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One x 2 w/ sub vs Amp w/ Q Acoustic 3020 (or similar)

  • 4 December 2019
  • 21 replies
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I’m excited to switch over to Sonos for our house. I’m trying to figure out what to put in the living room / family room, which would be the place where I’d like the best quality for listening to music. 

With the sale prices at the moment, for about the same money I could put in a stereo pair of Ones with the Sub, or I could put in an Amp with a pair of the highly rated, lower priced wired speakers out there: Q Acoustics 3020i, ELAC Uni-Fi UB5, or something similar.

Anyone do this “similar-total-price” comparison already? What speakers did you use / like with the Amp? Any thoughts on the sound quality you can get with the Ones / Sub vs with the Amp and these speakers or similar ones?

Thanks!

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Best answer by That Guy 6 December 2019, 05:53

After couple of hours of listening, I would have to say, these Sonos One’s are really good speakers and Trueplay really helps correcting my empty office which only holds a desk.

 

I don’t have a sub with these so can’t compare but neither do I with Q Acoustics. But all in all, I am liking these One’s. Q Acoustics seems fixed, I need and have DIY stand for them, whereas the Sonos are small and are able to fit anywhere as long as you can feed power to it. 


So between portability, ability to play lot of online sources and flexibility to place them in any acoustically poor room and still have a good audio, I would recommend over Q Acoustics or some other equivalent speakers.

However, I would have to say Q Acoustics are more precise and have accurate soundstage and are louder undistorted.  

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Based on my experiences I would go the One pair + Sub route; the Sub transforms the sound quality to HiFi levels. But it has to be properly placed, somewhere between the two Ones, as close to the centre as practicable. And Trueplay tuning has to be done. The Ones should also be placed with the same care as you would the speakers you refer to.

But preference for sound from different speakers is subjective, so ideally, I would try both routes at home, with music that is preferred and then decide, getting all the kit on a returnable basis, something that is possible with Sonos in most parts of the world.

The Amp route has one advantage:  the connectivity option that the Amp has via its input jacks - the One pair+ Sub will not offer you that feature.

 

There are also advantages to going the all Sonos route because of its modularity particularly if you will extend its presence to other rooms in future. For instance the 5 pair offers sound quality that is every bit as good as the speakers you name, and with the Sub added, much superior to these, although at a higher price point.

But there is a way to get there in stages - for example get the One pair + Sub just now and in the future replace the One pair with a 5 pair, redeploying the Ones, singly or as a pair, to other rooms.

Or get just the 5 pair now, and you may even find that a Sub isn't necessary to match the sound of the speakers you name. An advantage of this route is that the 5 units have the line in jack feature. And you can add the Sub at a later date for taking things to the next level, though the Sub does not do as much as it does for the One pair, since the 5 units are quite bass capable by themselves.

Which makes a case for adding a 5 pair to the testing exercise I advised.

And I would then go the Amp route only if a much higher class of third party speakers is contemplated. But that would mean a higher up front investment.

Thanks for sharing your experience and ideas. This is very helpful. I’ll start the experiments at home and update here with what I find that might be helpful to others.

I have Q Acoustics 3020 with Vintage Sansui AU217ii Amp. Really crisp, clean and clear sound with this setup.

Now I have just bought the Sonos One in pair, in fact just got it about an hour ago and set them up on top of 3020s and stereo paired them and did trueplay. It’s too early to tell, which are better.

I am using these both for desktop setup so near field. With Q Acoustics, I can pinpoint the different audio and if I am sitting in centre, I have double check behind my laptop screen that there is no centre speaker as the audio seems to come out of the screen dead in the centre. Really nice presentation.

 

With Sonos One’s I don’t seem to find the Centre of it even though they are exactly on top of Q Acoustics. Not sure if this is a good thing or bad. Tureplay makes a huge difference in audio quality. As for the comparison between these two, its too early to tell, need to test them out for at least week or so.

