Why is there input delay on line-in and digital inputs?

  • 13 December 2022
  • 34 replies
  • 8030 views

So, I know this topic has been discussed a gazillion times already. But I’m really getting upset by this. Why does there have to be a delay when using Sonos (Five or Amp for example, I’ve owned both) in standalone mode? 
 

8/10 times my usecase for Sonos is casual listening via streaming services. But 2/10 times I want to use Sonos for live instrument playback. Such as a drum machine and other stuff I own. Or for desktop/youtube playback. 

I’ve spent literally hours searching for the best speaker setup for casual multiroom usage and some small birthday dancing and an input for live instruments. It exists, but I’d have to leave Sonos and go for Denon. But I would rather not.

 

The minimum of 50-75ms delay in standalone usage for the Sonos Amp and Five is completely unnecessary. It forces me to have an extra pair of Yamaha hs7 at hand, while I’d rather get an Sonos Five instead.

 

I know the arguments of people defending Sonos:

  • Sonos is not made for that usecase
  • The delay has to be there per design and cannot be removed
  • Removing the delay would add complexity and not be user friendly
  • Only a very small portion of the users would use this

but this is simply not true

  • Denon heos/Home allows for standalone use with AUX input and only adds delay when grouping for stereo or other rooms. 
  • If Sonos is not made for external instruments, why have a line in? If you want line in only for streaming purpose with delay, there is a Sonos Port for that.
  • It’s super user friendly actually to have no delay in standalone mode. It would solve all lip sync threads from people who only have 1 device. Also, as soon as other speakers are added you simply add delay. Like Denon does, no questions asked.
  • It would add usecases to expand the userbase actually. Right now it’s a small portion of the SONOS users. But how about everyone who does not buy sonos because of this? Those voices are unheard and who knows how many people they consist of 🤷🏼‍♂️ 

Martech 1 year ago

@Martech - I do get why you want this.  I just think you are destined for disappointment.  But who knows?

I have just registered the fact that you also mention digital inputs.  The delays here should be smaller than for analog inputs - to the point of being unnoticeable.  Has that not been your experience?


As far as I know there will always be a minimum of 50-75ms delay. Correct me if i’m wrong. HDMI is supposed to negotiate with your television to achieve ‘lip-sync). And I must admit, it took me a few days to get used to ‘lip-sync grade delay’. In the beginning I would notice, but after some time I didn’t bother anymore. 

But for live instruments (keyboard, drum machine) where you have to time your input based on the sound, a delay of 50ms+ is to high. 

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34 replies

Sigh.

Just adding my own feedback regarding line-in delay.

I have a bunch of Symfonisk speakers to listen to music.

I also have a couple of synthesisers that I toy around with. Those synths sit in my living room, and they need their own speaker, becasue the Symfonisk doesn’t have line-in. That speaker sits directly to the side of one of the Symfonisks.

On top of my Symfonisk speakers not working with my synths, they also don’t connect with my Samsung TV.

Yesterday, I purchased an Era 100 to replace one of the Symfonisks and plug to my synths. But this morning I discover there is that 70ms delay issue.

So, the price I pay to get a wireless speaker system is quite high, because I cannot use these with my TV or music instruments. By that, I mean that just to get things wireless, I need to re-add wired speakers to my TV or synths. At this point, I’m considering selling them and getting a wired system only, which will enable me to get everything to work.

Honestly, I don’t know what Sonos is thinking. As much as I’m probably one of few users wishing to use my Sonos speakers with my music instruments, I sure can’t be the only one wanting to use them with my TV? I’d assume 90% of Sonos/Symfonisk customers would want to use their TV with their speakers.

With regards to a line-in option with no delay: would it be impossible to add a simple software switch in the app, which would enable users to choose between:

  • line-in playback to the entire Sonos system, with delay
  • line-in playback to only that specific speaker, without delay

This switch would trigger the signal being either processed through the Sonos networked system, or directly connected to the speaker’s amp.

It’s true that not many users would need such feature. Probably less than 5%. But if addressing that needs requires little investment, why not do it? Small profit/benefit, but also small investment.

