A Sonos review for the average music bum – NOT an expert review

mrrodge

Active Member
Morning,


Perhaps you all know this already, but we’ve just been bitten by Sonos marketing.


Just had an experience with Sonos for the first time and thought it might be a good idea to share. We’re music lovers (not ‘audiophiles’ by any means, but we like our music).


First, a bit of background. We (my dad and I) generally tend to listen to 70s glam rock/90s indie and American pop punk, among a variety of other genres. We like to listen loud and love a good sound. I’m an avid Spotify fan and use the 320kbit (ogg/mp3? Can’t remember) streamed stuff along with Napster (now Rhapsody) tracks at 192kbit/s WMA. On our systems we can’t tell a difference between the two formats. We also have ripped CD collections (generally WMA lossless or FLAC) and my dad likes to use his turntable. We both generally use the PC for playback.


Firstly, my setup (newer than my dad’s, though still approx. ten years old). I have a PC with a Creative X-Fi Elite Pro, though it’s wasted at the minute as I’m only using an optical out to my receiver, which is a Yamaha RX-V657, currently driving two Axiom M3Ti speakers (I have more for rears but don’t have the room for them at the house I’m in at the minute so it’s now a two-speaker, music-only setup. I have an Axiom EP-350 subwoofer as well, however that’s crap. I have the receiver’s crossover set at 70hz but the auto switching on the sub isn’t sensitive enough, it rarely cuts in unless the music is loud enough to rip your face off, unless I’m putting out a real LFE channel. Use the pure direct mode on the received and it won’t cut in at all, for obvious reasons. With the two-speaker setup, I have never had the receiver at maximum volume as it’s plenty loud enough. I’ve gone probably to about 85% for incredibly short periods, by which point the radiators and floor boards upstairs are rattling beyond belief and it’s not comfortable being in the room.


Next, my dad’s setup. He’s using an analogue out from a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 4 Pro to a VERY old (bought 1985 ish, though it cost a grand then, so it was probably VERY good for its day, and I think it sounded as good as mine with no trouble whatsoever) Pioneer separates system. It has a CD player which doesn’t work any more, two tape decks, a radio tuner and a turntable, which has also had its days. It outputs 50w per channel at 6ohms, the speakers handle 70w and are square bookshelf type with square, metal drivers. My dad had no intention of changing this system, but the CD and turntable were barely working and to add insult to injury he just built his own house and the speakers perished whilst in storage, almost as though the cold had eaten the rubber away. This made for interesting sound to say the least, so it was time to get something new.


He’s settled on an Audio Technica DJ turntable (It needed to have a built in preamp to keep costs down, and also needed to be able to play 78s). I won’t go into the turntable as it’s mostly irrelevant here.


I was enlisted to try and find something new which also went with the new house. Space for amps and various boxes is limited in the new place, and my mum wasn’t going to be happy with ‘boxes everywhere’. All it needed to do was play music from online services and the local music collection on the network. The Sonos Play:5’s measured in at roughly the same size as the average bookshelf and the reviews all over the internet said that for the size, they sounded remarkable. We trawled the internet and was unable to find anything that suggested the Play:5 speakers wouldn’t cope with what we threw at them. Quotes like ‘never any distortion, at any volume’ spring to mind. There’s also heaps of people on the Sonos forum claiming to be professionals using the same speakers to ‘fill entire cathedrals’ or ‘blow heads off in community halls’. It sounded too good to be true, but for the size and convenience of the system we were willing to take a punt.


