Just curious. What's the general audiophile of Sonos speakers?

  • 20 December 2018
  • 28 replies
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I've seen them at best buy and what not, and I know they aren't cheap, but I feel like the cost is mostly about the connectivity and easy of use rather than the audio quality. Is that correct?

28 replies

Userlevel 7
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Hi, Darryncosta. Great question, a discussion we've had at work often enough. The following is just my opinion.

Are they Audiophile speakers? No.

I think that our main USP is the integration of many music sources and connectivity. My audiophile friend thinks Sonos is great "for what it is meant to do" but the sound is coloured, no illusions there. I think the audiophile community would prefer something with a flatter frequency response and more possibility to tweak the levels. Then again, the Sonos AMP, for instance, enables you to attach speakers of your choice, so we do have a device to cater for most. I'm keen to hear what others have to say.
Userlevel 5
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IMHO, it's very mid-tier. Comparably priced Bluetooth or other powered speakers are unlikely to beat them for audio in any dramatic way. For example, my computer speakers are a pair of Kanto YU5s, discontinued, but their current replacement the YU6 are around $400. A pair of Play:1s or Ones are going to be very close, but not match them Kantos. However, the Kanto has no network ability, no multiroom, etc. The mid-tier bluetooth (actually if the Devialet didn't exist the $200-400 range would be more high end!) are gonna match up similarly, but I haven't heard any that I think are better than my powered Sonos.

Of course, you can always grab a Connect, feed it into a high end DAC, or just use its own DAC, then into a high end kit and I highly doubt anyone not in the audiophile magazine biz would be have any complaints or even differentiate it in a blind test.
Userlevel 7
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I find the Play:5s to rival many much more expensive audiophile speakers. The Sonos Amp has good DACs and has a good amp in it. Both of these can give you audiophile type quality. And yes as AFT metntions above you can always use a connect hooked to amp/speakers of your choice.

Beyond those it the rest of the line becomes more about good quality and convienience - and of course great multiroom. But for critical listening from an audiophile perspective - no they are not for that.

Some will also argue regarding Sonos not supporting Hi-Res. I personally don't see the need for hi-res. Good recordings on the Play:5 or Sonos Amp sound great....bad recordings sound well bad. I think the mastering is the most important (and I concede that they do a better job a lot of times mastering hi-res audio).

I had a fairly high end system at once with a good AMP and all B&W speakers. It is broken up now - I have retired all my older amps for Sonos Amps and my B&W speakers are running off several Sonos Amps. Excellent sound. I never have done an A/B Sonos Amp vs. old Amp setup - - but to me it certainly sounds close enough that convenience becomes the decider. I honestly don't think I have lost anything in quality (I did just get some new bi-wire cable for the one that didn't have them since I split my system in two).
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I'm not going to pretend I'm an audiophile and can objectively tell the difference of audio quality passed a certain point. To me, it feels like you reach a point of diminishing returns of audio quality for the cost at certain point. Sonos feels like it's right at the sweet spot, but that's clearly going to be different for different people. Some people will not be happy without having the absolute best, and are happy to pay whatever it takes. Others are very satisfied with an Amazon Echo or $100 Bluetooth speaker.

But maybe the question might be best answered by comparing Sonos speakers and devices to the cost of a similar audio quality system minus the bells and whistles? So for example, how much would it cost to put together something sounds as good as a pair of Sonos Ones ($400)? You can probably do it for cheaper than $400, but if it comes to $300 (for example) that would mean you're getting about 3/4 audio quality and 1/4 connectivity/ease of use. How much would a soundbar equal to a Beam cost? Or playbar quality?

Looking at the Sonos Amp specifically, I actually bought one to replace an AudioSource AD3002 The wattage is about the same, similar features, main different is control and ease of use. The price difference is $600 vs $580.

Definitely an exception would be the Connect, as that's clearly much more about connectivity and ease of use that audio quality (since it has no amp and is not a speaker).

