RAY'S BLIND REVIEW
Today in Ray’s Blind Review, I would like to discuss one of the current mainstays in network audio. These are the various components manufactured by Sonos. As I’m sure everyone knows, Sonos has been at the forefront of network audio for many years now. With Sonos, you can literally have audio throughout your house without complicated wiring of speakers. With the easy to use Sonos app, you can stream audio from virtually any internet source plus anywhere within your existing network. Sonos makes a Play:1, Sonos one, and Play:3 unit which are wireless powered speakers for playing music anywhere in your house or yard. They also make a Play:5 that is a much larger unit if you need extra power. Sonos also has an amplifier that connects to speakers just like a standard stereo receiver. If you already have a receiver, no problem. Just connect the Sonos preamp to the receiver and it becomes a Sonos system. Sonos can be a total solution for your audio as well as your video needs. Today, we will be discussing some of the new innovations Sonos has come up with recently.
The new Sonos Amp is a real milestone. Up till now, their amplifier had 55 watts per channel and was fairly basic, but performed very well. With the new Sonos amp, there have been considerable upgrades. The new Sonos amp has 125 watts per channel which can support even the largest of home audio speakers. This new amp has a great deal more headroom, meaning that you don’t have to push it as hard to get great sound and volume. This amplifier has many more features than the previous model. It does have a conventional line input where a turntable or any other analog device can be connected. It also has hdmi connection with ARC capability. This means you can send audio to the amp from your TV. If you use a smart TV with Netflix and other various apps, the signal will go from the TV to the Sonos amplifier. Any other source coming into the TV will go to the amp via ARC connection. It is a great audio video solution for your home system. The Sonos amp can also accommodate two sets of speakers instead of one like the previous model did. This amplifier has a signal to noise ratio of 116 DB. Harmonic distortion is rated at 0.1%. This is indeed very impressive. The Sonos amp is built for the rack. It is not only powerful, but has a sleek footprint to allow several to be placed in one single rack without overcrowding. This is an ideal amp for professional installers looking to put together a whole house audio system powered by Sonos for streaming. The amp has standard banana plugs for speaker connections which is definitely a plus. The Sonos amp is black which looks great mounted in an equipment rack. It gives it that professional high end look.
Great care has been put into the manufacturing of this amplifier. When the designers were deciding on a shape, they had three different cardboard boxes to use as a model. There was a shoebox, small pizza box and a tall box that looked similar to one that would hold a bottle. They decided on the pizza box scenario. This made the Sonos amp fairly thin so it would fit into the racks easily. Now that they had the size and shape, there was yet another problem. How do you get all of that power in such a small profile without overheating? There was no room for bulky heatsinks or fans for cooling. They solved this by using the inner metal of the chassis to act as the heatsink, thus solving the problem. The circular design at the top further helps to vent warm air, which even keeps it running cooler.
If this isn’t enough, there were still more tests done in the manufacturing process. Engineers poured cola into the amp, and even dropped coins inside to see how the unit would hold up. They took great pains to make sure that this amp could stand a lot of abuse. (Please don’t try this as this was done during testing and is not recommended for everyday use. It was for test purposes only.) The Sonos amp is definitely a true innovation and a giant step forward by the Sonos Company.
Another device from Sonos is the Sonos Beam. This is a smaller version of the Sonos Playbar. This basically is a soundbar for your TV equipped with all of the attributes of Sonos. You can stream all of your favorite music services on the Beam just as you would with all of the other Sonos products. The Beam also has one other great feature. It comes complete with amazon Alexa built in. All of the Sonos devices can work with an Alexa however; the Beam has it already built in. You can mute the mic, play, skip pause etc. from the touch controls on the top of the beam or use the handy app. If you want a full surround system, no problem. Just purchase a pair of Sonos Play:1’s and the Sonos subwoofer and you have instant 5.1 surround with no wires to the rear speakers and sub. The beam can either sit in front of the TV or be wall mounted. It is an ideal soundbar for a small to mid-sized room. On all Sonos devices, if your Wi-Fi is weak, you can use the Ethernet plug to hard line the unit for a perfect internet connection. Think of the possibilities of the Sonos models. You could have a whole house audio system integrated with your video components. Sonos now works with Apple AirPlay as well. You can use Siri to play a song through your Sonos device anywhere in your home.
