Sonos and HiFi/Audiophile systems


Since one keeps hearing over and over about Sonos not being a HiFi system - leave alone a audiophile one, whatever that means - I thought of starting a conversation on the subject. Perhaps there will no takers…but most of us are locked down, so let’s see:-).

To start the ball rolling, for those that do NOT see the best of Sonos - a 5 pair + Sub - to be worthy of the HiFi label, can we hear from you specifying the cheapest system that you have found to be HiFi, playing in the same room and using the same source music files used for ruling out Sonos? It would help if you named the speakers, and also amp used if the speakers are passive ones, and its cost. And then say, what is it that, in your opinion, confers the HiFi label on that system. 

Note that there is no reason for something to be considered cheap just in comparison to Sonos price points; it should just be the cheapest System you know that does HiFi. Never mind if it costs less, same or more than the 5 pair+ Sub.


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Well,I guess I am NOT one of the folks who don’t see Sonos’ best as true High Quality music playback.

Gonna’ chime in anyway,basically,because from my perspective(and that of a dear friend who has both a traditional audio system and Sonos’ 5’s paired with the Sub) the people who are hanging on to the myth that this set up is inferior to a high quality rig are delusional….No offense.

I have owned(and sold off) components from Mark Levinson,Jeff Rowland,Audio Research,Krell,Sota Cosmos,Graham Engineering,Koetsu,Conrad Johnson etc…...Speakers from Big Infinity’s,Avalon Acoustics and others…..Heard it all!

A well set up Play 5/Sub system(it helps to have a good isolation/surge suppression device that does a bit of noise filtering,but does not affect music….like the Furman devices,which are pretty cheap) can be so close to some of what these pricey components offer that you get to the point where you just don’t care if you’re missing that subtle iota of whatever.

I just got a Roam,which i use as a third channel,just behind my listening position.I bought it for a subtle rear ambience speaker….It might have been a gamble,because i had only a hunch to go by,but it works like a charm.

I have never enjoyed music more….No more tweaking,heat generation,taking up all that space and dealing with multiple manufacturers…….No! I no longer listen for the subtle minutiae of High End Audio(though i loved it for too many years and too much money).….

Now,I listen to tons of music! Hassle free!

Sorry if this is not exactly on topic or too lengthly.

Just my two cents worth….Sonos deserves it!

 

Sorry if this is not exactly on topic or too lengthly.

 

Nope it is not off topic, but it is also just the way I think and how I got to doing so!

For the sake of hopefully civil discussion, I am interested in the opposing point of view, with an example of the cheapest system that person has found that he thinks qualifies to be called HiFi, while also thinking that the best of Sonos isn't.

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This discussion hasn’t gotten much activity — I doubt it’s because no one has an opinion about Sonos. From reading other forums, most “audiophiles” seem to consider Sonos middle of the road in quality. I’ve never heard a stereo pair of Fives, but I used to have a stereo pair of Play 1s bonded with a Sub. The audio quality was really impressive. The only downside to this setup was that I couldn’t use it for TV audio. If the Sonos Ones or Play 1s could provide TV audio, I’d buy a Sonos Sub for each setup and never bother with anything else. I ultimately bought a pair of Sonos Amps for my TVs — one is driving a pair of Kef Q150s (with the Sub bonded) and the other drives Pioneer BS-22 bookshelf speakers. I perceived a definite drop in the quality of music sound with these setups compared to the Play 1s, but the TV audio quality went up since I got rid of the cheap sound bars. 

 

I do have a pair of Elac DBR62 speakers that I drive with a 13 year old ZP-120. I also use an inexpensive SVS subwoofer with this setup. These Elac speakers are really good to my ears, so I wonder how they’d compare directly to Sonos Fives or Play 1s plus Sub. I could compare the Play 1 setup with it, but that’s a bit of a hassle.

This discussion hasn’t gotten much activity —

I used to have a stereo pair of Play 1s bonded with a Sub. The audio quality was really impressive. The only downside to this setup was that I couldn’t use it for TV audio.

