One play 5 plus Sub vs two plays


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I’ve seen the threads talking about two play ones and a sub, and I love my play ones. But I bought a play 5 and I love that too, but not as much as the ones bang for the buck.
Now, I’m debating on either buying a sub or another play 5.
I’ve read only good things about the sub, but another play 5 would be cheaper , I know it’s good and I could use it in stereo.
So, what do you think? Buy a sub to use with a single play 5 or buy another play 5?
Which would you recommend?

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35 replies

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I have them all and I can tell you for music 2 5s are better than a 5 and a sub. You have stereo and plenty of base with 2 5s. I think the sub shines more for tv with the playbar/playbase or even the beam. The sub has amazed me when watching a movie but not so much when listening to music.
The Sub does add value to a 5, but it duplicates a lot of what the 5 has already. With a single 5, adding another for stereo sound is the way to go.

IMO, for music, Sub makes most sense added to a 1/One pair. These units do not have the Sub capability and the Sub therefore does not steal any value from them, as it does from a 5.
Placement is not critical for movies, where the low bass effects cannot be located by ear, so it does not matter much where they come from. But for music to integrate well across the Sub and the play units, I have found that the Sub needs to be in the same plane as the speakers, and not to one side of either speaker, but somewhere between the two.

Which isn't to say that a convenient placement won't work, but I would definitely not commit to that, or a Sub investment without trying it out.

I know that Sonos claims that Trueplay is a magic bullet that allows speakers to be placed anywhere, but I think there is a lot of marketing speak in that. Nothing beats getting placement as right as possible, so that Trueplay is tasked with just the final tweaking of sound for best results.

As to the bass from the 5 units, I suspect that the speakers don't do this as well as they ought to, at low volume levels. Something that the Sub does very well. The other thing that the Sub does well is when very loud sound levels are needed. The 5 units seem to do well in a range - from perhaps 40% to 80% of the volume sliders, and outside this range, need a Sub for best results.
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My 2 cents, I'd rather have stereo sound over extra bass.
IMO, for the best music experience considering what you have already, the One pair + Sub. Trueplay them once set up and bonded. In all but large listening spaces, this is an audiophile grade set up. Your one pair will move very noticeably to a higher level with the Sub added, much more noticeably so than when the Sub is added to one/two 5 units.
Keep the single 5 for use in smaller spaces/closer listening distances like kitchens/small dining room. It will serve very well as a standalone speaker in such places. Or even to take to the patio if you have one - just remember to not leave it out there overnight in poor weather.
You don't need to spend any more money if budgets don't permit; Sonos can be addictive and music enjoyment should not be allowed to be affected by the chase for more kit.

But if you are looking to get another 5 at this time, I would instead get a Sub and move the 5 to the bedroom. And given the size of the spend, this is best done on a returnable basis though I doubt you will be able to surrender the Sub once you see what it does to music play from the one pair.

The one pair + Sub would sound better than a 5 pair without one. Even at low level listening, where the Sub allows the music to still sound rich. On the other hand, in a smaller space like the bedroom, the single 5 may be just as adequate as a one pair. And that is something you can evaluate even today with the kit you have.
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Newbie reply : I had a single Play5 in a large family area. Got another Play5 and rearranged for a Stereo Setup. I do not play at high volumes (around 40% most of the time) and had to be in the sweet spot to really hear any good Bass.

Ordered a Sub on a returnable basis to pair it with the Play5:Stereo and the moment I set it up I knew the Sub was not going back! I could still play at 40% volume and the bass was so much more audible from anywhere in the room. It also seemed to help throw the mid's and high's around rather than just at the sweet spot.
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Placement is not critical for movies, where the low bass effects cannot be located by ear, so it does not matter much where they come from. But for music to integrate well across the Sub and the play units, I have found that the Sub needs to be in the same plane as the speakers, and not to one side of either speaker, but somewhere between the two.

Which isn't to say that a convenient placement won't work, but I would definitely not commit to that, or a Sub investment without trying it out.

