Beam + Sub upgrade


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I knew this was bound to happen…

My 25+ y.o. Marantz died a year and a half ago. I was using it for both TV and music.

I could just buy another ampli to replace it, since the speakers were (are) still good, but I wanted something “smart”, streaming capable, more compact (speakers are 50x30x20cm approx), lighter, and I’m no audiophile. I usually “hear” the music while I do something else, don’t just sit in my sweet spot listening to it, or just do it briefly.

In the end I decided to try something different, and got the Beam, knowing it was a compromise. Nice, but a bit lacking for music, bit shallow, no depth. So I added a Sub:

The set up is pleasant indeed, and satisfying for some kind of music (…whenever bass is heavily involved). But recently I got myself a decent couple of earbuds, and realized I’m missing separation, definition and details.

What to do?

  • Add a couple Ones. In the front, right and left side of the Beam, to be used only for music, or back to also serve as sorround, but losing the “front scene”? But I worry they will just provide stereo feeling, not definition, details, clarity.
  • Add a couple 5s, in the front I guess, to be used in “ambient” mode for music with Beam and Sub, and not used for TV.
  • Get a Sonos Amp and use it to drive Beam+Sub for TV, my old speakers + sub for music (is it possible)?
  • Get a new ampli to play my speakers (Beam+Sub for TV, speakers for music)
  • Part from Sonos, sell Beam and Sub, and buy new amply and speakers

Not sure what to do, none of the above looks much appealing, and I don’t want to spend more, just to be back at this point in another 6 months, wondering how to improve…

What do you think? Thanks in advance!

Cheers, Paolo


22 replies

The first thing to do is to give yourself a few weeks to get used to the different sound by which time you may well not miss the old, especially if you are listening to music more than looking for differences. The human brain adapts itself to the new way things sound but it takes some time to do that.

Paolo.

The front left/right surround channels are currently built into the Beam, there’s no method to ‘bond’ further front surrounds to that device for audio, but you can bond two compatible same/similar Sonos speakers as rear surrounds and set those to Full for stereo music audio, but then, whilst giving separation, the speakers are placed behind your listening position whilst adding some width to the sound stage.

In my own case I prefer the speakers for music out in front of my listening ‘sweet-spot’ position, rather than behind, so my own choice has been to add two ‘Fives’ and another Sub as a separate Sonos ‘Room’ but in the same physical room .. but it does then become quite expensive. My thoughts in your case, is to perhaps add a Sonos Amp and use your existing passive speakers, if suitable, instead …and just use that as a separate Sonos Room for music and perhaps group it with your existing Beam and Sub to fill the room and perhaps help cut down on costs.

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Thanks everyone.

The first thing to do is to give yourself a few weeks to get used to the different sound by which time you may well not miss the old, especially if you are listening to music more than looking for differences. The human brain adapts itself to the new way things sound but it takes some time to do that.

You’re right. Solid and sensible suggestion. Fact is, it’s three weeks already… My brain is dumb 😜

Paolo.

The front left/right surround channels are currently built into the Beam, there’s no method to ‘bond’ further front surrounds to that device for audio, but you can bond two compatible same/similar Sonos speakers as rear surrounds and set those to Full for stereo music audio, but then, whilst giving separation, the speakers are placed behind your listening position whilst adding some width to the sound stage.

Thanks. I new it’s not possible to use a pair of 1s/5s as front speakers, but I thought it applied to TV only.

I was under the impression that, when playing music only, it was possible to have them all sound together. Meaning, the main source (Beam?) would split L, R and bass, manage L and R itself, send L and R signals to the two 5s and bass to the Sub. Something like:

Left 5                Beam           Righ 5                           Sub

Left signal         L + R            Right signal                  Bass

I would lose a bit stereo separation, but I think I would tolerate it.

Problem is, when watching TV I would have:

Left 5                Beam           Righ 5                           Sub

Rear left           L + C + R      Rear right                     Bass

 I get it’s not possible to disable this sorround config, other than removing the 5s from the room, and adding them back every time. At that point, it would be easier to have 2 rooms, and move the Sub - from what I know, it’s kind of annoying.

