Several Detailed Technical Questions: Sonos Playbase + 2 x Play:5s in One System


Hello SONOS Community,

After much deliberation on what to get for a new system I decided it could perhaps help if I cleared up some matters first on questions I couldn't find clear direct answers to for my usage scenario or via the retailer.

I want to get a Playbase plus two Play:5 Gen 2s and set them up in a single system. The Playbase would go underneath my TV and I have room for the new Play:5s besides the TV. This is the only type of setup I am considering. And if I understand this correctly, this is perfectly possible. The fact that SONOS has the ability to connect 3 speakers this way is the very reason I'm considering a SONOS system to begin with. I actually have a huge budget to spend but despite that if a SONOS system could do the preferred things below while being the usual self-contained-self-powered units I don't think there'd be a clear alternative out there anyway on any budget.

The only thing is, my source would primarily be my computer connected over Optical TOSLINK (either through my TV which is also connected to the computer, or if I get a desktop with optical support directly linked to the PC itself). So despite using 3 SONOS devices I am not looking to connect it to a surround receiver or even use any surround sources at all. Every source will just be stereo. I don't much care for surround.

How will the system handle this (in detail)? As I understand, it's only possible to get no latency issues when connected over digital TOSLINK. Which is why I don't want to deal with the analog input. So there would be no latency issue and therefore perfectly usable in this scenario.

- But how will the setup deal with stereo imaging? Will the right and left Play:5 function as normal in stereo but the Playbase just plays the full source in mono? Or will the Playbase also be creating stereo separation by itself? There'd be better stereo imaging if the latter were the case. I'm not entirely sure how Playbase Mono + 2 Play:5s in stereo would sound like in terms of pure separation. After all, I am looking at these specific units because they'll be able to create the most low end for each channel so I'd have bass stereo imaging as well.

- How will the system handle the frequencies via crossover between each unit? Will all 3 system play the full signal, or will the Playbase act like a subwoofer with its built-in large driver? I'd like every speaker to playback full-range. And if so, what would happen if I were to add the SONOS subwoofer? I'd still prefer it if every speaker played back everything and not isolated to the subwoofer only.

- If the Playbase also creates stereo separation just by itself, is it known what the approximate internal crossover frequency is between its mid-frequency drivers and the low-end drivers? Just curious because I want to get as much low-end stereo separation as possible, so as close as it could get to 80Hz would be the best (below which I guess the effects start to diminish) considering the Playbase only has one low end driver.

- Is setting up the system like this entirely reliant on Android or iOS, or can this be done in Windows too? Just curious because I'd like to use this system as long as I possibly can. And if support for any system would be dropped that would be a shame.

- Once the system is set up, will it be permanent (unless undone)? I.e., it no longer needs your phone or other software every time to keep them working in tandem? What if there's a power outage?

- I believe there is a "lossless" or "uncompressed" setting somewhere. I'd like this to be enabled. Where and how could I find it?

- From what I can gather, volume control will not be possible via the physical buttons on the units themselves. Then what's the best way to control volume? I would be using a Windows system so would I be looking at the Windows software, the built-in Windows volume of the computer, the TV's volume (if used), or maybe even with my phone? I would like to be able to adjust the volume while in-game or watching a movie.

- Can the individual volume, bass, and treble levels between each unit be adjusted in the Windows software application or do you need a phone for that?

- If you turn the system on and off, will the volume level be reset?

- How do you turn off/wake the entire system at once?

Thanks in advance!

19 replies

Userlevel 7
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Ok so your feeding computer into the Playbase - the Playbase will project without delay (actually technically it does have about 30ms delay) a simulated 5.0 soundstage.

The playbase will have center, left, and right and simulate surrounds. As your just feeding it stereo signal you won't get much as far as surround simulations. It will sound like a fairly special stereo sound.

Now as for the Play:5's - since they will be outside of the direct toslink connection they will be 70ms delay. Therefore, playing sound via the toslink input - the Play:5s will exibit delay and create an echo if you group them with the playbase.

So for the computer sound I would stick with just the Playbase (optical) or just the Play:5 (analog). The Play:5 with analog connection to the computer I don't myself notice the 70ms delay causing any lipsync issues. The only noticible thing when it comes to the 70ms delay to me is the slight echo if playing along with a speaker that isn't delayed (like the playbar or the computer speakers direct).

