Line-In Latency/Delay Disable PLAY:5


Userlevel 2
Hey Sonos Engineers!

I know this has been touched upon. I previously submitted this request to support and they encouraged me to share here to keep the conversation going.

Is there any chance we could implement a soft switch for line-in audio to bypass the computer for "delay disable" functionality.

I understand and appreciate the reason for the delay.

However, I'm running turntables through a mixer and into the line-in of the PLAY:5. Can't teach my son to mix records with that delay, and since we're set-up in a communal space, my wife is not too keen on bringing out the old mix monitors. Can you dig it?

Can we figure out a way to manually disable the delay on an individual speaker basis?

Otherwise love the gear!

Thanks!

Here's quote from customer support. Hope it isn't too heavy handed or out of school to post:

"I'm not on the development team, but I personally think that it wouldn't be too hard to implement some kind of soft switch to bypass the computer altogether and pipe line-in audio directly to the amplifiers (something like a computer-controlled solid state IC relay network)."

82 replies

There is about a 70ms delay between a SONOS Line-In and output from a player. There is no option to defeat this. Adding an option to do this would require a complete redesign of the software and this would have negative impact on wireless streaming reliability.

SONOS was not designed to be used in live a DJ environment.

Why are you attempting to use SONOS for this application? Is it for wireless connectivity or compact size?

A workaround would be to use headphones with high acoustic isolation to monitor the mixer output.
Userlevel 2
Thanks for the reply buzz.

I understand that there is a 70ms delay. I understand that there is no option to defeat this. Just inquiring as to whether this can be an added feature in the future.

As I mentioned in my post, I was informed by someone at SONOS that adding a "delay disable" feature wouldn't necessarily have the negative impact you refer to in your reply, or require a complete redesign. Are you a SONOS engineer? Was this information I received incorrect?

Whatever SONOS may have been designed for, it is marketed primarily for home use. For me, my home use is, at times, a live DJ environment. I have read that the delay is for speaker syncing. Do you know if this is correct? I live in an apartment. In my uneducated opinion, the distance between all the SONOS speakers, in all the different rooms of my home is so small, that no delay (or very, very little) for syncing purposes should be necessary.

I am attempting to use SONOS for this application, because I own, use, and love SONOS speakers for all my other home audio needs, and this additional application (turntables & mixer) is one of the ways I play music in my home, and I would love to be able play mixed, vinyl, line-in audio throughout my home just like I play digital audio from my phone, buuuuuuut without the delay. (So wireless connectivity, is the short answer.)

Thank you for the work around suggestion. You're right. I can just do the mixing in the headphones. But for me, without getting into too much detail, that would limit my interactivity/approach/enjoyment.

The work around I'm considering now, is to feed my entire home's SONOS system the mixer/turntable audio through the line-in on the PLAY:5, AND use hard wired monitors for "mix monitors", and mute the PLAY:5, on account of the delay. Thus having a 70ms sync discrep between the hard wired monitors in the "DJ" room and the speakers in the rest of the home. Not ideal, but a start. We'll see...

Thank you again for the response and the work around suggestion. I know its an ask. I just wanted to put it out there to gauge how big of an ask it really is.

PS - Not for nothing, the attached picture is from the SONOS homepage. Not sure the usage context I'm supposed to infer, but that sure looks like a DJ environment to me.
Userlevel 7
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Frankly I'm surprised support has offered you the encouragement that they have.

Whilst you usage case is perfectly valid it is, I'm sure you appreciate, a very small number of customers who want to use the product in this way.

In terms of the delay I'm sure Sonos have undertaken a number of tests to find an optimal delay - A delay is required as errors in the stream which could be caused by slightly poor connectivity, wireless interference or poor internet need to be buffered so that they become invisible to the listener.

I don't know if is trivial or not to turn-off the delay for certain cases but I suspect it is highly unlikely that Sonos will make this change.

You're going to need to get those mix monitors out of the loft, can your wife dig it?
I live in an apartment. In my uneducated opinion, the distance between all the SONOS speakers, in all the different rooms of my home is so small, that no delay (or very, very little) for syncing purposes should be necessary.
As Stuart_W notes, this has nothing to do with wireless propagation times which are of course at the speed of light.

Any system which attempts to produce synchronous playback from multiple units connected via an asynchronous communication medium has to do (at least) two things:
- provide sufficient buffering to absorb the variations in packet transit times across the network
- exchange highly accurate timing information between the devices such that final playback can be synchronised

In an apartment, where neighbouring wireless networks are competing for bandwidth, it's all the more important to maintain buffering to prevent the receiving device being starved of data by a burst of interference. Sonos chose 70ms as the optimum solution, presumably sized to cope with packet jitter across a typical multi-hop SonosNet wireless mesh.

Although in theory it might be possible to collapse the delay out of the audio pipeline for a player which is operating Line-In stand-alone, it would likely be a lot of work for an outlier use-case. It would also produce playback discontinuities when other players were grouped or ungrouped.
Userlevel 2
Thanks for the reply Stuart_W, and the explanation.
Userlevel 2
Thanks for the reply ratty. This is great info.