Is this correct? If I create 2 rooms, first 2x 5s, second Beam + SUB, the 5s won’t exploit the Sub to manage the basses, right? Only the Beam would make use of it. Won’t this affect the general quality and balance?

Given I won’t buy another Sub, and I don’t like the idea of having the 5s in the back.

 

Paolo.

The front left/right surround channels are currently built into the Beam, there’s no method to ‘bond’ further front surrounds to that device for audio, but you can bond two compatible same/similar Sonos speakers as rear surrounds and set those to Full for stereo music audio, but then, whilst giving separation, the speakers are placed behind your listening position whilst adding some width to the sound stage.

Thanks. I new it’s not possible to use a pair of 1s/5s as front speakers, but I thought it applied to TV only.

I was under the impression that, when playing music only, it was possible to have them all sound together. Meaning, the main source (Beam?) would split L, R, and bass, manage L and R, send L and R signals to the two 5s anmd bass to the Sub. Something like:

Left 5                Beam           Righ 5                           Sub

Left signal         L + R            Right signal                  Bass

I would lose a bit stereo separation, but I think I would tolerate it.

Problem is, when watching TV I would have:

Left 5                Beam           Righ 5                           Sub

Rear left           L + C + R      Rear right                     Bass

 I get it’s not possible to disable this sorround config, other than removing the 5s from the room, and adding them back every time. At that point, it would be easier to have 2 rooms, and move the Sub - from what I know, it’s kind of annoying.

Is this correct? If I create 2 rooms, first 2x 5s, second Beam + SUB, the 5s won’t exploit the Sub to manage the basses, right? Only the Beam would make use of it. Won’t this affect the general quality and balance?

 

The Beam & Sub can be bonded with two rear surrounds, so that could be two One’s/One SL’s or even two ‘Fives’ (just as examples) and all can play either ‘Full’ or ‘Ambient’ stereo music audio and TV 5.1 surround sound. 

And/Or you can group the Beam & Sub (with or without the surrounds) to another Sonos Room which again could be a stereo pair or Ones/Fives etc. and when ‘grouped’ all will play music audio in sync however please note that there is a slight audio delay to ‘grouped’ rooms when playing any TV audio - So in that case there would ‘likely’ be an echo in the room as the ‘grouped’ rooms play out of lip-sync with TV, but for music playback it will all work fine.

 

 If you did not group the second room with the first room, then obviously the HT and Sub would not play when playing music to the stereo pair … and so if you wanted to include the sub, you would have to unbond the sub from the Beam and move it to the other (second) Sonos room to use it with those speakers… it’s reasonably easy to do that via the Sonos App but… it’s rather a nuisance if you trueplay tune your rooms, as the trueplay settings are destroyed when you alter the room-configuration… so you will likely find it best to ‘group’ the rooms and use the HT setup with the Sub too.

Hope that helps the mist to clear a little.

edit: See this link re Full/Ambient settings:

https://support.sonos.com/s/article/4804 

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Thanks Ken, very clear and thorough explaination. I guess options are:

  1. Bond Beam+Sub with the 5s and tinker with surround options to avoid the front 5s are used as rear speakers when watching TV
  2. Create 2 separate rooms. Group them for music, ungroup for TV, unless delay and lipsync loss are neglegible (again, maybe tinkering with surround options and settings could help)
  3. Create 2 separate rooms, and keep them not grouped, switching Sub between them, but losing trueplay every time. Acceptable if Trueplay provides negligible improvement.

I have no qualms in playing with devices and options till I find a good configuration, it would be fun actually, but it should be definitive.

I’m getting the feeling I won’t get a good configuration for both TV and music, and I’ll get myself a clunky system, where I have to set and tap this and that every time I switch from TV to music.

