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Sonos Connect. Still worth buying???

  • 25 March 2018
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64 replies

A final note for the Google handy, who are entitled to think that mine is just one small data point that is questionable for that reason: try the Hydrogen Audio website/forum on the realities of home audio if you want more information.

https://hydrogenaud.io/index.php?PHPSESSID=ph4rr1dlrgr3bbgvgrc3ddicg1&action=forum

Be warned though before posting anything there that folks there, from the moderators and down, are extremely short, even rude, with anyone that does not talk objective reason.
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I'm certainly not telling the OP to go out and spend lots of money. On the contrary my advice is to enjoy the connect, it's a very good device.

The good thing about music is there's equipment out there that lets you enjoy it at all price points and the beauty of the Connect is that you can add the Sonos ease of use to equipment you already own and enjoy. Different equpiment does sound different, whether that's better or not is a whole different debate, but I do believe that using a connect on an existing HiFi is better sounding than buying Play speakers, and will be much cheaper too, So no real downsides for the OP.

The OP did say they prefered the sound of their Airport Express, so in my view there's no reason not to experiment a bit with differnent ways to see if they can get closer to that. There's always a chance over time that they'll get used the Connect and stop noticing anyway.

At the end of the day, what's important is that you're happy with how what you have sounds, and then remember to just enjoy listening to music on it, which is mostly why we buy this stuff in the first place. If you're happy with it then it's not for anyone else to say it's rubbish, as enjoying music is a good thing, full stop... 😃
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I'm certainly not telling the OP to go out and spend lots of money. On the contrary my advice is to enjoy the connect, it's a very good device.

The good thing about music is there's equipment out there that lets you enjoy it at all price points, and the beauty of the Connect is that you can add the Sonos ease of use to equipment you already own and enjoy. Different equpiment does sound different, whether that's better or not is a whole different debate, but I do believe that using a connect on an existing HiFi is better sounding than buying Play speakers, and will be much cheaper too, So no real downsides for the OP.

The OP did say they prefered the sound of their Airport Express, so in my view there's no reason not to experiment a bit with differnent ways of connecting it to see if they can get closer to that. There's always a chance over time that they'll get used the Connect and stop noticing anyway.

At the end of the day, what's important is that you're happy with how what you have sounds and then remember to just enjoy listening to music on it, which is mostly why we buy this stuff in the first place. If you're happy with it then it's not for anyone else to say it's rubbish, as enjoying music is a good thing, full stop... 🙂

The OP did say they prefered the sound of their Airport Express, so in my view there's no reason not to experiment a bit with differnent ways to see if they can get closer to that. There's always a chance over time that they'll get used the Connect and stop noticing anyway.

There is no objective reason for the AEX to sound different or better. Speakers have sonic signatures, leading to valid subjective preferences, but not things like AEX. AEX is just as good as Connect on the sound quality front, when it works well; the reason I dumped it for Sonos in 2011 is that it kept dropping the music stream, stuttering and stopping.
As to experimenting, I am merely sharing my views based on over a decade of experience that this can rapidly take you down the rabbit hole, facilitated by audiophiles and marketing that targets their all too human tendencies of being dissatisfied all the time, for no valid or scientific reasons.
If the OP still chooses to dive in to Alice's Wonderland, that is his business of course and odds are on his doing so; perhaps someone else coming across this thread will be aided to dwell on what matters - the music. And Connect is as transparent as it needs to be to allow that.
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Ian, I totally appreciate the advice. You have been more than helpful & also understanding of what I am hearing with my own ears. To Kumar, I am a musician & when I sit & listen to music in my living room I want to be able to listen & enjoy. The music is VERY important to me. The Sonos one’s I have in my dining room are totally fit for purpose but they are in no way comparable to my Hi-Fi nor did I expect them be.
The connect unit however is very expensive for what it is & I expected to hear an improvement over a device ie: Airport Express which cost £250 less than the connect.
I am not an audiophile as you can see from my reasonably modest kit but I do appreciate good sound. The Connect does not sound as good as the Airport Express to my ears. I don’t even think this is ‘subjective’ it was clear as day ( to me) that the AEX has a clearer sound with better separation than the connect..
I am posting here because I really want to keep the connect & enjoy the functionality. I’m hoping that Sonos will read this & if they update the connect in anyway will do so to improve the sound.
Also hoping to hear from others who may have been able to improve the sound in some way.
This in the end would encourage people who are in the same position as me to perhaps keep the connect. Not put others off buying it.
The Sonos one’s I have in my dining room are totally fit for purpose but they are in no way comparable to my Hi-Fi nor did I expect them be.

