Think I Found my Sonos Replacement

  • 11 January 2018
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Sonos has made it pretty clear Home Theater is not a priority for them. I was really hoping for an announcement at CES but while other companies were running laps around their decades-old audio codec support, Sonos was nowhere to be found (unless you count their panel on gender equality in the industry).

Sennheiser's CES offering seems to deliver everything I am looking for and more. Can't wait until this comes to market.

https://www.engadget.com/2018/01/11/sennheiser-ambeo-3d-soundbar/

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55 replies

Userlevel 4
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A lot of people here really drinking the kool-aid. I have had my 5.1 setup for several years. It was certainly not cutting edge at the time of purchase but worked well enough. It's the lack of innovation that has caused Sonos to be lapped by competitors and I don't think anyone can argue they are overpriced in an increasingly saturated market for what they do.

Lots of people are looking for a solid alternative to the playbar/playbase and the Sonos "vision" of a 5.1 setup. I provided an excellent alternative and now the fanboys (or Sonos employees) are out in full force. Fact of the matter is a Sonos 5.1 system is an audio dinosaur in this day and age. Please note I said I found MY replacement. If you want to hang on to your overpriced, decades-old technology, that is perfectly fine. But you sure sound silly defending the choice.
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This exact thread pops up every few months in this sub-forum, generally with exactly the same comments. So I will just quote reply with my post from 4 months ago. It's still valid for the majority of this conversation:

This is an interesting thread, but there are lots of things in here that I don't agree with, and seem just pure conjecture. To caveat, I have both a "proper" wired 5.1 AV setup in my main TV room, as well as Sonos throughout the house (including 2x 5.0 Sonos setups). So I feel fairly well placed to make comparisons.

Firstly, a Sonos 5.1 setup is crazy expensive. Just looking at the online shop, a Playbar/Playbase, Sub and 2 surrounds (Play 1s) costs £1,736. You could easily spend that money on a wired setup, as well as an AV Pro to come round, trunk the speaker cabling, set everything up and then have at least £200-300 left to spare. It would support all sound formats, and I would say arguably give you slightly better sound (but it's negligible).

But set a Sonos surround system up, feed it a Dolby Digital 5.1 signal and it does a great job (as it should do, because it's crazy expensive). You can get a decent amount of bass without the Sub too (quite why it needs to cost £600 is really beyond me). So the "low quality Dolby Digital" comment is just pointless and incorrect. Sonos has superb software and the technology of SonosNet is fantastic, but comes at a hefty cost.

Saying "I actually use fewer wires" for a Denos/Q Acoustics setup just means you didn't do your research properly. Any LG TV will pass on a 5.1 signal either from an internal or external source (and most Samsung or Sony ones do too), and differentiating between "thick" and "thin" cabling is seriously clutching.

I fully agree that you can have issues if you're a serial DVD/Blu-Ray watcher, and I agree you can get pesky lip-sync issues. I'm wondering how many folk bought the last Star Wars films (DTS only for the main soundtrack, DD for description only!), plugged it in and realised they couldn't hear anything (although out the box, most TV/Sonos setups seem to default to 2.0 anyway). Lipsync issues though, in my experience, are more down to the TV manufacturer than Sonos (but it absolutely is a pain).

It is patently obvious that home theatre was an afterthought for Sonos, else there is no other reason to begin with a purely optical soundbar and charge £650. If I was a betting man, I'd give it a 90-95% chance that Sonos is R&D'ing a HDMI Soundbar. There is just no other way to take that product line forwards, but how they would make it work for surround sound is another thing. I'm guessing there would be serious bandwidth issues for anything beyond DD5.1 with non-wired surrounds.

And just 2 points to make to the OP - if we want to start talking about so-called "true" AV setups, then things such as clear speech shouldn't even be an issue and you should be watching everything in Pure Direct mode. If you're having to make adjustments for this, it's not setup properly in the first place (save for the odd show/film with really bad mixing). Also, Sonos quite literally has a Speech Enhancement function! And buying speakers such as the (excellent) Q Acoustics ones and then quite literally dumping them all next to each other on your TV stand with little space between them (thus, little audio separation) and at a low level which must be way below your ear level, is just wrong - you might as well have just got a Playbar.