Sonos has done magical things since the company started many years ago.

But there are fundamental hurdles to a truly good experience, such as TV connection, or line-in.

Again, there are probably rich Sonos customers who may have the cash and the room to purchase all the speakers they need - but I feel like Sonos is failing a huge portion of their existing or potential user base.

I would bet that a huge portion of their customers always find themselves having to purchase wired speakers in some places, because Sonos just doesn’t do certain things.

 

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@jgatie - Thanks for your answer, which motivated me to dig a little deeper into the Sonos device settings. Here I saw that there was a default value for the signal delay of 2000 ms - no idea why this is the new default value - but I was able to solve my problem very easily by lowering this value to 70 ms. Now everything works like before!

Thank you very much again!

I replaced my Sonos S1 system last week, which previously consisted of 3 Sonos Connect and a Sonos Connect AMP with Sonos Port and Sonos Amp. 
Why I did that I wonder now - maybe I just wanted to continue to support Sonos as one of the first users.
So now I have a new Sonos Amp in my home office. Here, my typical usage looked like connecting via line-in to the audio output of my notebook.
I played music mostly through the Windows Controller app and for video conferencing I use the line-in signal.
This worked wonderfully with the old S1 Sonos Connect Amp, but is NOT possible with the new device. 
The audio delay described here is a game stopper here. So this is what I spent thousands on - cool.

 

The Line-In delay has been present since the very first ZP100 rolled off the assembly line back in 2005.  There is no difference in the Line-In delay from then to now, or from S1 to S2.  

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I replaced my Sonos S1 system last week, which previously consisted of 3 Sonos Connect and a Sonos Connect AMP with Sonos Port and Sonos Amp. 
Why I did that I wonder now - maybe I just wanted to continue to support Sonos as one of the first users.
So now I have a new Sonos Amp in my home office. Here, my typical usage looked like connecting via line-in to the audio output of my notebook.
I played music mostly through the Windows Controller app and for video conferencing I use the line-in signal.
This worked wonderfully with the old S1 Sonos Connect Amp, but is NOT possible with the new device. 
The audio delay described here is a game stopper here. So this is what I spent thousands on - cool.

Stop referring to a “digital input”.  The only Sonos devices with digital inputs are soundbars made for TV.  The others (Port, Amp, Five) are all analog inputs.

As to “The delay can be added as soon as needed: when streaming from or to other (grouped/stereo) speakers.”, you do know you can switch from a single speaker to a group of up to 32 speakers with a tap of the controller?  So how are you going to magically add a 75 ms buffer to that “standalone” stream without stopping the music?  The music playing seamlessly when grouping and ungrouping is part of the Sonos experience, stopping the music to build up a buffer is not.  

I specifically refer to my Sonos Amp which DOES have a digital AND analog input. It’s called HDMI and there is also a HDMI to optical dongle. And since the Amp is cleary made for a Hifi experience, why not offer Hifi-like 0 delay experience. 

 

 

If you’re going to split hairs, it’s an HDMI-ARC connection, not HDMI.  It’s using an HDMI cable but a source that outputs audio over the HDMI standard won’t be read by the Amp, It has to to output over the ARC channels.    And since HDMI-ARC was clearly designed for AV setups, and with view exceptions, only TVs generated the signal, it’s quite a stretch to claim that it’s to be used for straight audio sources.  Yes, you can use an optical dongle, but that was created for legacy TVs that are not HDMI-ARC compatible.  The fact that you this source is labeled as TV and can’t be renamed emphasizes this point.  Again, you might be able to use the Amp for unintended purposes, but that that doesn’t suddenly make it an intended purpose.

 

And to answer your question: when I group I have to hold the play button and it takes ~2 seconds and and a confirmation ‘bleep’ before the device starts playing. So I guess it would not be that big of a problem that IF a standalone device is playing at 0 delay (because it’s plugged in via an analog or digital input), it would simply play a 75ms ‘bleep’ to confirm and to masquarade a pause. Heck, you wouldn’t even hear it if you are in a other room pressing the group button on a other device.

