back to article We turn Sonos PLAY:5 up to 11

Wi-Fi streaming speaker supplier Sonos has rejigged its high-end PLAY:5 devices to provide what it describes as a dramatically better listening experience to customers accustomed to its PLAY:1 and PLAY:3 products. SONOS_PLay_5 and_3 Sonos PLAY:5 (black) and PLAY:3 (white) Sonos speakers can have internet radio stations …

  1. Efros

    What happened to the HiFi

    Used to be the thinking was the best way to improve the sound was to improve the source first and speakers last. At $1000 a pair these things had better be making my tea and toast in the morning! Among other things!

    1. InsaneGeek

      Re: What happened to the HiFi

      When was that ever the case? Everything I've ever seen is s.be your money for your speakers and spend as much there. Your amps, etc are important but secondary to the speakers.

      1. Efros

        Re: What happened to the HiFi

        Back in the 70s the logic was the other way around, invest in a decent preamp and amp and speakers in that order.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What happened to the HiFi

        So I've had a lovely pair of speakers powered by a 20 year old amp, on the exact premise that *surely* the most important investment is the last step of the chain, the speakers. When the amp started failing, I bought myself a new, considerably more expensive amp. It made me realise that a good pair of speakers with a cheap/old/tired amp, *or* a cheap/old/tired amp with expensive speakers is effectively the same problem. Every part of the chain is as important as the other.

        Now I have a Raspberry Pi with optical out into a £500 amplifier, feeding a £250 pair of speakers. I guarantee that the sound shits all over anything Sonos put out in a similar price range and the setup with the Pi gives me considerably more flexibility with regards to how I want to use it. I couldn't be happier, although it still makes me giggle that, given the expense of the rest of the system, my primary sound source only cost about 40 quid!

        1. Efros

          Re: What happened to the HiFi

          Pretty much a digital source is a digital source, analogue sources required a little more tweaking to get the best out of them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: What happened to the HiFi

            Exactly. These things are amplifier and speakers combined, so they basically are the HiFi.

        2. Little Mouse

          Re: What happened to the HiFi

          Re: "Every part of the chain is as important as the other"

          Which is why some of us will never benefit from hi-end audio tech.

          I can hear the difference between, for ecample, DAB & CD sources OK, there's nothing "wrong" with my hearing as such, but I'm buggered if I can hear any difference in quality when comparing mid-range & high-end equipment.

      3. Timbo 1

        Re: What happened to the HiFi

        It's the room that's the most important component.

        Amazing the number of people that spend a shedload on music equipment, but do bugger all about the room themselves. I've heard vastly inferior components wipe the floor with high end systems because the owner has invested a bit of money and time looking into room acoustics and what they can do to improve them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What happened to the HiFi

          Sonos are about to release something for the room acoustics I hear. :)

  2. gregkelly1985

    Stereo?

    Would have preferred to have the review based on one unit as can't imagine a lot of people are going to spend a $1k on 2, or certainly not straight away.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "The stereo separation is great"

      Since they are two completely separate speakers and amps, I would certainly hope so.

      But to get the full stereo separation effect perhaps they should be individually wired back to your mains distribution board with linear-crystal oxygen-free copper?

      Also, you might want to get your power company to check was phase you are on. Personally I find the red phase sounds much warmer than the blue phase.

  3. TinTinTeroo

    Or...........

    You could buy a second user Squeezebox Classic off eBay and then spend the $900 you have left over on some decent active speakers.

    Back in your box emperor with no clothes!

    I thank you!

  4. ChaoticMike

    Re: Or.........

    Upvote for mentioning the mighty Squeezebox ecosystem - which once again has defeated the BBC's extraordinary ability to make it hard to listen to their Listen Again content!

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: Or.........

      Fear not! Sonos sent me an email this week, saying that they are working with the Beeb for both Live and Archived Content

  5. arnieL

    Where's the numbers?

    Surely for an IT site the usual parameters should at least get a mention (apart from cost): THD, Frequency response, dynamic range etc. If I wanted to read flowery subjective prose I'd go to 6moons for a laff.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Where's the numbers?

      It seems it's all out the window on that one. While finding real data on hardware is hard, thankfully we can get real world use/stats from computer equipment (FPS/render/write times etc) and listen for your self in the local stores.

