Question

Using my Sonos (and other) equipment to create a surround sound system

  • 24 September 2017
  • 40 replies
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I have had a Sonos system for years but used it strictly for music. I have not tried to incorporate my TV to create a surround sound system but thought perhaps I should give it a try. Here is the equipment I have:

2 - Play 5’s
1 - Play 1
2 - CONNECT:AMPS
1 - 4th gen Apple TV
1 - Sony Sound bar with sub
4 - in ceiling speakers (not currently in use)

I currently have the sound bar as the primary output for the TV. I am not sure how (or if) a surround system can be created out of all of this. And finally, if it can be done, then does that preclude the Sonos items being used from playing music?

I am thinking that one way to do it would be to just use the 2 CONNECT:AMPS to drive the surround output of the 4 in ceiling speakers and continue to utilize the sound bar with its sub.

Anyone have some ideas for me?

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40 replies

Userlevel 3
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Get rid of the Sony Soundbar, and replace with a Playbar/Playbase. Make sure it's directly connected to your router, and go through the steps to hook up one of your Connect Amps as rear surround sound speakers. If you can't do that, then get a Playbar/Playbase, get an extra Play 1 and set those up as wireless surround sound speakers.

There's no way to make the Sony Soundbar and Connect:Amp play nice with each other for surround sound.
To use a Connect:Amp to drive rear surrounds it is necessary to have a wired connection between the Playbar/base and C:A, either directly or through a router/switch. And you must run in boost mode. Play:1s may prove much easier practically.
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Confused....my router is a ways away. No way to ethernet either Playbase or CONNECT:AMP to it. Can I just ethernet Playbase and CONNECT:AMP together?
Yes, as John B said. " a wired connection between the Playbar/base and C:A, either directly...."
Userlevel 3
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I mentioned all of this in my original post. The Playbar/Playbase needs a direct connection to the router, along with the Connect:Amp (or a direct connection to each other). In your case if it's not possible, get a Playbar, and an extra Play 1 and use those as your wireless surrounds.
I cannot see that that was clear in your original reply, which is why I commented.
Userlevel 4
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I wouldn't add Sonos into the mix here. If you're happy with your music system, keep it that way. If you are happy with your TV sound, don't change.

If you want a surround sound system for TV, Sonos is far from the best option here. Look at a modern TV sound system which meets your needs. It will likely offer more functions and be more cost effective than a Sonos PLAYBAR/Playbase.
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RO53BEN, while that may be true, I already have the other SONOS components for the rear speakers. Adding the PLAYBASE seems like the logical solution if my TV is compatible. I am still trying to determine that.
Userlevel 5
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RO53BEN, while that may be true, I already have the other SONOS components for the rear speakers. Adding the PLAYBASE seems like the logical solution if my TV is compatible. I am still trying to determine that.
I want to clarify one point. If you were using the Playbase to drive the Sonos Play1s (and/or a Sonos SUB) alone, that does not require a wired connection.

As far as playing music, the use of Playbase (and paired devices) doesn't preclude it from being used for the same music services you enjoy today. However, you may find it a little cumbersome if you wanted to say only use the Play 1s, as it would require removing them from the surround setup.
Userlevel 4
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RO53BEN, while that may be true, I already have the other SONOS components for the rear speakers. Adding the PLAYBASE seems like the logical solution if my TV is compatible. I am still trying to determine that.

You can't use your existing Sonos components without buying an expensive PLAYBAR/PLAYBASE device.

Should you choose to do that, you can:

1) Waste a £1000 investment in Play 5 speakers (assuming they are gen 2) and use them as surround speakers. They can't then easily be used for music, unless used at the same time as your soundbar device - which doesn't work very well. It's your Play 5 speakers are Gen 1 they can't be used anyway.

2) Buy an additional PLAY:1 to use with the existing one as a surround speaker set-up. This will also cost £1000 and will only give you surround sound options from the 1990s.