I know that Sonos claims that Trueplay is a magic bullet that allows speakers to be placed anywhere, but I think there is a lot of marketing speak in that. Nothing beats getting placement as right as possible, so that Trueplay is tasked with just the final tweaking of sound for best results.

As to the bass from the 5 units, I suspect that the speakers don't do this as well as they ought to, at low volume levels. Something that the Sub does very well. The other thing that the Sub does well is when very loud sound levels are needed. The 5 units seem to do well in a range - from perhaps 40% to 80% of the volume sliders, and outside this range, need a Sub for best results.


Absolutely agree Kumar, I found the sub with my Play5:Stereo really makes a difference at the lower volumes. Unfortunately I have the sub underneath the left speaker as its not possible to play in the middle of the two or anywhere else.
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Thanks, Tom, my sentiment exactly, especially as the Play 5 has plenty of bass. But there are so many who swear by the sub. Now, can anyone tell me from their experience with a play 5 and sub vs two play 5s?
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Thanks, Nando, that's what I thought too. It's just that all the stellar reviews, saying how the sub adds another dimension to the sound and frees up the play 5 for the midrange, made me consider it
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Thank you Flare and, again, Kumar
I've seen this before, yet I find it curious. Two play 5s should have more than enough bass by themselves, yet anyone who has added a sub to them, say it's way better
Hence the decision to get a sub
Kumar is right, I think I'll try my Sonos ones and add the sub.
I had initially planned to place them on the side walls
And the sub somewhere in the room, not in the centre
Does placement really make all the difference? As Kumar has said, with space from the walls and the sub in the centre? I don't know how I can place the sub in the centre as it would be in the way of so many things, despite my living room being 15x 20
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Sorry to intrude BxVelocity. I started with a Playbar + Sub and a Play5. Within a week added a Play3 for my Home Office. After several months added another Play5 for Stereo, then 2 days later the Sub!

Today I just completed my setup with 3 x Play One's for the bedrooms.
What's an "average" listener?

I've got 2 5.1 setups, 2 PLAY:3s, 2 PLAY:5 Gen 2, 1 PLAY:5 gen 1, 3 PLAY:1s, and 2 Sonos Ones. Oh, and a BRIDGE.
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Wow, that's a lot of replies!

By average, I meant, what's the average spend by a Sonos user within a year? I thought I was overdoing this, but I guess I'm not spending that much after reading these replies.

Flare, you're not intruding at all, your comments only aid the thread and thank you for them.

So, to summarize:

Most agree that stereo placement of either two play 5s or play ones is worth the cost

Some say the sub is a worthy addition to anything, though most agree it has most value with play 1 s

Not many seem to get the play 3...

I was reading another interesting thread about Sonos boost as I noticed that my phone can't control the speakers in the kitchen.. I was reading about boost and then discovered, just plugging in a relatively cheap play 1 into the router is basically the same as getting a Sonos boost and creating a dedicated Sonos mesh network, so, that's what I'll try next

I'll place two Ones in the bedroom for stereo, shift my bedroom play one to the study for Sonos boost and music there

I'll end with another play 5 for the living room for stereo and added bass.. I think I'll avoid the Sub for now.

What do you think, Kumar?
The 5 will give you a stereo image that sounds like a live gig on a stage, but only if you are sitting close to it. Stereo is an illusion created in the brain when the left and right channels and you are the corners of a triangle with equal sides; with a single 5, since the distance between left and right speakers is limited, so is the listening distance that will yield this illusion. With 2 speakers, they can be placed as far apart from each other as you are from each, so the stereo image illusion can be heard from much further away. With good stereo recordings, the difference between one speaker and two is night and day.

But you can check this for yourself with the one units you have - except that a single one will never be stereo, always summed mono. Even so, you will get a fair idea of how stereo sounds much better.
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Tom, no offence taken, none at all!
Definitely friends!
In a well recorded/mixed stereo performance, the left channel will contain music from the left of the stage and some from the centre. And the other way for the right. Because both speakers put forth music from the centre of the stage, when the stereo illusion snaps into place, the music - usually voices - from the centre of the stage appears to come from between the two speakers although there is no speaker there, with the orchestra or other music players placed to the left or right of centre.