 

If I could Trueplay the Q acoustics, there would be no match ;)

 

One point to note, with Q Acoustics I had the volume set to 20 whereas the Sonos One pair was set to 50 for perceived same level of audio. Means Q Acoustics are lot louder than Sonos Ones and would matter if you intend to use them in large room.

If the One pair without a Sub comes even close to the 3020s I would say this speaks to its sound quality potential. And as I said, a fair comparison of the One pair would be with the Sub bonded to them, which would also address the “ how loud can they go” question discussed further down in this post.

I did not have any trouble getting the phantom centre effect from my 1 pair; perhaps the increased elevation being placed on top of the 3020 pair is coming in the way with phantom centre effects being sensitive to speaker/listener placement.

The volume control conclusion isn't apples for apples - Sonos amps, be they built in or separate ones are known to need higher setting on the level sliders than many integrated amps. This is because Sonos volume controls are architected in a linear manner while many amps have volume controls that deliver a lot of power up front to have the amp feel powerful by sounding loud at low control settings. The correct way to test undistorted loudness if your ears and neighbours can take it is to run the Ones at full volume and see if the Sansui running the speakers at max undistorted levels drives them louder; the Ones go 100% on the volume controls without distortion. And of course, this needs to be done with a Sub bonded to them.

OK, lets leave aside the volume level. Personally for me I have only had Sonos One’s for just over an hour to make any conclusion. But so far so, they do sound good. The portability of Sonos One’s is also a great benefit.

I would be very surprised if you did not also get the phantom centre effect - just another word for stereo soundstage - by playing around with their placement. My experience suggests that this is not so much a speaker design/capability issue as it is one to do with their placement vis a vis the ears, and the mix on the album of course; early stereo albums tended to have a left is left and right is right mix to show off what stereo was, that left a hole in the centre that defeated any attempts to get a sound stage. Stereo recording has matured since those days and much of what is supposed to be in the centre is carried by both channels, so as to deliver that effect of a third speaker in the centre.

I’ve been starting with my testing with the 2xOnes w/ sub, comparing to my MC122 amp playing through old Tannoy 605s. 

Really impressed so far. Curious tho if this makes any sense… I was finding the highs and mid a bit thin with the Ones, somehow less “musical” for me. I turned down the sub audio from 0 setting to -1 while playing around, and found the overall sound much richer — that thin quality disappeared and now the system sounds really great. 

Does the sonos software work in a way that would explain that? I also ran Trueplay again at some point and not sure the order of changes I made. Perhaps that is the difference? And the setup is pretty sensitive to the trueplay run…

thanks 

It is probably more about speaker room interaction and to tweak that is what the EQ controls are there for. If you were able to move from ok to great so early in the test, good for you!

I did find that true play did a lot more for the Sub sound quality than for the 1 units; to the extent that some find the Sub to be too diminished after true play accustomed as they are to bloated bass. After some time though the corrected Sub sounds more natural.

After couple of hours of listening, I would have to say, these Sonos One’s are really good speakers and Trueplay really helps correcting my empty office which only holds a desk.

 

I don’t have a sub with these so can’t compare but neither do I with Q Acoustics. But all in all, I am liking these One’s. Q Acoustics seems fixed, I need and have DIY stand for them, whereas the Sonos are small and are able to fit anywhere as long as you can feed power to it. 


So between portability, ability to play lot of online sources and flexibility to place them in any acoustically poor room and still have a good audio, I would recommend over Q Acoustics or some other equivalent speakers.

However, I would have to say Q Acoustics are more precise and have accurate soundstage and are louder undistorted.  

Thanks all. Hmmm, my finger accidentally hit the check mark icon on one of the posts and now it says “answered.” Don’t see any way to correct that, so please just ignore - would like to continue the conversation...

 

However, I would have to say Q Acoustics are more precise and have accurate soundstage and are louder undistorted.  

That isn't a surprise; it is not easy to overcome the sheer physics of a large speaker box volume. 

But for a price point comparison, the apples to apples one is to compare them with a One pair + Sub. Because the Qs need an amp to drive them which equates the price points.