In general though, I would say that what you're buying when you get a Sonos is audio quality, with maybe 25% of the cost being connectivity and easy of use.
Userlevel 1
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I replaced my Technics + B&W 685 bookshelfs a few years ago by a cheap Philips surround system (why oh why). After another dissapointing experience with a Pioneer and a Sony hifi set I finally bought 2 play 5's (first gen). The play 5's have made me happy the first time I listened to them and they've done ever since. You could compare the sound quality with that of the better bookshelf speaker. Are they audiophile then ? Maybe not, I don't know. You can be assured though that not only ease of use is on the spec list. They come with a solid sound quality too. If that will be enough for you depends on your personal taste.
I've seen them at best buy and what not, and I know they aren't cheap, but I feel like the cost is mostly about the connectivity and easy of use rather than the audio quality. Is that correct?
For the price, they aren't bad quality at all providing that you use Trueplay tuning - although this needs access to an iDevice. Without TP they can sound poor, depending on room siting. As you say, the connectivity and ease of use is a big selling point. I would add flexibility, as by using a Connect device you can add whatever quality system you like - it will feed whatever quality 'hi-fi' system that you're prepared to pay for - so the system as a whole works for many different people - albeit mainly people who use mobile phones and stream their music.
If you like contemporary music, it can work well - and it handles many streaming services quite neatly. However, if you like classical music - and have lots of your own files - then it's becoming increasingly poor, so it might be worth looking elsewhere. I don't know where, though - I'm looking myself for a better option 😃
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I've seen them at best buy and what not, and I know they aren't cheap, but I feel like the cost is mostly about the connectivity and easy of use rather than the audio quality. Is that correct?
For the price, they aren't bad quality at all providing that you use Trueplay tuning - although this needs access to an iDevice. Without TP they can sound poor, depending on room siting. As you say, the connectivity and ease of use is a big selling point. I would add flexibility, as by using a Connect device you can add whatever quality system you like - it will feed whatever quality 'hi-fi' system that you're prepared to pay for - so the system as a whole works for many different people - albeit mainly people who use mobile phones and stream their music.
If you like contemporary music, it can work well - and it handles many streaming services quite neatly. However, if you like classical music - and have lots of your own files - then it's becoming increasingly poor, so it might be worth looking elsewhere. I don't know where, though - I'm looking myself for a better option :D


I listen mostly to classical music, and I'm satisfied with the sound quality, from the flac's I have on my NAS but also from the Apple Music content I stream. But, for my understanding, why do you make that nuance between contemporary music and classical music ? And you say you're still looking yourself. Do you mean you are looking for better hardware or for a good classical music source. I've little experience apart from Apple Music, but I read that IDAGIO is not bad.
But, for my understanding, why do you make that nuance between contemporary music and classical music ?
Contemporary music usually has very simple titles, which don't take up much space. Classical music can have very long album and track titles, which also translates into tag length (if you want to know what you're playing, anyway). Consequently, although I only have about 38k tracks (mix of classical and contemporary), I now can't add any more CDs to my system, as Sonos runs out of store. I understand why this happens from a historic design point of view, but it doesn't solve the problem. I've tried Plex, but the Sonos version is so basic that it's useless.

Redesigns of the Sonos controller software have slowly worked against people with large local libraries, which makes it even more difficult to switch between queues, and also made the controller experience considerably worse on large tablets. One of my biggest gripes is the way that there's an info button on the controllers that gives further info re the track, but this doesn't include the composer, something rather important in classical music, but much less so in contemporary music. Obviously, I could include the composer in every track, but then I'd have to lose even more music due to the above restriction. It must have the composer in the system, as it's one of the indexes on local folders, but Sonos just can't be bothered to display it.

And you say you're still looking yourself. Do you mean you are looking for better hardware or for a good classical music source. I've little experience apart from Apple Music, but I read that IDAGIO is not bad.
I have a working system, which I've now locked down to make sure that Sonos can't 'upgrade' the software any more, so there's no current need for me to change. However, the tech is moving very quickly, so I'm constantly on the lookout for something that will work better for me. Something that has quite a bit more capacity, that can handle the extra tag lengths, that tells me which composer I'm listening to, controllers that take advantage of the larger screen sizes of things like PCs, rather than crippling existing software - that kind of thing. Sonos is now for people who use their mobile phones for everything and stream all their content - which is not me...

I'm not really that interested in streaming, but have just tried out a Google Chromecast Audio into my Play 5 in order to replace the streaming capability that I lost by locking the Sonos system down completely. Trying to get that working was a joke compared to using a Sonos, and highlighted just how good Sonos can be to use.
Userlevel 7
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Hi Darryncosta

IMO Edward R gave the best answer without a lot of this n' that and oh...BTW. There are reasons why a set of speakers may cost $5,000 (USD) a pair (or each). Some valid and some not so. However, if you've had the opportunity to listen to a set of $5,000 speakers you know the why of the cost.

Do you have to spend $5,000 to get that audiophile sound...my answer is definitely no. Spending $998 for a set of Play 5's (in the right environment) will get the average listener into the fringes of audiophile listening. Environment is key because even spending $5,000 for a set of home speakers does not qualify them for use in a concert hall.

While most "audiophiles" will agree that a certain speaker checks all the boxes as an audiophile speaker; in the end listening is still a very personal (subjective) experience. Therefore, my question to you is..."What are you currently listening to as speakers to enjoy your favorite genre of music". Music Genre is important also; as I don't think you need a set of $5,000 speakers to enjoy "heavy metal".

If your budget will allow...you should purchase a set of Play 5's; and whatever other speakers you think sound good, and audition both in your own home. Let your ears be the judge of what is or isn't "audiophile".

