mm audio cable to connect an Echo device (like the Amazon Echo Dot) to a single Sonos speaker. This routes the audio through the speaker, but voice capture is still handled by the Echo itself.

However, customers have long been requesting the ability to ask Alexa to play music through Sonos speakers, which would prompt audio to begin playing wirelessly over Wi-Fi, rather than through a physical line-in.

The new policy, however, suggests that Sonos will go one step further, and will actually integrate Alexa into the speakers, capturing voice using its own devices:

“Voice control works by your voice enabled Sonos Product ‘listening’ for a specific wake word. Please not that not all Sonos Products are voice enabled,” the policy reads. “You are notified that it is recording by a visual indicator such as a light on the Product.”

Sonos first signalled its interest in voice control way back in March 2016, courtesy of a blog post by then-CEO John MacFarlane.

“We’re fans of what Amazon has done with Alexa and the Echo product line. Voice recognition isn’t new; today it’s nearly ubiquitous with Siri, OK Google, and Cortana. But the Echo found a sweet spot in the home and will impact how we navigate music, weather, and many, many other things as developers bring new ideas and more content to the Alexa platform.”

He continued: “Alexa/Echo is the first product to really showcase the power of voice control in the home. Its popularity with consumers will accelerate innovation across the entire industry. What is novel today will become standard tomorrow. Here again, Sonos is taking the long view in how best to bring voice-enabled music experiences into the home. Voice is a big change for us, so we’ll invest what’s required to bring it to market in a wonderful way.”

“We know the future is one where paid streaming and voice control play significant roles, and we’re committed to running a sustainable, profitable business so that we can fund innovation in these and other areas for decades to come,” MacFarlane added.

But is there any solid proof that such functionality is coming. Well, an FCC filing from Sonos reveals that a new device poised for certification will feature integrated voice control, as spotted by tech blog ZatsNotFunny:

“The EUT is 802.11 a/b/g/n (HT20) Client Device. product model S13 is a high-performance all-in-one wireless smart speaker and part of Sonos’ home sound system. S13 adds integrated voice control functionality with far-field microphones. Moreover, the device will support multiple voice platforms and music services, allowing customers to effortlessly control their music on Sonos.”

What’s interesting is that this filing seems to go beyond the previous working theory that Sonos would be launching a new speaker with Amazon’s Alexa AI built in. Instead, the “multiple voice platforms” bit sounds like it could support other services – perhaps Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or the Google Assistant, for instance?

Unfortunately, Sonos hasn’t confirmed the existence of such a speaker, so take this with a pinch of salt for now.

New Sonos 2017 Release Date: When is the next Sonos out?

The good news is that we have a rough idea of when Sonos will announce its new speaker. At the end of August, Sonos sent out invitations to journalists for a media event in New York City – to be held on October 4, 2017.

It’s highly likely that Sonos will use this occasion to lift the lid on its next speaker, and we’re guessing there’ll be smart voice control involved to boot.

The bad news is that we’ve got no idea exactly when the speaker will go on sale to the public. One of the most recently launched Sonos speakers was the Play:5, which debuted at the end of September 2015, and then went on sale towards the end of November that year.

We’d guess at a similar timeline for whatever Sonos has cooked up for its 2017 launch event, although we can’t say anything for certain at this point.

New Sonos 2017 Price: How much will the next Sonos cost?

We can’t say for certain how much the Sonos will cost until we see it, but there are some details we can share.

For instance, the new speaker will have microphones. To date, only one Sonos speaker has these, and that’s the new Sonos Play:5 – which has two inactive microphones built in. That means the new speaker could share the same (or a similar) price £449 price point.

It’s also worth mentioning that if Sonos has built a new speaker, it will likely want to compete with similar smart home devices. That means we may see a price more aligned with other smart speakers, which cost as follows:

  • Amazon Echo – £149.99
  • Google Home – £129.00
  • Apple HomePod – $349 (expect similar £ pricing)

In any case, the new Sonos speaker will almost certainly cost a fair whack, given the high pricing of other Sonos devices:

We’ll update this article when we have more solid pricing information.

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