My Sonos Amp Review.

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So I have hooked up the new Amp and given it a thorough listening. I am impressed.

My prior setup was B&W 683 Floorstanders into a Audiolabs MDAC Pre/DAC to a Bryston 3B-ST Amp. My streamer of choice was a RPi3B+ running PiCorePlayer and the Squeezelite software attached via USB to the MDAC.

I was a longtime Spotify user but I recently switched to using Apple Music while my wife still uses Spotify. Spotify had a squeezebox plugin so it worked well (though the Spotify Connect implementation was flaky at times). I also have over 1000 CDs ripped to ALAC on a home server.

This was a great sounding setup but I found the airplay unreliable and no native Apple Music support (other than airplay) with Squeezebox so I have been looking at other options. Since native apple music support is limited to Sonos, it was an easy choice, I just had to choose what to get.

I considered just getting the Connect and adding it into the existing system via optical to the DAC but decided to take a chance on the new Amp. Its 125W / channel vs. the Bryston's 120W so nearly identical power though the whole idea of DDFA amps had me sceptical that 125W per side could be handled by the little guy. My speakers also dip down to 3 Ohm at times so they are not the easiest to drive cleanly . The quality of the DAC was also completely unknown. That said if the Amp performance was 95% of my current setup, I could live with it. The return policy swayed me to at least give it a try. If it wasn't as good I could return it and if it does workout, I can sell the Amp and DAC and pay for the Amp.

I ordered Wednesday and it was delivered to me Friday. Unfortunately I missed the delivery guy so I picked it up at the courier depot today. Quick shipping (surprising since Im in Canada but I guess they shipped from the TO area and not from California so no border hassles).

The packaging really reminded me of Apple and I was surprised by how small the Amp actually is.

My speakers were already on banana clips so hooking it all up was quick. Basically plugging in the speakers and power cord.

Next was the app setup. The Sonos setup was easy enough. My only gotcha was that I needed to enable 802.11g on my network. I actually run two dualband routers, R7000 with a run of cat6 to an R3700 running as a Switch and Access Point. B/G clients are rare and there is a potential performance hit enabling support for it on N or AC routers so I don't normally have it on. Anyway on my 3700 2.4Ghz band I enabled G and the setup continued no issue. Added the SMB path to my ALACs and it indexed them rather fast. I also added Apple Music as a source. All very intuitive. I did have to dig a bit for EQ and Amp settings in the app but I found them. Left EQ flat, though I did turn loudness off after a quick google told me what it did (surprised it was defaulted to On on the amp...)

Anyway gave a listen to a few tracks I have locally and know well and it performed admirably. I went back and forth between the MDAC/Bryston and the Sonos Amp to A/B and it was hard to distiguish. The Bryston is an excellent amp. I would give the Bryston a slight nod on clarity, especially on lower volumes and it was actually able to drive the speaker just a bit louder despite being 5W less (to be fair I think my 3BST sample was checked out at ~155W per side on Bryston's exit QC test report more than the rated 120W). On the other hand the Sonos Amp was also able to handle the B&Ws nearly as well. It was also exceedingly quiet and also quite clear. Certainly no complaints and while it wasn't as loud, when turned up it was definitely loud.

My list of complaints about the Sonos is small.

1. It really needs a headphone jack. Its the one thing I will miss from my current DAC. I have a set of Sennheiser 650s that I use when the wife wants quiet, but now I won't have that. I can always use them with the iphone directly but the Senns need a good headphone amp to bring out the best.

2. The Front Panel UI/UX. Actual Up and Down icons for the volume to match the play / pause. Right now its 4 dots making a square. Also I am not sure what each press does but going by the slider on the ipad its not as smooth as a dial.

3. I did notice a clicking/static sound when it hit the end of a playlist. Not sure if it was related to anything else but this could get annoying as the Amp is always on. One suggestion would be to mute itself after no activity for say 5 minutes.

4. Software UI complaints. Nothing major. I am a long time user of the iPeng app that controls squeezeboxen and like its now playing screen and its swipe to left for lyrics and swipe to right to see the queue. I could find no way to see lyrics withing Sonos at all and swiping does nothing. Also need to hit edit to manipulate the queue order vs. just touching a song and moving it up or down.

Otherwise my only concern is longevity. The Bryston is a tank with a 20 year warranty. The Sonos certainly felt premium and people still use the original Connect:Amp after 10 years so. Also DDFAs are a different type of Amp. It got warm but was surprising cool all things considered. The Bryston is a heavy as it is because its a giant heatsink (not that it gets hot either...) but the size of this thing and cleaning up the wires it is crazy its actually smaller than my DAC as seen in the picture below.

