High-Res, Sonos and Ease of Use

I'm a new Sonos user and really never thought to have researched the aspect of the system supporting high-res files. I'm sorely disappointed to find out that it doesn't.

Personally, I'm a jazz-buff. Many recordings, with the best remastering, are only available in either a high-res format or alternately mp3 (yuk). Basically, I don't want to have to play around with my new downloads. I just want to copy them over to my library and be done with it. Why in the world would I want to do otherwise? This has to hold true for users who don't have techie backgrounds and don't want to have to ferret through processing their downloads to a smaller resolution, just for Sonos. This will hold true regardless of what ever sampling theorems are out there. People just want their stuff to work without problems and issues! I have a music library of over 2,000 recordings. I really don't want to have to figujre out how to covert recordings to a lower-resolution, glean through over 2,000 of my albums, find the high-res ones and then convert them all.! There are many music buffs that will have the very same issue.

At this point, I believe that the real problem is that the speakers don't have the computing capacity to reformat audio files to a format that they can really process. This would explain a lot. Also, it might be why we don't hear of this problem with other speaker manufacturers.

I feel that if this really is going to be Sonos' stance, they should really open up their product to 3rd party developers. If they did so, things would really take off.

The whole Alexis thing sounds great, but this needs to be resolved.

In the end, I don't really see how Sonos' current stance regarding high-res files does anyone any good, including Sonos.


18 replies

the loquitur wrote:

Personally, I'm a jazz-buff. Many recordings, with the best remastering, are only available in either a high-res format or alternately mp3 (yuk).

I am a jazz lover as well; five examples of the above please?

I don't have a single hi res version myself, so I am curious to see what I am missing where sound quality is concerned.

There is also something curious about your statement - are you perhaps saying that because the recording is hi res, it follows that it is the best remastering? That isn't the case.
The best Jazz was recorded in the 1950s, on magnetic tape, with a noise floor equivalent to 9 or 10 bits, and a frequency response well below 20KHz. It's just downright silly to think it's somehow going to "sound better" in "hi-rez". CD resolution was determined according to long-established scientific facts about the limits of human hearing. Anything beyond CD resolution in the playback of music is completely unnecessary, and if you paid extra for it, you've been conned.
I think what is being claimed is that all hi res jazz music is mastered to a higher standard, so even if it is downsampled to CD resolution, it would still sound superior. Fair enough, if the claim was valid. I do not believe that is so. Much of my contemporary jazz is by well regarded production houses such as ECM, or HighNote to name two examples. I have not come across any better mastering of any of their CDs in Hi Res format. Ditto the many Rudy van Gelder remastered versions of older performances available on CD.
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There are several good discussions here on the higher bit rate and depth encoding options and how that impacts the sound. The options Sonos supports are good choices for sound quality, the other topics have a lot of technical detail if you care to look at them.
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the loquitur does bring on the real point when it comes to Sonos HiRes support. Most people, including me would say that the quality of the recording is much more important then HiRes and HiRes is a bit of snake oil. However, the issue with HiRes when it comes to Sonos to me has never been that it doesn't play in HiRes .... it's that it can't transcode to play HiRes. And of course in this situation if your choice is to download in MP3 or HiRes your going to download the HiRes version (you can always go down not up). What format are your files by the way?

So users with HiRes files must transcode and resave all of their HiRes files. I don't think they lose anything transcoding HiRes to a lossless FLAC. But that is a step someone has to take - and if a case where someone has a few HiRes files mixed in may not know its unplayable until they go to play that song.

Sonos Current Stance - I don't know its some line in the sand Stance. I believe their Sonosnet topology (which others don't have and is the big reason Sonos is so reliable) is based of the 16bit file transmission. The other issue is Sonos has been around so much longer - and some of the hardware would probably not be able to handle the 24bit stream or transcode a 24bit file. And I can speak for probably thousands and thousands of people who don't want their older units going to end-of-life. It's not a Sonos STANCE to change I believe. I believe its more fundamental in the architecture.

So loquitur - knowing you have and purchase a lot of HiRes files. Your alternative is drop Sonos (I think that is actually a mistake - it is a much more reliable system supported by many more 3rd parties. Or the second alternative - transcode all your HiRes files to Lossless FLAC.

Convert a couple and try for yourself - heavy odds are you will not be able to tell the difference in the HiRes and Lossless FLAC file if converted properly.

