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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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The CONNECT sounds very good -- at least as good as any other audio source playing the same content (*). I have one of mine connected into an old Arcam Alpha 8 amplifier and a pair of Tannoy M20s, and it sounds great. I'd have no hesitation in buying a CONNECT over a single PLAY:5 in your situation. A stereo pair of PLAY:5s would sound better, but at a higher cost and without the reuse of your existing equipment.

(*) You will see comments on this forum about the CONNECT not being 'audiophile grade', etc. These comments are audiophool nonsense.
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I see you also have the connect amp. Better to go with a connect & the Nad do you think?
Yes. I'd keep the NAD in service, provided it goes loud enough for you. The only thing you lose with the CONNECT over the CONNECT:AMP is that you'll still have to manually switch the amp on and off.
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I have a Connect hooked to a very nice 5.1 setup in my main room and a Play 5. The sound from the Play 5 is nowhere close to the many thousand dollar 5.1 setup but I listen to the Play 5 multiple times per day and the 5.1 box hasn't been powered on in over a month.

I do use the RCA line-out on my Connect fairly often though, I hook an RCA to 3.5 converter to it and drive my wired headphones. Someday I'll replace the adapter with a Bluetooth transmitter when I find BT phones I like.

So I'd say a connect isn't a bad option for you but if you get a Play the convenience is going to spoil you.
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There is no comparison to my Connect/Yamaha Adventage system with digital enhancer. It sounds amazing. I use the optical connection and allow the receiver to convert and enhance which makes a difference I believe. I’m so happy with my system it’s ridiculous.

Yamaha Adventage 9.2.2 and connect in the main room with outside front zone 2. Yamaha RXV 7.2.2 and connect in the garage with outside rear zone 2. Sonos one in the kitchen, Sonos play:1 in bathroom, Sonos play:1 in the hallway.

Both receivers are network enabled and the garage is also Bluetooth. The flexibility of this system is incredible. I have streaming capabilities throughout the entire house and both front and back yards, and I can play media from any source to one or all locations simultaneously.

Even though my receivers are independently network enabled, I use Sonos primarily as the main source because it bundles everything together nicely.
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I have my Connect hooked up to my marantz pm6003 and diamond 10.1s, so not exactly audiophile levels but I adore the sound that comes from it, I have a first gen Play 5 and it doesn't come close to the quality of the hifi and Connect in my opinion. The newer Play 5 is supposed sound a lot better, but I can't see it beating your system plus a Connect.
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Thanks Mark. There’s quite a few available on eBay atm. They seem to hold their resale value pretty well if bought second hand. Maybe I’ll dive in & give one a go. If I don’t get on with it I can always re-sell.
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Thanks Mark. There’s quite a few available on eBay atm. They seem to hold their resale value pretty well if bought second hand. Maybe I’ll dive in & give one a go. If I don’t get on with it I can always re-sell.
I bought all three of mine on eBay at about 60% of their new cost. All were boxed, like new, and work perfectly. YMMV, of course, but I'd say it's worth a try.
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Thanks Mark. There’s quite a few available on eBay atm. They seem to hold their resale value pretty well if bought second hand. Maybe I’ll dive in & give one a go. If I don’t get on with it I can always re-sell.

Best Buy usually has Open-Box on their website for $289 as well. I'll be using up all my BB rewards to grab one soon.
The ‘audiophiles’ are the ones putting me off!! Loads of people destroying the connect on forums
It is their loss; the Connect is as audibly transparent as any other digital source. The only reason to not invest in one in your case would be if the 3020 was on its last legs - always hard to know, but if you have access to repair shops when needed, that too is not an issue.
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I have two Connect's, They're great for adding to an existing setup. I would not say they are the last word in absolute quality, but then Sonos have never claimed they were. As noted, they have a digital output option which allows you to connect them to equipment that does a better job of A/D conversion, however, if used in a multi-room system, only the analogue outputs from the connect are guaranteed to be in sync with other Sonos components such as Play speakers. You'll notice a slight delay from the Connect in party mode through the digital outs. Nothing to stop you connecting both, as the last word in quality probably doesn't matter for grouped room music.

Arcam used to make a dedicated DAC for the connect called Sonlink that sat under the connect and improved the sound quality, it might be worth searching one out on the bay. I had one and it definitely improved the quality.

When paired with a streaming service like Qobuz which does CD quality, and then fed to a high quality DAC the Connect gives the convienience of the Sonos system in a high quality environment for much much less than many high end sources, so I think it still has a place and mine still gets used, albeit through a much better DAC unit.

It's only drawback is the lack of support in the Sonos ecosystem for higher resolution audio, but as said, paired with a streamer that can do that, you get the best of both worlds, Sonos ease of use with streaming and search, and great SQ from all sources.
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I'm running the connect through a Naim ND5 XS streamer. My local library is effectively doubled catalogued, once in Sonos, and then again through minimserver running on the NAS. That allows me to also keep the hi-res audio away from the Sonos system, which doesn't play the files anyway. I buy mostly through Qobuz as for the higher res stuff they let you download lesser formats as well, so use those for the Sonos share.

I also run a connect into a Marantz AV amp with just a pair of Monitor Audio speakers in the study.

I have Play:1's, 3's and the original 5 too in other rooms, and good as the Plays are for what they are, they don't compare to a proper system. They are though very convenient and much easier to setup in most rooms, and for me it's that flexibility that makes the Sonos system worthwhile.
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If you really like the flexibility of it then that's reason enough to keep it, sit back, and just enjoy listening to music. That's the great thing about these systems, you can just listen to what you want and change tack with the content as much as you like.

Sorry... the optical for the airport is for output.... ignore previous comment about using it... 🙂
Decades ago when I was playing in bands and mixing sound and recording it all made sense and was important.
A much better reason than mine; for over a decade, I was just an audiophile. No complaints, the equipment hobby was fun and healthier than crack or blue crystal, but it had little do with music.

It is nice to have outgrown that though. A lot more music that sounds just as good, and I can have better holidays with the money saved.
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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.
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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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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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.

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 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.
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.
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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!
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.
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Thanks pwt. The ‘audiophiles’ are the ones putting me off!! Loads of people destroying the connect on forums etc. But also lots of people very happy. I can see from your set up that you probably have a similar ear to myself so your input is especially appreciated.
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I see you also have the connect amp. Better to go with a connect & the Nad do you think?
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In in the Uk. So no best buy’s here I’m afraid.