 

 I perceived a definite drop in the quality of music sound with these setups compared to the Play 1s,

 

These Elac speakers are really good to my ears

 

By each point in the quote above:

  1. Most Sonos users are happy with the sound, so I did not expect a lot of traffic; occasionally we see an unreformed audiophile who may post here if he finds the thread:-).
  2. I agree; a play 1 + Sub can give a serious challenge to a proper HiFi set up at even higher price points, especially after Trueplay tuning. As to TV audio, in one room I have the TV audio out jack wired to line in on Connect Amp + speakers. It works fine, no visible lip sync issues. I see no reason one could not use a Connect instead and set its line to autoplay on a play 1 + Sub, yielding excellent audio for TV.
  3. I see no reason for this on the other hand; I have a KEF Q100 pair, and there isn't much to choose between it and a play 1 pair. Comparing the KEF to a 1 pair + Sub isn't a fair comparison.
  4. All modern speakers of similar design - Elac/KEF/Dali etc etc are far more similar to each other than different. Whatever little difference do exist are subtle and no longer remembered after a few days of listening to any one of these. As long as the speaker placement remains the same. So I have found when I am bored and switch speakers around.

This discussion hasn’t gotten much activity — I doubt it’s because no one has an opinion about Sonos.

It’s working from a flawed premise… It assumes that someone who doesn’t rate Sonos that highly would buy a pair of fives and a sub in the first place.

I suspect that anyone who spends that amount of money on Sonos kit is pre-disposed to like it and rate it highly.

This discussion hasn’t gotten much activity — I doubt it’s because no one has an opinion about Sonos.

It’s working from a flawed premise… It assumes that someone who doesn’t rate Sonos that highly would buy a pair of fives and a sub in the first place.

I suspect that anyone who spends that amount of money on Sonos kit is pre-disposed to like it and rate it highly.

 

Well, unless you establish an objective definition of ‘hifi’ or ‘audiophile, then any discussion about whether Sonos does or does not qualify would be subjective.  I’d completely agree that someone’s personal experience is going to impact their thoughts on the matter then.  Not to mention their experience with other systems, the room they listen in, their ears, and whether or not they give a darn about audio quality.  Then there are the completely unrelated factors, such as bragging rights or needing to defend overpaying for a system that’s well beyond what you personally could get use of.

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Sonos isn’t selling pristine audio quality to males who sit in the exact precise best GPS confirmed location between stereo speakers and generally listen by themselves, while fiddling with their 64 gigawatt super duper expensive multi synching fossilators (i made that last part up).    Rather, Sonos is selling an easy to setup and configure whole house system (or easily expandable system), that plays  many different types of digital streaming sources (whether your own files or over the Internet).  And you use your phone to control it! 

It’s cool and sounds more than “good enough”.  I have a stereo pair of Ones in my home office; a single One in my kitchen; a single one in my master bedroom; a Roam in my bathroom; and a port connected to my 5.1 system in the Family Room (which is used for mainly TV/movie watching), but now those “regular” speakers (which are in-ceiling) are part of the Sonos system as well.  

Sonos makes it easy for families and doesn’t require running wires in the walls or large speakers that some may not like from a home design perspective.  It is great for parties, background music and listening to the news, etc.   Wow, I can group all these speakers and have them play everything the same and all perfectly synched.  (my girlfriend said it was like being in a nice hotel when I do that, going from room to room with music playing).   It is NOT meant for super critical listening. 

Which isn’t meant to say it sounds bad -- it doesn’t.  It is plenty good enuf for the average music listener; plus all the other conveniences.  Cool -- I can listen to my iTunes music; oh wait, I can listen to Pandora too; I can listen to NPR; I can listen to Spotify; I can listen to podcasts; ANYTHING playing on my phone I can airplay to Sonos.   It’s awesome for convenience, ease of use and general overall slickness.  And guess what, it sounds pretty durn good too.  

That’s why audiophile/Hi-fi is not relevant with regard to Sonos.  Not their market. 

…..It is NOT meant for super critical listening. 

 

….That’s why audiophile/Hi-fi is not relevant with regard to Sonos.  Not their market. 

Quite - I don’t know why people can’t just be happy with it, and stop trying to make out that it’s something that it’s not - and was never intended to be.

