Question

Prospective Sonos Playbase + Play 1 buyer looking for opinions (with crudely drawn diagrams!)

  • 17 February 2018
  • 17 replies
  • 1079 views

Hello all,

I've been looking to upgrade my home sound system as I currently have a cheap 2.1 soundbar/sub from Monoprice that I got for ~$40. After doing more research, I'm considering going for a 5.0 (5.1?) setup, with a Playbase + 2 x rear speakers, of which I'm gravitating towards the Play 1s. That said, I had a few questions I was hoping to get opinions on.

For context, I primarily use my TV for gaming, but it would be nice to be able to play music/podcasts in my dining/kitchen area (it's an open floor plan style great room) too. I had a few concerns I was hoping to get opinions on

Below is a poorly drawn diagram of my living room/dining room/kitchen layout. I should also mention that, since its an A-Frame style house, I have very high ceilings, 20-25 ft .



My concerns:

1.) Would the Playbase + 2 x rear speakers be enough, given the space of the room? Again, I also have very high ceilings, 20-25 feet high. Right now buying the sub would be out of my price range as the base + 2 x Play 1s put me at the top of my budget, but I know that I could always invest in a sub later on down the road if necessary.

2.) I'm concerned about the placement and distance of the rear speakers. My plan is to wall mount them since I don't really have any other place to put them, but I realize they will be slightly off center to the base/couch and a good 10-12 feet back from the couch. On the plus side, having a couple of speakers nearish the kitchen would be great for podcasts/music while cooking.


Thanks again!

This topic has been closed for further comments. You can use the search bar to find a similar topic, or create a new one by clicking Create Topic at the top of the page.

17 replies

Userlevel 7
Hi fuzzypickles06

Given your room size and high ceiling I'd consider placing the Play 1's in the positon I've indicated in Red. Any surround source material would be lost to the ear...wall mounted in the rear as shown. I'll also include a link to stands you can purchase for the Play'1's other than those shown on the Sonos site (for comparison).

You might consider the new Sonos One which is identical to the Play 1's size but adds Alexa voice assistant. They're on sale as a pair via Sonos direct.

Also, both the Play 1 and Sonos One automatically switch to full on speakers when playing music. So with the Playbase and Play 1 or Sonos One you'll have room filling sound when music is played. Later you might consider one or two more Sonos speakers placed where you feel the sound degrades.

Hope this helps! Cheers!

Sonos One Stand
https://www.worldwidestereo.com/products/flexson-floor-stand-for-sonos-one-each

Play 1 Stand
https://www.worldwidestereo.com/products/sonos-play-1-all-in-one-wireless-music-system-with-flexson-floorstand-bundle-white-play1wflob
Hi fuzzypickles06

Given your room size and high ceiling I'd consider placing the Play 1's in the positon I've indicated in Red. Any surround source material would be lost to the ear...wall mounted in the rear as shown. I'll also include a link to stands you can purchase for the Play'1's other than those shown on the Sonos site (for comparison).

You might consider the new Sonos One which is identical to the Play 1's size but adds Alexa voice assistant. They're on sale as a pair via Sonos direct.

Also, both the Play 1 and Sonos One automatically switch to full on speakers when playing music. So with the Playbase and Play 1 or Sonos One you'll have room filling sound when music is played. Later you might consider one or two more Sonos speakers placed where you feel the sound degrades.

Hope this helps! Cheers!

Sonos One Stand
https://www.worldwidestereo.com/products/flexson-floor-stand-for-sonos-one-each

Play 1 Stand
https://www.worldwidestereo.com/products/sonos-play-1-all-in-one-wireless-music-system-with-flexson-floorstand-bundle-white-play1wflob


Thanks so much AjTrek! Your response made me go research 5.1 speaker placement -- I had a very wrong conception of how "rear" speakers worked in a 5.1 setup.

Unfortunately, I don't really have a good spot to place the rear speakers, and would like to avoid free floating stands to put them in the spot you have indicated, so I think I'm going to stick for a setup with just the playbase for now.

One last question if you don't mind: I still would like to someday place a couple speakers on by dining room wall (as shown in my original diagram) for music/podcasts in the kitchen area. It would be nice to have these speakers outputting stereo sound from the TV as well for football games and the like (basically not acting as rear speakers), but from my research it seems they would need to be "grouped" separately which would introduce some latency and create a "stadium effect".

So my question: if I had two speakers on the dining room wall per my original diagram grouped with the soundbase acting as "rear" speakers, would the sound quality from the couch/seating area when watching TV be worse than if I had no rear speakers (just the playbase)? It seems it would be easiest to just group them together, but if its going to result in a worse mix for people in the couch/seating area, I wouldn't want to do that.

