Issue with Connect:AMP and Volume

  • 19 January 2013
  • 40 replies
  • 13391 views

Userlevel 2
I'm a few months into my Sonos setup, and absolutely love it. Yes, my first (two!) cars didn't cost this much, but I consider it one of the best investments I've ever made. I have 5 zones with a mix of Play:5 and Play:3 speakers, and also using my own speakers -- which is where the trouble is.

In my living room, I have a Connect:Amp hooked up to a pair of Polk RTiA1 speakers (http://www.polkaudio.com/products/rtia1). The sound is... disappointing. I should clarify: The sound is spectacular, certainly more sophisticated than from my Play:3 or Play:5 speakers, which already sound great. But it doesn't seem as "powerful" as it should be, for lack of a better word.

For one thing, with all zones on the same volume setting, my living room speakers are noticeably quieter than the others. I have to turn up the volume in that room by perhaps 20% to equal the volume being played elsewhere. Also, with the volume set somewhere around 5% maybe, there's not really any music coming out of the speakers at all, while my Play:3s and Play:5s are still audible.

And second, it just feels like the overall power isn't that impressive. It's uncomfortable to stand in front of my Play:5 with the volume even close to maxed out, but not so with my Connect:Amp/Polk setup. Turning the volume all the way up is indeed pretty loud, but not the blast I was expecting. Not that I'm aiming for a setup that makes my ears bleed... Just making the point.

I hooked some other speakers up to the Connect:Amp and had the same issue. I don't think the Polks are the problem, and like I said, they do sound amazing for what they put out. (They are also gorgeous!)

What I'm struggling with is whether to keep this setup. Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I've got something screwed up on the technical side, I don't know. This is by far my most expensive Sonos room, though... About $825 including the Amp ($500) and speakers ($325). I'm wondering if a $600 pair of Play 3's would sound the same or better.

Anyway, eager for any advice anyone has to offer.

This topic has been closed for further comments. You can use the search bar to find a similar topic, or create a new one by clicking Create Topic at the top of the page.

40 replies

How big is the room, and where are the Polks located with respect to the walls?

The Connect:Amp delivers 55W/ch into 8 ohms and those Polks, whilst of average efficiency, can take a more powerful amp. They are however 'bookshelf' speakers with modest low frequency extension so they're unlikely to shake the room.

If yours is a largish room you may be better served with a Connect plus a separate amp and speakers.
Userlevel 2
It is a largish room. I have the speakers on either side of my fireplace (which is in the middle of the room, not at one end.)

As a test, I brought two of my Play:5 speakers from other rooms and paired them in stereo mode, and... Wow. The sound is really exactly what I'm looking for. Substantially more bass than the Polks were delivering. (Which again makes me wonder if I've got something screwed up with my connect:amp or the wiring?)

I may return the amp/polks and buy two more play:5s. That's still a pricey option ($800), and they really don't look as nice, but the sound is great. And I guess I can always use them in a different part of the house some day.
jma,

In your brain, try to disconnect "volume control setting" from any judgements about sound quality. If the room plays loud enough, ignore the volume control setting. The volume control settings are about sensitivity, not quality. I'm not throwing SONOS into this bin, but as a general rule I find that the lower quality stuff gets louder at the lower end of the volume control than higher quality stuff. One must turn the volume control farther on high quality stuff for equal output. This loud at low settings is very important out in the department stores. Sometimes I'll lurk in a high traffic store and observe. Customers will remark how "powerful" a unit is if it gets impossibly loud when one "just cracks" the volume control -- this is the one for them to buy.
Userlevel 2
I hear you, and I guess starting out by saying it's not "loud enough" didn't really capture what I was trying to capture. It just feels like I'm not getting a very "full" sound out of the connect:amp/polk pairing. I'm open to the idea of trying other speakers, but these seemed pretty good.

And then there is still the issue of the volume disparity -- my Play:3s and Play:5s really are at equal volumes when I've got everything playing at once, while the speakers hooked up to the connect:amp are definitely quieter.
This may be a daft question, but are you sure the Polks are wired in phase?
... the speakers hooked up to the connect:amp are definitely quieter.

Are you saying that you have run out of volume control and the volume is still too low?
Userlevel 2
Are you saying that you have run out of volume control and the volume is still too low?