The Sub subtly cleans up the sound from the Ones once the bass delivery requirement is taken away from them, as well as adding bass depth and richness by virtue of the much large enclosure/power of the Sub. 

whereas the Sonos are small and are able to fit anywhere as long as you can feed power to it. 

 

While that certainly is a big advantage, casual placement does take away from the sound quality the Ones can deliver if placed on floor or desktop stands, lavishing the same care on placement as one would on any passive “HiFi” speaker.

Do that, add a Sub equally well spaced, run True play and the set up will hold its own against many a amp + speaker pair set up. At about the same price point. 

Actually the Sub does something else - it prevents the music from sounding thin at low volume levels. To the extent that for such listening, a One pair + Sub would sound better than the Q or even 5 pair. Counter intuitive to what one usually supposes a Sub would be useful for.

 

However, I would have to say Q Acoustics are more precise and have accurate soundstage and are louder undistorted.  

That isn't a surprise; it is not easy to overcome the sheer physics of a large speaker box volume. 

But for a price point comparison, the apples to apples one is to compare them with a One pair + Sub. Because the Qs need an amp to drive them which equates the price points.

The Sub subtly cleans up the sound from the Ones once the bass delivery requirement is taken away from them, as well as adding bass depth and richness by virtue of the much large enclosure/power of the Sub. 

Oh! Sonos One in Pair cost me AUD $500, Q acoustics cost me AUD $350 + AUD $200 for the Vintage amp. So if I were to add a Sonos Sub which is at AUD $999, I might as well move to Kef LSX range. :grin:

That is because Sonos is sold at silly prices in Australia, relative to other kit. See the second para of the first OP post.

That is because Sonos is sold at silly prices in Australia. 

Along with everything. :rolling_eyes:

There is also another approach to a great set up on a budget that incorporates Sonos at the front end.

If one has access to the used HiFi gear market, very good kit can be bought for a song thanks to the audiophiles that are trapped on the upgrading treadmill. Add a Sonos Port to the inputs of the amp; job done.

And if one only wants music in one room, even Sonos isn't necessary anymore. Wire even an Echo Dot/Input to the inputs of the amp, and you have all the internet music services at voice command, or, where Amazon Music is concerned, via a smartphone user interface as well.

Using this route, USD 1000 can fetch a very substantial stereo set up.

That’s actually where I started with this process. I have a McIntosh MC122 amp which is great. My plan was to add a Port to that and call it a day for the LR / FR, then add some Ones around the house in other rooms. But then I started thinking about how well my old Tannoy speakers are serving me. The system together has a great open, musical sound for more “sparse” music - Jason Isbell, Norah Jones, Nanci Griffith, etc., which is most of what I listen to. But for music with more pace, more attack, more bass then the sound gets muddier. I also have a room layout where optimal placement of traditional bookshelf speakers is tough. Playing with the stereo Ones got me curious what I might be able to get if I  switched everything out, without spending a fortune and still having the one network music solution for the house. So far can't say the 2xOnes w/ Sub is a clear winner over my old set up, but as I play with it I seem to be getting a really nice sound for a broader range of music, with the added benefits of no wires and flexibility for where I put the system in the room. 

The mc122 and the tannoys are great music makers, I am sure. Have you explored adding a quality sub to this set up to give it more go for the music that needs it?

And a quote from a review of the Tannoy that may be of interest:

I tried out the Tannoy 605s when they first arrived and was impressed by what I heard, so the rather indifferent response of the blind listening panel (self included) was disappointing. Had the panel got it wrong, or had I fooled myself in the first place?

Neither, as it turned out after a couple of hours of hands-on experimentation. What let the 605 down in the listening tests turned out to be the stand on which it was used — specifically a variation on Tannoy’s matching heavily damped central-pillar design, which somehow slowed and time-smeared the pace and the bass.

Great thought on adding a sub to the existing MC122 and Tannoy set up. I might explore that.

I have my 605s on the company stands - but not sure the last time I looked to see if the sand is still filled properly… need to check that.

Thanks

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