Hope this make sense, and thanks again for your help!
Userlevel 7
Hi fuzzypickles06

Yes it's possible to place two speakers on the rear wall and group them to your Playbase. As you said you may get a stadium effect. However, when speakers are grouped the volume can be changed simultaneously for all speakers or individually by group all within the Sonos App.

So you could inside the Sonos App lower the volume of the Playbase while keeping the sound of the rear speakers at your desired level when you' re in the kitchen/dining room area. Using the TV remote to control volume in this instance would lower/raise volume for all speakers. The only time you might notice a delay is if watching the lips of a person while the sound is only coming from the rear speakers; as you cannot lip-sync the rears as you can with the Playbase.

Hope this helps. Cheers!
Hi fuzzypickles06

Yes it's possible to place two speakers on the rear wall and group them to your Playbase. As you said you may get a stadium effect. However, when speakers are grouped the volume can be changed simultaneously for all speakers or individually by group all within the Sonos App.

So you could inside the Sonos App lower the volume of the Playbase while keeping the sound of the rear speakers at your desired level when you' re in the kitchen/dining room area. Using the TV remote to control volume in this instance would lower/raise volume for all speakers. The only time you might notice a delay is if watching the lips of a person while the sound is only coming from the rear speakers; as you cannot lip-sync the rears as you can with the Playbase.

Hope this helps. Cheers!


Thanks again AJTrek, this is very helpful. This raises a couple final questions for me if you don't mind:

1.- is it possible to group the rear speakers with the Playbase so that they play in full for music/podcasts but are just off when watching TV? Basically, I would just have a stereo setup but the speakers also kick on for music/podcasts?

2.- would adding the rear speakers for TV at that distance end up with a worse sounding experience than if I had no rear speakers at all (just stereo from the playbase)? Given that some or most of the fidelity of the rear speakers could potentially be lost at that distance, am I going to end up with a worse sounding mix by adding the additional rear speakers?

Thanks so much again, you have been a huge help!
Userlevel 7
Thanks again AJTrek, this is very helpful. This raises a couple final questions for me if you don't mind:

1.- is it possible to group the rear speakers with the Playbase so that they play in full for music/podcasts but are just off when watching TV? Basically, I would just have a stereo setup but the speakers also kick on for music/podcasts?

Please understand that stadium effect is not a universal anomaly for Sonos. Stadium Affect for TV broadcasts depends upon the material being transmitted. It may or not occur. There is no Stadium Affect that I have observed when speakers in the same room are grouped for music. That's the beauty of a Sonos whole- house system.

You can group and ungroup as you please. Theoretically, when ungrouped you can play a TV broadcast on the Playbar and a music genre on the rear speakers or Jazz on the Playbar and Country Western on the rear speakers in both scenarios simultaneously. Of course you can play one set of Sonos speakers while the other plays nothing.

Even though the speakers (Playbar and rears) are in the same general area you must name then as individual rooms. Note: Most likely you'll have the rears as a stereo pair which means both speakers would appear under the room.

The rear speakers will always play FULL as you are foregoing setting them as surrounds.

2.- would adding the rear speakers for TV at that distance end up with a worse sounding experience than if I had no rear speakers at all (just stereo from the playbase)? Given that some or most of the fidelity of the rear speakers could potentially be lost at that distance, am I going to end up with a worse sounding mix by adding the additional rear speakers?

All that I've presented is theory based upon probability. You can only determine the exact affect through actual setup. If I were to guess I'd say no when the rears are in Full mode. Any sound will fade the further you mover away. Most likely when you are in the kit/dining area and all speakers are playing the same source the rears will appear dominant the opposite will occur as you move closer to the Playbase.

Something I failed to mention before...my apologies. You can always set the rears as surround initially and decide for yourself if the surround material disappears to a point that setting them as surrounds provides no benefit. If the surround material is to your liking then you may leave them as such and set them to switch to FULL-ON speakers in the Sonos when playing music (the switch will occur automatically based upon the source material). However, when set as surrounds you would have remove them as surrounds before you could play them independently of the Playbase and repeat the process to bring them back as surrounds.

Sonos does make a Play 3 and Play 5 which provide more volume for surround in situations such as yours. However, the wall mounts for each is different which would make for permanent mars to the wall surface making experimentation a bit messy. The only way to the A/B testing would to install a 6' (H) x 6' (W) x 2' (D) shelving nook or similar piece of furniture The limitations for surrounds vs. separates as mentioned before still apply.


Thanks so much again, you have been a huge help!
My layout is rather similar to yours, except swap the kitchen and dining room. I opted to place the speakers on the back wall as well, understanding that I won't get quite the same sound effect when on my couch, but will get a better experience for music sources.

