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anybody replaced their Connect with a Port?


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Hi,  begrudgingly having to replace my connect as the connect is the beginning of my mesh network & I will not be able to separate my system.

Any forum members picked up a Port to replace their connect? 
I am running my current Connect through an Arcam Rdac into a classic NAD 3020.

Any one experienced a degradation in sound quality using the Port?

The recent ‘What Hifi’ review has made this potential  purchase even more of a quandary.

Didn't fancy shelling out the £279 before. The fact that this might actually be an inferior product to the connect makes me doubt it even more.

i don’t want to get into a ‘bun fight’ about DACs & ‘subjectivity’ only want to hear from people who have actually upgraded please 

Any input greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

 

 

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Best answer by Finbow 27 March 2020, 18:38

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Good to hear. Perhaps you found yourself listening to the music and forgot about the kit. :wink:

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Really interesting thread @Finbow and @ratty.

I ordered a couple of Ports to replace my two Connect units and I’ve just spent a couple of days A/B testing Connect vs Port. I was really interested to hear them side by side. 

I use the Connect units to stream my ripped-from-CD FLAC collection off a PC to a couple of hifi system setups: one in my office (Marantz NR1504 feeding B&W 685 S2s on stands) and my main listening system in lounge. (Arcam AVR450 feeding bi-wired Mordaunt Short Mezzo 6 floor standers).

I saw the WhatHifi review after I’d placed the order but wanted to try and keep an open mind so went pretty hardcore on my test process.

  • I wired both Connect and Port using the coax digital out into two separate but equivalent inputs on the Arcam.
  • Both inputs were configured in amp to precisely the same neutral settings, no processing or dynamic stuff  applied.
  • Fixed level output on both Sonos units. No EQ applied anywhere.
  • Source files were all CDs ripped to FLAC.
  • I grouped the Port vs Connect ‘rooms’ into one and ran the Sonos playlist.
  • Listened both live through speakers, but also repeated up using a semi-decent pair of over-the-ear headphones plugged straight into amp.
  • I’d identify sections of tracks with interesting stuff going on in them and then switch sources on the amp to change between Port vs Connect, listening in parallel with fast switching and then repeating longer sections in serial.
  • I took breaks between listening sessions to avoid ear fatigue.
  • Where I had impression of one source being 'better', I also tried taking the volume down 1db or 2db on that source to compensate for possible simple volume mis-perception. 

 

Test notes

My audition tracks are long standing, really familiar pieces that I’ve used over the years to test systems out. They’re well engineered (in some cases Grammy winning), good tests of articulation, control, presence, bass handling and musicality.

  1. Muse - Reapers
    Section 2:38 to 3:38. The solo is noisy with a lot of powerful stuff going on. Port sounded woolier, less articulate and in control.
  2. Bomb the Bass - Switching Channels
    This is a busy, bass heavy, rhythmical track with a lot of complex production.
    Section 0:21 to about 0:30, the ratchet sound in left ear. Connect sounds brighter, more presence than Port. 
    Section 3:50 to end, listen to articulation of the guitar lead, much cleaner and resolved on Connect.
  3. Tears for Fears - Woman in Chains
    Section 1:47 - 2:20, listen to the pizzicato synth sounds in centre right background. Complex, musical, light needs articulation
  4. Tears for Fears - Badman's Song
    Section 5:03 - 6:23. Steel guitar twang at 5:05. Bass guitar melody from 5:20 onwards has body and articulation. Bass licks at 6:23 and 6:35. Separation, articulation, control.
  5. Brian Culbertson - Get it On (Live from the Inside)
    Organ break Section 3.07 - 3:45 listen for articulation of brass centre left and the organ not sounding woolly it’s tough as it’s so rounded. Trombone break 3:45 - 4:14. Listen for the articulation of the second guitar in left ear (yes there is one, not the rhythm on right)
  6. Open Up - Leftfield
    Section 0:36 - 1:06, bass line articulation, the rhythm train track chugga is tight (there's a little click on the last 16th beat before the 1 and 3 count that’s clearer on Connect). The reversed gong sample just before the vocal should be clear too.
  7. Are We Really Through - Ray LaMontagne
    Intro, should feel like the guitar is in the room. Alive. Presence. Steel guitar 2:52 to 3:32 should be resonate richly but cleanly.
  8. Shape of my Heart - Sting
    2:19 harmonica solo, listening for the main melody on acoustic guitar underneath, should have enough separation to pick out. Port found this harder and easier to lose it. 