Cheers!
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Connect in its ZP90 incarnation is bit perfect so is impossible to beat as a streamer whatever the cost. Hires is pointless snake oil.
Connect in its ZP90 incarnation is bit perfect...
Maybe, but the only Connect that you can buy new isn't, AIUI
Userlevel 1
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Contemporary music usually has very simple titles, which don't take up much space. Classical music can have very long album and track titles, which also translates into tag length (if you want to know what you're playing, anyway).


Yep, I understand and know your problem. Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, they are all build to index contemporary music. It's not only the fact that there is an artist and a composer and a conductor and a orchestra,... there is also the fact that there is no standard in tagging.

Finding your way in classical music tracks is an adventure 🙂
Finding your way in classical music tracks is an adventure :)
Yes, it is :D
Having got the Chromecast Audio working, it's playing through the Play 5 via my phone at the moment. I found a good Android app called Hi-Fi Cast - Music Player which works well, but also seems quite configurable. It's impressive that I can play music via the CA on the Play 5 direct to the ZP90 in the other room, whilst still listening to different music on the Play 5.
Having said that, the casting approach doesn't seem to have any limits on it, unlike Sonos, so I'm exploring the possibility that two CAs could actually replace the Sonos setup - for my particular purposes - I fully accept that they won't do everything that the Sonos kit does.
Good thoughts here. I started with a Play 5 (yesterday) and feel that the sound is quite good, and probably edges out than anything I could get at $1,500 or below (though I can get better volume). I am primarily using it for music only and may get a second Play 5 to set up in stereo. Maybe I'll eventually get a sub and an Amp as well. Anyway, I will admit that I was surprised at the sound quality (hip hop, alternative, classic rock, and jazz) when I first turned it on. I need to figure out how to tune the bass but I was very surprised. It certainly edges out everything from Bose.
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We had a recent lively discussion on another thread about high-res. My experience in general (may not be your experience) is that given that the equipment stays the same, I feel more warmth when the file is high-res.

However, none of this matters. You get the biggest bang for the buck if the speakers are great.

In my experience, a pair of play 5’s even grouped together sounds as good as or better than it sounded played back at the studio (of course live sounds better). The new play 5’s I currently have blew me away with their sound quality, and sound as good as when played back at the studio with as good or better detail. Of course, studio monitors are flat - but I prefer some DSP in my music. Note: I do have a Klipsch sub in all the rooms with the Play 5.

This is my album: deepinthemeadow.com

When we recorded the Uillean pipes on the Tank Man track, it sounded amazing live, but I was sad that I felt we could not capture the magic in the recording. That is until I heard it played back on the Play 5. Brought tears to my eyes!!! Yes, we had captured the detail, but it could only be heard on the Play 5. The Focal Kevlar speakers sound better and they also come around the $1000 price range.

The quality of sound with Sonos is so good, I sold all my old speakers - a lot of them Bose and replaced with Sonos. Even the Sonos 1 Gen 2 sounds “open”, “clear”, as compared to Bose which always has higher bass at low volumes which sort of mutes out the mids and the highs.

The connect has amazing, amazing sound quality when connected to the same speakers compared to any receiver I have heard.

I have replaced all my receivers with Sonos connect + powered speakers in every room except my “studio” room which cannot have that 70ms Wifi delay. Many people say it is overpriced - but I think Sonos has given us amazing, amazing sound quality in the Connect at a reachable price and widely available with fast shipping and we can hear the speaker at BestBuy.

Of course, things probably get even better when you go beyond $1000 for a pair or a single speaker. But let’s us not talk about the 1% of people who can afford those speakers and have $1000+ phones. Let us talk about normal, regular hardware working folks for which even $499 for a good speaker is out of reach. I needed more expensive speakers so I could test it out on different speakers and improve the final MIX - a process which takes months and listening to the same song on different speakers many times a day.

Conclusion: You got two play 5’s for $499. You paid a lot of money and you are thinking could it have gotten better If it played back high-res? It is audiophile quality?

Answer: You got more than your moneys worth. These are amazing, amazing speakers for a very decent price.

You are not missing anything paying more for better getting lower or similar priced “audiophile” equipment which does not give you the convenience of wireless music. Audiophile is pain getting all the equipment, and getting it all together to make end to end high-res. And it will always be clunky until someone can do it end to end. Most people don’t even have gigabit Ethernet at home, and CD quality music itself causes network congestion - high-res would be worse. So, overall your experience would be horrible and you will feel cheated for all the inconvenience and problems which come with high-res.

Even if I had a little more money to spend, I would probably still stick with Sonos products over say Bluesound. Sonos sells a lot of these speakers at scale, so overall better experience, more stable, longevity, etc will be with Sonos.

