Connect vs Port vs Bluesound sound quality?

  • 24 January 2020
  • 34 replies
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Has anyone upgraded from Connect to Port and noticed any appreciable improvement in sound quality (with same source material and speakers, of course)?

How about any audible difference between these Sonos products and the Bluesound node 2.0i, preferably using same source?  (I would expect Bluesound with Hi-Res streaming to sound better than Sonos)

Kumar 2 months ago

Certainly there is nothing wrong with experimentation, it is the foundation of scientific progress. But for progress to be real and not subjectively imagined, experimental conclusions need to be tested with the rigour that science applies. When that rigour is missing as it is almost always is with audiophiles, the subjective conclusions claimed are mere opinions that are of little common value.

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Userlevel 7
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There are several topics here on the high resolution sound issue, well worth looking at before you spend money on it.

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I was not asking about hi-res sources, I was asking about whether there is any noticeable difference in audio quality between these three devices with equivalent sound sources

I was not asking about hi-res sources, I was asking about whether there is any noticeable difference in audio quality between these three devices with equivalent sound sources

 

Theoretically, all three are bit perfect, so there would be no difference using a digital output into a DAC.  You will find those that swear there are massive “night and day” differences (usually favoring the more expensive, boutique brand Bluesound).  Whether you buy their story or not depends on where you stand on the objective vs. subjective audiophile debate.  

Using the internal DAC, well there could be differences, but personally I just want to hear the music.  Listening to the differences between gear gets tedious. Again, the audiophile vs music lover debate all over. 

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I would expect Bluesound with Hi-Res streaming to sound better than Sonos.

Why?

Userlevel 2

I was not asking about hi-res sources, I was asking about whether there is any noticeable difference in audio quality between these three devices with equivalent sound sources

 

Theoretically, all three are bit perfect, so there would be no difference using a digital output into a DAC.  You will find those that swear there are massive “night and day” differences (usually favoring the more expensive, boutique brand Bluesound).  Whether you buy their story or not depends on where you stand on the objective vs. subjective audiophile debate.  

Using the internal DAC, well there could be differences, but personally I just want to hear the music.  Listening to the differences between gear gets tedious. Again, the audiophile vs music lover debate all over. 

Just using RCA outs into an NAD preamp/power amp, and then to (non-Sonos) speakers. 

Userlevel 2

I would expect Bluesound with Hi-Res streaming to sound better than Sonos.

Why?

Been shopping for moderately priced speakers at the only audio store near me, which has a lot of “audiophile” gear, and they are definitely pushing the Bluesound/Hi Res streaming kool-aid. 

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I would expect Bluesound with Hi-Res streaming to sound better than Sonos.

Why?

Been shopping for moderately priced speakers at the only audio store near me, which has a lot of “audiophile” gear, and they are definitely pushing the Bluesound/Hi Res streaming kool-aid. 

Ah. as @Stanley_4 alluded above, it’s worth making sure you’re acquainted with the actual science behind HiRes.

While it seems self-evident that higher bit depth and sampling rates will result in higher fidelity music reproduction, this is not the case within the limits of any human’s hearing. CD quality is more than good enough.

Ah. as @Stanley_4 alluded above, it’s worth making sure you’re acquainted with the actual science behind HiRes.

While it seems self-evident that higher bit depth and sampling rates will result in higher fidelity music reproduction, this is not the case within the limits of any human’s hearing. CD quality is more than good enough.

 

Time for an oldie, but goodie (By Monty Montgomery, creator of the Orbis codec, and founder of Xiph, the makers of FLAC, the #1 codec for Hi-Res audio):

24/192 Music Downloads...and why they make no sense

Userlevel 2

Really want to hear about real life experience (subjective opinions!) more than technical articles…

  1. If I’m listening to Spotify streaming, will there be any noticeable improvement in sound quality upgrading from Connect/Bridge to Port?
  2. Again with Spotify, will there be any noticeable improvement in sound quality upgrading from Connect/Bridge to Bluesound Node 2.0i?
  3. How about Sonos Connect/Bridge + Spotify vs. Bluesound node 2.0i +Tidal/Quoboz etc.?