If you PAIR the Play:5s to the Playbase - they will be in sync but only play surround sound when using the toslink connection.

Either way when playing music from Sonos application they will all be in perfect sync.
Userlevel 7
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If the play:5s and Playbar are grouped. They will each have their own volume controls and bass/treble controls.

You don't normally ever actually unplug turn off and there is no off button - they go into standby. And when they are in standby they do not reset anything as far as sources, volumes, etc. They will pickup exactly where left off when start back up.

If there is a power outage and you have setup as the Play:5 and Playbar grouped (they will revert back to ungrouped).

They are all instant on when in standby.

Lossless/compressed refers to if you have something input into the Play:5 input. IN the play:5 settings you can set that stream as compressed or lossless. Default should be the lossless. People with network issues (router/signal etc.) have had to use compressed sometimes (I would fix network before moving it to compressed myself but that's me - some people do have challenges with neighboring wifi).
Userlevel 7
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I'm honesty not sure in your circumstance where you want the playbar and the Play:5s all right beside each other why your looking wireless system vs. wired?
Userlevel 7
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You can adjust playbar volume via infrared remote.
Chris wrote:

Ok so your feeding computer into the Playbase - the Playbase will project without delay (actually technically it does have about 30ms delay) a simulated 5.0 soundstage.

The playbase will have center, left, and right and simulate surrounds. As your just feeding it stereo signal you won't get much as far as surround simulations. It will sound like a fairly special stereo sound.

Now as for the Play:5's - since they will be outside of the direct toslink connection they will be 70ms delay. Therefore, playing sound via the toslink input - the Play:5s will exibit delay and create an echo if you group them with the playbase.

So for the computer sound I would stick with just the Playbase (optical) or just the Play:5 (analog). The Play:5 with analog connection to the computer I don't myself notice the 70ms delay causing any lipsync issues. The only noticible thing when it comes to the 70ms delay to me is the slight echo if playing along with a speaker that isn't delayed (like the playbar or the computer speakers direct).

If you PAIR the Play:5s to the Playbase - they will be in sync but only play surround sound when using the toslink connection.

Either way when playing music from Sonos application they will all be in perfect sync.



Wait, so since I'm exclusively using my computer as a source over TOSLINK fed into the Playbase, use stereo exclusively (I downmix all my surround sources to stereo lossless before playing them back), use my own software to play back files like foobar, MPC-HC and games, and have zero interest in using anything else this kind of setup is not a possibility because of echo? And 30ms and 70ms simultaneously will cause a severe echo. Or am I misunderstand?

Me going for SONOS is actually entirely reliant on the Playbase working in tandem with the Play:5s. If they don't and I'd have to opt for Play:5s only or just the Playbase there are many other options out there I'd rather go for in terms of wireless (RIVA Festival, Bluesound, Dynaudio Music) and especially other options like professional monitors and regular Hi-Fi bookshelves.

Chris wrote:

If the play:5s and Playbar are grouped. They will each have their own volume controls and bass/treble controls.



Physically and through software?

Chris wrote:

You don't normally ever actually unplug turn off and there is no off button - they go into standby. And when they are in standby they do not reset anything as far as sources, volumes, etc. They will pickup exactly where left off when start back up.



I see.

Chris wrote:

If there is a power outage and you have setup as the Play:5 and Playbar grouped (they will revert back to ungrouped).



Okay.

Chris wrote:

Lossless/compressed refers to if you have something input into the Play:5 input. IN the play:5 settings you can set that stream as compressed or lossless. Default should be the lossless. People with network issues (router/signal etc.) have had to use compressed sometimes (I would fix network before moving it to compressed myself but that's me - some people do have challenges with neighboring wifi).



So the Playbase has no such setting? What is it set to by default?

Chris wrote:

I'm honesty not sure in your circumstance where you want the playbar and the Play:5s all right beside each other why your looking wireless system vs. wired?



Because of my TV I am restricted to only soundbase units where the TV can stand on top of the center channel. The weird stand of my TV would be in the way of a regular soundbar or even center channel. And there are not a lot of soundbase units to begin with let alone ones that can work in tandem with speakers besides the TV. Well, technically I could get a center channel speaker that is no higher than 4.5 centimeters, no wider than 51 centimeters, and no deeper than 8 centimeters but suffice it to say I haven't really found any that match with L/R speakers and are satisfying in terms of output and design.

