HomePod on a Budget: Sonos One vs Airport Express + Speaker

Discussion in 'HomeKit, HomePod, CarPlay, Home & Auto Technology' started by DJinTX, Feb 1, 2018.

  1. DJinTX, Feb 1, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2018

    DJinTX macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    If I had $350 burning a hole in my pocket I would likely grab a HomePod, but we are just about to get a new 4K TV and so I can't justify the luxury price right now. With that said, I am on the hunt for an alternative that offers really good room-filling (or close to it) sound on a budget.
    Here are the options:

    1. I could grab a Sonos One and be done with it, but would prefer to spend less. I know it is said to have good sound quality, but my concern is how much sound it can put out into the room and how full it sounds.

    2. I remembered the other day I have an AirPort Express in the closet collecting dust that I could connect to a powered speaker to turn it into an AirPlay speaker. The problem with this is I haven't been able to find a good speaker option to pair with it, despite my marathon googling.

    I would like to spend around $100. This will be in my den/kitchen (open floorplan so large space, 14 x 40). Surely there are some good standalone speakers out there for my Franken-HomePod that would be better than the Sonos One.

    I appreciate any advice.

  2. rdy0329 macrumors 6502

    Mar 20, 2012
    If you spend $50 more, you can get a SONOS Play:1 on Amazon. Same tech as SONOS ONE but without the Alexa voice control. on sale at $149.

    If you have an existing echo/dot you can use that to control the Play:1
  3. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    I'm not against Sonos, which is why I list it as an option in my post. But I am trying to go a less expensive route while getting better audio quality. If I go with Sonos it has the wireless and/or other smart components baked in, which you are paying a premium for. If I can get the wireless from my Airport express, and go with a dumb speaker, it could come in at a lower price and still possibly provide better sound output as it isn't limited to Sonos' small enclosure. Sonos does have a good reputation and has become a boutique brand, and so I view their products as a bit overpriced due to this. If I felt that the Sonos One delivered as much high quality sound as the HomePod, I would likely grab one, but I can't see how this would be possible. The One has one tweeter and one woofer, whereas HomePod has a woofer and 7 tweeters along with multiple custom amps and beamforming capabilities. I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem even close. So from here, I am looking for a good powered dumb speaker to pair with my airport express.
  4. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Seems like a lot of trouble just to get a speaker going. Why not get an Echo or google home?

    I agree the 350 is a bit excessive, though I'd love to buy the HomePod myself, I just can't justify the price
  5. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    Which part is a lot of work? Setting up a speaker to work via airplay over airport express? Or actually doing to legwork to find the right speaker? Setup would be simple. It is locating the right speaker performance/price that is proving difficult. Doesn't make it easier that I am picky and am comparing against the HomePod, which appears to be delivering on the great audio promise. As for echo or google home, they are not great audio, which is my primary need/want here. If the HomePod were more like $249, I would totally pull the trigger.
  6. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Getting it all put together, which in my mind includes finding the correct components. You do have one stop shopping solutions, whether we're talking Apple, Amazon, or Sonos
  7. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    True, I could just grab a Sonos One and be done with it, but seems like if I bring my own wireless (airport express), then I don't have to pay for those components or the smart features, thereby bringing my out of pocket cost down, and being able to put more toward the speaker itself. I would expect this to get me a somewhat bigger enclosure than the sonos (still smallish) with bigger drivers than the Sonos, and improving the sound quality/output, and maybe even get closer to homepod quality sound.
  8. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    Perhaps, but in the end, what you looking to do. You're basically creating a speaker that you can airplay too, where as Sonos, Echo, the Homepod, etc are all smart speakers, and while Apple has been overt in stating its priorities of a great speaker first and then an assistant second, you cannot deny that its a smart speaker. There are many other alternatives available, from off the shelf, to homebew if oyu wish to disregard the assistant portion.

    For me, I'm looking at the assistant as the reason to get the HomePod, and then when I see the level of innovation and technology in the HomePod, I'm incredibly impressed. Yeah the price tag is excessive, and up until now, I felt my base Echo unit was good enough, but the HomePod is winnig me over.
  9. MistrSynistr macrumors 65816

    May 15, 2014
    Absolutely get the Libratone Zipp. You can use it with virtually everything, even wireless surround sound for your Apple TV. It's $150 less, or if you get the mini $200 less, many more functions, great reviews.
  10. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    Trust me, you don't have to sell me on the virtues of HomePod, it is the exact product that I would get if I didn't need to be thrifty right now. Since I can't get it, I am hoping to find a lesser alternative. By omitting smart/wireless functions I can save money, and I am fine not having a smart assistant yet. I'm guessing in 9 months I will have some birthday money to blow and may grab a homepod, but until then I want something for music in my den sans smart assistant to save money. If you have some specific off-the-shelf/homebrew suggestions please let me know.