You can buy a Port and return it if you don't think it produces better sound than a Connect, and don't have any other reason to prefer it. 

I am not sure how many Port owners have compared it with Bluesound, but my guess would be none.

I hope I am proved wrong and you get some useful feedback. 

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Just noticed this thread and wanted to quickly comment--I I just ran the Node 2i vs Connect test last night for a bit.  I stuck to redbook and used Qobuz and Tidal going into the same DAC.  Short answer is that they sound pretty different from each other, not really hard to distinguish at all.  

 

Trying to level match was difficult, for some reason the Bluesound seems to output a much louder signal then the Sonos but what was pretty immediate and obvious was that the Bluesound threw a wider soundstage and subjectively seemed to have a little more dynamic range, while the Sonos threw a smaller soundstage and seemed a little warmer--the midrange seemed more natural with the Sonos connect.  Not saying which was better, I think that would be completely subjective but they don’t sound the same (at all).  I currently have three connects (which are all now legacy components) so I’m sure I will swap one for a Port in the near future and compare all three.

For those that care, comparisons were done with Klipsch Forte III speakers, a Manley Stingray and Ayre Codex DAC.

I use the Port to input digital streaming to my preamp.  I’ve been told by Benchmark support that the Node 2i would be better because it supports higher resolution (24/192) downloads compared to the Port being limited to 16 bits/44.  Recently of course Sonos has introduced the S2 operating system that supports higher resolution but I find the description of S2 to be a bit opaque with regards to the ios operating system (I use an iPhone).  All this is a big can of worms, i.e. can we hear a difference between 16 and 22, esp with older ears (I am 68).  I do plan to get the Node 2i because it has a trigger out to a separate DAC and if I hear a difference with the Port I’ll rePort back, lol.

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Kumar I’m back. :wink: have a lot more Sonos speakers now. Have two connects. I recently listened to beryllium speakers from Focal on a Mercedes Benz. I have to now say having listened to CD Quality sound on that setup that it pretty much captures the live musical performance almost like sitting in the studio and hearing the instrument sound fully captured by the mic.

So, if the question is whether CD quality is “good enough”, I think it captures everything - and you can hear this if you listen to it on good enough speakers. I don’t think something which has a bad DAC but high-res support in a fancy box is necessarily better sounding than CD quality or now 24 bit 48 but great DAC as the measurements show. 

I know that I have mentioned that I could find differences between CD quality and high-res files of the same music on the same system. I am not denying that - but simply clarifying that with the right system, even CD quality recording does capture everything in adequate detail for it to provide true to life response. This is just a fact, and I had to hear this myself to believe it. Those Beryllium speakers were better than the ones in the studio and I swear I have only ever heard that sort of realism in the studio or in a live performance.

Whatever differences we can make out, apparently is a function of something else in the electronics and the software. High-res per se by itself should not make much of a difference a.k.a CD quality renderer is good enough at the level of electronics - maybe try better speakers and amps.

Google - Audio science review for Sonos Connect and you will see that the science says it is a much better streamer than Bluesound Node 2i which actually miserably fails in their measurement tests. Pretty badly in fact. Their app and wireless capabilities are pretty bad. I really cannot bring myself to buy a Node 2i which I have been researching very much these few days (hence saw this post).

I know everyone is promoting Node 2i like crazy. But if you read all the reviews, and see all the comments, the true picture which emerges is of something which really is not that great and probably way overpriced. I honestly don’t believe at this point that high-res alone will make the sound better because my music sounds better through the “low-res” Sonos connect than when played in full high-res from my Mac mini connected to my receiver through an external DAC. That pretty much proves to me that high-res alone does nothing.

i think the Play 5’s are fantastic and have a sound of their own which is distinct, unique, rich and quite fulfilling to hear even when compared against much more expensive Martin Logan speakers as an example. Yes nothing can match the AMT tweeters, but again that is just high frequencies alone mostly. 