 

 

Which isn’t meant to say it sounds bad -- it doesn’t.  It is plenty good enuf for the average music listener; plus all the other conveniences.  Cool -- I can listen to my iTunes music; oh wait, I can listen to Pandora too; I can listen to NPR; I can listen to Spotify; I can listen to podcasts; ANYTHING playing on my phone I can airplay to Sonos.   It’s awesome for convenience, ease of use and general overall slickness.  And guess what, it sounds pretty durn good too.  

That’s why audiophile/Hi-fi is not relevant with regard to Sonos.  Not their market. 

This thread is getting some traction:-).

Having spent a ton of money and time over a decade spent in the Alice in Wonderland world of audiophiles, I left it still not knowing what is the definition of “Audiophile Kit”. The only common definition I was able to come up with is that it is kit that is so expensive/esoteric that your neighbour either can’t afford it, or whose wife will not let him have it in the living room in a home that does not have a man cave - and note here, that I can use the word “wife” and don’t need to use “spouse”. Audiophile has little to do with sound quality, I have found.

And the only working definition I have for audiophiles is that they are people that do not believe in controlled double blind listening tests.

HiFi is also nebulous, but at least it is something that many can access at Sonos price points. For instance, a known brand CD player + stereo amp driving a pair of also known brand passive speakers. These are still regularly tested - perhaps not so much CDPs now - in HiFi media. Much of the tech in them is decades old and obsolete, but they still can deliver excellent results.

But here is the thing about price points - because of modern manufacturing methods and economies of scale, maybe as much as ten times more than a typical HiFi brand - Sonos can offer much more and up to date tech even in its Sonos One speaker. So, it is no surprise that in addition to all the cool features, it also: sounds pretty durn good too - to use a phrase from the quote above. Especially in a stereo pair + Sub configuration, with True play tuning. And if that isn't enough, that can be shaded for a lot more money by a 5 pair + Sub. The point I make is that in using Sonos for its cool features one isn’t automatically making a sound quality compromise. Not every one may like the sound, that is personal preference, but that does not make it non HiFi. There are many HiFi/Audiophile speakers, whose sound I cannot stand. Personal preference, again.

And of course Sonos does not target the audiophile market, because to do that it would have to add things like dancing backlit VU meters, heftier cabinetry, veneered speakers, the ability to use hefty and colourful connecting cables and more that will add to the cost without conferring it more on the SQ front than sounding pretty durn good. In a blind test, I mean. The typical audiophile will be convinced it is now audiophile quality, especially if the price point is trebled or more.

And by serendipity, an interesting thread just popped up, by a self proclaimed audiophile who thinks that Sonos speakers are audiophile quality, but would be even more so if they incorporated a graphic equaliser:-).

https://en.community.sonos.com/troubleshooting-228999/sonos-speakers-largely-under-exploited-6858651

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This discussion has gotten a lot more traction since I discovered it yesterday. I agree with the posters who commented that the lack of a definition for audiophile or hifi is a problem, Nevertheless, I think that Sonos speakers are much better than is commonly assumed. A couple years ago I compared my 1 pair plus sub to a pair of Def Tech tower speakers + SVS subwoofer. This wasn’t a scientific test by any means. I didn’t match levels  and it was blind only to the extent that I kept forgetting which pair of speakers I had selected to play. I set the Play 1s on top of the tower speakers and grouped the two sets together in the Sonos app. Then I repeatedly turned 1 volume slider up and the other all the way down to 0. After switching back and forth for awhile, I decided that I was as happy with the Play 1s as I was with the Def Techs.

I still have passive speakers around, as I mentioned in my earlier post because I use them for TV audio in addition to music. By the way, Kumar mentioned that using a Connect to feed the TV audio into the Sonos ecosystem to then be played by Play 1s may work well, but I’m skeptical. I used to use my ZP-120 for TV audio and found that the audio delay was really annoying for my Roku when watching Netflix or Sling. HBO, on the other hand, had no discernible audio delay.

 

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Kumar wrote:

I see no reason for this on the other hand; I have a KEF Q100 pair, and there isn't much to choose between it and a play 1 pair. Comparing the KEF to a 1 pair + Sub isn't a fair comparison.

My impression was that this had to do with how well the 1 pair integrates with the Sonos Sub. I don’t think it integrated so well with the passive speakers as I had to guess at the crossover setting and set the Sub level by ear.

