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Sonos Connect. Still worth buying???

  • 25 March 2018
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I’ve just bought a pair of One’s & am enjoying them as my dining room set up in stereo. I find the sound acceptable for casual listening.
I’ve got a classic Nad 3020 amp & monitor audio Rs1’s in the living room. I love the sound of this set up. Is hooking up a connect to these a better option than say buying a Play 5? Sound quality is very important to me but I’m not running audiophile quality equipment. How does the connect sound? Any input appreciated.
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Best answer by jjayf 28 March 2018, 12:38

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An interesting insight just now from a translated from Chinese book I am reading, that had me immediately think - James Randi!
" Who are the frauds that practice pseudoscience most afraid of? Not of scientists; the best scientists can be fooled by pseudoscience and some even devote their lives to it. But pseudoscience is afraid of one particular type of people who are hard to fool: stage magicians. In fact many pseudoscientific hoaxes were exposed by stage magicians."

James Randi, for those who haven't heard the name, is a stage magician who became Audiophile Public Enemy Number One, when he announced the one million dollar Randi challenge to debunk all the fairy dust surrounding exotic audio cables.

Good scientists will of course also support the science that says that for all the fancy talk that audiophiles surround their cables with, an audio signal is just an electric current, and commodity copper cables of adequate thickness are all it takes to move it around in wired kit, with screening for low voltage signals. And they need not be specified to be OFC to the nth degree, as exotic audio cables often are, but that is pseudoscience at work:
"The high-end speaker wire industry markets oxygen-free copper as having enhanced conductivity or other electrical properties that are supposedly advantageous to audio signal transmission. However, conductivity specifications for common C11000 Electrolytic-Tough-Pitch (ETP) and higher-cost C10200 Oxygen-Free (OF) coppers are identical. Much more expensive C10100, a highly refined copper with silver impurities removed and oxygen reduced to 0.0005%, has only a one percent higher conductivity—insignificant in audio applications." From Wikipedia.

But the good scientists are also too busy pursuing more important things than wasting their time on this extremely trivial subject and the nonsense that is spun around it.

All that surrounds the Connect in its DAC not being audiophile grade is just another manifestation of the above. Or, for that matter, that which surrounds the USD 35 Chromecast Audio, where the quality of its DAC is concerned.

Audiophiles even invest time and energy in "proving" that double blind tests do not apply in their little world.
You are saying we are certain that the AE does not employ any sound shaping at its analog output, so volume matching is indeed a likely candidate for the difference (if there even was one).
No, not certain; I am only saying that sound shaping for what is a dual use audio socket meant to supply home audio systems and not headphones, is very unlikely. And my ears confirm this from its sound.
No argument about the rest of the quote.
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Given that the Connect spec is 2 volts, this difference is the closest candidate for the quoted.
At least one ZP80 had its analog output measured at 2.12V [1]. The CONNECT may be different, of course.

My test was casual and very subjective, and I could easily have been fooled by not getting the volume quite right. You are saying we are certain that the AE does not employ any sound shaping at its analog output, so volume matching is indeed a likely candidate for the difference (if there even was one). The main purpose of the test was to determine (to my satisfaction, at least!) whether the CONNECT sounded any worse than the AE, or my external receiver DAC. For me, it does not.

[1] https://www.stereophile.com/content/sonos-zp80-zp100-wifi-music-system-measurements

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).

