Question

Even better sound from Sonos Port(/Connect)?

  • 27 October 2019
  • 7 replies
  • 1178 views

I have a Sonos Port going into high end amplifier/speakers.  Has anyone had success adding additional components to improve the sound of the Port (or Connect)?

 

I was thinking of maybe an external DAC or Preamp - but something that would maintain volume control within the app.  Has anyone had success with this?

 

It seems most external components (DAC/Preamp) would move the volume control to the upstream device itself, and not from the Sonos App..

 

Dave


7 replies

Back in the day when I believed in audiophile kit and fairies, I looked for such improvement that included buying heavy expensive DACs etc.; I was only fooling myself that it made a difference when objectively all it might have done is boosted the sound levels a tad to allow the fooling to happen. But that can be done just as easily by moving the volume slider on the Connect.

The only thing I would do if my high end amp had a built in DAC is to use the digital out on the Port to feed it, bypassing the Port DAC. At least you then have the satisfaction of using all the amp features you have paid for. Anything else, don’t bother and move on to enjoying the increase in the variety of music you can now access; look to mastering quality of that music as the only thing that can have an audible impact on the sound quality.

A typical DAC doesn’t have volume adjustment, so volume control remains with the Sonos controller app (or whatever amp is downstream of the DAC).

The Port’s digital outputs are 24-bit, so there’s room for the Sonos volume to be adjusted down to about -48dB before resolution begins to be lost.

At the upper end of the range, keep the Sonos volume below about 85% to steer clear of the ‘soft-knee’ limiter.

If the Port is operated in Fixed Volume mode then it should be ‘transparent’, without such considerations. 

I used my Sonos Connect line out to my class A stereo for some months. It was so great to stream to my hifi that I was satisfied with the result. But I woke up one day and used the digital output to my my preamp which has high end DACs. The difference was remarkable - clarity, range, soundstage all obviously better. No fairies were injured in this change ;-). So whoever doesn’t hear the benefits probably doesn’t have the quality DACs, preamp, amp, speakers, etc to hear the difference. That’s ok. I accept that not everyone cares about these things.

Admittedly, the cost of quality DACs is high. But if you have a good stereo and care about the sound you might consider some decent DACs. BTW, it won’t change how you control the volume.

 

Dave M.

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As already mentioned, most DACs will preserve volume control in the Sonos app - as well as at the amp in your system. They do make a difference to the sound, but I suspect it’s a very subjective one, along with the usual caveats about the sonic characteristics of your room. I was hoping that the Port would simplify my system a little, but after days of experimentation I’ve ended up passing its digital output through my original Cambridge Audio DacMagic, which I adore (no longer available but newer versions are). You may have to try out several DACs, all part of the fun!

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“The only thing I would do if my high end amp had a built in DAC is to use the digital out on the Port to feed it, bypassing the Port DAC.”

Kumar - As a neophyte, this is a revelation to me. To confirm, if I connect from ‘Digital Out’ on the Port to the Coaxial ‘Digital In’ on my aging Denon home theater receiver, the Port DAC is bypassed/not utilized and the Denon DAC IS utilized?

 

The Denon DAC is 192kHz/24-bit.

 

Cool!

The last days I did many test with my old Sonos Connect, a new Sonnos Port and a bluenote Node i2.

The results:

  • The sound of all 3 streames is much better using my external DAC compared to the internal ones. My external DAC is the DAC of my 19 year old Mark Levinson CD Player 390S. I used Amazon HD as Source with some Tracks in CD quality (16 Bit/44,1KHz).
  • I can easy recognize the difference between compressed streaming with Spotify or “normal” Amazon Music and the CD quality of Amazon Music HD. HD is better.
  • There is nearly no difference between the 3 streames using my external DAC.
  • Also nearly no difference between digital cinch connection and optical connection between Sonos Connect and my DAC.
  • My high end CD player is significant better as streaming in CD quality. I think this is because my CD player is extremly good. With other CD players the result could be different.

My conclusion: A good quality external DAC in combination wird Amazon Music HD (same with Tidal, Deezer Hifi oder Qobuz) is an acceptable alternative to physical CDs, also for the so called HighEnders.

I was not able to test Ultra HD tracks from Amazon Music HD againt “normal HD” tracks because the DAC of my player cannot go beyond 24 Bit/48K (Amazon Ultra HD deliveres up to 24 Bit/192 KHz).

Hope this helps.

My equipment:

  • CD Player: Mark Levinson 390S
  • Pre amp: Mark Levinson 28
  • Power amp: Mark Levinson 29
  • Speaker: Spendor BC1 MK3
  • Speaker cable: Straight Wire Pro 12 Special (bi-wiring)
  • Digital cable between streamer and DAC: Oehlbach NF 113
  • Analog interconnects between DAC, pre amp and power amp: Sun Wire Audi Reference (XLR)
  • Power cable: XLO/VDO ER-10
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This helps! Thank you.

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