 

 

By the way, Kumar mentioned that using a Connect to feed the TV audio into the Sonos ecosystem to then be played by Play 1s may work well, but I’m skeptical. I used to use my ZP-120 for TV audio and found that the audio delay was really annoying for my Roku when watching Netflix or Sling. HBO, on the other hand, had no discernible audio delay.

 

Dan, I use the TV solution with Fire TV stick as the source. I get no noticeable lip sync issue even if I watch for it with Netflix, Disney, Amazon Prime Video, or YouTube. For YouTube, I usually have music videos on via another TV with sound piped around the open plan apartment core via a wired to TV Connect, grouped with other Sonos zones. Vocals and things like close up of guitar play exhibit no delay that can be noticed. I need to have all Sonos units ethernet wired because the Connect is set to minimum buffer/delay to get lip sync, but that is a different issue.

Kumar wrote:

I see no reason for this on the other hand; I have a KEF Q100 pair, and there isn't much to choose between it and a play 1 pair. Comparing the KEF to a 1 pair + Sub isn't a fair comparison.

My impression was that this had to do with how well the 1 pair integrates with the Sonos Sub. I don’t think it integrated so well with the passive speakers as I had to guess at the crossover setting and set the Sub level by ear.

 

 

What I meant was that comparing a KEF pair without Sub to 1 pair + Sub isn't being fair to the KEF.  

But yes, I agree that Sonos Sub integrates better with Sonos Play units than with my Connect Amp.

I am also not surprised by what you found about 1 pair + Sub. I did my thing a few years ago placing a 1 pair next to large standmounts - Harbeth C7 - driven by Quad amplification. I was astonished to see by how little the Harbeths shaded the play 1 pair. Yes, bass was fuller/richer with the Harbeths. But once I got a Sonos Sub in, that difference disappeared. It did not take me long thereafter to sell the Harbeth+Quad kit back in 2014, and I have not regretted that for a moment.

 It’s awesome for convenience, ease of use and general overall slickness.  

 

For the record and for what it is worth, with reference to the quoted: Since I have found other solutions in the last year or so that offer more of the above quoted for less, I no longer recommend Sonos speakers to friends. But I have not changed my views on Sonos sound quality, and I will continue to use my 2011-2014 purchased Sonos kit on S1 till the well built Sonos hardware - that still works and sounds like it did when new - dies, but my future plans will not include Sonos.

Then there is the question of Sonos kit that does not have speakers - Amp and Port.

My Connect Amp still hews to the trait of every modern day solid state amp of being a straight wire with gain - all it does is amplify the signal without adding anything audible to or taking away anything audible from it. By all accounts, so does the Sonos Amp. And no one that claims otherwise, or claims that a HiFi or audiophile amp is superior has claimed to arrive at this conclusion after controlled blind testing.

The Connect/Port has more oddball claims attached to it, starting with the simple ones as made for the Amp above. But there is also a set of users that claim to have moved it to HiFi/Audiophile leagues by modifying it. It is doubtful that anything was accomplished by these mods except voiding of warranty. Certainly there are no supporting reports of controlled blind testing for this as well.

There is another funny aspect about the Connect/Port. Many think it to be wildly overpriced. Audiophiles on the other hand think that it is too cheap to be any good.

My experience since 2011 with two Connect Amps and one Connect suggests that both would not have been out of place based on their sound quality in any Hifi/Audiophile set up I used in a decade in the hobby. And since audiophile set ups tend to be evaluated on price, I will add that those that I refer to cost about USD 10000. Today I cringe to list out all that these set ups included. But the Sonos units would have LOOKED out of place - and therein lies the problem with them for most audiophiles.

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Kumar wrote:

What I meant was that comparing a KEF pair without Sub to 1 pair + Sub isn't being fair to the KEF. 

I did bond the Sonos sub to the Connect amp (and later Amp) that was driving the KEFs. I still found that the sound from the Play 1s was preferable. Of course, the KEF Q150s can sometimes be purchased for only US $300 per pair, which is even less than a pair of One SLs, although you also need the Amp.

 

 Of course, the KEF Q150s can sometimes be purchased for only US $300 per pair, which is even less than a pair of One SLs, although you also need the Amp.

You also need speaker cables so things usually also are more cluttered. So if Sonos sounds better, it is a no brainer.

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