Closing the loop on this:
Reported measured signal voltages of the AEX analog outputs were 2.1289 volts for the left channel, and 2.1200 volts for the right. Given that the Connect spec is 2 volts, this difference is the closest candidate for the quoted.
Fair enough, and that confession may help others in the future that are in similar dilemmas because I am reasonably sure that those steps would have eliminated any audible sound quality differences from the Connect and its DAC.
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I haven’t had time as yet. I didn’t really need to. The AEX sounded better in my initial tests but I want the functionality that the Sonos brings. Regardless of how the AEX sounds it’s not reliable enough for me. I listen to a lot of internet radio & the AEX was forever losing connection to my phone. Hence the jump to Sonos for a bit of stability. I’ve just tried to get used to the way the Sonos sounds over the weekend. I really want to keep & enjoy it! Thanks for the advice though.
That pretty much seals the Sonos deal for me!
Just curious: did you do the Connect changes we discussed a couple of days ago, as a way to see if the perceived poor sound quality of the Connect compared to AEX is addressed by these?
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Thank you Yainnis, a very detailed & contructive post. I have fed the Connect through an Arcam RDac & do prefer the way it sounds through this. You are correct that it does introduce a very slight delay but it is not noticeable enough to really be a distraction to me. The improvement in sound it brings to my ears is worth it. At low volumes it sounds great. It’s just it gets a bit messy to my ears when you want to crank it a bit more. Which as I’m now 46 happens less & less these days!
Someone offered me a Play one for nothing last night! Means I can now have connect in the living room, a pair of Ones in the dining room & a play one in the kitchen. That pretty much seals the Sonos deal for me!
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Kumar, your argument regarding Sonos play:1 pair and sub being of equaled sound quality at a less price point is not valid, at least not in my case.
My connect cost around $500.00 CA. A pair of play:1s and a sub here would cost around $1,300.
Although I do not have this experience, I can not believe that a pair of play:1s and a sub could sound any where near as good as my 7.2 receiver with channel separation and digital compression enhancer.
Also, a very large part of my music experience is high end outdoor speakers zoned out from my Sonos connected receiver. Loosing that functionality and paying $1,300 for less sound quality is not a good choice. The connect was a clear easy and cost effective choice to add flexibility to an already really great system.
I’m my case I was looking for a way to fill in some areas of the house not zoned for music. I deep researched a bunch of options and weighed the pros and cons of each, not the least of which was cost. I almost went with Yamaha musiccast, but Sonos work with Apple Music won me over.
Fortunately I was able to take it back.
Fortunately is right, and this is a welcome new learning for me too, to point out to others here in future that ask about whether this fun is worth the effort.
Many people that go down this road may even not know all that RAM buffers do, beyond getting carried away by the spiel about them in the context of sound quality improvement claimed by reclocking.
I was referring to the latter lot; how to know for sure if any DAC in question has that issue before it announces that it has one in the test?

Good point Kumar, it would be really great if a potential buyer was warned in advance. While both Naim and Chord discuss the use of RAM buffers as part of their topology, it is not easy to find and know about it. I certainly learned the hard way a few years ago when i purchased an expensive chord dac to use with my sonos connect. Big Echo... instant grumpy face. Fortunately I was able to take it back.
I was referring to the latter lot; how to know for sure if any DAC in question has that issue before it announces that it has one in the test?
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.

Have fun :-)

This is news to me; there was no such delay in the DACs I used for testing. Had that been the case, the DACs would have been a lot easier to rule out via a very much shorter test than the one I ran. Sync issues with other speakers means the test would have ended as soon as it left the starting gate because out of sync music would not have been acceptable to me with group play abilities important in my use.
But if it is so, this fun is available only those who have the time, inclination and perhaps even the money necessary to cycle different DACs in search of the elusive SQ improvement chimera to ensure that they are not introducing sync issues while doing so. But credit to Sonos for leaving open the avenue to have such fun?


The tiny delay I mentioned is actually not a problem. It is only barely perceptible (just) once I place a sonos One right next to the main stereo (fed by Connect). It it so tiny that I consider it a no-issue at all. Once the sonos one is moved to another room then all issues (however tiny) disappear.

Dacs with RAM buffers though (eg Naim and Chord)... a different story.
Best
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.

Have fun :-)

This is news to me; there was no such delay in the DACs I used for testing. Had that been the case, the DACs would have been a lot easier to rule out via a very much shorter test than the one I ran. Sync issues with other speakers means the test would have ended as soon as it left the starting gate because out of sync music would not have been acceptable to me with group play abilities important in my use.
But if it is so, this fun is available only those who have the time, inclination and perhaps even the money necessary to cycle different DACs in search of the elusive SQ improvement chimera to ensure that they are not introducing sync issues while doing so. But credit to Sonos for leaving open the avenue to have such fun?

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 🙂
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.
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.
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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.
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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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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.
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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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.

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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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).
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.