Downsizing with minimal compromise.

  • 10 November 2017
  • 5 replies

Can the SONOS Play3 be configured as a discrete center with two Play5s providing the front L/R as substitute for the PlayBar? Any alternative suggestions are also appreciated.

14 years ago as a movie buff, I bought a large 5.1 Klipsch reference system; Dual 8" floor-standers, dual 6" center, 6" surrounds with dual horns, 12" 350w down-firing sub. I have been completely satisfied and constantly impressed. However, through the years my living space shopping has been dominated by "where would I place the entertainment center and subwoofer?" and recently cost me more time looking for my first house than should have. So I gave up and have a house I love with no viable place to enjoy my speakers or even have a logically positioned entertainment center. My TV is over the hearth (which was a cardinal sin to me in years past) and I'm using the depressing built-ins. As I look to enhance my audio experience in this new space with a downsized system, I understand that I'm not going to get nearly the powerful and voluminous sound that I have become accustomed to. Though, impressed as I was when I first heard the Sonos Play family in an audio store. What it comes down to is a lack of small woofers being powerful enough to confidently lower the LFE crossover to the 60Hz range so the droning tones and overly humming explosions are suppressed, leaving crisp punches and clear bass soundtracks coming from the front channels with properly expressed thunderous, house-trembling force from the sub. I've already decided on the SONOS brand because of the superior wireless technology and app support and the above question reflects my desperate desire to minimize the compromise of "going small". The PlayBar is nice, but the sound field seems to be as compact as the housing (a global soundbar property) and the lower frequencies just don't grab me like the Play5's were able to do.

Best answer by John B 10 November 2017, 19:06

There is just no way to do that. These are stereo music speakers.
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5 replies

There is just no way to do that. These are stereo music speakers.
Userlevel 7
First of all IMO you can't compare the sound of two Play 5's to that of the PlayBar. As John B said the Play 5's are stereo speakers. They are not designed to process a 5.1 signal. The Playbar on the other hand will process a 5.1 signal albeit simulated when used as a single stand-alone speaker.

The Playbar is capable of sending low-end frequencies to a Sonos Sub and those meant for surround effect to either two Sonos One's, Play 1's or Play 3's. In any of the aforementioned combinations you will achieve 5.1 sound. However, the LF, C and RF will be handled by the Playbar. Through processing algorithms you will enjoy an anchored center dialogue and what you would generally expect from LF and RF speakers.

As you know room design is an important component when it comes to delivering a satisfying HT experience. My Sonos HT is in a carpeted room with leather seating and decorator blinds that is 14 x 25. The view screen measures 55" diagonally with Playbar table-mounted below it. Seating is approximately 7 ft from the screen with Play 3's on 28" stands (LS/RS) at either end of dual theater seats (approximately 8 ft across). Each Play 3 (surrounds) is positioned one foot behind the viewers ear. Sonos Sub is approximately 3 ft to the viewers left of the Playbar. All speakers have been calibrated using Sonos Truplay to optimize sound for an enjoyable HT experience. Bottom-line is that I can experience directional sound (i.e. left/ right /overhead / fly-by) and low-end effects felt in seating. Of course dialogue and other forward sounds are anchored to the Playbar. Sweet!

I mean no offense with my next comments. That said my advice is to set aside all the tech-speak about frequency response and cross-over ranges. Go to your nearest Sonos dealer that offers a liberal return policy (or order direct from Sonos for 45 day return) and pick-up a Sonos Playbar, Sub and Surronds x 2 (One or Play 1 or Play 3). Audition the speakers in your environment. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised with the Sonos HT sound reproduction.

Please remember that a Sonos HT setup was never meant as a replacement for a good traditional high-end HT setup. Rather it is an alternative for those who want good sound, flexibility and multiple uses beyond what a traditional HT setup offers.

Very helpful input. I thank you for your information, time and honesty. I think most of my ignorance is rooted in not (yet) being an active Sonos product owner with access to the configuration app. I suppose I could have just downloaded and read the manuals to eliminate this possibility instead of assuming all speakers were similarly configurable. Now that I know, and with such a solid experience (and not being as much a movie buff I once was), I may forego the media entertainment configuration altogether to enjoy a pair of Play 5s in the main living space and a PlayBar on the kid's TV. Otherwise, I think I would always feel like I was missing out. I'm very much looking forward to this, but I'm going to miss my Klipsch. They were good to me. Hopefully Sonos and I will get along just as well and I can find a good home for the Klipsch to perform at their scale and be appreciated again.
Userlevel 7
Thanks for your response. Glad you took my candidness in the spirit intended...that of helpful information. You will enjoy the Play 5’s. Good luck to find your Klipsch A good home 🆒

(and not being as much a movie buff I once was), I may forego the media entertainment configuration altogether to enjoy a pair of Play 5s in the main living space
Having moved to the same boat a few years ago, IMO a wise decision; you will have no regrets. Sonos for music is brilliant; for TV it offers a compromise compared to even 5.1 Home Theatre; less clutter and cables, but lower sound quality and presence.

Place the 5 units with the same attention to placement in the room that any self respecting HiFi speaker demands, then run Trueplay, and in all but very large spaces, I doubt you will feel having given up on sound quality. In these larger spaces, the Sonos Sub may be needed as well to fill them well; later, this can also be tested on a try and return basis if your space is such.

In my case, I use a 1 pair + Sub in a living room of not very large dimensions, and it serves brilliantly.

Though I know that some here may drop in and tell you that my hearing is defective; or that I don't have a clue of what high end audio - whatever that means - sounds like.