I also must say the people who seem to be worried about sound formats, etc IMO is a vast minority of overall Sonos users. Every single other person I know who has it simply connects to their WiFi and is done with it. Most don't even know about DTS, DD+, Atmos, etc. And if you care that much about it, I find it odd you'd run through all these hoops to get surround sound and not want a "proper" wired setup in the first place.

Sonos is a music streamer and simple soundbar first, and an extension into Home Theatre second. It's the best in the market at the first, and does an admirable (if very very costly) job at the second.
Thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy it. I would say that Sonos have never aimed at serious HT enthusiasts. So I think you are right there. But I suspect Sonos know their market, you just aren't it.
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Purchasing a TV that can handle DD 5.1 is a workaround and you are missing out on TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, the list goes on. Even the addition of DTS at this stage in the game is too little too late. Modern audio codecs are a requirement for a luxury home theater product in 2018. You would not buy a 1080P television set, let alone one that cost the same as a 4K set.

The Sennheiser unit is in production and scheduled to be released this year. That's more of a road-map than I heard from the Sonos camp.

They had a great concept with the 5.1 setup but never truly delivered. The system is great for wireless music but even that space is getting crowded.

Yes I own a Sonos 5.1 system. As a Home Theater solution it is awful. It excels at music and is maybe good for some TV programs. A true home theater solution should be able to decode modern codecs.

I don't use either Sonos or wired HT for movies because a stereo amp with two quality stereo speakers suffices for most movies for me and I can't be bothered with all the wiring for the ever increasing numbers of surround speakers when there is a state of the art multiplex ten minutes away if a movie is worthy of the immersion always available there.

I also do not believe that at home it is all about just codecs.

Where I think the Sonos HT does not deliver movie sound quality even in comparison to my basic system is in the lack of separation for the front speakers, since all three are in one box with Sonos. Obviously that confers the benefit of saving the wiring, but I have always thought that a Sonos HT solution that had just the centre speaker, the HT decoding electronics, and its wireless distribution feature in one small box to be kept under the TV and the separated front left/right speakers then a 1/3/5 pair as desired, this would bring it on par with a fully wired HT set 5.1 up and worthy of attention. With little to do with codecs if relevant sound can be obtained from the front pair, the centre speaker, the Sub and the surrounds, all running in wireless mode. The front separation would also allow for this set up to work better for music play.

Is the Sennheiser going to offer separated front speakers? If not, I would not bother to even test listen, no matter what codec.
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Thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy it. I would say that Sonos have never aimed at serious HT enthusiasts. So I think you are right there. But I suspect Sonos know their market, you just aren't it.

Is this other soundbar a serious home theater?

I wonder, How does one categorize this.

For me I felt like I was buying a serious HT when I opened my wallet wide for the Sonos speakers.
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You’re aware that home theater is not their forte so why did you post this? Wait a minute....did Sennheiser put you up to this? Why I oughta.....
If this ever comes to market here’s how it’s going to play out:
1- purchase soundbar and shortly after hooking up you’ll say hey wait, it doesn’t sound the same without actual rear surrounds.
2-you will buy the rear surrounds the offer as a supplement. Then, Hey wait- that explosion LOOKED cool, but why didn’t I feel it in my gut?
3- Buy subwoofer after selling your car to afford it.
4- go on Sennheiser's forum and complain that soundbar didn’t live up to your expectations and you are selling it for a Sonos set up!
For a company that has never made home theater a priority for them, Sonos sure has impressed the pants off of me it! It is simply that amazing, yes
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Thanks for sharing. I hope you enjoy it. I would say that Sonos have never aimed at serious HT enthusiasts. So I think you are right there. But I suspect Sonos know their market, you just aren't it.

Is this other soundbar a serious home theater?

I wonder, How does one categorize this.

For me I felt like I was buying a serious HT when I opened my wallet wide for the Sonos speakers.


