Question

Solo Play 1 speaker sounds like its only playing one side of stereo.

  • 15 August 2016
  • 15 replies
  • 4472 views

Hi, Sonos aside, what I'm trying to describe is how a song sounds when you listen to it with only 1 speaker (of a 2 speaker pair) activated and you can only hear one "half" of the song in that speaker. The leading instruments (as an example) sound muted, as they are supposed to be played out of the second speaker.

This effect is happening on my solo Play 1 speaker, albeit only for certain songs. If you want to try and replicate, play "Dear Mr. Fantasy" from this album on Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/album/4DVHx9Smqa6ZZX99rU4zkI

For me, the leading vocals and guitar are quite muted.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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15 replies

I have to ask: why would you set up a stereo pair of PLAY:1s and then turn one of them off?

As it happens, powering off one channel of pair should result in the remaining speaker updating its channel map to L+R. However it may take a while before it realises that its twin has disappeared. Powering the remaining speaker off and on again should force it into L+R operation immediately.
Hi, thank you for your response.

No, I never set up 2 speakers, I've only ever just had the 1. I was simply trying to describe the behavior.

It sounds like there is a concept of a "channel map." Where can I check that setting?
Oh, okay. I thought you had a 2-speaker pair.

Actually the channel map only comes into play with bonded speakers, such as a stereo pair. If you really want to go digging, look in the boot-up records of http://IP_address:1400/status/opt/log/anacapa.trace which is the player's application log. Note that this is part of the system diagnostics, for Sonos internal use only. It's not publicly documented.

Absence of a reference to 'channel map' means the speaker thinks it's standalone.
Tried playing that track, although sourced from GPM not Spotify. Vocal appeared to be equally on both channels, so I don't see why playing only one channel would particularly mute the vocals.

Try playing "Beautiful Girl" by INXS. First 30 seconds has guitar exclusively from one channel and piano from the other. If you get both reasonably clearly then it's playing both channels on that track, anyway

I can understand @ratty's thinking you had had a stereo pair at some point - I thought that too. Not sure quite what you meant by "of a 2 speaker pair"??
Interesting update:

so I bought a second Sonos One for another room. Out of curiosity, I wondered if I paired the new Sonos with the existing Sonos, if it would treat the two as a stereo pair and thus resolve the audio issues. Short answer: it did. Long answer, it didn't do it in the way I expected. Both speakers sounded equally balanced, making the voices and lead instruments sound the way I would have expected with just the 1 Sonos.

I unpaired the two speakers to see if somehow the two speakers would now sound the same as individual speakers, and the sound in the original sonos went back to sounding the same as before: basically washing out the lead vocals / instruments on certain songs. (Two songs that exhibit this behavior:
Dear Mr. Fantasy by Traffic: https://open.spotify.com/track/6TD0NHL2cYQBrs5ct2OvdC
Adrift by Tycho: https://open.spotify.com/track/3DERgYjztCL6oME2fvRl6z) All other music I've listened to this point seems to be just fine.

In summary: when the 2 sonos 1s are paired, they BOTH sound perfect at the same time. When unpaired, the single Sonos sounds as if its playing a fundamentally different equalizer setting (for certain songs).
Sit the two side by side, unpaired, each playing mono, grouped together. Make sure Trueplay is off and EQ flat. Mute each in turn.

If one speakers sounds markedly inferior there's something wrong with it. Contact Sonos Support for a replacement.
Thanks, Ratty. I tried that. When side by side, unpaired, they sound the same, which is to say "poor."

I've logged a ticket with support and am working with them, although I believe this to be just the way the Play 1 sounds when unpaired, which I would have to say is "subpar." Its fine for 95% of the songs I've heard but terrible for the examples listed.
Hi Broskiier,
I'm having the exact same problem as you. I first noticed it with "Sympathy for the Devil", where the piano track was horribly muted, and I checked with the songs you mentioned and noticed what you said: the muted lead vocals on "Dear Mr Fantasy" for example.
Out of curiosity, what was the conclusion you reached with support on this issue? Did you end up finding a solution?

As an aside, I tried with "Beautiful Girl" by INXS, and I didn't have any problem (I heard both the guitar and the piano). So I don't think it's exactly a matter of the Sonos only playing one of the L/R tracks, but rather the way the mono is "rendered" that causes the problem.
So I don't think it's exactly a matter of the Sonos only playing one of the L/R tracks, but rather the way the mono is "rendered" that causes the problem.
Mono is, by definition, the summing of L and R. If the mix features out-of-phase content -- specifically to sound like it's coming from both stereo speakers -- then clearly it will sum to zero.
Ratty is onto it. The vocals for Dear Mr Fantasy are partly out of phase between channels. This gives a floating, disorienting effect to the vocals, and was used quite a bit in the 60's and 70's. When the channels are summed to give a mono signal, some of the vocals cancel and reduce the volume. Sympathy for the Devil is the same. The piano is almost entirely out of phase and effectively vanishes in a mono mix. There must have been special mono mixes of the songs mentioned here for radio - Sympathy wouldn't be the same without the piano.

Recording engineers are more careful these days to ensure their mix works reasonably well in mono (rather than produce two mixes). If an out-of-phase effect is required (for example, a reverb), shifting the time of just the out-of-phase effect in one channel by something like 10ms gives a reasonable mono mix without audibly affecting the stereo mix.

Cheers, Peter.
Thanks! I didn't know that!
It seems weird that sound engineers would apply a phase shift of exactly 180° necessary for the sound to cancel out, but it's a sound explanation for what's happening here.
Fascinating. Thanks, Ratty and Peter Mc, for a completely new concept to bounce around in my head. I'd have never thought that was possible, but it makes perfect sense.
Probably one significant reason for the occasional play 1 sound quality whinges that are posted here. No one takes the trouble to see if such cases are ever cured by playing the exact same recording in the same way via alleged "HiFi" speakers before posting the grief, because it is easier to dash off a post.
Probably one significant reason for the occasional play 1 sound quality whinges that are posted here. No one takes the trouble to see if such cases are ever cured by playing the exact same recording in the same way via alleged "HiFi" speakers before posting the grief, because it is easier to dash off a post.
You mean that someone on the internet could be wrong?!
Hi Broskiier,

I am also having this issue with my single PLAY:1 in my dining room. I noticed a missing rear vocal track on a song today—one that was recorded long after the glory days of the 60's and 70's. This song is from a recent album recorded in 2013.

I should also mention that I have a CONNECT connected directly to a Yamaha HiFi system in my basement, where it plays the track correctly—the rear vocal track is audible.

It's as if my PLAY:1 believes it's working in concert with another PLAY:1, as a stereo pair, and is thereby playing only one channel. I tried a factory reset of the PLAY:1 with no luck. Perhaps it's lonely and is trying to tell me something.

Were you ever able to solve your issue?

Thanks!