Info on 24bit HiRes vs. Lossless 16bit https://xiph.org/~xiphmont/demo/neil-young.html

Info on file types and converting: https://www.digitaltrends.com/music/playing-flac-files-on-ios-devices/

oh - if they are PCM HiRes files I believe you can setup Plex server and Plex will transcode the HiRes files on the fly playing to Sonos. I think there may still be an issue in Plex transcoding of DSD files to Sonos (someone who utilizes it would have to answer current state on DSD).
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what kind of files are you listening to. If you are listening to a true 16bit wav file of good quality. Then you won't be missing anything really. ACC or MP3 you will be missing. As those compression crunch the data. I have compare wav and his res files on my samsung s9 that support high res. And I can not hear a different listing to them on my Bose headphones. I do hear a different between wav and mp3.
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If you convert to MP3 do some research, apparently there are quality differences in the output of various encoders, make sure you pick a good one.


I only use MP3 in the car but I put reading this on my list to see if it would be worth re-encoding my collection. I do know it will be slow compared to last time, when I had a dual CPU, quad-core Xeon box to run it on.
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Surely don't transcode your HiRes files to mp3 - you are going to be ruining them then. A FLAC format in pure lossless is what you want. Transcoding program recommendation was in my link above regarding converting.
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I just don't have the storage available in my car for my FLAC files, about 140 GB but I can manage the 29 GB MP3 uses, just barely, with a 32GB thumb drive. I'm not even sure the car will play FLAC and digging through the 1000 page owner's manual to find out is a project I'd rather avoid.

I did look and my FLAC to MP3 conversion was done with a 2011 version of LAME so re-converting using a newer version might be in order.

I use sox (under Linux) to fiddle the bit rate and depth of any FLAC files Sonos won't play.
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I would guess if just for car listening no harm in MP3 there.
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If you have the know-how, it’s possible to perform on demand conversion of FLAC to MP3. (It’s very, very difficult to discern an audio quality difference between FLAC and higher bit-rate MP3.) This allows one to keep just the FLAC files, and convert to MP3 for Sonos playback in real time when required.
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I'm using FLAC on the Sonos, a few resampled down to bit ranges Sonos supports. I am quite happy with that setup. MP3s for the car and laptop use, where the speakers and noise levels make any MP3 quality issues moot.

Active transcoding is a possibility but it can also be a bit of a power waster over doing it once and keeping the lower bit copies handy.
I read this thread with interest a few days ago and thought, well it doesn't apply to me anyway, I don't have any hi-res files. However, I was then playing a random playlist and realised that a few files weren't playing - an album I bought not that long ago from 7Digital that I had forgotten was hi-res - unfortunately, it's no better than the original CD but that is another story altogether.

I have to admit I am rather surprised that Sonos doesn't support playback of these, however, the reason for this post is that I can play these files (which is why I hadn't previously noticed) through the Sonos speaker using MediaMonkey. I've used MediaMonkey for many years and since getting my Sonos last year use both it and the Sonos software depending on what I'm playing and what room I'm in etc... Also went back to it, because of this annoying 60k song limit that there is.

So, hopefully to help the OP; these files do seem to be played through the Sonos (they are 24-bit/88.2khz FLAC files) via MediaMonkey (and I would therefore imagine other third-party software), but a question to those more aware of these things (which I am not); does anyone know if MediaMonkey is actually playing these at this quality or somehow converting on the fly? I'm assuming they are playing them at this quality but thought I would ask.

That being the case, would that not indicate that this inability to play hi-res is an inability of the software, rather than the hardware and therefore could be upgraded at some point? Ever hopeful the 60k limit might also change, but read somewhere this is unlikely.
MediaMonkey is converting on the fly. Other music servers can do this also, such as Plex or the (now defunct) Squeezebox software.

As to it being hardware or software? That's a broad question. The playback hardware has always been 24 bit "capable". However, other factors are also in place; bandwidth, reliability, environment, development/support man hours, etc., that must be factored in and weighed against what is by definition a very niche, very fickle, very elitist, and (let's face it) very easily brainwashed market.

Then there is objective fact: Sonos' definitive statement on the subject falls on the side of science. They have stated that "the math just isn't there" (which it isn't) to make a "meaningful argument" for Hires audio. So regardless of the capabilities (or lack thereof) of the hardware, they fall on the side of rationality, rather than snake oil.
Thanks for the reply and info - out of interest do you know what it therefore converts it to and/or are there settings to control this in some way? Cheers
thebuff wrote:

Thanks for the reply and info - out of interest do you know what it therefore converts it to and/or are there settings to control this in some way? Cheers

Not that familiar with MediaMonkey, but I'm pretty sure, just from glancing at the MM website, that it is a configurable setting.
Cheers, will take a look
Hi jgatie - wondered if you or anyone else could help me further - I found the settings within MediaMonkey and you are correct they are being converted - to MP3 160kbps. I can change this setting but if I change it to FLAC 44.1/16-bit, which my understanding is, can be played (and is the ripped specs of the file in question) it plays great but stops around 2/3rds of the way into every file.

Any idea why this is? And what setting I should put it on for it not to stop?

Many thanks

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