EQ required. Harsh mids, ear fatigue.

  • 25 September 2021
  • 17 replies
  • 218 views

Hi Sonos,

I have 2 Fives, a move, and an ARC with Sub.

For now I'm just referring to the Fives and the Move.

I understand you don't think an EQ is necessary (otherwise you'd include one).

But the mids in the Five and Move are harsh, muddy and have an overall "fakeness" to their sound, this makes listening to these speakers uncomfortable. My ears become quickly fatigued.

Now you may think you have done some kind of software magic to get the best/perfect sound, but you've ended up with artificial and muddy sound.

My cheap Sony amp paired with warfdales has better depth an clarity, and sound far more natural.

Actually even my cheap Logitech pc speakers with mini sub are out performing your speakers when it comes to clarity.

My hope is that the issue is speaker configuration ( the speakers you choose to use in the units) or DSP and not an issue with digital amps, and that an eq that allows for fine tuning of the mids can save us here…

The alternative is that I give up on your brand.

At this stage I'm quite disappointed,  I thought from all the buzz I was buying premium speakers, especially at these prices.

 

 


17 replies

Userlevel 7

IMO, the Five and Move are Sonos’ best sounding speakers for music.

Have you performed Trueplay tuning or adjusted the EQ settings in the Sonos app?

Yes, I tried multiple settings using the existing EQ options.

While they may be Sonos' best, they aren't providing the same clarity/comfort that I'm getting from cheaper speakers.... (warfdales aren't exactly cheap, but they are running off a cheap amp).

 

I imagine that someone at Sonos is under the misguided impression that they don't need an eq, and I can think of a few reason why, such as it's not "consumer friendly", or " but we have magic DSP tuning" but they overlooked something important  which is that it doesn't sound as good as they think it does.

Maybe because Sonos is selling to a generation that is use to laptop speakers the upgrade seems incredible  but compared to regular speakers, they aren't holding up.

 

Userlevel 7

If you don’t like the way the Five sounds, you probably won’t like the sound of any Sonos speaker. It might be best to return/sell your Sonos speakers and go with a different option.

It's entirely possible that this is what I'll end up doing, but before sonos loses a customer, I wanted to give them the opportunity to understand my situation and I know I'm not the first person to request an eq.

One of my first lessons in sales was, for every 1 person that complains, 10 people walked away without saying anything.

 

I'm sure sonos would like to know the reasons customers may walk away and then weigh up if not having an eq is worth the loss... maybe an eq won't solve my issue, but I can't say until there is one.

‘Best’ sound is in the ear of the listener. Only you know what sounds ‘best’ (to you}.

FIVE’s will sound quite different from Warfdales. I can imagine Warfdale fans not enjoying SONOS and SONOS fans not enjoying Warfdales.

I don’t think that an equalizer could fix your “harsh” issue.

If your goal is to re-create concert hall sound, you need to find a speaker designer who sits near you because the designer designs for what he/she perceives and the concert sound varies throughout the hall.  I once had a seat in a world class hall with world class orchestra and the seat was abysmal due to an unfortunate “slap” from a nearby wall. I can’t imagine speakers designed to sound like that location would be popular with many listeners.

This observation also brings up the point of room issues. I’ve seen situations where bookshelf speakers were exciting nearby “trinkets”. The result was not great, but through no fault of the speakers. “Trinkets” were chattering along with the music. The SONOS SUB can be a real trouble maker because it actually emits bass energy. Heavy bass hits can excite objects trapped inside the walls. Relatively few subwoofers emit this amount of bass energy. In one room I had to walk around inserting small cardboard shims to subdue the window rattles. A previous, much larger, subwoofer, did not have this issue.

For listening environments, I have tried the speakers in a variety of different positions and configurations around the house, different rooms, including several desktops and on speaker stands, and I've use both mono and stereo configurations, but the mid issue is a constant. Regardless if I have my nose pressed up against the speaker (not literally) whether I'm sitting, or standing, the mid issue is a constant. While I'm not an engineer, I know a small amount about sound, like frequency responses, speaker configuration, cabinet resonance, I'm no stranger to the concepts behind how sound works, which is why I said, I understand that there are multiple reasons why the sound is the way it is, things like trying to squash multiple speakers into a compact enclosure has consequences, as does using harmonics to pad the sound.