      Companies stopped being totally honest when the luminescence/brightness/contrast and refresh ratio wars started. No idea how long they have been at it in the audio space.

  6. Yugguy

    No metal

    Typical.

  7. ntevanza

    Although

    'Sonos speakers can have internet radio stations streamed to them, as well as play music stored on your smartphone, tablet, notebook or PC.'

    Beware - Sonos cannot hook into PC audio directly, other than by <gasp> cables. You have to emulate an internet radio station by serving PC sound over http, which is relatively tedious. This is no good for video, or presumably for gaming - the audio stream arrives too late.

    It will read local files, or SMB shares over the LAN, which is why it can claim to play PC sound.

  8. djack

    Standard Compliance?

    Will this thing fit in and play nicely with existing audio equipment on the network? Thought not.

    IMO, anyone considering this would be far better off going to their local audio shop and getting a reasonable network aware AV receiver and whatever speakers their budget can afford.

    For about the price of one of these things, I ended up with a full 5.1 system with a proper sub that makes film watching audiably pleasurable, uses my existing DLNA media server and control applications and plays Internet radio, Spotify etc.

    I don't see the point in paying more for something that (probably) sounds worse, only works with it's own proprietary stuff and has less features .

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: Standard Compliance?

      IMO, anyone considering this would be far better off going to their local audio shop and getting a reasonable network aware AV receiver and whatever speakers their budget can afford

      This point was made quite recently:

      Pimp your TV (comments)

      About half way down the first page of comments. Personal experience is that once you get past a certain stage, increasing price tends to indicate something increasingly fashionable, rather than something increasingly functional.

      M.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comments seem to miss the point of Sonos

    The software experience, on mobile at least, is exemplary. Sonos are a software company first, and a hardware company second. The price of the box is actually for the software R+D that makes the experience so good.

    If you like messing around with Squeezeboxes and/or DLNA then you are not the target market. Buy one of these for the rest of your family to use, to stop them complaining about how complicated you've made the music system.

    1. Spender

      Re: Comments seem to miss the point of Sonos

      "to stop them complaining about how complicated you've made the music system" ... A common complaint at my house. The Raspberry Pi setup is several degrees too nerdy for my teenage daughters. Ergo, I win!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Comments seem to miss the point of Sonos

      Absolutely right - this is clearly targeted at the typical Apple consumer, not those who maintain their own music libraries or have heard of DLNA. I do think Sonos is very expensive for what it is, but I probably fall into the latter group. There is real value in Sonos' simple interface app that "just works" and can be figured out by anyone, elderly relatives included. Unfortunately of course you get the most benefit from this sort of system when you kit your whole house out using it, so never mind the cost of one or two, you'll want half a dozen of these, plus playbars, and possibly the "Connect" adapter. You also very rarely see discounting - again to maintain the "premium brand" perception I'm sure. It's going to be an expensive Xmas!

    3. TinTinTeroo

      Re: Comments seem to miss the point of Sonos

      The setup of Squeezebox may require more neurones than that of Sonos, but navigating and using it is just as easy.

      1. TheWeenie

        Re: Comments seem to miss the point of Sonos

        The setup of Squeezebox may require more neurones than that of Sonos, but navigating and using it is just as easy.

        I made the move from Squeezebox to Sonos about a year ago when I was lucky enough to win a Play:3 in a competition.

        Squeezeboxes are great. I've got an original Black 'n' Silver and a more modern Logitech branded wireless version too. Both have given me many, many years of reliable service, and both can be thought of as a very high quality digital source - I was using one with my 5:1 AV amp and the other with some decent speakers in the bedroom.

        So why make the move?

        The Apple argument is - unfortunately - a good one (I'm an Android user, so resent the implication!). It got to the point that more and more services started to drop off from the Squeezebox platform - a lot of my favourite Internet radio stations stopped working, and it got to the point that I simply couldn't be bothered to mess around adding them manually. I just wanted something that works.