3) Combine an existing Connect:Amp with existing speakers and combine with an £800 Sonos Soundbar. You'll need to wire the Connect:Amp device to your network and you'll only get surround sound options from the 1990s.

All three options above will lose the existing Sony Subwoofer, so you'll miss the rich bass you had previously. Your only option would be to buy a Sonos branded SUB, which can't be connected to anything else, at an additional cost of £700.

So you're looking at a £1500-1700 minimum to get a surround option from your existing components. You can buy a better surround sound AV solution for far less money than this and if you spent this much on AV separates, you'd rival the local cinema.
Userlevel 5
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1) Waste a £1000 investment in Play 5 speakers (assuming they are gen 2) and use them as surround speakers. They can't then easily be used for music, unless used at the same time as your soundbar devic

I would agree that using the Play5s as surrounds seems overkill.

2) Buy an additional PLAY:1 to use with the existing one as a surround speaker set-up. This will also cost £1000

Maybe they cost more in UK, it'd be $900 USD. It's pretty easy to find sales on Sonos gear that could reduce that (Black Friday for example, or eBay daily deal at $165 on Play 1s today). If you're in the US I'd be glad to send over some links.

Your only option would be to buy a Sonos branded SUB, which can't be connected to anything else.

That may not be a significant issue if you're going all Sonos, but it is expensive. I'd also strongly recommend it over dropping a sub entirely since you're used to that.

So you're looking at a £1500-1700 minimum to get a surround option from your existing components. You can buy a better surround sound AV solution for far less money than this and if you spent this much on AV separates, you'd rival the local cinema.

Let's get this out of the way real quick. My personal opinion is that RO53BEN has some legitimate, specific complaints about the Sonos home theatre setups. The difficulty is that he tends to conflate his requirements with the desires of any customer, and it jades the many, many posts he makes restating those beliefs.

If having the absolute best sound performance is your top requirement then Playbase/Playbar (and probably all sound bars) should be struck from your consideration. If you're balancing ease of setup, the Sonos-specific "functionality", and integration with existing equipment then you may find it to be an attractive proposition.

In this situation, you appear to be running into some expensive "headwinds" between managing your existing gear and Sonos as a cohesive unit. Again my thought is you would miss the presence of the sub, so it isn't something you can simply drop to reduce the spend. From my understanding that would put the least expensive Sonos-driven solution that doesn't use a wired connection at:

Buy Play 1, Sub, and Playbase. Use them with your existing Play 1 as the home theatre setup, and repurpose the 2x Play 5s wherever you'd like. The MSRP on that would be, as mentioned about $1600. Discounting could probably shave ~$250 off.

Unfortunately, Sonos doesn't have an easy way to switch, for example, the Sub between a paired set of Play 5s and the home theatre setup. That would've been the best way to get the exact same music quality you've come to expect.

Hopefully this helps and best of luck figuring it all out.
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Thanks Skelton. I am taking comments from RO53BEN with a grain of salt. My biggest problem is trying to find if my TV will even support a PLAYBASE. It has an optical output but I can't find anywhere the types of formats it supports. It is a Sharp LC-60LE757U. If it does, I was leaning towards using 2 of the 4 ceiling speakers powered by one of my CONNECT:AMP for my rear speakers and forgo the SONOS SUB for now.
Userlevel 7
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According to KirkT on his post here, that TV works with Sonos and even has Dolby Digital 5.1 passthrough for the PLAYBAR.

The PLAYBAR isn't all things for everyone, and RO53BEN has some specific requirements which he thinks it doesn't meet. That's perfectly fine, but it sounds like it might be great for your setup.
Userlevel 4
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But Dolby 5.1 passthru won't help if your source is a DTS Blu-ray, or Dolby Digital Plus from Apple TV or Netflix, or Dolby Atmos from 4k Blu-ray or even Sky Q.

You've got ceiling speakers in place ready for a true Atmos set-up, you just need a suitable amp to match.