I like an active system, and I like the Play:5s and Playbase's design. Plus I want to at least try and see if I can compose a satisfying 3.0 setup. I'd like to try and see if the center channel adds something extra to the stereo image. Maybe a sort of more homogeneous sound than just stereo (the TV is kind of big in relation to my seating).

Chris wrote:

You can adjust playbar volume via infrared remote.



But not the whole system?
Userlevel 7
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[quote=SFU01]
Chris wrote:


Wait, so since I'm exclusively using my computer as a source over TOSLINK fed into the Playbase, use stereo exclusively (I downmix all my surround sources to stereo lossless before playing them back), use my own software to play back files like foobar, MPC-HC and games, and have zero interest in using anything else this kind of setup is not a possibility because of echo? And 30ms and 70ms simultaneously will cause a severe echo. Or am I misunderstand? You do not misunderstand - a playbase along with two play:5s is not a 3.0 system. It is a simulated 5.0 system (playbase) grouped with a stereo 2.0 system (play:5s). The playbase has no ability to be just a center channel - it will always be minimum 3.0 itself (L/C/R). And any speakers grouped to it will have about 40ms delay from the playbase. Speakers paired to it (Left and right surrounds) will not be delayed.

Me going for SONOS is actually entirely reliant on the Playbase working in tandem with the Play:5s. If they don't and I'd have to opt for Play:5s only or just the Playbase there are many other options out there I'd rather go for in terms of wireless (RIVA Festival, Bluesound, Dynaudio Music) and especially other options like professional monitors and regular Hi-Fi bookshelves.

Chris wrote:

If the play:5s and Playbar are grouped. They will each have their own volume controls and bass/treble controls.



Physically and through software? both

Chris wrote:

You don't normally ever actually unplug turn off and there is no off button - they go into standby. And when they are in standby they do not reset anything as far as sources, volumes, etc. They will pickup exactly where left off when start back up.



I see.

Chris wrote:

If there is a power outage and you have setup as the Play:5 and Playbar grouped (they will revert back to ungrouped).



Okay.

Chris wrote:

Lossless/compressed refers to if you have something input into the Play:5 input. IN the play:5 settings you can set that stream as compressed or lossless. Default should be the lossless. People with network issues (router/signal etc.) have had to use compressed sometimes (I would fix network before moving it to compressed myself but that's me - some people do have challenges with neighboring wifi).



So the Playbase has no such setting? What is it set to by default? actually playbase when sending sound to grouped speakers uses and SBC codec to compress sound sending to other speakers

Chris wrote:

I'm honesty not sure in your circumstance where you want the playbar and the Play:5s all right beside each other why your looking wireless system vs. wired?



Because of my TV I am restricted to only soundbase units where the TV can stand on top of the center channel. The weird stand of my TV would be in the way of a regular soundbar or even center channel. And there are not a lot of soundbase units to begin with let alone ones that can work in tandem with speakers besides the TV. Well, technically I could get a center channel speaker that is no higher than 4.5 centimeters, no wider than 51 centimeters, and no deeper than 8 centimeters but suffice it to say I haven't really found any that match with L/R speakers and are satisfying in terms of output and design.

I like an active system, and I like the Play:5s and Playbase's design. Plus I want to at least try and see if I can compose a satisfying 3.0 setup. I'd like to try and see if the center channel adds something extra to the stereo image. Maybe a sort of more homogeneous sound than just stereo (the TV is kind of big in relation to my seating).

Chris wrote:

You can adjust playbar volume via infrared remote.



But not the whole system?

IR remote just adjusts the playbar - others would have to adjust with physical button on unit or app
Thanks for the reply.

Chris wrote:

You do not misunderstand - a playbase along with two play:5s is not a 3.0 system. It is a simulated 5.0 system (playbase) grouped with a stereo 2.0 system (play:5s). The playbase has no ability to be just a center channel - it will always be minimum 3.0 itself (L/C/R). And any speakers grouped to it will have about 40ms delay from the playbase. Speakers paired to it (Left and right surrounds) will not be delayed.