The Connect does not sound as good as the Airport Express to my ears. I don’t even think this is ‘subjective’ it was clear as day ( to me) that the AEX has a clearer sound with better separation than the connect..
I am posting here because I really want to keep the connect & enjoy the functionality.

I find my play 1 pair + Sub to be as good a USD 7000 HiFi system they have replaced. Just saying.

But that isn't the purpose of this post. Since you seem to be sincere, let me ask some questions on the AEX.

Describe the system in which the AEX is/was set up. What was the source? What was it connected to?
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I think the value question with the Connect is the functionality it brings to an existing system. It gives you access to all of the streaming services Sonos can provide, which is probably the best integration out there, and also allows you to involve that system in a multiroom system with either other Connect's or Play speakers to suit room and budget.

It has increased quite substantially in price in the last couple of years, you could get them for £100 less than they are now (at list) and at that money may feel like better value. There's also stuff on there that probably isn't used now such as the Ethernet ports which could extend you network. With better WiFi now than when the Connect first emerged both that and Sonosnet are probably not always needed.

Unlike a Play:1 at £149, the connect does have an analogue line in, and both optical and coax digital outputs along with obviously analogue outs. So you have a lot more flexibility and can hardwire the Connect to your network if your Wifi is problematic, although I think the latter only works in Sonosnet mode.

So a Connect is much more flexible than any of the play speakers, and gives you options for integration.

The question of value vs sound quality is always much harder as I think different people have different thresholds for value.

Maybe a stripped down connect with less ports and options at a lower price might go down well with some. However, I think for the moment Sonos aren't so interested in that part of the market and are more concerned with all-in-one speakers so I suspect the Connect will live on as is for a while yet.

Maybe a stripped down connect with less ports and options at a lower price might go down well with some.

No argument against the usefulness of more features and/or ports and even a smaller footprint. I also agree that it is now vastly overpriced, but I suspect that is to prevent cannibalisation of play unit sales.

But what I can't see is what can be done by Sonos to enhance the sound quality it delivers; note here that those that have any issue including a psychological one with the Connect DAC, can bypass it and use the digital outputs.

I also suspect that it serves a market that Sonos has moved on and away from.
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The AEX is connected to the aux port of a classic NAD 3020 which is feeding a pair of Monitor Audio RS1 bookshelf speakers. I stream music from my IPhone 7 Plus to this via my WiFi network. The connect is connected to the Tape in of the same set up. I have made sure when a/bing both of these sources that the input volumes were as similar as I could with my ear. Both sources are streaming tracks from Apple Music.
For the Connect, you are using Apple Music selected via the Sonos controller app? And selecting the exact same album on the Apple app on the phone to send the stream to AEX?
And you are using the toggle of the NAD to switch sources? Is the Connect set to variable level or fixed level? Have you tried the Connect into the aux port of the 3020 in use for the AEX?
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Yes to all of the above. The connect is set to variable output. I have not tried the Connect in the Aux port. I shall try this tonight.
At that time, also move the Connect to fixed level. All volume changes will then be only done from the 3020, so be sure to start low with that on the 3020. Once this issue gets resolved, you will be able to go back to variable level and regain the use of the remote control of volume via the Sonos app on the phone.
I think the value question with the Connect is the functionality it brings to an existing system.

The question of value vs sound quality is always much harder as I think different people have different thresholds for value.


It may be useful for others that reference this post in future to see a general answer to the titled question of this thread, that also pulls in the two quotes above.

In short and in general, ever since a play 1 pair has been available for the price of a Connect, the latter is no longer worth it.

