Sonos One / Airplay 2 latency

  • 10 December 2019
  • 11 replies

Userlevel 1

I just got a Sonos One SL, placed it in the kitchen. In the adjacent living room I have an old hifi with an Airport Express connected to aux-in (using a mini headphone to RCA cable) to make it an Airplay 2 target. I played them both together for the first time today using Airplay 2 and Apple Music (streaming) as the source. Sounded excellent for about an hour, then the Sonos One started to drift behind the stereo, until it was unlistenable. I tried pausing and playing again, no luck.


In the experience of the community, is this issue likely to be permanently resolvable, or is it the sort of thing where I’ll need to restart devices repeatedly? The Sonos One will live near the ceiling, so this is untenable. I’m using an iphone with 12.4.1 OS.


I’ve heard of people hardwiring their Sonos with ethernet cable and still having this issue, so I don’t think it’s the wifi. I live in a 950sf house anyway.


The real question is-- do I return the Sonos One, or do I go down the path of fiddling with this in hope of a real solution? I’ve read other posts about this issue, mostly from 2018, and none of them gave a clear indication of someone finding the issue to be truly resolvable.





Best answer by stuartg 20 January 2020, 18:28

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11 replies

Userlevel 7

Hi stuartg

Here are two solutions…however they will cost...that you can connect to the AUX-In.

  1. Purchase a Sonos Connect (you’ll have to search the internet as it was replaced by the Sonos Port). Start AirPlay on the Sonos One and group in the Sonos Connect
  2. Purchase a Sonos Port. Start AirPlay natively to the Hi-Fi with 3rd party speakers
  3. Start Airplay on the Sonos One and group in the Connect or Start Airplay on the Port and group in the Sonos One


Userlevel 1

@AjTrek1 , the heart of both these solutions is to use Airplay 2 to connect to only one device, and use Sonos grouping to connect the second device, right?


This implies that Airplay 2 is ineffective at syncing timing of playback between devices, but Sonos software does a good job of it. Is this the commonly understood state of affairs? It’s probably Airplay’s fault, but it means I’ll likely return the Sonos One and hard wire a passive speaker. It’s unfortunate. The Sonos One sounds great and I liked the Airplay 2 interface and independent volume control, all from my iphone control center (ie, just swiping up, not opening an app).



Think of the processing power to generate each stream. Most handheld devices, such as iPhones and iPads are unlikely to have enough CPU to properly handle multiple streams at the same time. It might be different from a Mac, I’ve not tested, but there’s still a limit to not only how much CPU can be used, but how much bandwidth can be generated by the wifi card in these devices. 

On the other hand, sending a stream across multiple devices is exactly what the Sonos is designed to do. So sending a single stream to a Sonos device, then using the Sonos ecosystem to spread that signal to multiple rooms would make some sense. 

In my experience, there’s also a slight delay introduced by the Apple operating system when generating a stream to be an AirPlay 2 stream, and sending that out. My test case on this was using AIrPlay 2 to send a signal from an iPad Air 2 and an iPhone X to an Apple TV 4K, which then is connected to my TV, and a Sonos PLAYBAR. Since normal Apple TV use has no delay, when using AirPlay 2 exhibited a delay, it seemed reasonable to point at the only change in the process, AirPlay 2, as being the culprit. 

Your mileage may vary of course, but I’m not going to blame Sonos for what I perceive as an issue in Apple’s operating system. 

Userlevel 1

@Airgetlam , I understand your point.


I guess it comes down to the actual implementation of how Airplay 2 works. Which I know almost nothing about. Does it send two separate streams to the router and then those two streams get sent to two airplay devices? Or one stream to router and then router sends two streams to devices? (That would make more sense to me). If anyone has a link to a thorough explanation, let me know.


Based on the responses so far, it sounds like Sonos devices all work by sending data to each other, and only one device out of a group receives the original stream.



The router receives n different streams from the Apple device. Each one has a “tag” on it that tells the router where to send the data to. This is why you’re choosing n different devices in the AirPlay 2 menu, so that it can define which stream goes to which device. AirPlay 2 doesn’t know that each stream might be the same. 

Sonos devices are designed to use the cheapest/fastest path between speakers. If that happens to be through the router, it will use that, if it’s faster to connect directly between devices, it will use that instead. 