It’s what a $700+ Soundbar should be. Has HDMI ports and supports modern audio codecs.

Is it the best home theater option? Certainly not. But for what Sonos charges it’s light years ahead.

For those who say Sonos “sounds great” and are getting faux 5.1 from their content, I just cannot take your opinion seriously.
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For those who say Sonos “sounds great” and are getting faux 5.1 from their content, I just cannot take your opinion seriously.
And what if I say it sounds great and I'm getting REAL 5.1 from it? As I've upgraded my system from HD to 4K, I made sure that the products I was buying supported Dolby Digital output, so I'd be able to get true 5.1 from my Sonos system. My 4K TV has Dolby Digital passthrough. My 4K Blu-Ray player supports Dolby Digital output. My game console has always supported Dolby Digital output.

While I agree that support for DTS would be a big plus, I see these other soundbar+subwoofer setups that claim to support Atmos and laugh. The whole point of Atmos is that it's supposed to make you feel like you're being surrounded by the audio, you're actually in the middle of all the action... sounds from above, and all around. A simple soundbar and subwoofer isn't going to do that, and these soundbars that claim to support Atmos simply because they can decode the signal are just diluting the benefits of the codec, IMHO. I'm cool with Sonos not supporting Atmos.
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You’re aware that home theater is not their forte so why did you post this? Wait a minute....did Sennheiser put you up to this? Why I oughta.....
If this ever comes to market here’s how it’s going to play out:
1- purchase soundbar and shortly after hooking up you’ll say hey wait, it doesn’t sound the same without actual rear surrounds.
2-you will buy the rear surrounds the offer as a supplement. Then, Hey wait- that explosion LOOKED cool, but why didn’t I feel it in my gut?
3- Buy subwoofer after selling your car to afford it.
4- go on Sennheiser's forum and complain that soundbar didn’t live up to your expectations and you are selling it for a Sonos set up!
For a company that has never made home theater a priority for them, Sonos sure has impressed the pants off of me it! It is simply that amazing, yes


From the article:

"I have a Sonos Playbar and sub in my living room, and this Sennheiser speaker blows that out of the water, too."
I must admit I didn't click the OP's link and didn't realise that he hadn't actually seen or heard his vastly superior alternative to Sonos.
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A lot of people here really drinking the kool-aid.


So, what’s wrong with that? I personally love the kool-aid they’re feeding me! If you love Sennheiser's kool-aid so much why don’t you bring a big barrel over to their community and let them fill it up! You have nothing good to say about the Sonos brand so why post at all?
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I find it ironic. People buy Sonos for its primary purpose, to have whole home audio. Yet find reasons to dislike the product that are beyond that intended purpose.

Is the Sonos 5.1 setup a direct replacement to a modern 5.1 / 7.1 / 9.1 AVR with all of its inputs, codecs, speakers, and wiring? Of course not. If you desire those capabilities, look elsewhere. And as Kumar said, the issue with any soundbar setup is physical separation of the left and right channels, which any and every soundbar cannot do (physically, I am not referring to emulation of sound).

What no other 5.1 or higher TV-based / family room / home theater system can do is completely and seamlessly integrate into the Sonos ecosystem in a home.

Having the Sonos 5.1 setup in my family room, which is open to my kitchen and by far the most used area in my home, saves me from having to have multiple systems. If I had a standard AVR 5.1 setup (which I used to have), then I would need a Sonos Connect. Which also means I'd have to separately control power and inputs on the AVR with a separate remote. Yuck. Or, I'd have to have a bunch of Sonos Play 1/3/5 speakers in my family room and kitchen in addition to the TV's system, at a cost of ~$1,000 in addition to the AVR 5.1 setup. Double and triple yuck (in terms of cost and having multiple systems).
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It’s pretty clear to me that people who complain about Sonos not supporting this Codec or that Codec probably don’t have the slightest idea of how to properly setup a HT system (old school); even a conventional 5.1 with separate LF/C/RF/LS/RS/Sub.