It's not just warfdales that I have compared them too, I have also compared them to a cheapish set of Logitech pc speakers with mini sub, and again the clarity of the mids is what stands out.

Also I hadn't used the warfdales in a few years, so this isn't a situation where my ears were use to the warfdales over the sonos.

Another things is that both the Five and the Move seem to have the same issue with the mids, see I got the Move first and I thought to myself, oh well it's a portable speaker some compromise is expected, it didn't have the same clarity as my B&O portable but the Move has a lot mote depth, so it was a fair trade off, but I didn't expect it with the Fives, they are a premium indoor speaker.

Now I'm aware that an EQ isn't a silver bullet, but I have no way of knowing until there is an EQ for me to test out.

Meanwhile, I've ordered a sonos amp to power the warfdales. I'm curious to see what result I get... if the amp doesn't have good results then it'll be time to give up and find another solution for my integrated home.

By the way I have the Sonos ARC and Sub and I love those!

 

One thing that does concern me is that sometimes purists let their wants get in the way of the product needs, I work in IT so I see this alot, so I'd hate to think that the reason an EQ isn't provided is because someone's dug thier heels in, Instead of it genuinely not being required.

If you have access to an iPhone or iPad, does Trueplay provide any relief?

If TruePlay proves anything it's that access to an EQ for mids is definitely going to help. 

The problem with TruePlay is that it's too aggressive, striping out frequencies that I want to keep, again exasperating the artificial sound.

Like having vocals gain clarity but then lose depth by having the vocal low range cut to aggressively.

And just turning up the base or switching on loudness (which is actually just a pre set compressor) doesn't solve this issue.

If I had to guess I'd say the TruePlay isn't much more than an eq that uses an algorithm to set its frequencies.

Trueplay does make the mids significantly less muddy, but there is still harshness in the untouched or possibly boosted frequencies.

There’s no reason why you can’t use the TruePlay position as a base line, and modify, to the extent that Sonos allows, from that point. TruePlay doesn’t lock out the ability to make any changes. 

As an experiment, play some tricks on Trueplay. Wrap your phone/pad with a layer or two of thin cloth. You’ll need to experiment with the type of cloth, the number of layers, and how this interacts with the SONOS tone controls.

Overall, I don’t think you and SONOS will agree on what sounds “best”. The SONOS team sits in mid hall and you sit in front hall. The Warfdale team sits in front hall. Even if SONOS did provide an equalizer, I doubt that it would be aggressive enough for your needs. Your approach to what sounds “best” and SONOS’s approach are somewhat different and you’ve both dug in your heels.

A major difficulty in this sort of discussion is that we (and “we” is society in general) don’t share a common vocabulary for expressing aural experiences. In your IT world, what is the “best” computer language?

This is a great suggestion, I did do a small test where I tired to not move around the room, but unfortunately sonos was smarter than me as they built in a "move around more" function…

But I might try a few experiments and see what happens.

You’ll have to move around. Make sure that the phone/pad is well positioned during the first step as Trueplay determines your listening position.

I did a quick experiment with a spectral analyzer (app) and covering the speaker to get some visual feedback. 

I'll try retuning using this approach.

Seems ridiculous to jump through hoops like this, but also fun to do experiments 🤣

Started looking at other options.

Yamaha

And Bluesound.

I called the local audio specialist and told him that I had Sonos, and he told me that they use to sell Sonos but they stopped (and implied it was based on customers not being happy with the sound quality).

So I'm going down to the store to listen to a few things.

While I was reading around the web, I noticed a consensus that Sonos doesn't offer adequate tuning options considering its unbalanced sound, and that TruePlay does not offer reliable results.

I realized that TruePlay probably suffers from Lab Conditions, and that real world application are possibly beyond it's capability.

The funny thing is, that if Sonos had offered an EQ to start with, there was a more than good chance I would have made the most of it.

As it stands, my plan is to replace it all with the competition even though I only just got most of it.

I was so excited to get Sonos and I was looking forward to brand loyalty based on its amazing integrated ecosystem of speakers, but sorry Sonos, by forcing me into what you think I want, you've ended up alienating me. (I talked to support, was happy with the rep, but ultimately I just got the scripted, we don't support that.)