 

 

This is not a feature I would want instead of current functionality, and not something I would ever turn on.  I don’t want a moment of bleeps or silence every time I change the groupings in place.  As well, how would it handle the case where you go from a group to a single player.  Do you just skip 75ms of the audio?

 

 

 

I specifically refer to my Sonos Amp which DOES have a digital AND analog input. It’s called HDMI and there is also a HDMI to optical dongle. And since the Amp is cleary made for a Hifi experience, why not offer Hifi-like 0 delay experience. 

And to answer your question: when I group I have to hold the play button and it takes ~2 seconds and and a confirmation ‘bleep’ before the device starts playing. So I guess it would not be that big of a problem that IF a standalone device is playing at 0 delay (because it’s plugged in via an analog or digital input), it would simply play a 75ms ‘bleep’ to confirm and to masquarade a pause. Heck, you wouldn’t even hear it if you are in a other room pressing the group button on a other device.

 

That’s a function of the long press on the play button, not the actual grouping.  If you group via the app, as most do, grouping is almost instantaneous and there is no ‘bleep’.  

 

And to get back to a proposed solution using a Five; Since there have been no answers, I think no one knows if the Play:5 / Five standalone ‘workaround’ by disabling network connection actually works for everyone, or if it was just a bug.  

 

It’s been answered before; the Five will have the delay regardless of the network connectivity.  The person claiming otherwise was just wishful thinking.  

Bottom line, if you need live performance type response, Sonos is not fit for purpose.  Find something else. 

 

Stop referring to a “digital input”.  The only Sonos devices with digital inputs are soundbars made for TV.  The others (Port, Amp, Five) are all analog inputs.

As to “The delay can be added as soon as needed: when streaming from or to other (grouped/stereo) speakers.”, you do know you can switch from a single speaker to a group of up to 32 speakers with a tap of the controller?  So how are you going to magically add a 75 ms buffer to that “standalone” stream without stopping the music?  The music playing seamlessly when grouping and ungrouping is part of the Sonos experience, stopping the music to build up a buffer is not.  

I specifically refer to my Sonos Amp which DOES have a digital AND analog input. It’s called HDMI and there is also a HDMI to optical dongle. And since the Amp is cleary made for a Hifi experience, why not offer Hifi-like 0 delay experience. 

And to answer your question: when I group I have to hold the play button and it takes ~2 seconds and and a confirmation ‘bleep’ before the device starts playing. So I guess it would not be that big of a problem that IF a standalone device is playing at 0 delay (because it’s plugged in via an analog or digital input), it would simply play a 75ms ‘bleep’ to confirm and to masquarade a pause. Heck, you wouldn’t even hear it if you are in a other room pressing the group button on a other device.

 

And to get back to a proposed solution using a Five; Since there have been no answers, I think no one knows if the Play:5 / Five standalone ‘workaround’ by disabling network connection actually works for everyone, or if it was just a bug.  

@buzz I get what you say. Of course, my Yamaha Monitor speakers are built for my live music usecase. So now I have sonos in my living room, and yamaha’s at my desk. You could argue this is the best setup.

Sonos is intended for multi-room usage after all. And I totally understand there has to be a delay to make this work reliable. Nevertheless, when only using one speaker (or 2+ when using Sonos Amp with wires speakers in 2.1 setup) connected via digital or analog input, there is simply no need for delay. The delay can be added as soon as needed: when streaming from or to other (grouped/stereo) speakers. For example: the sonos amp in 2.1 does not need any delay. As soon as you add rear speakers or group it with an other room. Then yes, you need the delay for it to function. 

 

Stop referring to a “digital input”.  The only Sonos devices with digital inputs are soundbars made for TV.  The others (Port, Amp, Five) are all analog inputs.

As to “The delay can be added as soon as needed: when streaming from or to other (grouped/stereo) speakers.”, you do know you can switch from a single speaker to a group of up to 32 speakers with a tap of the controller?  So how are you going to magically add a 75 ms buffer to that “standalone” stream without stopping the music?  The music playing seamlessly when grouping and ungrouping is part of the Sonos experience, stopping the music to build up a buffer is not.  