 

My Conclusion

If you’d never heard a Connect, you’d probably be happy with Port. But, for me, the Connect’s ability was demonstrably superior.

There were consistent, subtle and to me important quality differences. The thing that kept coming up for me was a sense of articulation and control. The Connect consistently managed to lift out instrumentation and present the music with more control and separation, particularly with complex pieces. I could pick out more background instrumentation, identify more in the tracks at varying points of the mix. In lighter, sparser tracks it was articulation, space and presence (musicality?) where the Connect always seemed a step above the Port.

A case of older and wiser, newer is not always better it seems.

Now there is the argument that I should accept a small reduction in quality for as yet unspecified S2 future capabilities of Port. I’m not sure I can though, knowing I’m missing out on the final 10% that counts for everything in HiFi and loving music.

It was a disappointing result really and I’m intending to send the Ports back. 

As everything is software these days, maybe there’ll be a second gen Port with improvements. Think I’ll have to hold back my upgrade until then as if it aint broke... 

Footnote

Great music on great HiFi should be cherished. Giving myself the excuse to just sit and really listen was a fabulous exercise. I reconnected with and fell in love all over again with some wonderful tracks. I’d thoroughly recommend a dedicated listening session to anyone looking to fill a few hours these days. Nile Rodgers is right, it might be a trap, but getting lost in music is a wonderful thing and the whole point of investing in HiFi.

 

 

What I don’t see in your comprehensive description is any mention of blind testing, ideally double blind. The brain moves in mysterious ways, and expectation bias is a very powerful force.

Also, have you confirmed that the Arcam’s two inputs are treated identically internally? Or simply tried swapping the Port and Connect over between the inputs? Is there a separate DAC chip on each input, or a single central one? 

I’ve been assured by Sonos that in Fixed Volume the output of the file decoder is simply shipped out, bit for bit, without any modification whatsoever. Clearly with lossless compression this should exactly match the original 16-bit PCM samples.

I’ve confirmed that in Fixed Volume the lowest byte on the 24-bit S/PDIF is unused, which does rather suggest that there’s been no ‘tampering’ on the journey through the pipeline. Any variation in level would cause the lowest byte to be populated.

What I’ve not been able to do is capture the output and make a full bit-wise comparison with the original file (after decode to WAV/PCM obviously). Maybe a user with the appropriate equipment will volunteer.

 

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Hey ratty.

I’m isolating at the moment so no helpers to do blind testing unfortunately. I was trying to get around that by splitting my listening sessions up and being repetitive with sections. Also varying speaker and headphone outputs. 

Good point on the Arcam inputs, I was using the (as labelled) Blu-ray and Personal Video Recorder inputs. Will ask them if there are any hardware/software differences between the two. Physically hot-swapping the patch cables in the same input coax channel would be ‘purer’ approach. I didn’t do it this time round for the ease of source switching via the remote as opposed to crawling around constantly behind the rack.

Agree it doesn’t make sense that a pure bitstream should ‘sound’ different between two devices if all Connect/Port does it pass through to the DAC on the Arcam in either case. I’m convinced I did hear qualitative differences however. 

Maybe the only true test would be as you say capturing the analogue output to speakers and comparing those waveforms? Maybe run a cable from headphone out to computer input and record to something like Audacity to compare waveforms?

Something hinky going on either way. 

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Hey Brother Harry,

I think you are absolutely right in your findings. I found the output of the connect to have a much better soundstage & also greater separation between instruments. Another track where I realised the Port was losing its way is ‘B boys making with the freak freak’ from ill communication by the Beastie Boys. The way the Port presents this is absolutely laughable. It’s literally a mess by the time it gets halfway through the first verse. It’s barely recognisable as the same track. The bass line just gets completely eaten up. 
 

