Disappointing sound quality


Hi,

I just purchased a PlayBase, a sub and two Play:1s. The sub hasn't arrived yet. I'm moving from a Sony 5.1 system which always sounded really nice but I wanted the connectivity afforded by the Sonos system. I'd heard a friends set up using the SoundBar though and it was great, hence buying a set myself. I was shocked by the sound quality of my system. It has loud, explosive sibilants and boxy sounding middle. Voices also sound far away, like they're in a large hall. There's no way I'd live with this if this is the final sound output. I'm wondering if the sound quality of each individual unit in a theatre set up will be changed when the sub finally arrives. At the moment, I'm for sending it all back to Curry's. Could any experienced hands put my mind at rest or suggest system adjustments?

Thanks.

This topic has been closed for further comments. You can use the search bar to find a similar topic, or create a new one by clicking Create Topic at the top of the page.

15 replies

Have you run Trueplay on your system using an iOS device?

I’ve found the phenomenon your describing is one that occurs when I get a new prescription for my glasses. The first few hours, the world seems completely different, but as time moves on, I find my mind adjusts to the changes.

You have time to evaluate, even after the SUB arrives. I’d give it a week, and make your choice at that point, and see how you feel.

Sonos may not be the ultimate solution for you. That’s OK, it’s your ears and preferences that need to be satisfied. But don’t be hasty in your judgement. Try Trueplay, and a week with the SUB before you render your decision.
Thanks Bruce. I don't have an iOS device. I have several Android devices though. I take your point about new glasses. However, I'm moving from 6 speakers in nice tuned, warm sounding wooden cabinets to what at the moment sounds like a few small tinny speakers in a plastic box. Sounds very cheap indeed. Let's see what changes the sub brings.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
I've not heard the Playbase, with or without the Sub, but I know that the Sub brings a whole new experience to the Playbar, and especially the smaller Beam.

Trueplay definitely helps, if you can borrow someone's iOS device for 10 minutes to tune your system. It adjusts the balance and levels to your preferred listening position for TV audio, then collects audio data as you walk around, so it can determine frequency response throughout the room and adjust accordingly for TV and music playback. Then you can turn it on and off (even with your Android device) to hear the difference that the tuning makes to the audio.
Userlevel 3
Badge +4
Thanks Bruce. I don't have an iOS device. I have several Android devices though. I take your point about new glasses. However, I'm moving from 6 speakers in nice tuned, warm sounding wooden cabinets to what at the moment sounds like a few small tinny speakers in a plastic box. Sounds very cheap indeed. Let's see what changes the sub brings.

I'm sorry to say the sub won't help much with your experience.

I'm surprised to hear you liked your friend's setup, considering your comments about your own setup

It sounds like you were using a 5.1 setup consisting of bookshelf speakers? Unfortunately a soundbar cannot match this, you say your old speakers were in wooden boxes, well the playbase/playbar is not, it's made from metal and plastic, not wodden unfortunately

Additionally you say the sonos speakers sound small, well that's because they are actually small compared to a bookshelf or floor standing speaker
Yeah.
Perhaps you should put your old system back and get a Sonos Connect for it instead? If you liked the sound of your old system, why mess with it? You’ll get all the Sonos benefits by adding one component, and save money, too.
So the sub arrived and I managed to get hold of an old iPad2 and do the cal run. Some improvement but the "normal" TV sound (which will be 90% of it's use) is still very disappointing. I've set up my old system next to it and done some A/B testing. I prefer my soundscape to be warm and bassy rather than crisp and toppy. The Sonos sub doesn't operate for normal TV and even with Loudness off, there is a massive amount of top-middle and top making the TV sound really cheap and nasty (it's a reasonable Sammy 55", only a couple of years old giving a PCM output normally). I'm very surprised that for a system like this there is no ability to shape the sound profile manually. A decent parametric EQ facility in the app would be a rather obvious choice I would have thought. I guess my last port of call will be a phone call to Sonos to see if there's anything else I can do to rescue it before packing it up and putting the whole thing on eBay. Having installed and used it, I can't take it back to the store for a refund 😢
Having installed and used it, I can't take it back to the store for a refund ;( That's rather poor customer service indeed.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
I prefer my soundscape to be warm and bassy rather than crisp and toppy. The Sonos sub doesn't operate for normal TV and even with Loudness off, there is a massive amount of top-middle and top making the TV sound really cheap and nasty (it's a reasonable Sammy 55", only a couple of years old giving a PCM output normally). I'm very surprised that for a system like this there is no ability to shape the sound profile manually. A decent parametric EQ facility in the app would be a rather obvious choice I would have thought.
There's no reason the Sub shouldn't be working for normal TV audio. It should work whether Sonos is receiving a 2.0 or 5.1 audio signal from your TV. There are settings to adjust both the Sub level as well as the general bass tone (which can affect the Sub and the Playbase in your case). In the Sonos app, go to More > Settings > Room Settings > [select the room] > EQ, or Advanced Audio > Sub. In the Desktop (Win/Mac) controller, the Sub settings are on a tab like the EQ settings are.