Another noteworthy product from Sonos is the Playbase. This is a larger unit than the beam which fits directly under the TV. It can support TV’s up to 75 pounds. This is great when you have a TV on a stand and don’t want a separate soundbar. It provides a seamless look between the TV and the Playbase for those who don’t want a lot of components around the house. It makes the TV and playbase look like one integrated component. This unit can be used for very large rooms as it consists of a 10 speaker configuration. The Playbase has a very wide and immersive sound to enhance any movie or TV program. This model of Sonos has the ability to control basic functions from your TV remote or from the Sonos app. You can do the same things on the Playbase as you can do with all the other Sonos products, streaming music from most internet sources. The Playbase does not have Amazon Alexa built in; however, it can be configured with any Alexa device to elicit various functions. Just like the Beam, you can connect the Sonos Wireless sub-woofer and a pair of Play:1 speakers for a full surround system.
The Sonos Playbar is another model that is similar to the Playbase. This is a standalone soundbar that can be placed under the TV or mounted if desired. This is larger than the Beam that was previously discussed. The Playbar is suitable for large rooms as it has a very full sound. This unit has 9 speakers. There are six midrange/bass and three tweeters. They are arranged in a Phased Array. This type of array creates great directionality when listening to movies. It also delivers a wide soundstage as Sonos puts it. This has all the same functions as the Playbase does with a different design as the TV is not sitting on top of it. You don’t have to limit where the Playbar is placed as with the Playbase. Just as with Sonos’s other units, Alexa can be used to control many of the functions as selecting songs to be played etc. Think of the possibilities with all of the various Sonos models for your complete surround system. They all can be connected to the Play:1’s for rears and the Sonos subwoofer. The beam, Playbar and Playbase all have the touch controls on the top for skip, volume, and play/pause. If you desire, you can use these units for a large music player even without plugging your TV into them. Sonos has a solution for all of your audio and video needs.
There are more pieces of equipment that Sonos makes that deserves mentioning. The first is the Sonos Connect Receiver. This is a very practical device when you have a home audio/video system with a receiver and wired speakers. The Sonos Connect Receiver simply plugs into the existing receiver and allows you to stream all of your music by using the Sonos app or telling Alexa what to play for you. You need an Alexa either separate or in The Sonos Beam or Sonos one to accomplish this. The Connect receiver also has an analog, optical and coaxial digital output, making it compatible with virtually any AV receiver. There is an analog input for plugging in another device to your system should you need to add something. Naturally, the Connect Receiver can be plugged into a basic stereo receiver or amplifier as well. A lot of commercial installations require Connect Receivers as they already have existing amplifiers throughout their building. Very often, the Sonos Amp isn’t strong enough to push all the speakers in larger installations. Many commercial establishments use amplifiers with 70 volt speakers. The Connect Receiver works great in this situation.
One of the more recent products in the Sonos line I would like to discuss is the Sonos one. This unit is like the Play one powered speaker by Sonos but has one major difference. It has Amazon’s Alexa built right in just as the Beam does. With this speaker, you can literally control your whole Sonos system either through the app or with Alexa. We must caution that this speaker can’t be paired with other Play:1’s to be used for rear surround or a stereo pair. The Sonos one is a new model, so that is the reason for this. The great thing about the Sonos one is that you can have one of these speakers and listen to music, plus control many of your smart home features and many other features offered on the Amazon Echo. The Sonos one has surprisingly good sound for a speaker of this size. This can be the hub of your Sonos system just as the beam because it has Alexa built right in. When setting up Sonos equipment with the built in Alexa, download the Alexa app and integrate this with the Sonos app. The Sonos app will walk you through step by step. Most Alexa features will work with the built in Echo’s, except drop in, calling, notifications, messaging and reminders. All of the Sonos units have the capability to add the Sonos Subwoofer. This makes them sound fantastic.