I used a PLAYBAR surround setup for several years, I understand its limitations. It's quite likely it won't even support codecs that your existing Soundbar does.

Everybody knows what's right for you, but nobody has asked what you intend to watch? Just broadcast TV? Netflix? DVD? Games console? What you intend to use it for is pretty critical here and nobody can suggest it will work well without knowing that.
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Wow. What I am finding out is this stuff is WAY too complicated for a novice like me! I woke up from my nap the other day staring at the ceiling and thinking, "you know, maybe we should put those ceiling speakers to use." I had been having some problems lately with that Sony sound bar anyway.......and now here we are.

As I have come to learn, apparently it makes a difference what you want to accomplish - or what is the source of your A/V is, as RO53BEN points out. For us old timers, 90% of the use would be from satellite (Dish right now) & 10% from the Netflix app on the Smart tv. DVD - that is hooked up to this TV but damned if I know how to get it to play. We do have the latest Apple TV but that too is complicated to turn on. Game consoles are on the other TV for the grandkids.

Since we have a 5 Sonos units already (which we have pretty well mastered), it was only logical to try to add the Playbase to the mix.

Thanks for putting up with me. :8
Userlevel 4
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For me, the beauty of Sonos was always simplicity. For music it always was and indeed still is. It remains the best music system I've ever owned and it's been deployed in dozens of homes of my friends, family and acquaintances as a result.

That doesn't extend to PLAYBAR though. Even when using it myself I would strongly advise people didn't buy one.

We have specific threads for which TVs might be compatible with PLAYBAR. Thread for compatible dvd and Blu-ray players. Now threads for compatible 4k Blu-ray players.

If the PLAYBAR setup worked well, you wouldn't need that. You'd just plug it in and it would work. But it doesn't. There are £200 5.1 systems on sale in the supermarket which support DTS. Sonos does not.

So why exactly it it worth over £1500 for a half baked 5.1 system? Because people with pay for it. Because their wife doesn't like wires. Because they expect it to work as well as the music gear.

I take a lot of criticism on here for being opinionated, and you're welcome to take it with as much salt as you like. I just want potential buyers to go into the big purchase with their eyes open.

This is an advice forum, not a fan club,. If it were that simple you'd have bought it already, but it's complicated and you need all the facts.
Userlevel 7
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But Dolby 5.1 passthru won't help if your source is a DTS Blu-ray, or Dolby Digital Plus from Apple TV or Netflix, or Dolby Atmos from 4k Blu-ray or even Sky Q.

Just a note here Dolby Digital Plus will automatically be converted to Dolby Digital 5.1 as they're fully compatible. Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Instant Video all sound great on my PLAYBAR, no settings or otherwise needed. The biggest thing I would say is that if your home theater is all about or largely Blu-Rays that's the only time the PLAYBAR doesn't automatically shine. And in those cases, if you have one of the players or game consoles that converts that to Dolby Digital on the fly, than you'll be all set.

Naturally, it's important to look into what you need in your home, and what your habits are. Personally, I cut the cord a while ago and haven't bought physical media in a long time. DTS isn't even a format that's gotten to my TV as it's only used by Blu-Rays. I'm also not looking for massive stereo speakers with 9 dedicated channels orbiting my living room. In the end, if you're interested in checking out the PLAYBAR, we offer a pretty great money back guaranty for all units purchased through us. You can always try it in your home and make the decision yourself.
Userlevel 3
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I take a lot of criticism on here for being opinionated, and you're welcome to take it with as much salt as you like. I just want potential buyers to go into the big purchase with their eyes open.

This is an advice forum, not a fan club,. If it were that simple you'd have bought it already, but it's complicated and you need all the facts.


My last post on this matter...

RO53BEN - no one gives criticism to you for being quote-unquote "opinionated". But, without wishing to speak for others, I think people are starting to find it a bit aggravating to see your name on a thread and already know what it's going to say before reading all the way through. At this point even Helen Keller knows exactly what you're after (and I maintain my point again that you seem to be the pure antithesis of someone who should invest in the Sonos AV products, even if you only seemed to desire hi-end codecs AFTER your purchases).