Hrmmm so that probably knocks the SONOS solution off my list. I just want them to work as Left (Play:5) Mono/Stereo (Playbase) and Right (Play:5) connected via TOSLINK with stereo source (computer). As far as I know there isn't any other way to achieve this either, no? Not the SONOS connect either? And there's no other soundbase units that can offer this either?

I've looked at all other options but I don't think for example that the RIVA Festivals can be paired with any other soundbase, or Bluesound won't even allow a stereo pair of Pulse units to work with any source other than Wi-Fi let alone 3.0 via line in or optical. The new Dynaudio Music I checked and seem to only allow stereo pairing with an identical similar unit. Denon HEOS I don't know but I really dislike their design so they're out. Pro Audio Addon only in stereo. Teufel Raumfeld I think don't work in stereo pairs only the new smaller M unit, but not in conjunction with a third unit like their playbase unless I am mistaken.

The only option would be Nubert's Pro Active series. I've checked their manual and they even have an example shot of their soundbase connected to a pair of their bookshelves. But the problem with those is that the tweeters are only at either extreme end not in the center. I might as well forego a center in the first place if that's the case, or the other way around (no bookshelves).

The only other thing would be using powered monitors or a stereo amplifier that has an RCA subwoofer out, and using that subwoofer out to connect it to a soundbase that has analog inputs. But I've found no clear answer on whether that subwoofer out is actually usable to send a full-range signal or if it's truly only intended for subwoofers because it only sends a particular signal (like for example only below 250Hz). Or get an amp like the FX Audio M-200E and use its pre-amp outs while having bookshelves connected to the speaker outs.

But all these things even if they work are not meant to really be paired with each other having different sound signatures. And I think I'm a bit too much of a purist to go that route. Considering 3.0 with SONOS is actually the most exotic thing I've ever done.

I guess it's just going to be another 2.0 system for me. I really hope I don't end up finding an audible gap in my stereo image because the speakers are too far apart in relation to me. If that happens maybe I can diminish the effects by getting speakers that send sound in all directions like the RIVA Festival.

Chris wrote:

actually playbase when sending sound to grouped speakers uses and SBC codec to compress sound sending to other speakers



That's actually very interesting. Where do you find information such as this?
SFU01 wrote:

Chris wrote:

actually playbase when sending sound to grouped speakers uses and SBC codec to compress sound sending to other speakers



That's actually very interesting. Where do you find information such as this?


https://en.community.sonos.com/advanced-setups-229000/playbar-compression-sbc-flac-6805389
Userlevel 7
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Why can't you just get a small 5.1 receiver and hook up wired left/right/center speakers. Why does it need to be a soundbar? You don't need wireless as your have them all together.

Why doesn't something like this work for your needs? https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-5-1-Channel-Bluetooth-Blu-ray-Theater/dp/B00WZOE500/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1523822747&sr=8-6&keywords=samsung+5.1
Chris wrote:

Why can't you just get a small 5.1 receiver and hook up wired left/right/center speakers. Why does it need to be a soundbar? You don't need wireless as your have them all together.

Why doesn't something like this work for your needs? https://www.amazon.com/Samsung-5-1-Channel-Bluetooth-Blu-ray-Theater/dp/B00WZOE500/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1523822747&sr=8-6&keywords=samsung+5.1



Those are not active. And I'd rather not have a receiver on my desk. I want to get the most out of 3.0 with no subwoofer. Only a very small center channel would work, while a soundbase is big enough to produce satisfying low end by itself.

And if I were to go the option of stereo separates there's other options I'd rather consider.

Anyway, I'm back to weighing my options on what stereo speakers to get.


Would the SONOS CONNECT allow me to use the speakers as described in "3.0" via TOSLINK stereo sources with non Wi-Fi/SONOS playback software?
Userlevel 7
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Connect has no toslink input.
Chris wrote:

Connect has no toslink input.



Thanks.

Ah I see now that's an output. But it has analog RCA in would that work? Or would that introduce significant lag again?
Analog in to a CONNECT, played as a Line-In to a group consisting of PLAYBASE and a PLAY:5 pair? Yes that would work. It would experience a delay of ~70ms for uncompressed Line-In.
ratty wrote:

Analog in to a CONNECT, played as a Line-In to a group consisting of PLAYBASE and a PLAY:5 pair? Yes that would work. It would experience a delay of ~70ms for uncompressed Line-In.