We’re talking about a 2.500 bucks set up. And this would just defy the basic concept of getting a Sonos system: it’s simple.

Would it be the same using Amp and 3rd party speakers?

Edit: maybe I overestimated the hassle of grouping/ungrouping rooms. 

https://support.sonos.com/s/article/3391?language=en_US

But I fear tuning (vie trueplay or not) 2 “virtual” rooms playing together in the same physical space will be tricky.

@PaoloDeF,

Just to add you won’t be able to trueplay tune the Amp with 3rd party speakers attached. You would need Sonance speakers attached to do that - but it’s the cheapest option if you have those passive speakers already and can then group that setup for music with your Beam & Sub..

Note: if you use Alexa voice control to start music playback, then you can make the two Sonos rooms group automatically and also ungroup when you switch to TV audio - there are options to ‘ungroup’ rooms on autoplay in the Beams room settings in the App. So that may perhaps simplify matters for you.

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Problem is, when watching TV I would have:

Left 5                Beam           Righ 5                           Sub

Rear left           L + C + R      Rear right                     Bass

 I get it’s not possible to disable this sorround config, other than removing the 5s from the room, and adding them back every time.


In the Sonos app, under the Beam’s Surround Audio option, it is possible to just switch off the surrounds. It’s a toggle, similar to the one available for the Sub. That way, only the Beam and Sub would emit sound when watching TV. You can then toggle the surrounds back On when listening to music.

If you do go down the Fives route, I’d just listen to the Fives as a stereo pair up front, without including the Beam/Sub. The Fives produce pretty good bass on their own, which may be sufficient for you. However, as you have the Beam/Sub, you can try the other options with the Fives to see which you prefer.

 

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Thanks, both of you. 


In the Sonos app, under the Beam’s Surround Audio option, it is possible to just switch off the surrounds. It’s a toggle, similar to the one available for the Sub. That way, only the Beam and Sub would emit sound when watching TV. You can then toggle the surrounds back On when listening to music.

This sounds promising - easy.

If you do go down the Fives route, I’d just listen to the Fives as a stereo pair up front, without including the Beam/Sub. The Fives produce pretty good bass on their own, which may be sufficient for you. However, as you have the Beam/Sub, you can try the other options with the Fives to see which you prefer.

Yes, I know. But using the Sub for TV only would feel like a waste to me, since I already have it, I’d like to exploit it.

Anyway, I’m still not sure about the 5s, I’m still trying to evaluate different routes - whichever they may be...

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Depending on just what you want a good quality AVR and speakers with a Sonos Port might be your best solution.

My Beam and now Arc are a big step down in sound quality from my AVR setup, knew they would be going in. I made the choice based on the Sonos convenience factor and didn’t really regret it with the Beam although it was a bit weak for my room. Going to the Arc was a better match for my space but the weak dialog/center channel issue is a major frustration.

Spouse says I can fix it BUT - no wires, no complicated switch settings and no more space. Looks like I’m not fixing it.

I may try her suggestion of putting a towel over either end of the Arc to lower the L/R volume making the center effectively louder.

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Hi Stanley, I think I can relate.

My dilemma is: I did not replace my ampli (RIP) because I wanted something lighter, simpler, no wires,  no hassle, and I wasn’t keen on spending 1,000-1,200€/$ to replace it.

I already spent 1,300 for Beam and Sub.

If I add a pair of 5s, I will spend 2,500 or so, and will get a 4 pieces of equipment set, where 5 and Sub aren’t bulky, but not exactly inobtrusive. And I will need to switch between Sorround Yes/No every time I move from TV to music.

Acceptable, but I fear I’ll be looking at it in a year or so, thinking I made a mistake at first, and insisted  out of stubborness, instead of repenting.

Please note  I deem Sub is totally overkill for TV only - my opinion.

So I’m considering investing 1,500 or so to get a decent, just decent hifi (ampli, streamer and shelve speakers), and probably selling Beam and Sub to cut the loss. I’m not interested in sorround, I just want a decent audio for TV.