Using a Playbar (anyone’s playbar) is not going to produce a true cinematic theater experience…period! Do you really think that when you go to a theater they’re using some gigantic playbar upfront?? I mean really people!

Furthermore, the so-called playbar systems that proclaim to re-produce true Dolby-Atmos are using a lot of processing tech trickery. However, more importantly; regardless of the tech employed, those claims are based upon a rectangular room with four walls, flat surfaces and minimal materials that absorb sound (not an open space such as kit/family room /dining room combo) . The entire concept is based upon angles and sound bouncing off the walls. To be clear that’s not to say that the Sonos PlayBar and PlayBase doesn’t employ some of the same tech trickery.

Moving beyond the PlayBar (in any setup regardless of manufacturer) positioning of the surrounds is crucial. Typically they are placed left/right of the seating position no more than 1 foot to the rear. In case you didn’t know…surrounds have a sweet spot just like front L/R speakers. Sonos TruePlay will adjust each speaker in the HT 5.1 setup for optimum performance based upon room acoustics.

A typical Sonos HT 5.1 system consists of a PlayBar, Sub and Play 1’s x 2 or Sonos One’s x 2 for the surrounds. If you find you want more umph from your surrounds you can substitute Play 3’s x 2 or Play 5’s x2. The Play 3 and Play 5 have the added advantage to allow for a increased separation L/R and to the rear. Just don’t go overboard when increasing the speaker separation.

All said if you really have to have the TRUE Dolby-Atmos listening experience at home an don’t mind running wire either exposed or hidden….Here are your configurations - click the link….guess what…they don’t include a soundbar.

https://www.dolby.com/us/en/guide/dolby-atmos-speaker-setup/index.html

Bottom-line…stop whining about Sonos and go out and buy a system that outputs Dolby-Atmos. Even if Sonos were able to include the Dolby-Atmos codec in a future update you would still have to purchase at least two more speakers in addition to the current 5.1 Sonos configuration. Cheers!
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I googled "sonos dolby atmos" and found a Reddit thread from September 2017 from a guy who said he had emailed the Sonos CEO and the CEO told him that they are actively looking into incorporating Atmos. Interesting.
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Previous post was an error. So Glide, its light years ahead? Where is it available? Oh that’s right, it’s a prototype so no one can actually purchae one. So you are solely going on what this one guy said about it in his very “technical review”? They are telling you it has all these features but when they realize that these will cost $1500 or so retail, I bet a couple features get removed. But wait, it’s got DTS,ATMOS and 3D sound!! WOW they sure are ahead of the curve! And honestly if you look at the picture it is one ugly mofo. Hopefully they take the big rectangular box and put it in another box with some style. Good luck with it and I hope you keep us up to date when you purchase it.
It’s what a $700+ Soundbar should be. Has HDMI ports and supports modern audio codecs.

Is it the best home theater option? Certainly not. But for what Sonos charges it’s light years ahead.
This is the bit I never get with these sort of posts. The $700+ isn't a compulsory tax, it is a choice in a free and competitive market. If a product meets the needs of the market much better than another, at a similar price, the inferior product will soon sink. What you get for your money is what is promised, there is no set of features that is a basic human right for a particular price.

Sonos must be making a judgement that the cost of adding additional codecs and connections would not pay for itself in increased sales. I don't know if they are right or wrong, but if a product doesn't give you what you want for the price you are willing to pay, don't buy it.
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Another article on the Sennheiser:

https://gizmodo.com/sennheisers-first-home-audio-product-is-a-3d-sound-bar-1821977579

Article states it sounds almost as good as a 9.1 setup.
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Another article. This thing sounds amazing. I'll check it out when it comes out.

https://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/sennheiser-first-soundbar-ambeo-3d-surround-dolby-atmos/
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The Sennheiser unit is in production and scheduled to be released this year. That's more of a road-map than I heard from the Sonos camp.
I don't see any firm information on release schedule or pricing ($2,000 is hinted at), and it appears to be in development rather than in production. Why don't you check back in on this thread when (1) the product is actually available, (2) you know how much it costs, and (3) you've heard it for yourself.
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They had a great concept with the 5.1 setup but never truly delivered. The system is great for wireless music but even that space is getting crowded.


