Connect vs Port vs Bluesound sound quality?

  • 24 January 2020
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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)


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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

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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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.

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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.

I found this thread because I was looking info for the new port, I am laso thinking of upgrade my old connect.
 All is very subjective, your listening room will influence at least 50% of the sound you will hear,
If you want to really hear the diff 24/92 vs CD you need to source to be recorded in high definition also, and still the diff will be minimal or none if the room is not acoustic treated, like for many of us common mortal people.
I think the port beeing a new product will sound better (more modern electronic) that the connect (I have a connect), in the S2 you can stream now 24/92 also so no advantage vs bluesound now.
I think the Bluesound is crazy expensive, if I would change my sonos setup (I have 3 more speakers also) would be for a yamaha multicast system in that case, but for now I ll stick with the sonos setup I have.

 

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Im pretty locked into Sonos and don’t regret that generally. However it is difficult to listen to Sonos after listening to my Hi-Fi headphone system as the Hi-Fi sound is in a different league. The problem with the connect and Port is they compare very poorly to other streamers such as bluesound note in terms of capabilities and price. The connect and port make no sense at all unless you are locked to Sonos 

 

Sonos is an excellent life style product but you have to accept that it is not designed sold or marketed as a Hi-Fi product and it does not have the sound quality or functionality of a hi fi product  I’m sure they are perfectly capable of making a product to compete with the bluesound note and numerous other streamers but that is not where their market is  if you just want a Hi-Fi streamer go else where unfortunately 

 

 

it is not designed sold or marketed as a Hi-Fi product 

 

 

I can understand saying that it is not sold/marketed as a HiFi product - somewhat. But to say it is not designed as a HiFi product is a meaningless statement because there is no well accepted engineering definition of what is a “HiFi” product, anywhere in the world. 

What sonos gives you is multiroom, if you dont need that then any streamer will be better and cheaper, a raspberry pi will have better signal output from its dac-HAT component for example.
I have my connect coax out going to a decent DAC that is also a preamp, and I think the sound is really nice.
I have also a not so expensive Class AB amp that sounds great, but if I put a CD I think the sound is slightly better but nobody else will notice that anyway at home.

The speakers that you place in diff rooms are not HiFi and I use them as background music son there is not need to spend a hell lot of money there, I rather to have my main system sounding good to me.

If I would switch to another multiroom system I would look at yamaha multicast.  But Ilike simplicity I dont need alexa and those extra things, I just want to listen to music.
 

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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What sonos gives you is multiroom, if you dont need that then any streamer will be better and cheaper, a raspberry pi will have better signal output from its dac-HAT component for example.

 

I agree for the most part. I own a Port for about 2 months. I also own a Pi with Hifiberry Hat. I can't say if one sounds better than the other but can say the Port cost ~$400 more. 

I don't think there is anyone defending the ridiculously high price of a Port, by claiming that it does more on the sound quality front than a USD 25 Chromecast Audio puck as just one example. Or, as another, my raspberry PI wirelessly streams ripped CDs from a USB stick inserted into it to a Echo Dot, that is wire connected to the jacks of a Connect Amp. Even something like this also sounds just as good as my Connect.

On the other hand there is Bluesound that is even more expensive as are other streamers that are multiple times more expensive than the Port that also don't do more than all of the aforesaid on the sound quality front. But the higher price deludes people into thinking they sound better.

The problem is that clever marketing has brainwashed people into thinking: Expensive = High End = HiFi. Which is the most commonly understood definition of the word “HiFi”. And of course, there is no engineering definition of that word, so it is a carte blanche for snake oil peddlers in the HiFi industry.

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I don't think there is anyone defending the ridiculously high price of a Port, by claiming that it does more on the sound quality front than a USD 25 Chromecast Audio puck as just one example. Or, as another, my raspberry PI wirelessly streams ripped CDs from a USB stick inserted into it to a Echo Dot, that is wire connected to the jacks of a Connect Amp. Even something like this also sounds just as good as my Connect.

 

Pointing out the cost of the Port wasn't the point, this is Sonos community, we've all accepted the price point to play. The point was that the pi is so cheap in comparison.

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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

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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.

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

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

Why?

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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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,