To be honest after living with the Port for a few weeks now I’ve gotten used to it. The thought of having to run my set up with two separate apps was the clincher for me. Totally destroys the whole convenience of a Sonos set up.

I also think a lot of people who own these products either have them running in ceiling speakers or just don’t sit down & listen to music that often. So things like soundstage & separation just don’t get picked up. 

The new product should be better but it most certainly isn’t. 
 

I’m hoping that S2 will somehow have an effect & improve the sound somehow. 

@brotherharry In terms of the two Arcam inputs I meant that if you felt the case swung in favour of the Connect when it was plugged into input A and the Port into B, you could put the Port into A and the Connect into B and run the test again. See if you felt the same way. 

The only true test is to capture the digital outputs of the Port and the Connect. Compare them -- literally a file diff -- and also compare with the WAV equivalent of the original file. Recording an analog waveform is rather meaningless. 

 

@Finbow The idea that the Port’s digital output could be collapsing the soundstage strains comprehension. Are you suggesting some kind of analog crosstalk, between two entirely separate sets of digital data? As I type I have a set of Sennheiser HD650s clamped round my noggin, fed by a small Schiit stack hung off a Port’s digital out. Lack of separation? Er, no way. 

Or was your complaint about the analog output? 

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Hi @ratty No, mine is plugged in via the coax into an Arcam Rdac. I didn’t say there was a lack separation. I said the separation wasn’t as pronounced or as good as that of the Connect. As I said earlier I’ve gotten used to the sound of the Port now. I did experiment with a new Dac last week. It was a Beresford Caiman Seg. That really opened the sound of the port up. However the Bass was a little too tame for me. So I went back to the Rdac. Do you still have your connect units @ratty?

I did experiment with a new Dac last week. It was a Beresford Caiman Seg. That really opened the sound of the port up.

Don’t you think that points to your DAC(s) as being the source of the ‘problem’, such as it is?

 

However the Bass was a little too tame for me.

Again, that sounds like the DAC.

 

Do you still have your connect units @ratty?

I had ZP80s, from 2007-08, and they’ve all gone now. 

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I agree that it does sound like the Dac is the problem, however, the Rdac  was perfectly acceptable with the connect.

I thought I would try the new Dac to see what effect (if any) it would have. The Beresford is well known for its amazing soundstage & separation so no surprise that it is exactly what it delivered. 

Not implying that the lack of Bass was anything to do with the Port. I am fully aware that this was down to the Beresford. 

I have no idea what is going on here. I’m having to upgrade perfectly good hardware (my dac) to  account for the drag factor of the port. To get me to a level of sound that I enjoyed with the connect. 
 

I worked out that (including the port) if I kept the Beresford it was going to cost me £530 just to upgrade my hi fi for the privilege of running S2 & the level of SQ would still be below what I had enjoyed. 

The sickener here is that is to all intents & purposes this is  a forced upgrade’ but an ‘upgrade’ it is not!

If you were still in possession of your connects I was going to suggest plugging them back in to have a listen. I think you’d be surprised at the difference. I really do.

luckily I have now passed on my connect also. My ears are now getting more used to the sound of the port as the memory of connect fades.

This however is not how ‘upgrades’ are supposed to be. I should be getting more but unfortunately I’m getting less. I’m also £270 poorer for the privilege as opposed to the aforementioned £530. 

 

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Update: I’m swinging back to neutral/minimal difference between the Port and Connect (at least over digital connection).

Arcam confirmed there’s no practical difference in hardware of software between the two inputs I was using. I tried repeating my test protocol, swapping the input channels I was using to rule out minor differences. That second phase of testing was much less convincing. I swapped back and went a third round and found myself much less able to discern material differences. 

