Google Assistant's coming to Sonos speakers in 2019: We tried it out at CES

Google has confirmed that the Sonos One and Beam speakers will support the company's Assistant this year. We got a chance to try it out.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
2 min read
Sonos Beam

The Sonos Beam will add Google Assistant capability in 2019.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The good news: Sonos' smart speakers will add support for  Google Assistant in 2019, delivering on a promise the company made when the speaker launched more than a year ago. 

The bad news: While the Sonos speakers also have  Alexa  on board, you can't have both Amazon's and Google's voice assistants running concurrently on the same speaker (yet). That was one of the things I learned when I got to take the Google Assistant for a spin on the Sonos at CES 2019 here in Las Vegas.

Sonos says that seven streaming services will be active at launch, but that the goal is that Google Assistant will control every one of the more than 100 services that Sonos supports. The company demonstrated Pandora and Google Play Music at the demo, but was hesitant to list the others.

Sonos has confirmed to CNET that you will not be able to toggle on the fly between Alexa and Google Assistant. Instead you'll have to choose one or the other during setup. You can, however, have both assistants in one whole-home system and make them interoperable. That is, you'll be able to use Google Assistant to control Sonos speakers configured with Alexa, and nonsmart Sonos speakers, with a future update.

Watch this: Sonos One smart speaker offers Alexa voice control onboard

In addition, the implementation of Google Assistant does not make the Sonos a native Chromecast built-in speaker. Instead it operates in a similar way to other multiroom systems such as MusicCast or Play-Fi in that Assistant issues basic commands which the system translates.

Sonos demonstrated using Google Assistant on both a Sonos Beam and a Sonos One speaker and the representative was able to ask for a song and adjust the volume. In addition the Beam was connected to a TV with a Chromecast and using Google Assistant on the Beam he was able to request a movie and play it back through the speaker.  

Antoine Leblond, Sonos' vice president of software, told CNET that there were technical challenges involved with enabling on-the-fly toggling of assistants, in addition to privacy concerns. He said, however, that the rolling beta would test whether customers expected simultaneous assistants.

Sonos is currently rolling out a beta program to users, but Leblond wasn't able to suggest when the update would be available to all users. Both Sonos and Google, however, have committed to a more general "2019."

Sonos isn't the only company that will enable a choice of assistants in the one speaker: Klipsch's The Three, for example, promises a similar update in the coming months.

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