It's becoming like the Reddit Home Theatre forum where someone posts politely asking for a soundbar recommendation for their grandparents for under $250 just so they can hear things a bit clearer, and they get a dozen replies telling them they have to invest in the B&W Diamond Series. I have zero interest in super high-fidelity equipment running into £10K+ setups, but I don't go onto the manufacturer's forums and keep spamming all the threads by saying it's pure snake oil and people are fooling themselves into hearing a difference. Sonos Forum Mods are way more tolerant of you trolling the Home Theatre section for some reason.

There is 100% a conversation to be had on some of your points - Dolby Digital 5.1 won't be the standard forever, and I find it interesting that we seemed to have jumped from DD5.1 straight to Atmos as the new format in both streaming services and Cable/Satellite TV (even if it's very much in it's infancy) so my bet is you'll see way more Atmos soundbars with 4K passthrough. But all of this interesting conversation gets lost in the mind-numbing repetitiveness.

And please fix the placement of your damn Q Acoustics speakers before lecturing everyone on a "proper" setup.

End of.
Userlevel 4
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My last post on this matter...


I'm glad. I quickly became tired of your unnecessary personal attacks.

This is about products not people and people have come here for an opinion on their planned solution, they don't want to hear about what your off-topic opinion of other forum members. Please close the door on your way out.
Userlevel 4
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Just a note here Dolby Digital Plus will automatically be converted to Dolby Digital 5.1 as they're fully compatible.


Are you saying that you can feed a Dolby Digital Plus (E-AC-3) source into a PLAYBAR over optical and you won't get silence? Or are you just assuming that a legacy AC-3 substream will always be included in the E-AC-3 stream?


Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Instant Video all sound great on my PLAYBAR, no settings or otherwise needed.


You may well be happy, that's the optimistic viewpoint. The guy who posted a recent thread about silence in movies on his new Apple TV may disagree. The problem here is that everybody's experience will vary depending on what they plug the Sonos device into, there is no consistency. If I watch Netflix from the app build into my TV, I get 5.1 surround. If I watch it using an Amazon Fire TV device, I get 2.0 stereo. With the same TV and same speaker system. This is very confusing for owners. In some cases it's just a quick tweak in the settings, other times it will never work without juggling optical switchboxes, HDMI adapters and splitters. People are paying a premium but getting a lesser experience.


The biggest thing I would say is that if your home theater is all about or largely Blu-Rays that's the only time the PLAYBAR doesn't automatically shine. And in those cases, if you have one of the players or game consoles that converts that to Dolby Digital on the fly, than you'll be all set.


DVD, blu-ray, 4K UHD blu-ray, Wii U, Nintendo Switch, Apple TV. All of these will likely have problems out of the box as they don't support the default surround sound set-up required for Sonos. This is very confusing for buyers.


Naturally, it's important to look into what you need in your home, and what your habits are. Personally, I cut the cord a while ago and haven't bought physical media in a long time. DTS isn't even a format that's gotten to my TV as it's only used by Blu-Rays.


DTS was used for DVD in the 1990s long before blu-ray or indeed Sonos existed. Sure, if you don't watch movies then your exposure may be limited. But "Home Theatre" is movies, not TV.


I'm also not looking for massive stereo speakers with 9 dedicated channels orbiting my living room. In the end, if you're interested in checking out the PLAYBAR, we offer a pretty great money back guaranty for all units purchased through us. You can always try it in your home and make the decision yourself.


This is where your viewpoint is very wrong.. I don't have "massive stereo speakers" - the front channels are smaller than my PLAYBAR. The surround speakers are smaller than the PLAY:3s and even PLAY:1s they replaced and don't require a mains power connection.