Many have asked for a multi-band EQ for tone adjustment over time... Sonos prefers to keep their settings pages clean and simple, and thus has kept "Bass" and "Treble" adjustments rather than a multi-band EQ.

Having installed and used it, I can't take it back to the store for a refund ;(

I would have made sure to buy it from a retailer that at least has an option to return it even if opened. Here in the US, even Best Buy, as bad as their policy is, allows returns for two weeks. Sonos directly allows returns for 45 days.
TLDR; Setting the Surrounds to Ambient fixed the loud sibilants issue, so I'm keeping the system.....

I had a chat with SONOS on Facebook. They sent me this link: https://support.sonos.com/s/article/3335?language=en_US and restated that the TV Theatre is optimised for 5.1 sound, i.e. movies, not "normal" TV. I pointed out that most people won't have a special TV Theatre room with a TV set up ONLY for movies. The majority of the time the sound system will be driven by "normal" TV sound (i.e. PCM format or similar) and I'd expect the sound from that to be as good as it can be given the investment in TV sound engineering I just made. They also explained that the Sub would not be driven when the system is not being driven by a 5.1 input. I find that strange. They make a best effort bass horn in the small PlayBase, which is ok, BUT, if you connect a proper Sub, then I think the system should be intelligent enough to divert those frequencies to the unit best able to handle it, i.e. the PROPER Sub.

The last thing they said was to try setting the system with the Surrounds set to "Ambient". They said it shouldn't make a difference for "normal" TV sound but it might, as it's meant to reduce the sound level of explosions and other high level dynamic sounds. So, I tried it, and it actually worked! I no longer have super-loud sibilants on normal TV. So, after all this, I'm keeping the system. BUT, I suggested they provide a multi-channel parametric EQ facility to allow the user to shape the sound to how they like it. Simple Bass, Treble and Loudness controls just don't cut it. It's what you'd expect on a cheap radio, not on high-ticket items.

Thanks for your comments, I hope it helps someone else with this problem and I also hope SONOS listen 😉
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
The "Ambient" setting should only affect music playback, not TV audio. It makes your music playback more like a theater or hall, rather than the "Full" setting which uses the rear speakers as a second set of left and right outputs. I didn't think that it would have any effect on 2.0 audio being received by the system.

I don't buy their claim about the Sub not being used when the system isn't getting a 5.1 signal. When it's not receiving a 5.1 signal, it likely uses a frequency crossover point to determine what audio should be sent to the Sub. Maybe that crossover point is low enough that most programs (especially in news and general interest programs) won't have audio sent to the Sub... but it should still be getting used for non-5.1 content.
I think Mike's correct here, the ambient/full toggle, is for music playback only. (See Screenshot)

There is a setting on the 'now playing' screen 'for TV audio only', called Night Mode, I’m just wondering if that is 'on' and might be affecting your Sub output during stereo PCM output.

I’m sure you will have noticed the 'speech enhancement' setting too on the 'now playing' screen.. I find that quite useful for some programmes.

I too would like to see a more advanced EQ, or even a few Music/TV Audio presets to cater for different user needs, whilst still keeping the interface reasonably minimal, or without too much complexity. I don’t see the point in wasting 'developer' costs on controls that are often rarely used by the majority.
Speech enhancement is off and night mode is off. I'm finding I have to switch the Surrounds from Ambient to Full every time I want to play music from my private library AND the sub STILL isn't being used for that even. It's as if using the SoundBar as the system controller makes everything behave like it's just a TV. I'd expect the system to revert to a normal hi fi set up where the sub takes everything below a certain frequency. TBH I'm still not 100% happy. Maybe there's a way to group the Play:1s and the Sub together for playing music. This really is too difficult, and I'm an electronics engineer! I just want to play music, watch TV and have nice sound. I don't want to have to spend weeks setting it up. This system may yet end up packed in it's boxes.
That’s strange, that the sub is not working even when you are playing music from your own library? I would get your friend over who has the Sonos PlayBar and see what they think about it. It maybe worth getting their second opinion and see what suggestions they may have.
So after a day of A/B testing and faffing about with settings the decision is made. They're going back. As it turns out the sub is working on TV music, however, can't get rid of huge resonances (even with the Sub turned down), missing upper bass guitar notes, still uncomfortable sibilants (though not as bad as they were) and a boxy middle. Together with having to reset the system between TV, Music and Films. I'll just have to throw myself on the mercy of Curry's returns dept.
You could always maybe look to exchange just the PlayBase with the PlayBar and have the same as your friends setup, which you say sounded great to you. If you have the room to do that of course... maybe that’s one compromise, if your supplier Curry’s prove to be difficult to deal with.

Anyhow all the best. Hope you get the outcome you are seeking.