My whole point I guess I am trying to get through is IT IS A GREAT 5.1 setup! You are telling me that you own/have listened to a Sonos 5.1 set up and did not enjoy it? You are saying that you TRULY notice a difference between Sonos 5.1 and a set up with actual Dolby/DTS? You can not include ATMOS, 7.1, 9.1 because that’s a different game. I have been fortunate in my life to own tons of audio gear. I have literally owned probably 30 complete 5.1 set ups. I actually took part in designing one of the most sought after car audio competition subwoofers. I was an IASCA judge for a few years. I cannot for the life of me, get how you figured out how you “found your Sonos replacement” from an article that takes 3 minutes to read. Wow, the 4 inch speakers play down to 20hz. That must go through you like a cannon!
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They had a great concept with the 5.1 setup but never truly delivered. The system is great for wireless music but even that space is getting crowded.


My whole point I guess I am trying to get through is IT IS A GREAT 5.1 setup! You are telling me that you own/have listened to a Sonos 5.1 set up and did not enjoy it? You are saying that you TRULY notice a difference between Sonos 5.1 and a set up with actual Dolby/DTS? You can not include ATMOS, 7.1, 9.1 because that’s a different game. I have been fortunate in my life to own tons of audio gear. I have literally owned probably 30 complete 5.1 set ups. I actually took part in designing one of the most sought after car audio competition subwoofers. I was an IASCA judge for a few years. I cannot for the life of me, get how you figured out how you “found your Sonos replacement” from an article that takes 3 minutes to read. Wow, the 4 inch speakers play down to 20hz. That must go through you like a cannon!


Yes I own a Sonos 5.1 system. As a Home Theater solution it is awful. It excels at music and is maybe good for some TV programs. A true home theater solution should be able to decode modern codecs. I cannot even play a Dolby TrueHD or any non-lossy audio codecs.

The Sennheiser product does all that and more and is receiving glowing reviews from those who have heard it. I will gladly report back as this is a day-one purchase for me.

Sounds like the Sonos fanboy is strong in this forum and for whatever reason people are not willing to admit Sonos’ offering is antiquated. It is not even marginally “good” when you factor in price:performance ratio.

And yes - I can most certainly hear the difference between DD 5.1 on Sonos and TrueHD or DTSX on a more capable system. Clear as I can hear the difference between an MP3 and lossless 192/24 Losless HD audio file.
I know if I had found my Sonos replacement, the very last thing I would be doing is posting on the Sonos forum. Aside from posting the system on e-bay, if I hated it enough to replace it, it would be over and done. I also don't follow my ex-girlfriend's Facebook feed or lurk outside her home. But that's just me. 😃

And yes - I can most certainly hear the difference between DD 5.1 on Sonos and TrueHD or DTSX on a more capable system. Clear as I can hear the difference between an MP3 and lossless 192/24 Losless HD audio file.


So, pretty much indistinguishable then... 😃
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Sounds like the Sonos fanboy is strong in this forum and for whatever reason people are not willing to admit Sonos’ offering is antiquated. It is not even marginally “good” when you factor in price:performance ratio.

And yes - I can most certainly hear the difference between DD 5.1 on Sonos and TrueHD or DTSX on a more capable system. Clear as I can hear the difference between an MP3 and lossless 192/24 Losless HD audio file.


Sorry for the above error post. I have unusually nimble but fat fingers.
So what do you expect but “Sonos fanboys” on the Sonos Community?
And if Sonos is Such a horrible product, then why do you have an entire 5.1 set up? If you bought it new, that’s around $1500. So you went to the store, listened to the gear for hours, decided it was crap AND was not ideal for you because it was not “true” 5.1 and then you bought it?? Even if you got it used it was quite a price tag I’m sure. If you want to get rid of your “crap” Sonos I will pay you $100 for it. That’s a great deal on your end for crap!