There is also a generational bias to this discussion. More and more the younger attitude is “isn’t everything wireless now -- Bluetooth or Airplay?”, but older folk chafe at this. And technology is constantly evolving. Techniques that were impossible, impractical, or enormously expensive only a few years ago are now cheap and trivial. An example is the $10 Bluetooth speaker I saw hanging on a peg at a clothing store checkout. I’m not suggesting that this would be a great sounding or preforming product, but ten years ago you’d be laughed off a design team for even suggesting this sort of product.

 

 

It seems to me that you can have cheap, quality, and easy to use, but you can only have 2 of the 3.  I think there’s a saying in automotive circles similar to that.  Anyway, I think people tend to highly favor ease of use today and don’t always have much appreciation for quality, which is why the ‘impulse buy’ BT player exists.  You could argue it’s the motivation for the digital revolution to begin with, and quality has been playing catch up.

 

And really, I think you could add ‘snake oil’ to the list of options, but you can still only have 2.

 

 

And to flesh out the stuff that John couldn’t think of offhand:

There is the HD Fury Arcana, the Feintech VAX04101k, and the latest, and least expensive, I think,  is the OREI HDA-935. Check your local retailers for availability, or Amazon. You can also order from those links from the companies directly, I think. 

@buzz I get what you say. Of course, my Yamaha Monitor speakers are built for my live music usecase. So now I have sonos in my living room, and yamaha’s at my desk. You could argue this is the best setup.

Sonos is intended for multi-room usage after all. And I totally understand there has to be a delay to make this work reliable. Nevertheless, when only using one speaker (or 2+ when using Sonos Amp with wires speakers in 2.1 setup) connected via digital or analog input, there is simply no need for delay. The delay can be added as soon as needed: when streaming from or to other (grouped/stereo) speakers. For example: the sonos amp in 2.1 does not need any delay. As soon as you add rear speakers or group it with an other room. Then yes, you need the delay for it to function. 

 

To be clear, in your 2.1 setup, the 30-25 ms delay is needed to wirelessly communicate to the sub.  If you were using a wired sub, then perhaps not.

@buzz I get what you say. Of course, my Yamaha Monitor speakers are built for my live music usecase. So now I have sonos in my living room, and yamaha’s at my desk. You could argue this is the best setup.

Sonos is intended for multi-room usage after all. And I totally understand there has to be a delay to make this work reliable. Nevertheless, when only using one speaker (or 2+ when using Sonos Amp with wires speakers in 2.1 setup) connected via digital or analog input, there is simply no need for delay. The delay can be added as soon as needed: when streaming from or to other (grouped/stereo) speakers. For example: the sonos amp in 2.1 does not need any delay. As soon as you add rear speakers or group it with an other room. Then yes, you need the delay for it to function. 

 

I tend to use specialized for purpose tools for each task, audio and otherwise. For me there are much better approaches to sound reinforcement than attempting to paste a microphone and a couple instruments on to a home audio system. Many years ago (before SONOS existed) I attempted this and quickly became bored because the results were not very good. I suppose that part of my issue, was and still is, that I’ve used professional sound reinforcement equipment and there is a world of difference in the results. By the way I would not enjoy using pro sound reinforcement speakers for home audio listening -- these speakers are designed for large areas and sound awful in a small room. Currently, there are compact, reasonably priced mixer/processors that can be used at home for your instruments, feeding into a basic power amplifier or powered speakers. What had required a whole rack of boxes and thousands of dollars, can now be done in a compact box for a few hundred dollars.

There is also a generational bias to this discussion. More and more the younger attitude is “isn’t everything wireless now -- Bluetooth or Airplay?”, but older folk chafe at this. And technology is constantly evolving. Techniques that were impossible, impractical, or enormously expensive only a few years ago are now cheap and trivial. An example is the $10 Bluetooth speaker I saw hanging on a peg at a clothing store checkout. I’m not suggesting that this would be a great sounding or preforming product, but ten years ago you’d be laughed off a design team for even suggesting this sort of product.