Thanks for the reply.

Okay that's awesome so what I want does seem possible I'd just have to decide if a 70ms delay is acceptable or not. Will the Play:5s function in stereo in this? And the Playbase, what will it do in conjunction, mono or stereo? Or will there be echo because each unit has a different delay?

And even if all units play with the same delay, is it even fair to be mentioning the 70ms in the first place? SONOS is hugely popular and therefore falls under far more scrutiny than other brands and many details will be revealed that would otherwise stay unnoticed with other brands. I use an entry level 4K TV (one of the first HDMI 2.0 ones when they were initially introduced) as my monitor and never notice a delay with that either. In fact I've played competitive games on an entry level early model 1080p TV at the time too and I wasn't bothered by any significant delay either. Will the video function on the TV have similar lag to the SONOS system?
Userlevel 7
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Hooking to the analog in of the Play:5

The 2 Play:5s will act in stereo.

The playbar grouped to them will act as a stereo speaker (well 3.0 really it will be like a Dolby Pro-logic sound - it will create a bit of surround effect but primarily be L/C/R)

70ms - I mean I don't notice the delay when I have hooked a play5 to a TV. But others have said the opposite - its going to be a personal thing. Its a real slight delay.
Chris wrote:

Hooking to the analog in of the Play:5

The 2 Play:5s will act in stereo.

The playbar grouped to them will act as a stereo speaker (well 3.0 really it will be like a Dolby Pro-logic sound - it will create a bit of surround effect but primarily be L/C/R)

70ms - I mean I don't notice the delay when I have hooked a play5 to a TV. But others have said the opposite - its going to be a personal thing. Its a real slight delay.



Thanks.

But now I'm a bit confused, are you saying that I could connect my computer to the analog line in on one of the Play:5s and have them stream to the Playbase all in one system? This is what I wanted to do all along but after searching a lot for this online I thought I read only the Playbar and Playbase can stream to different SONOS units. And from this thread I thought only the Connect could do it without having different delays between each speaker so as not to create an echo.
Userlevel 7
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If you connect the analog line in to a Play:5 (you can then stream that to any and all Sonos speakers in your system with no limitations). The line in is actually completely independent of the play:5

Once you hook to the Line-In on your play:5 you will then in the Sonos app have an option to select Line-In (play:5 zone name) as a source of sound. You can play that sound source to any sonos speaker.

So with your TV input into play:5

You could play TV to the Play:5 pair
You could play TV to the Play:5 pair grouped with the Playbase so that they are all in sync
You can even play TV sound to the Playbase and the Play:5s be silent or playing something else like music.
Chris wrote:

If you connect the analog line in to a Play:5 (you can then stream that to any and all Sonos speakers in your system with no limitations). The line in is actually completely independent of the play:5

Once you hook to the Line-In on your play:5 you will then in the Sonos app have an option to select Line-In (play:5 zone name) as a source of sound. You can play that sound source to any sonos speaker.

So with your TV input into play:5

You could play TV to the Play:5 pair
You could play TV to the Play:5 pair grouped with the Playbase so that they are all in sync
You can even play TV sound to the Playbase and the Play:5s be silent or playing something else like music.



Ah, so for desktop usage 3 units would be perfectly usable I only have to consider the ~70ms lag to all units. Which I started to search more about:

https://www.rtings.com/tv/tests/inputs/input-lag

My TV I believe is either a 2014 or 2015 4K 60Hz unit and right now I turned game mode off and interpolation set to maximum (30Hz from the HDMI 1.4a port of my Intel HD Graphics i7-6700HQ). So basically at best I'd be looking at 100ms lag.

Then I checked out the video used in this test with the audio out over 3.5MM analog from the laptop itself so not the TV's audio:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ucZl6vQ_8Uo

So not only do I not find the lag noticeable. Does this mean that the SONOS system will have even less lag than my TV itself? Or better yet: The actual import thing is that the difference between the audio (70ms delay) and video (100ms delay) will only be 30ms?

Or doesn't it work that way at all? I know the keyboard and mouse is obviously a different story they have their own input lag.

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