        I have quite a few friends who would describe themselves as audiophiles and have spent many hours debating the usual arguments. These devices are quite simply not aimed at them. Likewise, they're not aimed at people who want to rig up a Raspberry Pi as a source, or people who want to spend a grand on a piece of turntable uber-engineering. They're aimed at people who value content. People who want to listen to music with a minimum of fuss. And in that sector, they're peerless. The whole thing feels well made and you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into it, from the quality of the box (yes, really - they make fantastic presents!) to the fact that you really can get it up and running in less than five minutes, and as has been previously stated, the UI is fantastic. You're not paying for a burr-brown DAC. You're not needing to worry about the Thiele-Small parameters of the individual drivers, or the sound stage height and width, or the class of amplifier or any of that stuff - if you care about that then there's a huge industry waiting to separate you from your hard-earned. Alternatively, buy one of the PLAY:Connects and use that as a source - in exactly the same way as a Squeezebox. Then you can fill your boots with all of your audiophile goodies.

        If you want something relatively inconspicuous that won't require a dedicated listening room and a second mortgage, then the Sonos range is ideal. It isn't perfect, but it's a damn good product.

        I do miss the old VU meter display though. That was cool.

  10. Steve Todd

    Marantz MCR510?

    For the more techie around here (i.e. most of us) who can wire up a pair of speakers then this little beastie gives you internet radio, AirPlay and a DAC for £200, plus add your own speakers to taste. A complete stereo system for less than the cost of one Sonos Play:5, and you can add a subwoofer if you crave the base notes.

    1. Dominion

      Re: Marantz MCR510?

      I mostly agree with you - I'm sat here listening to mps3s off my NAS through a Sonos Connect hooked up to a Marantz amp and AVI speakers, but the Sonos Play 1s that I have are great for dragging round the house as required. The amp / speaker combo, not quite so...

      Does the Marantz MCR510 have an iPhone / Android / Windows app?

      1. Steve Todd

        Re: Marantz MCR510?

        It is DLNA and AirPlay compatible. You don't need an app on the iPhone, just select it as the target AirPlay device and off it goes. Multi-zone I'll grant you is missing, but you can cast from multiple devices. There is a remote control app for it to allow you to select input source.

    2. kiko

      Re: Marantz MCR510?

      Unfortunately, the Marantz system doesn't give you multiroom audio, (it doesn't even have Zone2 outputs) - skipping one of the best features of Sonos kit.

  11. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    WTF?

    But but but

    How do I gold plate my wifi, make it oxygen free AND directional?

    1. Ralph B

      Re: But but but

      > How do I gold plate my wifi

      Well, it can only be a matter of time before 802.11gold turns up. (Probably after the IEEE next have their favorite meal.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: But but but

      These things are like the Apple Watch of HiFi equipment; expensive enough to make you feel superior to ordinary plebs, yet positively tacky and gimmicky compared to actual high-end products in the sector.

    3. CamberwellCarrot

      Re: But but but

      Much like the internet, you need to run it through a series of tubes, but these will have been bled of oxygen and filled with mysterious gases. Directionality is accomplished by putting the audio source at a higher elevation than the speakers.

  12. JayB

    With respect...

    .. to the audiophiles and Sound Psychos, but these are not for the "Apple Consumer", they're for anyone after a hassle free front end, decent quality audio and discreet (in looks, not volume) and has no time/desire to fuck about with something that should be comparatively simple.

    I use the stuff and it's bloody lovely. It acts as my bedside alarm clock, my "I want to make the walls shake to the dulcet tones of Masters Dickinson & Plant", or my "idle tunes on a lazy day". It's simple, straight forward and picks up any music in my house. PC based music, Internet based etc. etc. HMI is nice and clean, build quality is pretty damn solid and styling is nicely "limited", but above all, it works.

    If you want the Maserati of hi-fis, go buy lots of bits and worry about cabling. If you're after something solid, user friendly, highly respectable sound quality, you can do significantly worse. Denon's system is nice, but not worth the price tag.

    For those who deem them "tacky and gimmicky", I suspect a) you've never actually had a decent play with one and b) you aren’t the target market and c) you probably annoy a lot of people by criticising the crap out of their personal taste on the grounds it's not yours.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: With respect...

      agree with you. I love my hifi (KEF and ARCAM, Onkyo for AV and a OPPO Blueray) but I'm thinking of getting the wife a Play3 (5 is just too much) for her office this Xmas, she can just plug it in and away you go, easy. Strokes for folks

      1. steveking1000

        Re: With respect...

