SONOS Upgrade

I am a plug and play type of person, certainly no audiotechnophile (technoauddiophile?), but would like to think that I know what sounds good to my ear. I listen to many different genres, from Gregorian chants to classical Rennaissance, reggae to alt rock. I am thinking of upgrading my current SONOS 3 2-speaker system and would like some help from the community. Should I go with SONOS speakers? A subwoofer? Playbar? Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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21 replies

Well said. I'm sticking with wif. Will update once I get the gen 5s.
Add a Sonos Sub to the 3 pair you have.
My apologies. I (accidentally) came across the specs for my system and it seems I already have a pair of 5s with the bridge. I guess the newer model looks different than the older one I have. Assuming that my 5s are the equivalent to the most recent 5s, at least in terms of sound quality, would you still go with the sub?
Hmmm. Problem is that you can't set up a gen 1 and a gen 2 Play:5 as a stereo pair. Assuming they're in the same room (and maybe grouped?), I'd probably pick up a second gen 2, and then pair the two of them. And then put the Gen 1 in another room. But if they're in separate rooms, then Kumar's right, go for the SUB, and put it in the room you listen to music the most in.
then Kumar's right, go for the SUB,
Actually, not so with the recent clarification that OP has a first gen 5 pair. The new 5 units are much better than the old 5, but the old 5 units are better than the 3 units, with a built in subwoofer, so adding a Sub to them isn't so easy to recommend.

I would now suggest a 1 pair + Sub or a current model 5 pair at about the same price point. With the bonus in both cases of releasing the old 5 units for up to two additional rooms/zones.

Which of the two alternatives to choose becomes a subjective thing. I have heard the new 5 unit, singly, only for a little while. With that caveat, my recommendation is 1 pair + Sub that I have used extensively.
Oh, I misread that as a single gen 1 and a gen 2. My apologies.
OK. Let's see if I've got this straight. I assume that the latest sub is compatible with gen 1 5 speakers. But I don't need a sub since the gen 1 5s have built-in subs. I have no idea what makes a good vs not so good subwoofer(size, power, material?) but it would seem that a unit dedicated as a sub would be better than a sub in a speaker. However, now, if I want music in another room, I just unplug the speakers and move them. A sub would make that more difficult. I can't pair my gen 1 5s with any gen 2 speakers and create my own personal Quadrophenia (sorry). Are gen 1 speakers still available? Or are the gen 2 5s an improvement over gen 1 5s to the extent that it would be worth the investment. Am I overthinking this? A pair of gen 2 1s with a sub is sort of attractive. Everyone's help is greatly appreciated.
Heh. Both Kumar and I are opinionated, and sometimes even agree on some things :)

Yes, the SUB is compatible with Play:5 gen 1. Or any speaker Sonos sells.

Yes, moving a SUB is a pain, because it's heavy. Other than that, though, it's just a power cord to unplug and plug back in.

You can't pair a Play:5 gen 1 with a Play:5 gen 2. There are no other gen 2 speakers. You can't pair any speakers that aren't the same kind for stereo, but you can group them (two or more mono speakers playing the same thing)

Play: 5 gen 1 speakers are available on the used market. I'm not aware of any stores that would carry them. I occasionally look at eBay, as I wouldn't mind a second gen 1 for my house.

It is generally said in these boards that the Play:5 gen 2 is a significant step up in sound from the Play:5 gen 1. People who have listened to both have claimed that it is, I don't have the experience myself.

Subjectively, is it worth getting a pair of Play:5 gen 2 to replace your Play:5 gen 1, and get a stereo pair? I can't say. I suspect it depends on how deep your pockets are, and how much you dislike your Play:5 gen 1. As I type this, I'm listening to Tangerine Dream on my Play:5 gen 1, and I can say I'm quite happy with mine....just want a pair for stereo while sitting at the computer 🙂

I do have a pair of SUBs, both of them are connected to a Playbar, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, for movie and TV experiences. I also listen to music on the Living room 5.1 setup, and am pretty happy with it, given that I set the surrounds to Full rather than Ambient. But much of the music I listen to isn't heavy on the bass. Most of my taste runs to stuff from the 70s and earlier, jazz and classical. I also listen to the stereo pair of Play:1s in my kitchen while eating, and don't feel like I need to add a SUB to that experience.

Are you overthinking this? Who the hell knows. Am I overthinking my answers? Yes. :)

Not sure what a pair of "gen2 1s" is. There's only one generation of the Play:1 But indeed, a pair of Play:1s with a SUB would sound fantastic.