No, I'm saying that I have to add about 20% to the volume level of the zone with the Connect:Amp and Speakers to equal the same volume level as the Play:3 or Play:5 speakers. (And this isn't a room size issue or anything like that...)

Obviously it's something that can be managed, but is a little annoying. And the volume control resets anytime you do anything to change room groupings, so you have to sort of recalibrate.
jma,

Probably, you should not attempt to use a CONNECT:AMP in your system. Use PLAY:3's and PLAY:5's because you will not be able to match the level controls of anything else to your satisfaction. You could possibly use a CONNECT and a regular amplifier, but I think that you will run into volume control issues there too. You'll need to operate the follow-on amplifier at a high volume that will be outside of your comfort zone. This could be fixed with a product such as this.

Note that this is not an equipment flaw issue, it is simply a mismatch with your expectations.
Userlevel 2
Just for "giggles" try using your speakers with a different amplifier (using the RCA output jacks on the Connect;Amp) and see if there is a difference in how the speakers sound. If there is a difference must be in the amp in the Connect or maybe just the power out of the Connect Amp is not enough to really run the speakers correctly. If no difference then try moving the speakers around and see if that makes a difference.
Just for "giggles" try using your speakers with a different amplifier (using the RCA output jacks on the Connect;Amp) and see if there is a difference in how the speakers sound. If there is a difference must be in the amp in the Connect or maybe just the power out of the Connect Amp is not enough to really run the speakers correctly. If no difference then try moving the speakers around and see if that makes a difference.

The Connect:amp does not have RCA audio out.
This may be a daft question, but are you sure the Polks are wired in phase?

That's my first thought too. Out of phase speakers will give exactly the effect jma describes: vague, washed out, low bass levels and no "punch" to the overall sound.

Worth checking I'm sure.
Just for "giggles" try using your speakers with a different amplifier (using the RCA output jacks on the Connect;Amp) and see if there is a difference in how the speakers sound.
soundhd,

As wadgel notes, Connect:Amp has no RCA outs (other than a low-pass subwoofer feed).

As of now it's still our impression that you own precisely zero Sonos components, so your experience in the use of the products is presumably commensurate.

Helpful interventions are always welcome. When they're inaccurate and misleading they only serve to confuse.
Badge +1
hi jma

i am sorry i don't have any solutions for you, but i can offer my experience. i have a play 3, play 5 and connect amp. the amp is hooked up to dali zensor 1s, and previously a cheap pair of missions that came bundled with whatever the denon microsystem of 10 years ago was.

the connect amp is very loud (on both sets of speakers). i am scared to turn it up to full volume! albeit in a small/medium room.

if you are saying that you can turn it up to full volume, and it isn't ridiculously loud, then that is surprising and not what i would expect, and doesn't sound quite right to me.

p.s. personally i wouldn't worry too much about the volume toggles being "out of sync". factors such as room size and placement has an effect on your comfortable settings, and will presumably vary from zone to zone. that said, the volume on my connect amp zone is generally lower than that of my player zones for comfortable listening.
Userlevel 2
Just wanted to follow up:

This was driving me crazy enough that before I boxed up the speakers and returned them for something else, I decided to buy a new Connect:AMP just to see if it would make any difference. And... That was it! With the new amp, the sound coming out of the Polks is absolutely stunning. And, yes, loud and powerful: At about 50% volume, my (very large) living room shakes.

I have no idea what the issue could have been that was limiting the output of the old Connect:AMP, but it doesn't matter now. And by the way, to anyone looking for bookshelf speakers, I can enthusiastically recommend the Polk RTiA1. Price pretty much everywhere is about $325 for the pair, and they easily sound as good as speakers costing three times as much. (And as I mentioned before, they really look gorgeous.)

Thanks for all the suggestions everyone.
Userlevel 3
Badge
Can someone help me to solve my issue with connect:amp left hand output volume extremely low?

I have 2 connect:amps and both are giving the same output issue.

I have tested it in 2 different set of speakers and in both (and also both amps) the issue is the same. After 1 second, volume of the speaker in the LH is turned automatically to very low level.

If someone knows what may be the solution, please let me know. I am getting crazy with it.

I am using Atrium45 outdoor speakers and another set of old speakers (6 ohms)
Bruno Santos,

First post! Welcome to the forums.