Nice point about the importance of buffering in a multi network environment. Hadn't thought of that.

Your last sentence... yes. Exactly. That's why I'm foruming. Am I that rare of a case? Maybe. Is this a big deal in terms of tech, let alone potential implementation? You and Stewart_W's replies seem pretty convincing.

I would say however, that big picture, I think this feature request (realistic or not) is related to the mix app integration requests (djay etc.), which is also niche, but there are real numbers there. And like them, I would also like to mix my digital music through app integration.

The overall ask is - consideration of home mixing. Can SONOS make it possible to be able to live mix music (from apps, TTs, whatever) through their wireless speakers?

If the answer relating to SONOS products is ultimately no, while disappointing to me personally, it's all good of course. I understand that I am asking for more from a product that I already purchased, for a use for which it was not originally intended.

Still. The heart wants what the heart wants. And if some other company finds a way, they get my money.

Thanks again for the reply ratty. At the very least, I've got a better idea of how my SONOS system does... what it does.
I would say however, that big picture, I think this feature request (realistic or not) is related to the mix app integration requests (djay etc.), which is also niche, but there are real numbers there.
Yes, but those numbers are most probably a really tiny fraction of Sonos customers. Remember, we're talking here about the case where a user has a Line-In to a PLAY:5, CONNECT or CONNECT:AMP and wants to simply use it as a local amplifier/speaker. No network communications, no streaming, no multi-room: all the kinds of features which account for Sonos' market position and success.

The opportunity cost of addressing a niche (low latency / DJ mixing) of a niche (stand-alone play) of a niche (Line-In play) would potentially be huge, compared to all the other much more popular feature requests stacked up in Product Development's in-tray.
I will chime in as a customer who is interested. It seems likely to me that anyone using the product with a line-in could benefit from having a latency free option that doesn't distribute on the network. An obvious advantage is anyone using a playbar with a TV. If you don't have surround or a sub, why not kill the latency? I also want to use a Play 5 as part of my sonos network, and also use it to output the sound of an electronic drum kit where the latency makes that not a possibility.
I will chime in as a customer who is interested. It seems likely to me that anyone using the product with a line-in could benefit from having a latency free option that doesn't distribute on the network. An obvious advantage is anyone using a playbar with a TV. If you don't have surround or a sub, why not kill the latency? I also want to use a Play 5 as part of my sonos network, and also use it to output the sound of an electronic drum kit where the latency makes that not a possibility.

There is no perceivable latency on a Playbar using a TV source, either with surround speakers and sub or not. That is why the Playbar uses 5 GHz tech for surrounds and sub, to curb the latency problem. This has nothing to do with the latency of the analog line-in on the Play:5 or Connect units.
I'm not sure you're right about that. I've read several posts about the Playbar having a delay from the TV source and the instructions suggest setting a video delay on your TV (something not all TV's have). I've got a playbar on a TV for the past several months and I think the audio is a smidge behind (with the delay set to 0 in the app). My understanding of it is that the playbar still has to send the source out to all the other groups and the latency comes in from the time necessary to provide an accurate sync. Of course I'm just regurgitating what I've read some several sources and could be completely wrong.

I also hooked up the playbar to my computer for a test and I noticed a latency between button clicks and noises.
A beneficial side-effect of PLAYBAR using 5GHz to talk to its satellites is reduced interference. It clearly also helps that the connections are direct (hub-spoke) rather than over a mesh with an indeterminate number of wireless hops. PLAYBAR satellites can therefore afford to operate using a shallower (30ms) buffer.

Whilst there could be an argument for dispensing with such latency when PLAYBAR operates without satellites, the marginal gain presumably never warranted the extra development effort. Besides, for many the 30ms doesn't matter, and in some territories with bad broadcast lip-sync where video lags the audio the PLAYBAR latency can even be constructive.

Those using an external TV set-top box, Bluray/DVD, etc. who want tighter sync have the option of bypassing the TV and switching audio direct to the PLAYBAR.
Does the latency increase when grouped with other zones?
No, because the system doesn't attempt to maintain sync between PLAYBAR and the other zones for the 'TV' source. The other zones are in sync amongst themselves, but delayed with respect to PLAYBAR.

https://sonos.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/1966
Thanks for the link - that explains it all in detail. Perhaps the lag I'm getting with my TV and computer are a combination of the 30ms delay and other delays coupled in. Still voting for the latency bypass for the Play 5.
I would like to add to the call for an option to defeat the 70s delay when using the Line-in inputs. My desired usage is not obscure.

I have a Sonos Connect:amp for listening in the living room, which works fine with the SONOS app when listening in that room only.

However, I also have other devices that are connected via Apple streaming devices, such as an Apple TV, and an Airport Express. Before the SONOS system, it was possible to stream to all or any of them in perfect sync using iTunes AirPlay.

SONOS makes it possible, via the Line-in inputs (and even suggests their use specifically for Airport Express / Apple TV's) however, this puts it 70ms out of sync with the rest of the devices (and the computer itself as well). The idea would be, e.g. when having a party, to have all devices playing the same playlist in each listening zone.