At this point, I am also a bit confused as to whether to upgrade to the port (is it better sound? - what hifi says no) or stick with my S2 compatible Connect which honestly sounds great as-is or right now I am using it through the chord mojo dac, line out mode through optical. Both support S2, and I have an external DAC, so I don’t really see the point in my getting the port. I definitely don’t want to split my home system by getting Bluesound when I have like 15 Sonos devices everywhere. 

IMO, the downside of Bluesound is high prices and features/wireless capability, and a relatively uncertain future. On the sound quality front v Sonos, I think it will just boil down to listener preferences, which will in turn be driven by speaker design and construction. All else that are claimed to drive sound quality differences are red herrings.

I have no idea how the speakers you refer to sound. But I can easily concede that they will sound different, perhaps even better to a large majority of those that hear them. Then it gets down to whether the price justifies the “better”, which is a subjective thing based on individual financial situations and assessment of value. Bottom line though, if you are looking for better sound quality, spend time on room acoustics and money on better speakers, after first listening to these at home. All else in the system is close to inconsequential. Except performance recording/mastering quality, but I am assuming that this is not a variable in any comparison.

If you are into S2 - I am not, I am fine at S1 - and have compatible Connects, I see no reason to change these out. If you are using an external DAC, even Sonos won't claim that Port offers upgraded sound quality.

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...spend time on room acoustics and money on better speakers, after first listening to these at home. All else in the system is close to inconsequential...

I am slowly coming to the same conclusion after reading several hundreds of reviews of different DACs and YouTube reviews of the electronics. It seems to me that the changes people observe are just DSP or sound equalization which is different for different DACs because ultimately it is just converting digital to analog, and just doing that should not change the sound directly - make it warmer or airer or whatever terms they use.

On a side note, I had a similar situation where in my car, the “shop” was recommending me to get better speakers and bigger amps. However I was able to get significantly more clarity, and less distortion by sound dampening the car. So much so that, I believe if you spend significant money on good audio systems, before spending even more money, try to add sound dampening to the room, because that does make a lot of difference by absorbing the reflected sounds and/ or reflecting them as necessary.

Effects of the room I can verify because my amazing Play 5 speaker at home, sounded entirely dud in the BestBuy “floor”. The sound completely changed at home - clearly room acoustics at play there.

To room acoustics measures, I would also add the influence of speaker placement with respect to walls and corners. Play around with these factors to the extent practical to see which speaker location delivers the best sound.

Invest in better speakers only after everything possible is done on room acoustics and speaker placement, if sound quality is still felt to be lacking.

Of bigger interest or relevance to this thread is the ability of each of the three options to wirelessly play Hi Res content without any stuttering, whether singly or in grouped mode. Now that Sonos does Hi Res.

Any possible preference for sound quality will be destroyed if such music stutters all the time.

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One reason the Port may sound different to the Connect, and I have both, could be down to the power supply. The Port uses a low voltage supply fed by an average quality wall wart, while the Connect uses direct mains power. My original Sonos Connect with an MCRU No.13 power lead, Russ Andrews filtered mains supply and coaxial digital output to an outboard DAC connected to my stereo sounds better than the Port similarly connected, having noticeably greater dynamics and richness of tone. I would have to invest over £300 on a linear power supply to upgrade the Port bringing the combined outlay into the next highest product range. I have often regarded the Sonos Connect as the weak link in my system probably due to a significant mismatch in price and sound quality with the other components in my system. However, I have kept faith with Sonos because the operating system is the probably the best available. I have researched many competitors for a possible hardware upgrade but their software is mostly questionable. Where does leave me now, should I return the Port, at least I will not be wasting an expensive figure of eight mains lead or do I keep the Port in the hope that a power supply upgrade will be successful?