We ordered my dad a pair of Play:5s to use as a stereo pair. They came a few days later and we set them up without issue, all very impressive, quick and efficient. iPad app worked great with hardly any lag through my dad’s 10 year old router. Sound-wise, also pretty impressive. But ‘mind-blowing’?! No. Not in the slightest. The sound was very clear. We’ll give it that. The bass was loud, if a little too loud, but wasn’t low. Maybe this was to be expected given the 5 is made up of 5 small (ish) drivers. Anyway, it was liveable. We’ll sort that out later. Now to whack it up a bit. We found that listening to Del Amitri’s This Side of the Morning (WMA at 192kbit/s on the local PC) was very pleasurable, but not loud enough. We pushed the slider to approx. 70%, could still hold a conversation comfortably without raising our voices at 2.5m away from each speaker, in the sweet spot. 80%? A bit louder, some flattening, ‘tinny’ sound. Stuff it, this isn’t loud enough. 100%. Horrible sound. No distortion, granted. But it was like a very, very loud iPhone. Tinny, flat, all treble & lacking in bass, midrange almost totally gone. Fair enough, speakers that sound full and deep in my house sound lousy and tinny in my dad’s bigger, tiled, echoey room. But from what we remembered my system didn’t when we tried it in the same place, nor did his old one, even with the broken speakers (when you listened past the hopeless vibration from the broken drivers). It was impractical to drag my entire setup through to try them alongside the Sonos in the same environment, so the very portable Sonos was boxed up and taken through to my house, to listen alongside my Yammy receiver and M3 speakers. The sub was switched off for comparison and the Sonos was placed alongside my speakers. I didn’t change the crossover setting on the receiver, 70hz was probably lower than the Sonos would ever get to, so we didn’t make it a competition of which one would go lower. We tried the same song on both systems. At a normal, background-music type volume, The Sonos was far more impressive in my living room. So much so that the music had more clarity in the midrange than it did on my system (smaller drivers, anyone?). The tinny sound had all but gone and the music sounded wonderful. Whack it up to 100% and the music flattened, midrange disappearing and exaggerated, somewhat false bass appearing with an emphasis on the trebles again. Fair enough, it did get to a slightly higher volume in my room before the flattening became noticeable. But it STILL wasn’t loud enough! This is pathetic! What about the shaking walls on the churches and community halls?! It wasn’t the volume of the source file, either. Time to whack mine up. Sonos = totally and utterly defeated by a system that cost £200 less, a decade ago. Probably would have been licked by a more expensive system from three decades ago as well. Fair enough, I don’t have built-in Spotify or network access but the new version of my receiver is available for £250 with network capability, smartphone apps and built in Spotify and Airplay. No fantastic multiroom, though.


For me as well, at a price of £700 for two speakers the total lack of a proper EQ is scandalous. It’s beyond a joke, quite frankly. The Sonos is going back under the 60 day refund. My dad has now ordered a pair of Monitor Audio BX5’s (fortunately they look nice enough for my mum to allow them in the house) and a Yamaha RX-V675, for the same outlay as the two Play:5s. Other than the multiroom support, the capability is the same with what we hope will be a far superior sound. Granted we could get the multiroom support by using Sonos:Connect devices but for what they do, those look like a total rip-off. Maybe we’ll wait for the Beep.


What’s getting me is that I’m well aware my stereo is nothing special, and I’m no audiophile. The convenience and wireless ability of Sonos is brilliant, unless you don’t have a power outlet where you want the speakers to go, in which case you’ll find yourself running wires anyway. Other than that, it’s really nothing it’s hyped up to be. If you like music, save a few quid and get AV receivers and use Airplay or similar for multiroom.


The next time someone tells me a system with tiny speakers such as a Bose Acoustimass or some little Kefs will outperform some bookshelf separates I’ll proceed to smack my head against the nearest wall.
 
Last edited:

sarll

Active Member
Enjoyable read. I'm moving soon and am in need of some sound for a 'living area' separate to the main lounge.

I was toying with the idea of a playbar to save space, but I think I will end up with a separate stereo amp / book shelf speakers and a sonos connect.

Just need some sound for my tv and spotify etc
 

Silverblack

Well-known Member
I think the sonos playbar with the subwoofer sounds pretty full, with deep bass and good clarity of sound from the playbar.

Unfortunately i can't anything for the smaller speakers.
 

mrrodge

Active Member
Hasn't gone back yet, as it was my dad who bought the Sonos he's away for work, but my mum will be ringing for the RMA at some point. All in all I think it was totally inadequate, a good (very clear) sound at a background music sort of level but if you want to listen at any sort of loud it just doesn't cut the mustard. I wouldn't trust any of the 'for the size, it sounds amazing' bumph on the net because the Play:5s simply don't. They're bookshelf sized, so for the price and rave reviews I'd expect them to sound bookshelf. Unfortunately they sound more iPod dock speaker.

As it flattens out at the higher volume levels it makes me think the volume restriction is there for a reason.

Also, the lack of EQ is absolutely scandalous in my book.

Can't comment on the sub or playbar, but they look drastically over priced for what they are.