The Line-in makes this possible for me, but at the same time makes it frustrating due to the delay.

I bought the Sonos device knowing I could use either the SONOS app (which I do), or alternatively, use the line-in with Airport system. Wasn't expecting the 70ms delay.
The delay is necessary for streaming reliability, and is not going away. Matter of fact, in the case of the Airport Express, the inherent unreliability of Airplaystreaming required the Airplay setting on the line in to increase the delay to increase the buffer. Sonos never promised to sync with other devices, only with Sonos devices and the delay helps accomplish that.
Right, we get it, necessary for streaming reliability. But what is being said here is that while some of us enjoy the multi-room streaming functionality of the Sonos, we also have other ideas for it -- and you've heard two of them (from the OP and me). If I had a boom box, I would plug my airport express into it, and there'd be no delay against the other rooms' airport express devices. I don't want a boom box in my living room, so I'd like my Sonos to *sometimes* function as one.

So for those of us who don't always want Sonos streaming reliability for our part-time purposes, we are asking the software design team to consider that.

What the OP and I are probably imagining it is that the complexity of buffering / streaming could be optionally bypassed, and the line-in inputs would be sent right to the amplifier.
I doubt very highly Sonos is going to enable this feature so that you can sync their devices with a competing product, while simultaneously decreasing the reliably of their streaming performance. But you never know . . . 😉
Nobody wants it to "sync with other devices" -- we just want it to OPTIONALLY play without a delay. Sheesh. The Airport device I have connected to it is already doing the sync-ing with the other Apple Products.

Sonos specifically markets to guys like me who use Apple Products -- co-branding with Apple Music, instructions for how to connect an Airport Express etc. etc.

Anyway, this thread was originally started to express the desire to do this. You're not really a part of this. 😉
I wanted to purchase a reasonable number of Sonos 5 speakers in a real time audio environment. The live music was strictly in a local environment and not dependent on the vagaries of internet and strictly hard wired with 1 gbps Layer 3 Ip switch ports on a private LAN environment. I am really not sure if the current code can still be maintained with an option to opt out for direct connect scenarios to reduce the delay from over 70 msec to around 5 msec. By Sonos being rigid in their approach, it is likely that Sonos will lose large chunk of business which may be up for grabs and it may go to other solution providers which are available in the market place which are as cost effective and give better audio experience. One of them is a Dante solution.
I wanted to purchase a reasonable number of Sonos 5 speakers in a real time audio environment. The live music was strictly in a local environment and not dependent on the vagaries of internet and strictly hard wired with 1 gbps Layer 3 Ip switch ports on a private LAN environment. I am really not sure if the current code can still be maintained with an option to opt out for direct connect scenarios to reduce the delay from over 70 msec to around 5 msec. By Sonos being rigid in their approach, it is likely that Sonos will lose large chunk of business which may be up for grabs and it may go to other solution providers which are available in the market place which are as cost effective and give better audio experience. One of them is a Dante solution.
Sonos is not suitable for such situations, and is not designed for them. The 5ms latency you seek is of the order of the PING time in an uncongested network. Any kind of sustainable audio delivery will require a certain amount of buffering at the receiver end, to ride out variations in packet arrival times. 70ms is a sensible compromise, allowing for several wireless hops in what is, after all, intended to be a multi-room wireless home audio system.
Thank you for your response Ratty. I am not sure if you are a designer but what is being suggested is only an option. Further it is strictly on a closed LAN environment which does not touch the internet and normal delays without traffic is much less than 1 msec consistently end to end so I am not sure what ping times you are referring to. As I said earlier there are ip audio suppliers who are already providing such systems in collaboration with Allen Heath, Bose, AEQ, AKG, Amadeus, Ashly, Behringer, etc., etc.,......
A fully wired network with guaranteed bandwidth provision could in theory provide low and predictable latency. However Sonos is designed as a wireless system, where fading and interference can periodically push up latency quite substantially.

Reducing the buffering to a very low level for public address applications over a dedicated wired network could of course be an option, but it's not Sonos' market at all. In fact Line-In is to some degree a nice-to-have for connecting legacy audio kit (turntables, CD, a phone's 3.5mm, etc.). Sonos' market focus was recently restated as being primarily on online music services (Spotify, Deezer, Apple et al), and voice control.

And before anyone chips in with the 'well, it would only be a software tweak' observation I have two words: Opportunity Cost. 😉
Hi ratty. Thanks very much for your response. Considering the price range of Sonos 5 I can assure you there is a reasonable market in countries like Australia and potentially very large market in India. I have a huge potential of 40 to 50 speaker system currently I am working on. I am sure there is a very large corporate segment where it can be implemented cost effectively.
You may be missing the point.

It doesn't matter how big the potential market is for large corporate public address systems (and by the way Sonos' internal architecture imposes a limit of 32 devices per system), this simply isn't where Sonos chooses to do business. To devote any attention whatsoever to that segment would divert resources from the market space where Sonos has made its name and strives to continue to be successful.

I'm no Sonos employee but, to be blunt, in my opinion your needs simply aren't going to be addressed by Sonos. I therefore suggest you focus your search for solutions on other potential suppliers.

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