Started swapping our Sonos and WOW Bluesound Node

  • 28 November 2021
  • 8 replies
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Over the years, I've spent a lot on Sonos and let's leave it at that. I was a die-hard fan buying it for relatives and encouraging friends too. However, they made quite a few of my items legacy, 4 x Play 5s and a Connect that I used for proper hifi via optical out into Marantz DAC, Amp, Floorstanders, massive Monolith Plus sub. The cables on that system cost more than a Play 5. 

To be fair, I always thought that it sounded great via Spotify and the Sonos Connect, but I swapped to Tidal Hi-Res Studio files via the Bluesound Node, and the difference is massive. No more background noise at 5+ vol,  the soundstage is much more comprehensive, bass control on another level, and vocals/instruments are just popping. The difference is enormous considering the amount spent. 

 

I'm gradually swapping Sonos for real HiFi because they will legacy more products, for example, after a few years when the S3 app comes out. I understand the business model, but it's not for me.

The Tidal audio files also sound much better in my car, but strangely, there is very little difference between Sonos products.

 


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I’m pleased you’ve found a solution that works for you. I don’t quite understand your phrase ‘legacy more products’. The implication I’m reading there is ‘causing these products to stop working’, and nothing is further from the case. All ‘older’ Sonos speaker devices continue to operate as they always have, using a version of the Sonos software called S1. And it only took Sonos 15 years of growth to need to split the software in two branches, so projecting from history suggests that S3 will be necessary in 2034, give or take. 

To date, Sonos has only retired remote controls, and 30 pin Apple device docks, no actual speakers or drivers of speakers. I’d suggest that’s pretty impressive, for essentially a computer inside a speaker system. How many smart phones from the early days of Sonos still operate?

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Thanks for your response. As I said, I have a ton of Sonos kit, including a 5.1 playbase setup which sounds pretty good.

 

I classify legacy products like typical IT kit, which from Wikipedia says the below.

 

In computing, a legacy system is an old method, technology, computer system, or application program, "of, relating to, or being a previous or outdated computer system,"[1] yet still in use. Often referencing a system as "legacy" means that it paved the way for the standards that would follow it. This can also imply that the system is out of date or in need of replacement.

 

I therefore think that the term legacy is a good fit for the older Sonos kit. The Bluesound Node has proved beyond a doubt that Sonos doesn't offer an audiophile product, but it makes an excellent party box. However, It'll be interesting to see how Sonos competitors upgrade future products.

 

Mark my words, I bet the S3 app comes before 2034 moreover, I would have liked to have had more than five years of premium support for some of my products. I expect that future customers might consider the risk that their expensive Sonos products could become legacy in the near term.

If you think Bluesound or any other competitors aren't going to "legacy" devices, then you misunderstand the smart speaker market.  Just hope they can do it in a way like Sonos did.  Some manufacturers like Bose simply discontinued the entire line which was still being sold up to the day it was cancelled.  No legacy software, no discounts, no nothing.  Sonos retiring units that were at least 5 years since last sold, splitting off the software so they still work as advertised, and offering a 30% discount while still being able to keep the original unit looks positively generous compared to Bose.  We shall see what "legacy" method Bluesound uses sooner or later.

And if the Tidal files are in MQA then the ‘massive’ difference could be down to the well-known shortcomings in this lossy format. The ‘massive’ difference may of course be welcome to your ears, but it may not be what the artist intended. 

but I swapped to Tidal Hi-Res Studio files via the Bluesound Node, and the difference is massive. No more background noise at 5+ vol,  the soundstage is much more comprehensive, bass control on another level, and vocals/instruments are just popping. The difference is enormous considering the amount spent. 

 

I'm gradually swapping Sonos for real HiFi

 

Any comparison of hardware is only valid if there is only one variable in the comparison - the hardwares being compared. As soon as the source is changed as quoted, all bets are off. And further to what ratty has said, not all listeners may prefer what MQA does to the sound. I have never heard it, but I have heard Apple’s latest - spatial audio - and I don't much care for it for my music listening.

As to the last part, it may be that as your reference to expensive cables suggests, you define real HiFi only by price points. In my book, properly set up Sonos can be just as real HiFi as any other system that claims the label and which sounds better gets down to listener preferences, assuming one is listening to both in a typical domestic listening environment.

I'm gradually swapping Sonos for real HiFi

 

Pre-existing expectations are a huge factor in unscientific, subjective, non-blind audio comparisons.  No further comment needed, I feel.

As to the last part, it may be that as your reference to expensive cables suggests, you define real HiFi only by price points. 

Once upon a time, probably around 25 years ago, I was somewhat mocked by work colleagues for boasting cables which in aggregate cost more than each of their entire systems. These days we’d be talking 4-figures in GBP. Speaker cables accounted for at least half of the total.

With the benefit of hindsight I now realise that I was of course barking up completely the wrong tree. There’s a reason integrated active speaker systems -- typically with per-driver amplification -- are much favoured in the professional world: they’re the correct engineering solution. Actives wouldn’t be welcomed by those searching for “proper HiFi” however, as there’s nothing to relentlessly tweak.

Actives wouldn’t be welcomed by those searching for “proper HiFi” however, as there’s nothing to relentlessly tweak.

That suggests a working definition of audiophiles and HiFi: Audiophiles are people that still believe that HiFi kit has to be expensive, with lots of scope for tweaking and upgrading.

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