In my desktop set up in the picture attached as an example, poorly recorded stereo results in the trumpet heard from the left and the sax from the right, with a hole in the centre of the image. But with well recorded stereo, music floats forth from behind the laptop as well, even though there is no speaker there. With the rest of the stereo stage on either side of centre, from one speaker to the other.

If I wanted the same effect to be heard 10 feet away from the speakers, the speakers would have to be kept 10 feet apart as well. Otherwise placed as they are, the more I move away from them, the more the sound from the two will appear to come from one source/speaker - and therefore sound mono.

Not having heard the 5 units with the source you are feeding it, I don't know what is happening. I do know that bass below 80hz cannot be traced by human ears to where it is coming from, so I would not expect bass of such frequencies to sound as if it is coming from the centre - it should be appear as from " somewhere in the room".

I have a Play:3 and they claim it has stereo sound, but I don't get any impression of stereo from it at all. The drivers are just way too close together. Curious to know if the Play:5 is any better.
To get the stereo effect from the 3 you would have to hold it close to your face, about as close as the width of the unit. Useless in practice.

The 5 has a larger enclosure, and angled tweeters, so the illusion should be present some distance away - 6 feet or so, I guess. But much more than that and it too would collapse to a mono image even with the angled tweeters which may give an expansive effect though not exactly the stereo illusion obtained at closer distances. I only played with one for a few hours, so there is that caveat.
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Thanks Kumar.
Thing is, I've also bought a pair of ones. The plan was to use it for stereo until all the play 5 reviews induced me to get the play 5.
Now, what about using the Sonos ones in stereo with the play 5 alone, or adding a sub?
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Thanks Kumar,
I was warming up to just using the ones with the play 5 or maybe getting another play 5@500$, and moving the one pair to the bedroom (15x15)
This would mean my getting a 700$ sub and using my fantastic play 5 elsewhere... Is the sub really that good? I know you have one, it's just that the play 5 bass is good enough for me, but maybe I don't know what I'm missing?
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" The one pair + Sub would sound better than a 5 pair without one"
I thought the five pair would be stellar
Kumar , this is what I've been looking for, many thanks, am going to get the Sub... It costs more, but now I have the justification!

BTW: how are you sure of this?
Have you heard both configurations?

In any case-
Many thanks!
Austin
No, I haven't, but I have heard enough other make Sub plus small satellite speaker combinations to make an intelligent guess, and have added that experience to other member reports here that rank different Sonos combinations. In all of the latter that I have read, the one pair + Sub is beaten only by a 5 pair + Sub. But even if I had heard the 5 pair, I would still say what I said about buying on a returnable basis, which facility Sonos and many Sonos retailers do provide. Nothing can beat the evidence of your ears, in your home.

Pay enough attention to speaker placement. Try to have the stereo speakers at the same distance from each other as they are from the listening areas, leave a couple of feet between them and room walls/corners, and place the Sub somewhere between the two speakers. Ideally at the centre, but close to it also works quite well. Finally, do the Trueplay thing and tweak the Sub output levels - I have mine a little to the right of centre - to get the bass presence you like.
That isn't a surprise; the 5 pair + Sub is the top of the line Sonos speaker offering for music, at the top of the line price. But the 1 pair + Sub comes closer to it than what its much lower price point would suggest, and does much of what you describe with the 1 units as well.
And as far as Austin is concerned, he can alway get himself a 5 for Christmas, use the Sub with the 5 pair, and move the 1 pair to his bedroom:-).

It isn't something I would do though; in my book, there isn't the return in line with the additional spend needed for a 5 pair + Sub, compared to the 1 pair + Sub, particularly with the play 1 units now marked down to USD 300 for a pair. But there remains that option for him.

There is also the advantage in a single 5 of being able to easily move it from one room to another when needed, and still get very decent sound at such times as well.
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