Whilst I think that there must be generational differences between the units that may affect timing, clock or jitter, I’m less convinced after a week’s worth of listening that it’s practically discernible. I also twigged that there’s one more variable, the Connect is plugged into a mains conditioner/anti-surge power strip whereas for test setup, I’d just plugged the Port into a spare wall socket. I’m not opening up that can of worms, but it's another factor.

I think on balance, if there is a difference I can’t hear it and the future proofing of Port offsets that.

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I am convinced that the last update made a difference to the sound quality. Wether that was intentional or wether It just rebooted the device it certainly seemed to have an effect. 
As I said in one of my earlier posts. I am happy with the Port myself also. Although I feel that the £280 I paid is a much fairer price than the simply ridiculous £399! 
looking forward to the S2 updated now. 

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Well, bare with me! Think I’m going to have to start a new thread called ‘ Sonos Port an apology!’.

Had to send back the Connect I bought from eBay as it was faulty. Hadn’t sent back the Port yet so dug it out for one last try. It updated when I plugged it in & now it sounds wonderful! Don’t know if, it was confirmation bias all along or whether simply rebooting the device triggered something but I am now 100% happy with the Port! 

What Hifi are talking out of their backsides!!

Cheers for all of your help,

 

I would just say that when I got my Port, the sound was not overwhelmingly good, it did not play neutrally, but with one, let's call it “studio monitor” sound.
After many reboots of the Port, it was as if it suddenly loaded a completely different and very good and natural sounding sound signature.
Therefore I am now very happy with the sound in my Port, but I have the feeling that the DSP processor that sits inside the Port can be sound-adjusted.
And I think that, when I received the Port it was playing with the DSP processors default settings.

But the many reboots then suddenly loaded the correct natural audio signature into the Port.
 

I would just point out that what I experienced was via the analog output.

And that it's been months since I experienced this and that my Port has been playing fine ever since.

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Yet another review echoing my findings with the port. Using coax output a/b’d with the Connect. Over at Tech Hive....

https://www.techhive.com/article/3546333/sonos-port-review.html

 

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This really is the end of this saga! Updated just in case anyone else finds themselves in the same position. Returned the Port to Sonos today. Picked up a reduced new Gen 2 Connect from Richer Sounds instead. £200 less & a much more spacious & natural sound than the Port. The Port is ok for casual listening but if you want to get lost in the music the Connect is just so much better! I was hoping that the S2 update would somehow ‘open up’ the Port but alas it was not to be! Maybe Sonos will address the issue in an update or maybe not. 

How are they supposed to “update” something that is already bit-perfect to the source?  

I found this thread just after doing exactly what Finbow did - the last part, anyway. I’d never got as far as ordering a Port but I’d been wondering whether to replace my Gen1 Connect.  Through a Meridian Director DAC I’ve been very happy with the sound it makes: width, depth, bottom, scale - it just sounds convincing and involving.  And I’d read the same discouraging reviews of the Port, which made me hesitate to simply trade up, even at 30 percent off.

I could continue with S1, which Sonos made me install last night, but the rest of my system is all S2-compatible, Then I remembered that I got this Connect as an end-of-line bargain from Richer Sounds, so I looked to see what they still had Gen2 Connects - and, well, you know the rest.  Feels like a result, in that I (should) get to keep what I enjoy in the old Connect, but still have access to the forthcoming goodies of S2 - whatever they turn out to be.

Meanwhile, thanks for documenting your own experiences here so helpfully.

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You have done exactly the right thing. The Connect from Richer Sounds made me realise that I had I was simply settling for the sound from the Port. The minute I plugged in the Connect it was like welcoming back an old friend. I couldn’t pack the Port back up fast enough!! Only issue is it doesn’t look as nice perched on my bookshelf as the Port. 

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How are they supposed to “update” something that is already bit-perfect to the source?  

No idea. The issue must be the coax output of the Port then. The Port is putting out a much more ‘compressed’ sound somehow. It’s just a ‘lifeless’ representation. The Connect has a more ‘real’ & ‘live feel to it. A great example is it’s harder to hear the difference between a Digital radio stream & music streamed from Apple Music on the Port. You can easily tell the difference on the Connect.  Either way. Not my problem now. I am not the first to report this issue & I’m pretty sure sure I won’t be the last.  Thankfully Sonos has a fantastic returns policy. 