The line "we don't support that because of the unreliable listening conditions" was kind of irony that I love. I'm telling you that your current conditions are unreliable... that's why I'm talking to you.

*YAWN*

Started looking at other options.

Yamaha

And Bluesound.

I called the local audio specialist and told him that I had Sonos, and he told me that they use to sell Sonos but they stopped (and implied it was based on customers not being happy with the sound quality).

So I'm going down to the store to listen to a few things.

While I was reading around the web, I noticed a consensus that Sonos doesn't offer adequate tuning options considering its unbalanced sound, and that TruePlay does not offer reliable results.

I realized that TruePlay probably suffers from Lab Conditions, and that real world application are possibly beyond it's capability.

The funny thing is, that if Sonos had offered an EQ to start with, there was a more than good chance I would have made the most of it.

As it stands, my plan is to replace it all with the competition even though I only just got most of it.

I was so excited to get Sonos and I was looking forward to brand loyalty based on its amazing integrated ecosystem of speakers, but sorry Sonos, by forcing me into what you think I want, you've ended up alienating me. (I talked to support, was happy with the rep, but ultimately I just got the scripted, we don't support that.)

The line "we don't support that because of the unreliable listening conditions" was kind of irony that I love. I'm telling you that your current conditions are unreliable... that's why I'm talking to you.

Sorry to hear about your difficulty with the sonos sound flavour. In many ways I empathise with you. I actually own both sonos and bluesound speakers (the competition) and like you I find the sonos sound to be quite fatiguing when volume is raised to medium - high level. I have actually been a sonos customer since 2009 and have witnessed the gradual change of sonos sound profile to what we have today. I love the sonos speakers for how discrete and easy to use they are, as well as the reliability in multiroom use cases. I do agree with you that a parametric EQ would help a lot. I have used foobar dlna casting and managed to improve the sound of a sonos one / five by applying -3dB in the 1-3kHz area. It can be done but sonos does not and probably will never offer a parametric Eq (sadly). As for looking at the competition… unfortunately this may not solve the problem. Bluesound speakers have a very different sound flavour which you may or may not like but they also only offer basic Bass / Treble eq and nothing more. They are also less reliable in multiroom use cases and definitely more expensive. Not sure about yamaha. Lastly, I find that Trueplay makes the sound of Sonos One speakers worse than without.

In my opinion and from what I can read, the majority of sonos customers like the sound profile. While there are some (few) who occasionally report harsh / bright sound, the majority seem to like the sonos sound. I still like them for music around the house as I have not found a better solution overall. I am not surprised the wharfedales sound much better.

 

 Bluesound speakers have a very different sound flavour which you may or may not like

In my opinion and from what I can read, the majority of sonos customers like the sound profile. While there are some (few) who occasionally report harsh / bright sound, the majority seem to like the sonos sound.

 

I have never used Bluesound, but I have used many good speakers from various makes over the last couple of decades, and today have a range of speakers running at home - KEF/Dali/Quad as the HiFi type, Sonos Play 1 units, and PreSonus powered units - the latter being the latest addition that has added this category for the first time to the home. I find that all are not very far apart from each other where their sound profile is concerned, which isn't a big find seeing that all are running in the same home in rooms offering a similar acoustic response. On the other hand, I would expect all to sound a lot less pleasing to the ear in a more hostile acoustic surrounding like one that is bare of any furnishing, or has a lot of reflective glass areas, as examples. For Sonos, I would therefore conclude that they toe the line of good sound quality as defined by their equivalents in supposedly different market segments. Again, this is not a big revelation.

I would also be very surprised if Bluesound went for a very different sound signature because by going against the norm, they would be limiting their addressable market to those that like it - they would be better served by offering more aggressive EQ options instead so as to leave things on this aspect in user hands, but I note that they have not done this either.

I found that Trueplay either leaves the sound untouched, or changes it in a subtle way. Except for where the Sub is involved, where the changes are very marked. But if one does not like these, toggling it off is easily done even via Android phones. In my case, I have had no reason to toggle it off.

Caveat: I have never heard any Sonos Bar styled TV speakers, so none of the above opinions apply to that part of their portfolio. I have seen many claims for some of these to be overly bright, and in a case I recall it took a Sonos version change to address the issue. But this is all hearsay.

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