Thank you for Gen 2 Sonos! You guys rock!!! - and this comes from a very hard to please guy who has never felt this excited listening to music for a very, very long time! You have rocked my world!!!
Unless the word "audiophile" is defined, any discussion on whether Sonos qualifies for that tag is futile.
Even if it is defined as "expensive" there are enough people that think Sonos to be too costly as those that think it is cheap mass market.
That said, I am very surprised to hear Sonos staff deny here that Sonos make audiophile speakers.
https://www.lifewire.com/sonos-play-1-measurements-4103874

Overall, performance measurements for wireless speakers — or any small speakers, really — rarely get better than this.

The frequency response for the Play:1 on-axis, 1 meter in front of the tweeter, is shown in the blue trace of the accompanying graph. Averaged response across a ±30 degree horizontal listening window is shown in the green trace. With a speaker frequency response measurement, you usually want the blue (on-axis) line to be as flat as possible and the green (averaged) response to be close to flat, perhaps with a mild reduction in treble response.

This performance is one that the designer of a $3,000 per pair speaker could be proud of. On-axis, it measures ±2.7 decibels. Averaged across the listening window, it's ±2.8 dB. This means that on-axis and off-axis performance are both superb and that the Play:1 should sound pretty good no matter where you place it in a room.


So, yes, they measure better than many an "audiophile" speaker. Sonos doesn't, however, target the fickle and often very silly "audiophile" market.
Userlevel 7
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...
That said, I am very surprised to hear Sonos staff deny here that Sonos make audiophile speakers.


I think they probably take the view that classing them as Audiophile would probably deter more people that it would attract.

If any sales staff start with mentioning Audiophile I switch off and assume =massive cost for very little extra benefit which i could probably not perceive anyway.
That said, I am very surprised to hear Sonos staff deny here that Sonos make audiophile speakers.
I found it refreshingly honest and realistic, personally....

...
I think they probably take the view that classing them as Audiophile would probably deter more people that it would attract.

Now that you say so, perhaps. But I doubt that many would be as discerning as you about any negatives associated with that much abused and misused word, to the extent that no one really knows what it means anymore.
On the other hand, in opposition to what Sonos has said on this thread, this, from their website:

"“The sound of music or the sound of a great movie should be transmitted into your home as pure and honest as it can be.” – Giles Martin
“There isn’t such a thing as a ‘Sonos sound’,” Martin explains. “Like a clear window that lets the light shine through, Sonos is a portal to the world of sonic culture in your home.”
To keep this metaphorical window free of the dust that could disrupt that clarity, Giles Martin works closely with the Soundboard and a wider network of sound creators to critique and fine-tune the sound experience of the Sonos system.

Other than using the A word, what he says is no different from what audiophile equipment makers claim for their wares. To then also say what has been said on this thread is disingenous.

IMO, all that matters is liking the sound of music from them...or not. That is the bottom line to the decision of buying/keeping Sonos products.

Unless one also needs eye candy like backlit dancing VU meters and the potential to do endless tinkering. That, Sonos does not offer.
Unless the word "audiophile" is defined, any discussion on whether Sonos qualifies for that tag is futile.
Even if it is defined as "expensive" there are enough people that think Sonos to be too costly as those that think it is cheap mass market.
That said, I am very surprised to hear Sonos staff deny here that Sonos make audiophile speakers.

I tend to agree with Kumar’s perspective on this. What matters most are recording quality and speaker placement.

I’ve been into high end audio and equipment such as Audio Research, McIntosh, Nakamichi, Well-Tempered, Wadia, Quad, Duntech, etc for over 30 years.

Is Sonos “Class A Stereophile Recommended?” Maybe not. But compared with the majority of high end set ups, is it possible to get near-audiophile sound quality (imaging, dynamics, transients, etc) from a Sonos set up? I’d say yes.

I have a Connect driving a B&W reference system, and the sound is fantastic. And I have a set of Sonos 3s with a Sub in another, larger room, and I’d argue it is extremely close in quality.

Either way, I still plan to upgrade my main system, but for everyday music there is no substitute for the convenience - and sound - of Sonos.
I've never perceived that Sonos has positioned themselves as an "audiophile" solution in any case.

But I too, am with Kumar. Had I had the money necessary, I would have certainly flirted with the audiophile market in my youth, but now am pleased to use something that is reasonably priced, and works for my ears. I'm no longer really interested in comparing numbers, costs, ranges of sensitivity, all of those things. I'm interested in listening to what I want to listen to, when I want, without obstruction, and with good fidelity. Sonos hits all of those marks for me.
I’m gonna stipulate that my “reference system” has no electronics or speakers built after 1965 - but drive it with the Sonos Connect. I believe after all the great work done in both electronics and acoustics by McIntosh, Marantz, Klipsch, Bozak, et al, most of the improvements since then have been in cost-containment and marketing (and this comes from a marketer).
One exception: Wiley and Magneplanar.

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