We were very disappointed, but I do have to admit the ease of setting it all up and the way the iPad app works is brilliant. That's something which in all honesty I don't expect to be implemented nearly as well on the new Yammy.
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
The only real advantage of using Sonos is the multi-room ability. Other than that, there is always something better for the price. I use the multi-room quite a bit, so I have invested quite heavily and have a pair of Play:5s in stereo in one room, a pair of Play:3s in another and 2 Connects on my main systems.

There is no way that the Play units will ever rival Hifi separates of a similar price. As you say, £700 for 2 Play:5s would buy you quite a good amp/speakers combo which you could plug in iPod/laptop into and blow the Sonos out of the water.

The problem is that most people don't want a traditional amp and speakers and all the associated wiring hanging around, and have probably not heard anything better than the Sonos so they are happy to live with it. I must admit, I am happy with the sound myself in secondary rooms, but it would never cut it as my main system.

My main gripe with Sonos is I find it nowhere near as stable and reliable as everyone else seems to.
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Curious .... why the Yamaha RX-V675?

Though I could be wrong, your review makes it sound like this is a Music System primarily. Though a bit more, for a music system, I would expect the Yamaha RN500 to be a more appropriate amp than the RX-V675. It is possible that you foreseen wanting or needing Surround Sound in the future, so perhaps the RX-V675 is appropriate.

I just hate to see people buy AV Receivers for music systems. You are buying a lot of amp that it doesn't seem as if you will use. I can see some advantages to an AV Receiver, but given what you have said, I don't necessarily see those advantages serving you. However, there may be things that I'm not aware of.

The Yamaha RN500 is 80w/ch, AM/FM, DAC with 2xoptical/2xcoaxial/USB-media, Computer Network Streaming of Audio (DLNA & Apple Airplay) from local storage and from the Internet. Given that the system as Optical Inputs, you should have no problem connecting your TV for movie watching. Currently down to $380 -

Yamaha RN500 networked Stereo Receiver (Black)

That combined with the Monitor Audio BX5, which are somewhat larger floorstanding speaker would be RN500 = £380 + RX5 = £500/pr equals a total of £880/set.

Monitor Audio Bronze BX5 Floorstanding Speakers (Pair) - Superfi

Yamaha RN500 Networked Receiver - Superfi

But again, perhaps the long term goal is to eventually end up with a 5.1 Surround System, in which case the RX-V675 might be a better choice, but, in my view, if you want a music system, you buy a music system ... meaning a Stereo.

Just a few thoughts.

Steve/bluewizard
 
Last edited:

mrrodge

Active Member
Hi Steve/bluewizard,

My dad's happy with the sound on my 657 (currently only used for music, though has previously been used for 5.1), and the 675 was only £250, so that's about all there is to it! £130 cheaper than the RN500, plus if he wants to upgrade the stereo to a better system at a later date, the obvious place for the 675 will be the living room, beneath the TV. In fairness I was shocked at the price of the 675, it looks a bargain considering I paid £350 for the 657 almost a decade ago! Must be because it's the 2013 model.

daveb975,

Totally agree. In my experience the sound of the Play:5s is more than adequate for the kitchen or the conservatory, just not as a primary system. I didn't experience many problems in the short time that I used the system, though on initial setup the wired speaker dropped off the stereo pair and only the wireless would be found (oddly). Nothing would play until I power cycled both speakers a few times, but after that it was flawless.
 

Cebolla

Member
The only real advantage of using Sonos is the multi-room ability. Other than that, there is always something better for the price. I use the multi-room quite a bit, so I have invested quite heavily and have a pair of Play:5s in stereo in one room, a pair of Play:3s in another and 2 Connects on my main systems.
Presumably it's specifically Sonos's in-sync multi-room ability you're referring to. It's a common misconception that ordinary multi-room ability is not achievable with just using bog standard UPnP/DLNA streaming devices.

So you've got a very large choice of devices & prices, if you choose UPnP/DLNA for multi-room, so long as precise synchronised playback is not a requirement. The same music tracks can be played at the same time by the UPnP/DLNA devices, if required, but it's just there's no built in mechanism to keep them synchronised.
 
Last edited:

mrrodge

Active Member
Presumably it's specifically Sonos's in-sync multi-room ability you're referring to. It's a common misconception that ordinary multi-room ability is not achievable with just using bog standard UPnP/DLNA streaming devices.

So you've got a very large choice of devices & prices, if you choose UPnP/DLNA for multi-room, so long as precise synchronised playback is not a requirement. The same music tracks can be played at the same time by the UPnP/DLNA devices, if required, but it's just there's no built in mechanism to keep them synchronised.