I've got an amp that supports every mainstream audio codec in existence, a sub and 5 small pill shaped speakers. I've got 8 HDMI inputs and 2 outputs, so I can watch my media in two different rooms concurrently or a different source in each. It's got bluetooth and Apple compatibility built in, handy for visitors and also support Digital Radio and Spotify Connect.

All for hundreds less than the cost of an equivalent Sonos set-up.

It's not just about the big box ticking things, like DTS support and hi-resolution audio. It's as much about the little things. Like when you use Netflix...

Pressing play on a Netflix show, you get the red Netflix logo accompanied by two gongs. Or one gong. Or one and a half gongs. Or no gongs at all. It all depends how quickly the Sonos optical port wakes up and switches over. It's convenient, and no accident, that Netflix did this - it allows the Sonos system time to adjust. It doesn't help when you pause a show though. Phone rings, drink break, toilet break, somebody at the door. PAUSE. Then, when you press play, it takes Sonos a couple of seconds to start outputting sound. You miss what somebody said and have to rewind to before where you pressed pause, allowing time for Sonos to wake up before it gets to the point you want to continue from. It's just a little niggle, but something that grated at me for years. I missed the first beats of songs when watching YouTube, as the audio cut out between videos. Same problem with blu-ray or even broadcast TV from my set-top box. Often the audio would even go out of sync after pausing, which was another annoyance - as much the fault of the TV as Sonos, but Sonos depended on that broken optical output which other solutions don't.

I've been with TV since black & white days and marketing always pushes the latest and greatest thing. Initially colour TV, then perfectly flat screens instead of goldfish bowls. We got stereo sound, then prologic surround, then 5.1 digital surround. We got DTS, widescreen, 100Hz to reduce flicker. We moved on to flat LCD or Plasma TVs, if we could afford them. Then it became LED and OLED. We went from SD to HD to full HD and now to 4k UHD. We went from DD 5.1 to DTS to DTS-HD. We went from SDR to HDR for better contrast.

HDR has been the big thing for the last year or so and, now it's being pushed by Apple, it's a done deal. Everybody will now want HDR. So what's the next big thing? Atmos.

Pretty much everything you look at now is plugging Atmos and, having tried it, I understand why. Full, immersive, surround sound that you just can't get from a standard 5.1 set-up. Many people who had a 7.1 set-up, which was only marginally better than 5.1, are now moving two of their speakers to Atmos tasks, 5.1.2 instead of 7.1 with the same number of speakers. It works very well and isn't just a disc thing - it's now being pushed hard by streaming providers like Apple and Netflix.

Sure, they'll like support old school 5.1 for years to come, but if there are full Atmos solution on the market for hundreds less than Sonos and they just work - it's really hard to recommend a problematic legacy solution.
RO53BEN, so, are we committed to bow our head to your be-all and end-of-all wisdom?
Userlevel 4
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RO53BEN, so, are we committed to bow our head to your be-all and end-of-all wisdom?

Were talking about products, not people.

Do you have something constructive to contribute to the thread? I'm sure the OP would appreciate any relevant input.
No, because when all is said and done to discourage someone from buying a Playbar/Playbase whose needs seem to differ elementarily from yours, I prefer to not contribute to the mess.
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I do appreciate all of the input. While the discussion has gone into depths I had not imagined, I have learned a lot and come to the conclusion that a PLAYBASE will serve me well in my application. Now my only problem is to figure out how to get a wired connection from my router to my TV area. Both are in ideal spots and it is almost impossible to accomplish. I will have to get down & dirty in the crawl space and see if it can be done. Wish me well.
Userlevel 4
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No, because when all is said and done to discourage someone from buying a Playbar/Playbase whose needs seem to differ elementarily from yours, I prefer to not contribute to the mess.

He already has wired surround speakers, his needs are met at least as much with a wired system than a "wireless" one. He has 4 of the 7 speakers required for a Dolby Atmos set-up and he may even be able to re-use the Sony SUB with a traditional AV setup, further increasing savings.