 

 

 

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I would just use it with an external DAC which gives you the best of both worlds. Or just keep the connect upgraded to S2 if it is a newer connect. This was a hard problem for me as well, but I stayed with Sonos because of the quality of the software, app and ecosystem. 

For critical listening, I have my iPhone connected via USB to a DAC. For everything else I have found Sonos connect + DAC to be better than any other alternative including direct from Mac. The only con is the resolution limit, otherwise you are good. 

Music is very subjective. If you find the connect to be better, you should trust your ears. Let us know if you find that the power supply makes the port sound better than the connect. Also let us know which power supply you end up using if that works. You should attempt it. 
 

For those who want to dig very deep into this and related subjects:

https://link.medium.com/vu0bgGat47

https://link.medium.com/e8KSRk0s47

https://link.medium.com/t7EVAfct47

It is all related because people tend to listen to Tidal, MQA and other stuff over Sonos and this is not an easy problem to untangle.

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The other problem with high-res in general - is I am assuming a lot of us use streaming for it. Tidal is very popular - you do all this, pay for the Tidal masters, use an MQA DAC - in the end, you get pops, hisses and pure distorted noise out of your $$$ speakers because guess what - Your gigabit internet connection can’t deal with streaming compressed, lossy MQA audio - forget Qobuz FLAC, the Tidal app had a bug… whatever... 
 

The Sonos connect never ever does that, only “24 bit, 48 KHz”, never does that. The Sonos app never does that - not even once. 
 

What is the point of all this? Just get Sonos. Atleast it works 99.9999% of the time. 
 

Nobody can really afford to buy all CDs or all high-res all the time. You won’t even find high res for pop most of the time anyway. 
 

Reality Check = Use Sonos

Let us know if you find that the power supply makes the port sound better than the connect. Also let us know which power supply you end up using if that works. You should attempt it. 
 

 

This tinkering is a good way to pass the time if bored in a lockdown, but has no other benefit that has been proved in even ONE level matched double blind listening test.

And if this involves any modification of the unit in question, warranties will be lost for justified reasons.

Snake oil sellers have been around for millenia and adapt themselves to present circumstances very easily because human nature has not changed in the same millenia.

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You are right about the tinkering bit Kumar, we are bored, and we do tinker when we are bored… 😉 

Nothing wrong in doing some experimentation. Sometimes you learn interesting things. I can say I have. 

Certainly there is nothing wrong with experimentation, it is the foundation of scientific progress. But for progress to be real and not subjectively imagined, experimental conclusions need to be tested with the rigour that science applies. When that rigour is missing as it is almost always is with audiophiles, the subjective conclusions claimed are mere opinions that are of little common value.

Badge +1

Certainly there is nothing wrong with experimentation, it is the foundation of scientific progress. But for progress to be real and not subjectively imagined, experimental conclusions need to be tested with the rigour that science applies. When that rigour is missing as it is almost always is with audiophiles, the subjective conclusions claimed are mere opinions that are of little common value.

This I have to agree with. Because this is exactly what I am seeing when I talk to “audiophiles” online. There is too much fake news online, especially in this field. Some of them simply will not agree even if you prove something scientifically beyond doubt. In such cases, I have just stopped commenting online - no point, trying to make such people understand, 

Certainly there is nothing wrong with experimentation, it is the foundation of scientific progress. But for progress to be real and not subjectively imagined, experimental conclusions need to be tested with the rigour that science applies. When that rigour is missing as it is almost always is with audiophiles, the subjective conclusions claimed are mere opinions that are of little common value.

This I have to agree with. Because this is exactly what I am seeing when I talk to “audiophiles” online. There is too much fake news online, especially in this field. Some of them simply will not agree even if you prove something scientifically beyond doubt. In such cases, I have just stopped commenting online - no point, trying to make such people understand, 

Audiophilia depends on faith.

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