Are you using the same speaker wire in all of your tests? Are there any volume controls or switches in this circuit? What happens if your exchange left and right at the back of the CONNECT:AMP?
Userlevel 3
Badge
Buzz, I have tested all speakers in all positions and the output issue is always the same. Left output from sonos amp is extremely low, but as I have two sonos connect:amp and both have the same issue I can not believe in an amp internal failure.

So answering your question, when I swap wirings in the back of the amp, the issue continues in the same output ports of the amp, migrating the low sound level to the other speaker
Userlevel 3
Badge +1
Perhaps this is too simplistic, but could it be that your Music Equalization "Balance" setting for the problem zone is offset to Right channel only? This would explain why two CONNECT:AMPs show the same apparent "fault".
Userlevel 3
Badge
Buzz, thank you for the attention.

I have spent few hours today over this issue and now for my personal surprise it is the radio that I was selecting!!

Honestly I can not understand the reason as I would believe that even mono radios would play LH and RH speakers!

Thank you again for the attention!
Userlevel 3
Badge
Perhaps this is too simplistic, but could it be that your Music Equalization "Balance" setting for the problem zone is offset to Right channel only? This would explain why two CONNECT:AMPs show the same apparent "fault".


I was checking it also and everything was fine .

Now for my surprise it is associated with one radio (radio mpb fm) I am not able to understand the reason
Bruno Santos,

It's good that you got to the bottom of things by expanding your search for causes. In diagnostic mode if one assumes that it can't be ..., one can be blindsided.
Userlevel 2
Hi all, New member here. I am posting to see if I can find some help as I am in no way "tech savvy". I ran accross this forum as I was searching for a problem I am having with how "powerful" my speakers sound.

I have a pair of 8" episode 500 speakers and a pair of 6" episode 300 speakers (both in ceiling). Each pair is wired to a wall mounted volume knob, then from there to a speaker selector, then to the connect amp.

I love everything about Sonos except when the volume is all the way up, its loud, but not extremly loud.

I have lived with it like this for 3 months but after reading this thread, it seems I may have an issue.

If anyone can help, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Welcome to the forum.

The Episode's are not of the highest efficiency (87dB@1w for the 500's, 86dB for the 300 series; a standardized baseline measurement of sound output). Since they're 6-ohm impedance, there's likely some impedance matching at play as well, either in the volume controls or the selector (or worse, both).

Those factors are probably combining to affect overall output. If you understand the wiring, you could (temporarily) bypass the volume control and the switcher and run the 500's directly from the Connect:Amp to see if that noticeably increases the output level. That would be a starting point to finding out what's going on.

IIRC, the Episode lineup is aimed at the Custom Installer market. Obviously, if this is a newer installation by a professional, tampering with the wiring could void your warranty. In that case, you'll need to take it up with your CI.
Userlevel 2
NoBoB,

Thank you very much for the great advice. I will definetly bypass the volume knob and selector and see what happens.

I dont know what impedance matching means, but I do know the volume knobs are impedance matching but Im not sure about the selector.

If this is the problem, is there any alternative I can do that might fix it?

Thanks!
When two loads are paralleled together -- as when you connect two speakers to one amplifier channel -- the total impedance presented to that amp is lower than the individual loads. I won't bore you with the intricacies of calculations with Ohm's Law, but for two identical loads, the math is easy: it's half.

That means your 6-ohm speakers together would present a 3-ohm load to your Connect:Amp. The C:A is rated to drive loads no lower than 4-ohm, so something must be done to correct for that. An impedance matching device uses -- well, let's call it 'additional electronics' -- to increase the impedance and present a drivable load to the Amp.

Because the devices -- in this case, the volume controls and maybe the switcher -- are intended to be used in many different configurations, they have multiple 'multiplication' settings to allow use with from a single pair all the way to many pairs of speakers. If the volume control is set up like it was part of a system with many speakers, and then the switcher is found to also be adding its own effect, you might see how that would present a higher-than-necessary impedance to the amp. The higher the impedance, the lower the output wattage from the amp, and the less loud it plays.

If you don't have the owner's manual (or a spec sheet) for the switcher, post the model number and one of us will track it down and find out if it does impedance matching too.

Of course, the possibility exists that even after removing the intervening equipment, the speakers still won't play loud enough for you, since 'loud' is subjective (my definition is considerably higher than my wife's, for example 🙂 ) but we'll cross that bridge if we get to it.