The Connect is essentially a Sonos launch product, designed to be used with HiFi systems of that day - circa 2004. The thing is that active speaker technology has since obsoleted passive systems that were around then, along with the CD players used as a source. Even in what is often derisively labelled as an all in one budget Sonos speaker, advanced active tech is employed. Each speaker has two drivers, each with its own amp. The midrange/bass unit does high excursions, allowing for the same bass to be delivered as from a larger speaker with low excursion units. And all of this is supervised by DSP of a sophistication that passive tech simply cannot accommodate, including room response based Trueplay tuning.

Why then is what is labelled as HiFi kit, even when it uses obsolete passive tech, so highly priced? The simple answer is diseconomies of very low scale manufacture and marketing, that drives per unit costs of such kit having to be much higher for ROI to be obtained to the extent that business survival is possible. On the other hand, the defining trait of electronic tech is how severely its price drops within a couple of years of launch of new tech. Add in to that the many economies of scale - manufacturing, marketing and distribution - from a billion dollar in annual sales that Sonos now enjoys, this delivers a double whammy on the price front that traditional HiFi kit can only cope with by trying to challenge the HiFi credentials of Sonos. The resultant message is also one that works on the mindset of the audiophile set that wants to believe that HiFi = High End = High Price. And that Mass Market and HiFi: a contradiction in terms. It is just marketing baloney, this message.

Which is why there is nothing to be surprised at if a USD 1000 Sonos set up can successfully challenge a USD 7000 traditional HiFi set up with the latter price also including USD 2000 for a CD player that is obsolete, and that the Sonos set up does not need anymore.

Moving on then, to someone that has a system like what the OP does: install a play 1 pair in the exact same space in the exact same room, run Trueplay on the 1 pair, and the sound quality obtained from it from the exact same source will be the same - all that will be different are two speaker sonic signatures and as many people that prefer one are likely to prefer the other. Given that, for the lot that prefer the Sonos signature, adding a Connect to the existing system makes no sense at all. Might was well give the existing system to a friend for free or to charity. The resultant decluttering and elimination of messy cables is just a free bonus.

Throw in a Sonos Sub and even the 1 pair + Sub will take on traditional HiFi kit at many price points above, for all the reasons aforesaid. The 5 pair + Sub will go even further in larger rooms. And offer a line in jack for integrating something like a turntable if desired.

To my mind, the only remaining case for Connect is if one wants a Sonos interface to a pair of active speakers that are much more capable that a 5 pair + Sub. If one can find these. Or if one is sentimentally attached to existing passive HiFi kit. Or if one has a Bill Gates kind of home that can accommodate and needs speakers that are taller than a human that cost 5 digits or even 6, to fill the space adequately. Although one could argue that many play 1 units employed all over the space would do the job better: said monster speaker set up will still suffer from the large space problems of music having to be too loud close to the speakers for it to be heard in distant parts of the room.

And while I agree on the subjective differences in value thresholds that are rooted in reason, those related to sound quality are rarely so. These are largely eliminated in controlled blind testing, having been created just by clever "HiFi" marketers and their tools - the media that is sustained by their advertising, including the online versions of it.
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If say I have a high powered amp and some very well made standard wired speakers that I want to be utilized by sonos....then a connect still fits the bill and nothing else does.

While a pair of play:1s sound good they do NOT sound as good as my living room system with B&W speakers and subwoofer connected to a decent 120watt per channel amp (and Sonos Connect)
Have you tried the 1 pair with the Sonos Sub? And more power does nothing for sound quality unless the sound levels supplied by the 1 pair + Sub are inadequate. Even in legacy hifi, there is no difference between a 40 watt amp and a 120 watts one unless the former is being pushed beyond its design limits.

Some may well prefer the 1 pair sound signature and depending on the size of the B&W units, a 5 pair + Sub may be in the right weight class against it.

I found the 1 pair + Sub to sound JUST AS good as a Harbeth C7 pair driven by 140 wpc amplification. Of course, with same attention lavished on placement of the former as if it was the latter for price.
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Yes I have debated for some time replacing with the cleaner look of having 2 Play:5s in their place. Because I currently have a tv cabinet in that area the wired system and amp don’t really don’t get in the way so I haven’t tried for wireless there yet.