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35 replies

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A big +1 to @Kumar 's comment with one exception: I've been an audio enthusiast for 40+ years, which I guess tells you I'm older than Kumar! 🙂 :-)

Which is why the brightness reports concerned me - I had not heard similar reports about any reputable manufacturer's amp for literally decades. Amp design, it seems to me, was a solved problem a long time ago (the only newish wrinkle being Class D amps, and even that development isn't so recent).
Lol. Or perhaps I was able to afford to dabble in the hobby only after having earned the money to do so:-). Thankfully, that expensive dabbling is in the past now and Sonos is a good as it needs to be to supply me with much more listenable music that I was able to hear in my audiophile days.
If the amp meets your needs in other ways, and you live in a place where the no questions asked return policy can be availed, I suggest you buy it with that policy cover protecting the spend.
To be honest, I am less of a Sonos fan these days, with the foot dragging they are doing over the Alexa integration in India, Amazon having launched it way back in Oct 2017. But the Connect Amp is still such a neat design, with line in jacks, that I am able to wire a Echo Dot to them and use that as my primary source of music these days. Even without using the Sonos wireless tech, the amp can't be beat for the combination of features like instant on from standby, small footprint, and ability to comfortably drive speakers that are not carelessly designed to be difficult loads. No backlit dancing VU meters though:-). Or the glow of tubes...
Please don't think that I am bashing anyone, but the listening characteristics of amplifiers are not important to some people. In many ways these individuals are more fortunate than listeners who do care. I've also encountered individuals who don't express any preference for one speaker vs another. This individual may have strong preferences with regard to amplifiers. The "trick," if you like, is to discover which end of the dog you should be barking at and spend your effort optimizing that end.

For me the attempt to put a piece of equipment in a, "good", "bad", or "ugly" bin is an exploration, not an attempt to prove someone's listening credentials.

I'm not a spirits drinker, but as I observe tasting events, it seems to me that it is the same, sometimes emotional dynamic, but with a different vocabulary -- and its own version of good and bad science.
I am one of those that have found that changing amps did not make any audible difference to the sound I heard, with amps being the ones I have listed earlier here.

There are also two very respected names from the field of high end audio I know of that precede me on the same wave length: Peter Walker, the legendary founder designer of Quad amplifiers and speakers said about fifty years ago that all that a good amplifier should be is "straight wire with gain", and that his amplifiers were just that back in the day; removing therefore from his armoury the weapon of claiming sonic superiority for his amplifiers. The other person I have found that consistently says this even today is Alan Shaw, the owner designer of Harbeth speakers, in saying that his speakers do not care which amp of the usually found THD spec is driving them as long as the amp is not having to work outside its design limits, usually by being extremely underpowered; by that he refers to the 5 wpc kind of amps that have a cult following. His argument is that this is nowhere near the kind of power that is needed for music with high dynamic range to be properly delivered by his speakers, and his recommendations are for 20-30 wpc, preferably 100 wpc. Which one? He says it does not matter to the sound his speakers deliver, except in the rare case these days of a poorly designed amp or the equally rare case of one that has been conferred with a permanent sound signature by its designer.

Since I have no longer have the time or the inclination to test my conviction on this subject by continuing to dabble with amps, given also that any new purchases I make in future will be of active speakers where this is irrelevant, I do not expect to change my mind about this little conviction.
Audiophiles hate powered speakers because it robs them of the opportunity to chase the ultimate amplifier and speaker wire.

Peter Walker's amps were in the "not bright" bin.
It is also pertinent to note that we are on a thread started by an OP that found close to nothing to distinguish the sound of the Sonos Amp from that of the highly regarded in audiophile circles Bryston amp and other exotic front end kit; it is very likely - IMO - that what little that he thinks he heard may not survive a level matched controlled blind test. It is also pertinent to note that he does not seem to think that doing this test is worth the bother.
And none of that little was in the "brightness" dimension, with EQ set to flat.
Audiophiles hate powered speakers because it robs them of the opportunity to chase the ultimate amplifier and speaker wire.

It is more than just that; there is enough scope to chase the ultimate active speakers, also with horrifying prices, from the likes of ATC, Dynaudio etc.
What audiophiles want but do not get from active speakers is the illusion of control and involvement in their hobby via the mix and match/upgrading(?) games, along with the pleasure in drooling over and then falling for things like speaker wire and other similar brochures, and renewing the temporary rush from getting new kit/tweaks in, till they need the next fix.
Been there, done that.
The pros in the meantime, having more important things to do in the mastering studios, see their kit for exactly what it is and are now almost entirely users of active electronics/powered speakers.
Much of the improvement attributed to wire replacement is due to the accidental cleaning of the connections while replacing old with new.
Much of the improvement attributed to wire replacement is due to the accidental cleaning of the connections while replacing old with new.
Party pooper:-)!!!