        My experience as well.

        I have an Arcam CD / Funk Firm turntable / Audiolab amplifier and Kef speakers - all very wonderful and I get great pleasure from them. In practice though, I use the Sonos connected to the line input more than either or the other sources and stream most of the music I listen to via my Play Music subscription.

        The user experience is great, and I've discovered a number of new bands this way. Works for me, and you can buy a Play 5 and a Moto G for less than some iPhones, so in my opinion it is not quite as crazy expensive as some commentators think (of course you could also buy half a ton of baked beans for the same price, so YMMV).

      2. TheDataRecoverer

        Re: With respect...

        You may want to listen to a pair of play:1's set up as stereo.....we did some sampling at the local RS, and the play:3 was relatively underwhelming in comparison. We ended up with one play:5 plus a few 1's.

        To us, the real value is the simplicity of use plus the multi-room ("party") grouping capabilities.

        Nice stuff. But expensive, and I agree anyone more keen on wires & tinkering can probably build something that sounds perhaps better for undoubtedly less......

        Horses for courses!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: With respect...

          well its for the wife's office which is pretty small (converted old out house so it's only about 12''*6' so thought of a 3 just for neatness but I have thought of 2 play 1's still undecided

    2. Johndoe132

      Re: With respect...

      Totally agree. I started with a play:3 a couple of years ago and have now grown the collection to a couple of play:3 units and three play:1s, connected through the central bridge. They are all placed in different rooms throughout the house which means we get that seamless room-to-room listening experience with very good quality audio (I'm sure it's not the best, but way good enough for me).

      Maybe later in life I will invest in a high end, single room audio set-up with a lazy boy placed in the sweet spot, but for now with two young kids running about the place and never stopping in one place for very long having the music playing through the house is far more valuable. That and the Spotify hookup makes this a great system, especially for parties when you can very quickly reposition the speakers for a thumping set up. Even the missus can work it ;-)

    3. kiko

      Re: With respect...

      Bingo. What Sonos also gives you is synced multi room audio, this is great for parties, and indeed for wandering from room to room listening to the same audio source.

      The Sonos system is not without its faults (dealing with podcasts is a glaring weakspot, and on the hardware front, a 12V trigger and ability to deal with hi res FLAC would be nice), but it does feel like the criticisms of Sonos kit come from people who haven't used them, or who live in a single room.

      1. ChaoticMike

        Re: With respect...

        (Cough) Squeezebox...

  13. D@v3

    2 things

    "line-in port on the back of the unit for plugging in headphones" - I generally find that when I plug my headphones into a line in, they don't work too well.

    also, a grand for a pair of "speakers that are not high-end audiophile quality" seems pretty damn expensive to me.

  14. BlackBolt
    Go

    Its Consumer kit....

    I agree with the latter half of the sentiment on here, the Sonos range is specifically consumer kit, aimed at making distributed home audio an easy task. I've found a great balance between high end NAS solutions and Sonos management software, so you can combine your techie tendencies but protect your family from the nerdiness and the complexity.

    In terms of usage they are super easy and integrate incredibly well. But as others have said, you can't tinker with them, there aren't many options and if you want to turn audio into a 'hobby' then these aren't for you. You just plug them in and walk away (super easy!)

    So 'context' is a good thing. I'm more interested in a side by side with the older Play5 model. Whats the difference? This was completely missing from this review.

  15. Nesjo

    Best of both worlds

    Buying Sonos isn't like selling your soul. You can keep your turntable and your pre-amp - the question is more a case of whether or not you'll still use them.

    Audiophiles cover your ears, my Sonos is connected to a decent amp and some decent floor standing speakers (complete with optional spikes, for people who have carpets) via a Sonos bridge. Audio streams are always uncompressed, playing MP3 music at 320kbps from a NAS device. I've tried lossless and cannot hear the difference.

    The key thing - Sonos devices are incredibly easy to use. Since we took the plunge, we've stopped using EVERYTHING else. Anyone want a second-hand Marantz CD player? I give you good price.

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