Martech,

I’m aligned with those who suggest that SONOS is not intended for your proposed use case. In fairness to SONOS, in 2005 when SONOS hit the market, WiFI was not as advanced as now and SONOS designed a robust multiroom wireless audio system that no one else was able to achieve. You may be familiar with the latest darling of WiFi -- the mesh. SONOS has used mesh since inception and has a ton of audio related patients in this area -- many now licensed to others. Starting fresh and using the latest WiFi6 and soon to be introduced WiFi7 SONOS could probably reduce the 75ms latency somewhat, but this would require abandoning the older WiFi4 and WiFi5 units already in the field. The reason for the 75ms latency is to give players some time to work around local interference issues. SONOS will rearrange the mesh topology as necessary to work around issues. Muting a player because of a nearby burst or new source of interference avoids unnecessary loss of audio. 

Sorry - thinking as I go…

I suspect that if you had an electric piano or drum machine with optical out (if such exist) and ran it direct to a Playbar / Playbase / Ray (or Beam / Arc with supplied adapter) this might give an acceptable result.  Don’t know though!  Anyone out there doing that?

Lip sync problems experienced with Sonos are almost invariably (possibly scrap the ‘almost’) by the timing of the audio feed from the TV versus the video.  It has nothing to do with Sonos.  Many of us have completely eliminated detectable lip sync issues by by-passing the TV for audio.  This requires an audio device like an HDFury Arcana.   Cheaper options do exist but I can never remember what they are.

The Beam / Arc will still introduce the 30-35ms delay and that might still be too much for your use case.

This is all a bit academic for you now!

For the Beam / Arc the delay should be of the order of 30-35ms.  Delivery to the speaker is effectively instantaneous.  The 30-35ms is to allow for surrounds to sync - even if there are no surrounds! - while being small enough for no noticeable lip sync issues.

This is why if you group another room to a HT room you get an echo effect for TV sound - it’s the difference between the delay within the HT room and the room grouping delay.

But I assume that for your purposes you have tried it and it is still too much?


First of all, thanks for your help and thinking with me. 

No, I have not tried this. I actually sold my Sonos Amp only to read a few days later that digital inputs are supposed  to be faster than analog. But I did read mixed experiences about this on this forum and Reddit. Also I owned a Sonos Beam where I also noticed the lip-sync ‘issue’. The lip-sync was not to bad, but sold that one because I did not like the sound and bought the Amp instead.  
 

If anyone has input on this, and also on the Five ‘trick’ that @Kumar mentioned, that’d be great. Currently I only own sonos One’s because I had to buy other speakers for my usecase. 

When you are using a musical instrument are you still sending the audio through the TV?  

For the Beam / Arc the delay should be of the order of 30-35ms.  Delivery to the speaker is effectively instantaneous.  The 30-35ms is to allow for surrounds to sync - even if there are no surrounds! - while being small enough for no noticeable lip sync issues.

This is why if you group another room to a HT room you get an echo effect for TV sound - it’s the difference between the delay within the HT room and the room grouping delay.

But I assume that for your purposes you have tried it and it is still too much?

 

@Martech - I do get why you want this.  I just think you are destined for disappointment.  But who knows?

I have just registered the fact that you also mention digital inputs.  The delays here should be smaller than for analog inputs - to the point of being unnoticeable.  Has that not been your experience?


As far as I know there will always be a minimum of 50-75ms delay. Correct me if i’m wrong. HDMI is supposed to negotiate with your television to achieve ‘lip-sync). And I must admit, it took me a few days to get used to ‘lip-sync grade delay’. In the beginning I would notice, but after some time I didn’t bother anymore. 

But for live instruments (keyboard, drum machine) where you have to time your input based on the sound, a delay of 50ms+ is to high. 

@Martech - I do get why you want this.  I just think you are destined for disappointment.  But who knows?

I have just registered the fact that you also mention digital inputs.  The delays here should be smaller than for analog inputs - to the point of being unnoticeable.  Has that not been your experience?