I don’t disagree that a pair of play:5s and sub may give that wired system a run for its money.

But - if the implication that a connect is obsolete because same price as Pair of play:1s doesn’t compare here. To equal my current system the price of a connect is far cheaper then buying a new pair of play:5s and a Sonos sub.

I do beleive though the connect remains at a fairly premium price. Although that could be because of volume of scale in that they sell far less of them then play units (driving cost/price up).

But - if the implication that a connect is obsolete because same price as Pair of play:1s doesn’t compare here. To equal my current system the price of a connect is far cheaper then buying a new pair of play:5s and a Sonos sub.

Good point and it is well taken, that correction. But the Connect does become a bad decision if the equivalent HiFi system sounds only as good as a 1 pair placed with the same care, and with Trueplay run, because the Connect will cost more than the 1 pair.
There is however the possibility that the price of a 5 pair + Sub, less the resale proceeds of the HiFi system of the kind you have, will be less than the price of adding a new Connect to it. In that case, the 5 pair + Sub need not even sound better, just as good, to justify itself. And if the room and the legacy kit is such that a 1 pair + Sub suffices, this will make even more sense. There may even be a profit opportunity here, not just one of loss minimisation!
Or the 1 pair + Sub, less the resale value of cheaper legacy kit than yours, can make more sense than adding a Connect.
In both cases, one may need to be lucky to find an audiophile that loves legacy kit for reasons other than dispassionate ones, who will pay a good price for it.
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I do not disagree that a pair of play:1s makes sense in a lot of situations. And the amount of legacy equipment beingbrepirpsoed to sonsonwoth a Connect will most likely decline in coming years.

Personally I feel the connect needs a more powerful replacement. I have long Called the superconnect. With digital and hdmi input that services 7.1 speakers all wirelessly.
The thing about the Connect and why it no longer makes sense as it is, is because when it was released, there were not any alternatives to legacy kit for HiFi sound - neither play units or active speakers in general except some very expensive powered ones. At that time it was the only option if you wanted a Sonos front end and HiFi sound. That has changed.

As I have said already, no argument about a more featured Connect - my ideal would actually be a smaller unit that can serve Sonos play units and the Sub such that one can built a HT set up with it as cheaply as the present Sonos option, but with more capability and better flexibility in also serving stereo music because of separated front speakers.
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Finbow's assertion that the Airport Express (AE) sounds 'not even subjectively' better than a CONNECT made me curious, as well as a little concerned I'd given bad advice. So I did a quick, far-from-scientific test comparing the following:

- AE analog output direct to headphones
- CONNECT analog output direct to headphones
- CONNECT digital output via the DAC in my Yamaha receiver, to headphones

I used Audio Technica ATH-M50X headphones, which deliver audio quality superior to the NAD/Monitor Audio combination being discussed. I played the same tracks from Spotify at Extreme quality, via Airplay for the AE and via the Sonos app for the CONNECTs.

The bottom line: all sounded very good, as one would expect: DACs are commodities. (There is even a decent one in the tiny $10 Apple dongle I use to convert from the lightning connector on my 8Plus to a regular headphone connector).

I did notice the AE sounded perhaps just a little different, however -- a difference similar to activating the Loudness settings on the CONNECT, but not as pronounced. Which made me wonder whether the AE is applying some kind of modest EQ adjustment deemed by Apple to sound pleasing, while the CONNECTs are delivering a neutral sound (with Loudness off).

Anyway, this is far from definitive, but I satisfied myself at least that there is no meaningful audio quality difference between the analog outputs of the AE and the CONNECT. (Also, that money spent on a downstream DAC is wasted and would produce no effect that could not be replicated by EQ adjustment.)