In practice, how good is the sync using this method without some sort of 'parity'? How do I go about achieving the same tracks at the same time on multiple devices? I'm actually looking for a way to do this with the existing stereos in my house, wirelessly, however would like to control via iPad much like Sonos. I had a look at Airplay but to be honest having to buy an Apple TV or Airport Express for each room is too expensive. I've never dabbled with DLNA.
 

daveb975

Well-known Member
Presumably it's specifically Sonos's in-sync multi-room ability you're referring to. It's a common misconception that ordinary multi-room ability is not achievable with just using bog standard UPnP/DLNA streaming devices.

So you've got a very large choice of devices & prices, if you choose UPnP/DLNA for multi-room, so long as precise synchronised playback is not a requirement. The same music tracks can be played at the same time by the UPnP/DLNA devices, if required, but it's just there's no built in mechanism to keep them synchronised.

Yes, it is the in-sync multi-room that I am talking about. If I am sitting down listening to music in one room, Sonos doesn't get a look-in. Unfortunately, a lot of my listening at home is in the background while I am doing something else and it is annoying if I end up in a different room from the one the music is playing in.
 

mrrodge

Active Member
An update for anyone interested... The 675 and the BX5s sound brilliant, much better in fact than my Axioms.

We are however having some major problems with Sonos. Their UK number diverts to Sweden, where we were greeted with a somewhat shirty confrontation, demanding our reasons for returning our somewhat crap products. When my dad said they didn't play loud enough the telephone operator's comment was along the lines of 'I think they do' and basically he had an argument for everything my dad said including the total lack of EQ. He (eventually & incredibly reluctantly) agreed to email my dad the RMA number, which then never arrived.

We downloaded the full Ts & Cs first and had no problems with what they contained, little did we know that they were actually delivered direct from Sweden and they have to go back there, at our cost. Currently this works out at a staggering £160. Disgusting, when we ordered from the Sonos UK site and were totally unaware that delivery would come from outside the UK. We knew we would have to pay return carriage, that's not an issue. But to Sweden?!

We'll see what the next phone call brings, but we're incredibly unhappy and won't ever be buying from such a crock of sh!t again. Apologies for the language, but we could have bought from a third party over here rather than direct from Sonos and had less of an issue, however we were lured by the much bragged about 60 day return policy, which happened to have a caveat that the gear had to be bought direct from Sonos. Garbage. Absolute scam.
 

Lanie

Novice Member
Wow... you would think their customer service would be great considering the price you are paying. Are you going to try another wireless system?
 

mrrodge

Active Member
Another update...

We finally got the RMA, the system went back today. We'll have to see how long the refund takes.

Lanie,

As it stands at the minute we're giving multiroom a wide berth. We're wirelessly streaming Spotify via Airplay on the iPad to the 675 and that sounds reasonably good. I think the plan for the multiroom is to wait and see how the Beep develops, which will allow us to use our own hardware.
 

Kurchatov

Banned
Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Having heard the Sonos stand alone players, I certainly agree with you. Their sound quality is average at best, however for a kitchen or spare room, easy to set up, flexible to operate multi room solution, they are the best out there.

If you were chasing sound quality at high volume, one of the Sonos units that outputs a digital audio stream into a decent music system can work extremely well. If you are not very computer savvy, then the Sonos system is the easiest to set up and operate in a multi room environment.

Its a pity Logitech didn't continue with the Squeezebox system because that is very powerful and flexible. At current secondhand prices, Id still be tempted to go for it.

The Logitech transporter is a particular bargain, offering a very good streamer with an excellent DAC to give an analogue output into your audio system. If you move into real high end, it even offers a word clock input to synch with digital systems such as DCS. The Transporter can be found on the used market for around £600 so not exactly cheap but still very good value.
 

mrrodge

Active Member
Another update, Sonos have sent email confirmation that they will be refunding us for the full amount (including shipping).

We got there in the end!
 

Andrew K

Banned
Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Having heard the Sonos stand alone players, I certainly agree with you. Their sound quality is average at best, however for a kitchen or spare room, easy to set up, flexible to operate multi room solution, they are the best out there.

If you were chasing sound quality at high volume, one of the Sonos units that outputs a digital audio stream into a decent music system can work extremely well. If you are not very computer savvy, then the Sonos system is the easiest to set up and operate in a multi room environment.