No idea. The issue must be the coax output of the Port then. The Port is putting out a much more ‘compressed’ sound somehow. It’s just a ‘lifeless’ representation. The Connect has a more ‘real’ & ‘live feel to it. A great example is it’s harder to hear the difference between a Digital radio stream & music streamed from Apple Music on the Port. You can easily tell the difference on the Connect.  Either way. Not my problem now. I am not the first to report this issue & I’m pretty sure sure I won’t be the last.  Thankfully Sonos has a fantastic returns policy. 

 

Far more likely it is expectation bias that would disappear under proper ABX testing.  

I did experiment with a new Dac last week. It was a Beresford Caiman Seg. That really opened the sound of the port up.

Don’t you think that points to your DAC(s) as being the source of the ‘problem’, such as it is?

 

However the Bass was a little too tame for me.

Again, that sounds like the DAC.

I’m confused. One minute a DAC “opened the sound up”, the next it’s “lifeless”. 

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I did experiment with a new Dac last week. It was a Beresford Caiman Seg. That really opened the sound of the port up.

Don’t you think that points to your DAC(s) as being the source of the ‘problem’, such as it is?

 

However the Bass was a little too tame for me.

Again, that sounds like the DAC.

I’m confused. One minute a DAC “opened the sound up”, the next it’s “lifeless”. 
  
 

I have no idea.  At this stage I had already sold my Connect so couldn’t compare how the Connect would have sounded with it. The Beresford is famed for throwing  a really wide soundstage. Even with the Beresford the Port still did not sound as good as the connect. I would have been spending upwards of £560 & still not be happy. 
This thread is here to help others who may be in the same position as me. I can’t explain how two digital sources can sound so different but they most certainly do & I am not the only one saying this. All I can trust is my ears & my gear. I know confirmation Bias is a well known phenomenon but it is also a great way to silence anyone who may come here with an opinion on sound. 
I thank you for the time you have spent helping me out here Ratty but I am now back where I started at the beginning of this thread & I couldn’t be happier. Considerably better off financially ( saving money on the Port & buying the end of line connect) & with a sound that I (be it subjectively or not) that I am really happy with. 
 

 

Indeed ratty.  Also, why people pay so much for a DAC that so obviously colors the sound is puzzling.  Shouldn’t a high quality DAC be transparent to the source?  And If one prefers their sound colored, wouldn’t a digital equalizer be a far more practical solution than a DAC?

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Indeed ratty.  Also, why people pay so much for a DAC that so obviously colors the sound is puzzling.  Shouldn’t a high quality DAC be transparent to the source?  And If one prefers their sound colored, wouldn’t a digital equalizer be a far more practical solution than a DAC?

If you want to listen to what the Port chucks out of its analogue outs be my guest. I most certainly don’t & neither does anyone who has actually sat down & reviewed this product seriously.

Anyone who comes on to these forums with anything negative to say about these products is instantly dismissed as some kind of audiophile purist. All I want is for the product that I am pretty much being forced to upgrade to be at least equal or better than the last. Not too much to ask when you are having to shell out £280 now is it? 

I can see that I am not going to get anywhere in this  discussion so I am going to leave the last words to someone else. 
 

Thanks again to all that have helped along the way. 

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I don’t intend to be the last word in this thread, but I thought I would report that I decided to go ahead and get the Port with the 30% off.  Before upgrading to S2, I grouped the Port (through coax) and the Connect gen 1 (through optical).  When toggling between the 2, the music sounds identical.

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I don’t intend to be the last word in this thread, but I thought I would report that I decided to go ahead and get the Port with the 30% off.  Before upgrading to S2, I grouped the Port (through coax) and the Connect gen 1 (through optical).  When toggling between the 2, the music sounds identical.

I concur. I received a Port today, and its audio quality is indistinguishable from the Connect it replaces when using their respective digital outputs, as expected.

(Already missing the front panel controls, however.)