    I'm not a fan of the libratone products. Too sporty looking for my taste and too portable. Looks like a beach party toy. I would want a speaker plugged in for power. Not only this, but if I'm going to spend that much, I may as well get the Sonos One, no?
  11. FilipeTeixeira macrumors regular

    Mar 10, 2013
    Sonos Play:1 or Sonos ONE won't work with your airport express as there isn't any line in option on those devices. I have exactly the same problem and it seems that if you want to use something from Sonos' entry line, you'll have to always use their app to play music.
  12. bopajuice Suspended


    Mar 22, 2016
    Dark side of the moon
    Not sure where you want to place speaker or how portable you want it to be, but to answer your question directly, you could get any decent pair of computer speakers and plug them into the express headphone jack no?
  13. Topfry macrumors regular

    Apr 19, 2011
    I'm not a fan of the libratone products. Too sporty looking for my taste and too portable. Looks like a beach party toy. I would want a speaker plugged in for power. Not only this, but if I'm going to spend that much, I may as well get the Sonos One, no?[/QUOTE]
    Have you considered Tivoli radios like this: https://tivoliaudio.co.uk/pal-bluetooth-am-fm-portable-radio.html
    I had an earlier version for years to go with an old iPod, and the sound quality is very rich. Now Bluetooth.
    Ruark also do various Bluetooth speakers: http://www.ruarkaudio.com/products/mr1-bluetooth-speaker-system
    The point is, that although you may want to follow through with Apple ecosystem products, there are alternative solutions out there which may, additionally, offer more flexibility.
    Having said that, in spite of the price, I intend to check out the HomePod in-Store to hear it for myself.
  14. kave macrumors regular

    Oct 31, 2012
    Get a Sonos Play 1 and be done with it, mix and play music from various sources like Spotify, AppleMusic, local music from a fileshare, radiochannels etc etc.
    Airplay 1 is not a good solution and nothing to grow with currently.
  15. DJinTX thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 15, 2010
    Yes, but looking for something better than a standard computer speaker, also would prefer a single speaker solution.
    --- Post Merged, Feb 9, 2018 ---
    I've actually had a reversal here. I do hate having an airport express that is in a closet not being used, but after reading a ton of HomePod reviews and new user first impressions, I'm just going to hold out for a few months and scrape the money together somehow. Its really what I want, so I'll figure it out and be much happier.

    Thanks for all the input :):apple:
  16. iLog.Genius, Feb 10, 2018
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2018

    iLog.Genius macrumors 601


    Feb 24, 2009
    Toronto, Ontario
    Get a Sonos One and wait for AirPlay 2 support update from Sonos which is all but guaranteed to happen.
  17. steve knight macrumors 68030

    steve knight

    Jan 28, 2009
    well we went to best buy and my wife had money burning. siri works 20 feet away in the store. it does sound good but it would be hard to compare it to a regular speaker because the sound is different. we listed to the google the big one and that was boxy but in stereo.
  18. stfwayne macrumors regular

    Apr 10, 2011

    There is no line in? I was just about to order two Sonos One for $350

    I wanted to avoid using the clunky Sonos app

    I guess until Airplay 2 is released and Sonos updates their speakers (which they have done before and have released a statement saying that at least the Sonos One will get Airplay 2) then you are stuck with their app

    Thanks for letting me know
  19. chiefsilverback macrumors 6502

    Jul 25, 2011
    What you're looking for is an omni-directional active speaker, probably with auto-sensing power control so when it gets a line level signal from the Airport Express it switches out of standby, and that's a very niche, if not non-existent market! I think your closest option might be something like the $150 Vizio 2.1 sound bar, but even then you're talking about a unit with bluetooth built in so you could in theory bypass the Airport Express, and it doesn't have auto-sensing, so you're going to have to power up the sound bar when you want to listen to music.

    Normally in your situation people would look at an amp and bookshelf speakers. I have a couple of the Audio Source AMP100 units connected to Airport Expresses which run to speakers in the house, and they work well, although sometimes it takes a couple of tries to get an AirPlay connection. The amps have auto-sensing, but right now they're listed at $130 on Amazon, and I paid $85 each in the middle of last year.

    Other than that as a couple of other people have said you could get a pair of 2.1 desktop speakers, $100 will get you something with a good amount of power, but again you will have the issue with leaving them turned on all the time.

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18 February 1, 2018