Its a pity Logitech didn't continue with the Squeezebox system because that is very powerful and flexible. At current secondhand prices, Id still be tempted to go for it.

The Logitech transporter is a particular bargain, offering a very good streamer with an excellent DAC to give an analogue output into your audio system. If you move into real high end, it even offers a word clock input to synch with digital systems such as DCS. The Transporter can be found on the used market for around £600 so not exactly cheap but still very good value.

Things have moved on a little as well. Simple Audio's DAC is excellent and they have a superb UI on the iPad. There is also HEOS from Denon as well - one of the interesting features here is the integration between the HEOS link and a Denon or Marantz AV receiver's volume control.
 

joroma

Active Member
Read all this with some interest. I am a big SONOS fan but do NOT consider it to be a substitute for a conventional separates system.
I have a late 1980's NAD 3020 Amp connected to a pair of Mission 760i speakers in my lounge and if I want to listen to my music properly this is what I use and find it quite adequate for my 59 year old ears, though I am considering upgrading to a Marantz PM6005 amp to improve the sound and simplify my connections.
I have a SONOS Connect hooked up to my NAD amp via a Cambridge Dacmagic, optical out from Connect into DAC and analogue out from DAC into my NAD (hence the consideration of the Marantz amp to do away with the Dacmagic). As well as the Connect I have a Play 3 and a Play 5. The Play 3 is permanently in my kitchen and the Play 5 is mainly in my study but moves to my dining room when we are entertaining. All of my music is stored uncompressed on a Synology NAS and my SONOS connect streams it with no issues into my NAD amp. So no more fiddling with CDs. I have compared the Play 3 and Play 5 sound quality to my Missions and there is NO comparison, the Missions are way better as I would expect them to be. However when I am listening to music as background music or listening to the radio the SONOS system is absolutely brilliant. I can wander between lounge, kitchen and study and all the sound is perfectly in synch and I get continuity when listening to a radio programme. The SONOS kit excels at doing this. My friend has got a Cambridge Stream 6 and Minx 200 and cannot synch his music in different rooms so he gets a terrible echo!! The quality of the Play 3 is more than ample for listening in the kitchen and the Play 5 makes for comfortable listening in the study or dining room. I can also group and ungroup the SONOS so that my wife can listen to her music while I listen to mine.
So in conclusion for "proper" listening stick to an old fashioned amp and speakers. For casual listening throughout the house buy SONOS. Combine the two as I have and you have the best of both worlds! The kit is dear but brilliant at what it does - I sourced all my SONOS components secondhand:)
 

Cebolla

Member
If it's not loud, in the background & for casual music listening, I just don't get the need for it to be a throughout the house type thing. I'd just make do with the equivalent of the old portable small transistor radio and take it to wherever it's needed - a cheap Android tablet can easily playback the music from the same sources, for example. May be it just reminds me too much of dreaded piped music - can't escape it, even in the toilets!
 
Last edited:

joroma

Active Member
old portable small transistor radio and take it to wherever it's needed - a cheap Android tablet can easily playback the music from the same sources!

Slight difference in quality of sound though!!! Personally, even for background music, I like a nicer sound then a tablet can produce :) Listening to Eels, Beautiful Freak, as I type this and very nice it sounds too through my Play 5......
 

Grubscrew

Standard Member
Hi,

I have a pair of Roberts LS3/5A and they are driven by a Quad 306. I'm thinking of the Connect or the Connect:Amp, the amp chiefly because it just simplifies things. Any thoughts?
 

ShanePJ

Well-known Member
AVForums Sponsor
I'd just add the Sonos Connect. I've done this at home although I've hooked it through my Teac UD-501 DAC. The results are fantastic really and far better than I ever anticipated.

Regards, Shane.
 

The latest video from AVForums

Podcast: CES '22 TV Announcement Round-up, Plus, Most Anticipated Movies of 2022 and More...
Subscribe to our YouTube channel

Latest News

Philips unveils A7507 TWS headphones and new rugged outdoor speakers
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Philips FB1 soundbar will use Fidelio wireless platform
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Philips announces OLED807 and 8807 The One TVs for 2022
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Lenco launches 400 series turntable and speaker combo
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
AVForums Podcast: 26th January 2022
  • By Phil Hinton
  • Published

Full fat HDMI teeshirts

Support AVForums with Patreon

Top Bottom