(edited to fix the autocorrect of "gen" to "get" all over this post!)
That says it all!
The question is how do I overthink something I know almost nothing about? But I think we're getting close now. I looked on ebay and there were a bunch of gen 1 5s and even some gen 2 5s at reasonable prices. Caveat emptor as always, but is there something in particular that I should be wary of when buying used speakers? If I did buy another pair of gen 1 5s, could I group each of the two pairs, then use the two groups as a stereo pair. It sounds like I could not do this with a pair of gen 1 5s and a pair of gen 2 5s. And what exactly is a playbar? Does SONOS offer a trial period if I buy new gen 2 5s? And I think the last time I heard any mono it was on an old Yardbirds disc. Thanks again, all.
Mono is the absence of stereo and is heard when the recording is mono; much of classic jazz is for example. It is also heard when the stereo illusion collapses and it appears that all the sound is coming from just one part of the room.

Stereo needs two speakers and only two speakers to create and sustain the stereo illusion. Like two eyes create the 3D one. More speakers doesn't add to the effect and usually confuses/dilutes it.

Sonos offers a return period for all new kit it sells directly. So do many other retailers, online and real.
That's about the best explanation of mono I've heard. Thanks Kumar. Last question (I hope). What exactly does an amp do and might one improve my gen 1 5s?
An amp does what its name suggests - amplifies the voltage of the incoming signal to the extent needed to drive downstream units, usually passive speakers.

You will need an amp, more accurately called a phono preamp, only if you want to attach a turntable to the 5 units and if that has not been built into the turntable.

In no other case should you try to attach any kind of amp to the 5 units. At best it will do nothing, at worst it will damage the 5.
To continue, the 5 has as many as 5 amps built into it, for all its sound delivery needs - except for the TT exception pointed out above.
Well, pulled the trigger and bought a new pair of gen 2 5s just to see how they compare with my gen 1s. I can return them, keep them and my gen 1s or sell my gen 1s. Last question, I promise. I assume that if I keep all 4 5s everything can be set up through the bridge I bought with my gen 1s. Right?
Yes. Technically, you don't actually need the Bridge , any speaker, if connected to your router with an Ethernet cable will function the same. That's a change they made a few years ago, now, it used to require the Bridge/Boost device, but now every speaker is one.
By the way, I'm not advocating getting rid of the bridge. I have one in my setup ( well, a Boost, but they're practically the same) which helps me control my passel of speakers. Useful device, especially if none of your speakers happen to be close to your router.

The only technical difference that I'm aware of between a Bridge and a Boost is the Bridge uses SonosNet 1 protocols, and the Boost uses SonosNet 2, which is a bit faster.
Yes. Technically, you don't actually need the Bridge , any speaker, if connected to your router with an Ethernet cable will function the same. That's a change they made a few years ago, now, it used to require the Bridge/Boost device, but now every speaker is one.
Not quite so Bruce, if I know my Sonos. If any speaker or Sonos unit could be connected to the router, the Bridge was never needed from day 1.
The change that Sonos made a few years ago was of giving the option of using the existing WiFi for audio, by having NO unit connected to the router and doing away with the need for a bridge. But that is a marketing driven compromise and it has not worked for me as stably as my Boost anchored 4 room system does.
For the OP, there is no need to change the Bridge if it works. However, if any one of the 4 speakers can be wired to the router in place of the Bridge, wireless performance will be improved because the units will set up the improved version of Sonos net compared to what the Bridge does.
But if this isn't practical, there still ought to be no need to disturb the Bridge. There is nothing to be gained by improving wireless performance beyond the point that is delivering stable music streaming to all speakers in the home.
Yes. Technically, you don't actually need the Bridge , any speaker, if connected to your router with an Ethernet cable will function the same. That's a change they made a few years ago, now, it used to require the Bridge/Boost device, but now every speaker is one.
Not quite so Bruce, if I know my Sonos. If any speaker or Sonos unit could be connected to the router, the Bridge was never needed from day 1.

Correct. Once upon a time there was only the ZP100 ZonePlayer (and CR100 to control it). A bit later along came ZP80.

For those not wanting a playable 'Zone' in the wired device it could be dumbed down to 'Extender Mode', removing it from the Zones menu.

Since paying a ZP80 price for what was effectively a bridge seemed a bit exorbitant, Sonos introduced the ZoneBridge.
I think I will just keep the bridge as long as I can pair speakers in different zones. If I wired a speaker to my router, would it still be wireless? Doesn't sound right but what do I know? Great responses, fabulous information. If anyone is interested, I'll let you know how I like the gen 1 vs gen 2 5s. Thanks.
If I've understood what I've read here in these boards, the speaker will take the shortest/quickest route to the source. My understanding is that wired tends to be quicker, so it would use that.

And yes, I'd be fascinated in your take of gen 1 vs gen 2. More data points is good. I just can't tell from running by a store and listening to a gen 2 and compare it against my gen 1. Of course, at the end of the day, our preferences are subjective, as our ears and minds are all different (Monty Python's Life of Brian "I'm not!"), but I do like general consensus as a reference. Just not as a rule 🙂