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

  • 20 December 2018
  • 37 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?

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Sorry to come so late to this interesting thread.I have just purchased 2 Gen.-2 Play 5’s and the Sub,though they are not set up quite yet.

I have recently heard 2 new Play 5’s at a friend’s home.,,,,,Here is my unbiased opinion…..

I was into high end audio for decades and had friends who reviewed for the mainstream mags(Absolute Sound and Stereophile)…..

I had a dedicated audio room and a plethora of extremely pricey equip….from top tier Audio Res/Jeff Rowland/Infinity/Avalon Conrad Johnson etc…...Every time I had a personal listening session,as well as the listening sessions at my friend’s homes it would turn into a tweak/sound effects session.

“you have to hear this,but tweak the cartridge’s tracking force,or VTA,or speaker’s placement,or change tubes”...Etc…...”Can you hear that triangle in the back ground?”

It became very much about materialism/luxury equipment snobbery and I was at fault myself,for years….as well as a bundle of money!

I had been to quite a few reviewer’s homes(famous ones) whose set up was a disappointment to me.The fancy casework and chachkas (audio toys) were almost always at the forefront.Some of the tweak stuff was ridiculous and actually hurt the sound,imo.

Not to mention the space taken up(I had over 3,000 lp’s and 400 CD;s) the cables(my interconnect for the pre/amp was more than my entire Sonos set up) and the frustrating reliability issues that “always” eventually rears it’s head…..Took me 5 months to get my Rowland amp fixed and my turntable(after an expensive update) did not have the motor properly grounded,which subsequently blew up my preamp…...ARGH!

Btw…..sorry for this long winded rant,but I hope to make a point for you Sonos folks.

I sold my stuff to fund my daughter’s wedding and infuse some monies into my small business.Never has a day gone by hat I have not missed my music!

I always though that Sonos was basically for a poolside afternoon,or beach type of thing,because it never sounded very good at Best Buy,so I blew them off…..until………

Three weeks ago a friend got a pair of Play 5’s.He has a nice medium small-ish room.Similar to my new room in a new condo,since I’d sold my old home,having retired.

The sound absolutely blew me away! I am a very serious/critical listener.This was definitely sound at a very high level of reproduction.Since I have not heard much after selling my stuff,I can confidently say that it is about the equal of anything I remember 11 years ago….When I left the hobby.

To me,it sounds just so damn good that I don’t care if it’s not “Ultra High End’…...because it “is” definitely High End!

No cables/no huge expenses/no multi company repair issues/takes up little space/no worries about storing large LP/CD collections/no shelving/no line conditioners…..etc…

A “Smart Audiophiles Smart System”!

Best wishes to all,

  Mark

Userlevel 7
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!
Userlevel 2
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.
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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).
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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.

 

A “Smart Audiophiles Smart System”!

 

  

One could argue that the first two words in the quote can never go together.

Seriously though, I see two reasons why Sonos isn't an audiophile system, and both have nothing to do with sound quality.

The first is that Sonos just does not look the part to be considered audiophile. Where is the necessary eye candy like backlit VU metres, thick cables, heavy cabinets with massive heat sinks, glowing valves etc.?

The second is that Sonos does not lend itself to tinkering in a way to allows it to be appealing to an equipment hobbyist - once bought and set up, there is no scope for doing anything other than listen to music.

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 3

Have had, and listened to a lot of expensive equipment over a long time. Sonos is far better quality for money than most. Really astonishing quality and value esp Play 5. Especially noticeable with better source quality. (everything sounds average on average/poor source material)  The new Amp is really good. Would agree w dfgiles there are some exceptions - Quad and other electrostats sound quite different, but most people have not got the room to set up electrostats properly, and they sound very different from conventional speakers anyway. Even the 1s are pretty good for size and $.

Sonos has been a game changer for me. You would have to spend a LOT to get something significantly better. 

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Once upon a time, I owned a pair of $10K speakers (Meridian DSP5200). Then I owned a pair of $5K speakers (Devialet Phantom Gold).

Then I bought a Beam. And two One SLs. And a Sub. And a Move. And a bunch of IKEA Symfonisk for lesser rooms.

Then finally I broke down and bought a pair of Play:5s.

Today I bought a second Sub.

I hope I’m done.

I’m happy.

:-)

Had I had the money necessary, I would have certainly flirted with the audiophile market in my youth,
Few have the money in their youth for this hobby; it takes a combination of disposable income and mid life crises to get into this toys for boys thing. You may have missed the fun bits, but you also were able to not descend into the rabbit hole of that Alice in Wonderland world. And most boys outgrow the hobby.

There is a reason why so many great cartoons on audiophile foolishness are out there.
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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.
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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.
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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 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.
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Once upon a time, I owned a pair of $10K speakers (Meridian DSP5200). Then I owned a pair of $5K speakers (Devialet Phantom Gold).

Then I bought a Beam. And two One SLs. And a Sub. And a Move. And a bunch of IKEA Symfonisk for lesser rooms.

Then finally I broke down and bought a pair of Play:5s.

Today I bought a second Sub.

I hope I’m done.

I’m happy.

:-)

I am very interested to know how Play 5’s compare to the much more expensive Devialet. 

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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

Once upon a time, I owned a pair of $10K speakers (Meridian DSP5200). Then I owned a pair of $5K speakers (Devialet Phantom Gold).

Then I bought a Beam. And two One SLs. And a Sub. And a Move. And a bunch of IKEA Symfonisk for lesser rooms.

Then finally I broke down and bought a pair of Play:5s.

Today I bought a second Sub.

I hope I’m done.

I’m happy.

:-)

I am very interested to know how Play 5’s compare to the much more expensive Devialet. 

The Devialet Phantoms…. unreal deep base, bowl dislodging, goes to stupid volume levels, no distortion… the software sucks!

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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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