But I don’t like the idea and feel it would be a shame.

I know, I’m running in circles.

 

 

I know, I’m running in circles.

 

Lol. Let me see if I can shine some light if you specify what you want to achieve - not in terms of equipment, but as outcomes - and a budget.

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OK. As I wrote, current set up (Beam+Sub) is ok for me for watching TV. Beam alone was a bit lackig, but good enough. I added the Sub trying to improve music listening. And it did, for sure.

Most of the time, I just play music doing something else or moving around, so it’s ok as well. But when I want to listen to a song or an album, I feel I’m missing definition, details, spacial separation (stage?).

I sometimes have the feeling I’m listening to a mono recording, sound coming from a spot (I’m exaggerating).

I realized that especially listening to the same song with a couple of decent earbuds (CA Melomenia 1+) - as I said, decent, no h-fi.

I listen to rock music mostly (all sort), a bit of jazz&blues, a bit of classical, “classic pop”.

I usually keep the volume low (25-35 in the app).

I’m no audiophile or hi-fi expert.

Budget is… tricky. I already spent more than expected and wasn’t planning to invest any more.

I’m raising the bar, but also the expectation. So I’m willing to invest more, but I “require” solid results.

Let’s say I’d stay close to 1,000, but can go higher. Not over 1,500 for sure.

Does this help?

Here is the final solution to work towards, that needs a speaker pair kept flanking the TV such that the two speakers and the listening area are three corners of roughly equal lengths.

The speakers need to be decent bookshelf units from makes such as Dali/KEF/Q Acoustics, but not their smallest sized ones, such that very decent bass can still be delivered by these even without a Sub in the mix. These would be powered by a Sonos Amp. This would serve for all your music listening needs far better than Beam + Sub.

The Beam and the Sub can be left as now, for just TV listening. But there is also an opportunity to get rid of both, if not just the Beam. To test for this, wire the analog audio out jacks on the TV to the line in on the Sonos amp, and disconnect Beam and Sub from the TV. Set the delay settings on the Amp to the minimum. Play TV via the Sonos Amp and the flanking speakers and see if the small delay in lipsync is a distraction - I have never found it to be so even when looking for it. The same illusion that the two flanking speakers deliver that yields the stereo image for music if placed as above, will also deliver a phantom centre channel effect for the TV audio that will still allow dialogue to appear to come from the screen, without any speaker in the centre. If this test works for TV, sell the Beam.

Moving on to the Sub - if it can be placed somewhere between the two flanking speakers, it can be used by bonding it to the Sonos Amp, to provide all the well integrated bass anyone really needs, for both music and TV. If it cannot be so placed, or if the bass is adequate for both needs with just the flanking speakers as it often is, sell the Sub as well. Or, if it cannot be so placed, keep the Beam + Sub for just TV.

All the preceding should let you know if just the Sonos Amp and two good flanking speaker set up works well for you for both music and TV. It serves me very well, and I don’t need either a sound bar or the Sub for my dedicated to TV room that has this set up for a 50 Inch plasma screen. I have a Sub, but that is deployed for just music in another room, bonded to a play 1 pair.

And if you can sell the Beam and the Sub at used kit market prices which tend to be quite good for Sonos kit, the investment needed in net terms would just be a couple of hundred USD. And if not and if you feel the need to retain both Beam and Sub, USD 1500 still should cover it.

 

This is obvious, even so: In the set up described, the TV needs to be close to the exact centre between the two flanking speakers.

The other thing that will need some clever shopping moves to achieve: If it is found that the Sub can be deployed for both music and TV, bonded to the Sonos amp, the flanking speakers need not be as bass capable as otherwise, and can therefore even be the smaller and cheaper ones offered by the referred makes - high frequency and mid range quality does not need the larger speaker boxes to do enough justice to the bass lines; if the Sub is in the mix, it takes over these duties, and such shopping will then drive down the further investment needed, offsetting to a degree the “cost” of keeping the Sub.