@melvimbe I actually used to have a Chromecast audio hooked up to my Play 5’s so I could cast youtube audio and cast from Google Chrome. Creating a Frankenstein audio system has always been possible since Airplay and chromecast etc became available.

 

Anyhow, like you guys say; it’s a decision that is  platform/experience/marketing oriented. A solution for people like me is to switch to Denon or buy a hybrid amplifier from NAD and extend it with a Bluesound module, etc… 

I just hope this thread is another reason for Sonos to consider standalone mode for Sonos Five and Sonos Amp. 


 


 

 

@John B that’s actually one of the best explanations I’ve read thusfar. Instead of people saying it isn’t possible for reason x or y. 

 

I don’t fully agree with @John B’s take on this. Yes, Sonos original was designed for local library playback primary, and then streaming services when they started becoming available, but I don’t think they were fully trying to discourage use of aux input sources.  Well maybe they were, but the reason is a bit more complicated maybe.

 

I don’t think I was suggesting there was or is any attempt to discourage use of aux input sources, just that Sonos saw it as a marketing necessity to accommodate such sources.  On further reflection I am not sure I was right to suggest that if launching today Sonos would not bother with line in - but that is a hypothetical to which we will never know the answer.  

But it is still there almost entirely for its original purpose - to allow physical music media to be played across a multiroom system.

 

 

@John B that’s actually one of the best explanations I’ve read thusfar. Instead of people saying it isn’t possible for reason x or y. 

 

 

 

I don’t fully agree with @John B’s take on this. Yes, Sonos original was designed for local library playback primary, and then streaming services when they started becoming available, but I don’t think they were fully trying to discourage use of aux input sources.  Well maybe they were, but the reason is a bit more complicated maybe.

I think that Sonos sees the user experience as very important as a means of advertising.  They want customers to use their products as intended, a multiroom audio system.  If a customer buys Sonos and essentially uses as just a PA speaker, they won’t see the point of buying additional Sonos speakers when they have the need for more speakers.  Perhaps worse, other people who visit your home and see Sonos used as a PA speaker will not be impressed.  I see it as the same reason why Sonos took so long to add bluetooth to some options.  It’s not that they couldn’t, but that they wanted to control the user experience and the products used for the intended purpose.  We still see people who buy Sonos portables and use them just for bluetooth.  Or Apple folks who use them for airplay only.  And even folks who use Amps/ports only connected to Echos.  It doesn’t display the full potential of Sonos.

But that’s my theory, and I get why people would want Sonos to just be as flexible as possible.

 

Also worth noting that if Sonos had this standalone mode, you could more easily integrate Sonos speakers with other brands for your whole home system.  You could theoritically use an RCA splitter to make a system with a Sonos Five, third party receiver, a PA speaker, anything else that plays audio without delay from a single RCA source.  Sounds great, but doesn’t build out the Sonos brand.  Sonos took a hint from Apple about walled gardens.

 

I guess I’m just kind of hooked to the Sonos experience and sound. That’s why I would love it to also work for my other musical endeavours. 
 

If this makes any sense: it feels like having a 4 lane road paved and ready for use, but only allowing all people to drive on 1 single lane. 

 

I see them more as dirt path off the shoulder that people want Sonos to pave over.  Maybe they should, but it certainly wasn’t part of the original design.

@John B that’s actually one of the best explanations I’ve read thusfar. Instead of people saying it isn’t possible for reason x or y. 
 

I guess I’m just kind of hooked to the Sonos experience and sound. That’s why I would love it to also work for my other musical endeavours. 
 

If this makes any sense: it feels like having a 4 lane road paved and ready for use, but only allowing all people to drive on 1 single lane. 

That is very generous of you considering the rather aggressive tone of my reply (for which I apologise).  I think this is fundamentally a result of the history.  I really don’t know if it would be easy for Sonos to add a ‘no delay’ option, but if it would be then Sonos clearly doesn’t think the pros outweigh the cons or that it would have any significant positive impact on revenue.

If Sonos were starting now I doubt that any product would have an analog line in, so i agree with @melvimbe that your life would be better if you gave up hope on this one!  Sorry!

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