On your most recent questions...
1 - Yes. You would setup the playbase as one zone and the other speakers as a separate zone stereo pair. They really wouldn't be rear speakers in that scenario. If you go this route though, you might want to put the speakers in your kitchen area instead of in the dining room. You might get better coverage over the whole area if you did this. That said though, I've never had an issue with coverage in my setup. I just like being able to place the speakers on the kitchen counter, top of the fridge, instead of on stands or on the wall.

2 - No, I don't think so. I actually found it rather odd when I was in my kitchen (dining room in your case) behind the surround speakers. After moving them to the back wall, I felt like the entire room was covered. I will say though that tv audio may sound a little odd when in the dining room facing away from the tv, towards the surrounds. But that isn't likely to happen. You may also find that you like the music audio better in your dining room then in your living room.

As I'm writing this though, I'm thinking perhaps the best of both worlds would be to have 2 pairs of play:1s, one for the surrounds behind the couch and one pair for music in the kitchen/dining area. A good excuse to buy more sonos gear perhaps.
Thank you both again. I think I am leaning towards just mounting the speakers on the back (dining area) wall and try them in surround mode with the playbase. I'm now wondering though if, given the distance and use, it would make sense to splurge for play 3s rather than play1s.



2 - No, I don't think so. I actually found it rather odd when I was in my kitchen (dining room in your case) behind the surround speakers. After moving them to the back wall, I felt like the entire room was covered. I will say though that tv audio may sound a little odd when in the dining room facing away from the tv, towards the surrounds. But that isn't likely to happen. You may also find that you like the music audio better in your dining room then in your living room.


melvimbe -- if you don't mind me asking, do you use play 1s as your rear speakers? Also, do you think overall the audio quality is better with the rear surround (even at a distance) than if you just had a stereo (no rear speakers) setup?
I actually use play:3s as my rear speakers. However, this wasn't exactly my choice. When I bought my house, the previous owner threw in the sonos speakers (playbar and sub too) with the deal (lucky me). I did not have any play:1s at that time to use as rears, so just went with the play:3s. The common thought around here is that play:3s are overkill for surround and I agree with that. I have since got a pair of play:1s for my bedroom, which is rather large, and love it. I do particularly like having the play:3s when playing music and wouldn't trade them out for 1s...but I don't think the 3s are worth twice the cost myself.

As far as your other question, yes, I do think the rear speakers make a significant difference. A while back I had some wireless issues where the rear speakers would stop playing every now and then, and I could clearly hear the difference. I might even say that it makes the tv audio particularly better when you are in the kitchen or dining area.

And obviously, you can go with just the playbase now and add more later.
Userlevel 7
Even though you didn't ask me :8....the following statement IMO is in conflict as I believe you are trying to equate Surround sound with normal audio (stereo for music):

"do you think overall the audio quality is better with the rear surround (even at a distance) than if you just had a stereo (no rear speakers) setup?"

Think of Surround sound as background material that supplements the foreground. For example you're watching a helicopter fly toward you on screen. In real life you'd hear the helicopter in 3 positions (theoretically) :

_In front (sound gets gradually louder)
_Overhead (sound is at its loudest
_Behind (sound gradually fades)

In real life the helicopter sounds would blur together with no real separation and that is what Surround material simulates. The front speakers handle the In front and Overhead by getting progressively louder and the rear speakers handle the Behind with a progressive fade. Hopefully you see my point which is that the rear speakers should never equal the out-put or overall clarity of the fronts in a surround setup.

In stereo mode for music you are basically listening to the same material. The only difference being that the front speakers may be bigger and capable of more defined detail than the smaller rears. The Playbase has 10 drivers as opposed to only 2 drivers in the Play 1 and 3 drivers in the Play 3.

So yes, the Play 3's will play louder in all situations vs. the Play 1's. Play 5's will equal a Playbase in Full speaker mode but are mostly overkill in surround mode; but may deliver better sound over a longer distance when in surround mode.

In short you would not want a pair of Play 5's as surrounds sitting on either side of your couch as you'd most likely have to turn them down in order to get a balanced surround effect.

Assuming you can purchase from a retail or on-line store with a liberal return policy I suggest you audition a set of Play 3's and a set of Sonos One's with Alexa in stereo pair at either end of your dining room table. You can only bond one set of speakers to the Playbase at a time. Set them as surrounds to test and play with them as FULL on speakers a well. Lastly, break the surround bond and listen to them just as Stereo pairs for music. That should help you make your decision. Note: You cannot together set a Play 3 and Sonos One as a stereo pair.