The other clever thing possible is if you can access the used market for such speakers. At about half the price of new as is quite common there, this can make for excellent deals.

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Thanks.

This is actually one of choices I was evaluating. I’m getting from your answer a couple 5s won’t be a good fit for my needs and expectations.

A doubt: you’re suggesting the Sonos Amp, to allow me to exploit the Sub, and generally what other Sonos devices I already have, correct?

If I were to part ways from Sonos and sell Beam and Sub, would you still suggest to get an Amp?

Cheers, Paolo

 

 

If I were to part ways from Sonos and sell Beam and Sub, would you still suggest to get an Amp?

 

 

Absolutely, none of the principles change, but it does not need to be a Sonos Amp. And there are still some makes of amps like Rotel or even Marantz that will give you the same outcomes your now dead Marantz did, for decades. Make sure it has a phono jack, if you will be adding a turntable. Wire even just a humble Echo Dot to a line in jack pair on it, and you will get music via streaming services, with the sound determined by only the quality of speakers driven by the amp. Echo sound quality as a source device is just as good as that of anything from Sonos.

And since the amp will not have to propagate signal wirelessly as well, as the Sonos Amp does, there will be not even the small lip-sync delay that Sonos Amp will have, that I referred to.

A couple of 5 units will in this case be the equivalent of Sonos Amp + third party speakers, functionally. Sound quality will be determined by the speakers in use in either case with the Sonos Amp route offering you more options.

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Does Sonos offer home trial in Italy? If so you could try the One’s as a stereo pair - and you have a Sub already to play with. If that works out and you like the sound, you have the option to keep or sell the Beam. If you don’t like the Ones you return them and try the Fives. (I assume Sonos would be happy with this: why else have the home trial offer available?)

The One cannot be connected to the TV in any way - no line in jacks. The Beam will then have to stay for TV use. And I find that a flaking pair of stereo speakers work far better for TV than a sound bar kept under the TV.

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But if music listening is the key requirement (unless I’ve misread above) the One’s and Sub may deliver that, for a lower additional outlay. 

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Thank you all.

I’m not confident about adding a couple Ones, because they will surely improve stage (L-R separation), but I don’t think they will improve clarity and definition. When I listened to a couple 1s and a Beam in a shop, I did not felt much difference in terms of quality - other than stereo/stage. In the same shop there was a single 5, and I thought it was way better than a couple ones.

Anyway, I’ll give all this a serious thought.

Thanks again guys.

Don’t make a final judgement on a One pair + Sub for sound quality unless it is well placed at home and true play tuning has been done; speakers are very sensitive to placement; I even know someone that realised he owned a HiFi system after many years of using it - after he moved it to another room which just happened to be acoustically far better. And by accident, he happened to place it in a place better suited for sound delivery.

For music alone, in a similar space, a One pair + Sub is more than one class above just the Beam.

My play 1 pair + Sub sounds just as good as my Connect amp driven set ups that drive quality passive speakers.

The real problem with that, for you, is that it cannot replace the Beam, because it lacks the necessary line in jacks to take analog audio inputs from the TV - as the 5 can.

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For music alone, in a similar space, a One pair + Sub is more than one class above just the Beam.

My play 1 pair + Sub sounds just as good as my Connect amp driven set ups that drive quality passive speakers.

Hi Kumar, thanks. This is unexepected for me. As mentioned, my impression was a couple 1s was similar to the Beam, and 5 was in another realm. But it was in a shop and the 1s weren’t paired to the Sub.

This could be an interesting compromise.

The real problem with that, for you, is that it cannot replace the Beam, because it lacks the necessary line in jacks to take analog audio inputs from the TV - as the 5 can.

I know but, if I were to stay with Sonos (couple 1s or 5s + Sub), I don’t mind keeping Beam+Sub for TV, I deem it more that satisfactory in this realm.

Thanks again everyone, I’ll let it settle a bit and give your suggestions a serious thought.

Cheers, Paolo

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