Some time ago I did a more careful comparison of a CD Player (Arcam Alpha 7), with a CONNECT playing the same CD, FLAC encoded. Analog outputs from both into an Arcam Alpha 8 amplifier and Tannoy M20 speakers. They sounded identical.
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I’m if connection issue but in my experience airplay to an airplay express audio is noticeable below quality of SONOS Connect.
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Pwt - it would not surprise me at all to hear that the AE sounds like it adds some processing - it would be a very “Apple” thing to do, especially because you were listening over headphones. I was using my MacBook several years ago with an external speaker connected via the headphone jack. I had a Windows virtual machine running at the same time, and for some reason I played the same song on the Mac and on the Windows VM. Totally different sounds. When I switched to Bluetooth connection to the speaker instead of headphone jack, the sound was basic;alt identical. When I looked into it I discovered that OS/X applies a headphone-specific equalization to the sound whenever something is plugged into the headphone jack. Windows did not, and OS/X didn’t over Bluetooth.
I satisfied myself at least that there is no meaningful audio quality difference between the analog outputs of the AE and the CONNECT..
My experience that confirms this dates back to 2011, when I was disappointed with the AEX stuttering far too often; I had no complaints on the SQ front when it did not stutter, and if I remember right, I was using an optical cable into the dual use jack on the AEX. If AEX had not stuttered, I would have stayed with it, since I had extra units lying around.
Having discovered the window of internet music, I then discovered Sonos that was recommended to me for its stability of streaming over AEX. Once I satisfied myself that there was nothing lost on SQ for music via my first purchase, a ZP90/Connect, comparing its SQ to what I was used to from my legacy wired HiFi, I added more Sonos units - the play 1 option did not exist at the time. At that time, since I had the Marantz SACD player with digital inputs, I was able to assess sound quality from the Connect both via its DAC and when that was bypassed in favour of the DAC in the Marantz. No differences.
I have since given away one Connect to my daughter with some of my legacy kit, and one remains to supply the external speakers, where the play units are not best suited.
I have no idea if anything different is done for headphones, I never use them.
While the Connect has been overtaken now by surrounding tech, from Sonos and others, it still shows how much Sonos got right when they designed it fifteen years ago. It is one of the solid nails in the coffin of CD players.
I discovered that OS/X applies a headphone-specific equalization to the sound whenever something is plugged into the headphone jack.
I do not believe that any such is being done for the AEX audio output jack that used to be dual use - analog or optical; I don't know what the present models have, but it also isn't a headphone jack as such.
What the likely reason for what pwt heard is higher signal voltage at the analog output of AEX compared to Connect. I know that at 2 volts, Connect is lower than almost every CD player/External DAC, and the same may be the case here. The slightly louder sound heard suggests that as the reason.

Also hoping to hear from others who may have been able to improve the sound in some way.
This in the end would encourage people who are in the same position as me to perhaps keep the connect. Not put others off buying it.



I love the convenience of Sonos in general and the Sonos connect in particular if you have a stereo amp and speakers. Like you I find the analogue out of the Connect does not sound as good as I would like. I have not personally participated in a properly setup ABX test and I am open to the possibility that I am a 'victim' of psychoacoustic bias but still... for now I have tentatively accepted what my ears and brain point to: The Sonos connect can be improved. To that end i have tried feeding the digital output to a number of dacs: Naim Dac V1, Rega Dac-R, Cambridge audio dacmagic, Arcam Sonlink, Arcam IrDac II, Chord QBD 76, Audiolab M-Dac+. I liked the first 2 the most. I also noticed that the optical digital connection fed to various dacs, sounded a bit less boomy to my ears. The problem with feeding the Sonos digital out to a dac (as noted above) is the introduced delay that results in sound being out of sync with other sonos speakers. Depending on the dac, the problem can be increased. For example the Naim dacs as well as the chord dacs all use a RAM buffer to help reclock the signal. This increases the delay between input and output and as a result the sound will be out of sync with other sonos speakers. The result is an unpleasant echo. I found the Rega Dac-R, Arcam dacs and CA do not introduce much of a delay (although a tiny bit is still audible). Unless you really pay attention you will not notice any echo with these dacs.

The ABX test is challenging to set up and it does have limitations (mainly sample size requirements and statistical significance attained) . An interesting discussion can be found here in case you want to read more: https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/statistics-of-abx-testing.170/

Another link in case you fancy watching. Not an ABX test (more of an AB blind test) but here is a comparison between the Sonos connect analogue out and a few other dacs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGk7-mCwZX0&t=10s

Have fun 🙂