Edit: changed two to n, since it can be any number of streams.

Userlevel 7

@AjTrek1, the heart of both these solutions is to use Airplay 2 to connect to only one device, and use Sonos grouping to connect the second device, right?


Whew!! This discussion has really gotten deep by what I can see between you and @Airgetlam :slight_smile: ! That’s that’s why we have this great community!!

The Cliff-Notes answer your question is...

Sonos has licensed Airplay2 tech for it’s speakers. The only actively sold Sonos speaker that is not Airplay2 compatible natively is the Playbar.  The Sonos App (in general) will allow you send a stream of different music to different speakers simultaneously (i.e. Jazz to one and Country to another). I haven tried such using AirPlay 2. 

That said you can select which Airplay2 capable speakers you want to engage from your device and start the music to all at once.  On the other hand you can select one Airplay speaker (say in the living room) and later if you decide to move to another room with a Sonos speaker you can bring the same music to it just by pressing the play/pause touch control. Incidentally, the second speaker doesn’t have to be Airplay2 capable only the initial speaker (i.e. grouping). 

All said I’m a bit confused as to why you feel you need to return the Sonos One other than you don’t want to purchase a Sonos Connect or Port for the old hi-fi unit. Given that Apple has moved away from networking hardware now might be a good time to look for an alternative tech. :thinking:


Edit: I’ve used Airplay (albeit not in the manner as @Airgetlam ) with no lag.

Userlevel 1

All said I’m a bit confused as to why you feel you need to return the Sonos One other than you don’t want to purchase a Sonos Connect or Port for the old hi-fi unit. Given that Apple has moved away from networking hardware now might be a good time to look for an alternative tech. :thinking:


Edit: I’ve used Airplay (albeit not in the manner as @Airgetlam ) with no lag.



I got the Sonos One SL for $150, which was about what I was willing to spend to add a single good speaker to my kitchen. The Airport Express for my hifi cost $50 on ebay, which seemed like a good deal to add wireless audio streaming to an old stereo.


The Port would be another $400. It’s over my budget, given that the airport express I have works.


I’m not blaming Sonos… But I’m a little let down that what seemed like a seamless solution, and was advertised as a seamless solution (primarily by Apple, but also by Sonos by implying that Airplay 2 is a viable multi-speaker platform), is not so seamless.


Of course, it is still a great solution if I’m not intending to play the same music through the kitchen and hifi and the same time… and I could imagine keeping the Sonos for that purpose… like listening to podcasts while cooking.


 @AjTrek1and @Airgetlam , thank you both for the good explanations, they’ve been helpful.



Userlevel 7
Badge +26

Great discussion everyone. This is an issue that we’ve seen come up a few times and are looking into it. There shouldn’t be an latency issues between Sonos players and other devices when using AirPlay 2, however, sometimes it comes up. We’re working with Apple to see where/why it might be happening. I don’t have any sort of a timeline to share right now, but it is something being looked at as we know it’s not great to have come up. We’ve seen it only occurs after a while of playing audio this way, and restarting the stream will fix it again for a while.

Userlevel 1

@Ryan S , thanks for the reply. Good to hear. I’ll hold on the One SL and hope this issue gets resolved.

Please feel free to contact me if it would be helpful to know any more details. As you mentioned, the delay becomes apparent only after some time of listening (maybe 20 minutes), and continues to slowly worsen. So it’s more of an issue of two clocks running at slightly different speeds, than of a set delay, which is what you’d expect if there were a different audio processing time between two components.


Pausing and replaying doesn’t seem to fix the issue, but switching to a different source (like Spotify to Apple Music) does. I guess it’s establishing new streams when you do that, so they start out properly synced.

Userlevel 7
Badge +26

The two clocks is very likely the case. Sonos players have a lot of built in checks to how we play music in sync which works great but it isn’t shared by other companies speakers. AirPlay should be keeping sync, but looks to be losing it after a while. The Sonos version 10.6 which came out today has some big AirPlay 2 improvements in it, so check out the sync after your system has updated. It may be much improved already.

Userlevel 1

For anyone else curious about this, the issue seems to have been fixed by recent software updates. Big thank you for that!!