FYI, I use a Playbar with Sub and Play 3's as surrounds but they sit on either side of my two theater chairs. I have a separate setup for music which is 2 Play 5's with sub. I also have a set of Sonos One's in stereo pair in the rear that I only use in party mode (Full up) in conjunction with my Play 5's or as background music (dinner party) or as ambient (smooth jazz) for my Cocker Spaniel when I'm at work.

Good Luck and Cheers!
I think AJTrek1 and I are pretty much in agreement here. I interpreted "a stereo (no rear speakers) setup" to mean a playbase/playbar only. IMO getting rear speakers is worth it, whether you intend to please the speakers a foot or 10 feet behnd the living room sitting area.

I also agree that trying out p:3s o p:1s isn't a bad idea if the options fit within your budget.
This has all been very insightful, and the personal testimonials helps quite a bit!

For the record, what I was asking (should have clarified better), is would soundbase only potentially sound better than soundbase + 2 x rear speakers at ~10ft back in surround mode. Some of this comes purely from my unfamiliarity/ignorance, but my worry is that by adding the rear speakers at a distance I would somehow get an inferior mix that sounded overall worse than if the playbase was by itself.

Judging by the testimonials it sounds like that's not the case, so I feel as though I will add a couple rear speakers, and just need to decide between Play 1s or Play 3s
Userlevel 7
Hi fuzzypickles06

Just to be clear and I think melvimbe would agree...adding surround speakers (or rears if you prefer) would never degrade the sound of the Playbase. All I'm saying is that the further in the rear surrounds are located at some point you'll have diminishing returns reference the surround material. Be that as it may if it came to the aforementioned you could remove the speakers as surrounds and use them as full on speakers that can be grouped with the Playbase to extend the fidelity of music which is another use for the Play 1 and/or Play 3 (in stereo pair or as separates). Of course the Play 1 and Play 3 make excellent speakers all by themselves.

One last tid-bit of info:

_When speakers are used as surrounds with a Playbase/Playbar it's called Bonding.
_When speakers are used in conjunction with a Playbase/Playbar or any other Sonos speaker not of the same room name it's called Grouping.
_There is a difference between a Play 1 and Sonos One_ although almost identical in form and sound the latter comes with a variant of Alexa voice asssitant. I use the term variant because not all Alexa skills are enabled on the Sonos One.

Cheers!
Hi again guys -- after your terrific insights (and a trip to a Best Buy to demo), I've ultimately decided on the Playbase + 2 x Play:3s mounted on my dining area wall per my original diagram. Seeing how I was most of the way there already, I decided to go all in and pickup the Sub too. Needless to say, I'm very excited to start getting things set up.

I did have one final question though -- do either of you have any recommendation on how I orient my Play:3s on the wall (vertical or horizontal)? After some reading I'm leaning towards vertical, but was curious if anyone has any opinions given my layout and super high ceilings (20-25ft)?

I actually made a new topic for this, but haven't gotten any responses yet: https://en.community.sonos.com/ask-a-question-228987/wall-mounted-play-3s-vertical-or-horizontal-layout-diagram-included-6803260
Userlevel 7
Hello Again.

Great to hear that you are going all in (i.e. Playbase/Sub/Play 3's)!

The Play 3's can be mounted in Vertical or Horizontal position as surrounds. I use a vertical positioning for compactness. As yours will be up and on a wall the choice for you is more aesthetic They will auto-convert to stereo pair when music is the source. Know that when in surround configuration you cannot isolate surrounds from the Playbase to just play a podcast or music on their own (meaning you cannot select them as a named room) Here's a link on surround setup.

https://sonos.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/2938/kw/surround

Cheers!
Agreed that it's a matter of aesthetics. I think it's more important to make sure the speakers are pointed at the primary listening area. Given your diagram and assuming you plan on mounting these high up on the wall, the speakers should be pointed slightly inward and downward...towards the couch. It would probably sound better if the speakers were placed 5-6 ft from the floor, but that may not look good to you, and the sound difference probably isn't worth it. But it's up to you...
Hi again guys -- after your terrific insights (and a trip to a Best Buy to demo), I've ultimately decided on the Playbase + 2 x Play:3s mounted on my dining area wall per my original diagram. Seeing how I was most of the way there already, I decided to go all in and pickup the Sub too. Needless to say, I'm very excited to start getting things set up

Hi @fuzzypicles06 - it's been a year now, how did you get on with your setup? I'm sure you've tried a few things with bonding and grouping of your speakers. How would you answer your own questions now? I'm interested to hear as I have a very similar room...
Just as a note, the PLAY:3s are no longer in production (at least, you can't buy them anywhere, including Sonos' website, unless that have stock left over).