The new Sonos Play:5 is truly an audiophile piece of equipment. Up to this time Sonos besides being the world’s greatest set up for listening to streaming and network music, always made a great sounding speaker to play it on. The Play:5 is even a step above this. This unit has the meticulous craftsmanship and look of a fine piece of audio equipment. There are six speaker drivers with discrete amplifiers for each one. If you read my reviews, you know how important this is. These drivers consist of three mid bass and three tweeters. Pictures paint 1000 words but the Play:5 paint a lot more than this when you look at it. The grill on this unit is plastic, do not let this fool you, this was done to make sure there was no interference with your Wi-Fi signal when going to the unit. There are not one but six antennas in the Play:5, thus always receiving a strong Wi-Fi signal from your network. The grill has 6000 holes in it for distributing sound. There was great care and perfection in mind when designing this piece of equipment. The Sonos logo is on one of the tweeters, so to assure the sound gets through, 800 holes are there to distribute it. The Play:5 can be placed vertical or horizontal. The controls change function to keep the layout in perspective for intuitive and ergonomic operation. The volume and skip forward and back stay in the same place so it doesn’t confuse you. The Play:5 have an accelerometer built in to compensate for even the slightest deviation in sound when the position either vertical or horizontal is changed on the Play:5. No matter how you place the unit, it will always sound great. Now, there is yet another advantage with Sonos this year. This is its introduction of Trueplay technology. Trueplay is an app that has an advanced equalizer function to make the sonos pieces sound even better. This is especially true in the Play:5. If you move the unit to let’s say a kitchen, the sound will change because of flooring etc. Simply go to your Trueplay app and make subtle corrections in the Play:5 to match the unit for a given acoustic environment. Even the detachable power cord has a heavy duty look on the Play:5. The Play:5 doesn’t just have a port like its predecessor did. It has a wave technology in the cabinet design to make it sound much better. This unit was not just produced but sculptured as if it were a fine piece of art. The original Play 5 sounded great, but wait till you hear this one. It still has the auto detect 3.5 millimeter plug for plugging in external devices used for putting two units together for separate stereo sound. You don’t have to do this as one Play:5 as with their other units are fully stereo by themselves. I love the sound and the Trueplay app that can be used. Sonos is right up there with the best audiophile companies out there. Remember, the more Sonos units you buy, the stronger your network will become as Sonos builds its own network within your Wi-Fi. Everyone should have a Sonos system and with the Play:5you are getting a very high end piece of audio as well.
The Sonos wireless subwoofer is a great way to make your Sonos system sound even better. The Sub focuses on giving you deep rich bass. This way, your speakers just work on the mid-range and treble. The sub will enhance movies and music making them sound much more realistic. The great thing about these subs is that they can be used with all of the Sonos speakers, including the Play:1, Sonos One, Play:3, Play:5, Beam, Playbar, Playbase, and Sonos Amplifier. Can you imagine the sound if you had these Subwoofers on all of your Sonos products? You could have the Sub on your Playbar or Beam or have a Play:5 with a sub in your backyard. What a party that would be. To set up the Sonos Subwoofer, you simply press the button on the sub and let it pair with your existing Sonos speaker. The design of this sub is excellent. Sonos uses two Force Cancelling speaker drivers face to face to produce rich low frequencies with zero cabinet buzz.
Final thoughts: I think Sonos is a fantastic system for all of your sound needs. You can literally start with a Play:1 or Sonos One and just keep on building. Remember, one of your Sonos units has to be hard wired to your router. From there, you go completely wireless. Whether you are a residence or business, there is a Sonos solution for you. Sonos is a snap to use as they are constantly updating their app to make it easier and to encompass more features. No matter your budget, there is a Sonos product for you.