Question

Stereo Pair if not in ideal listening sweet spot?

  • 11 May 2017
  • 9 replies
  • 3082 views

Good morning all. I am a fairly recent new homeowner and finally looking to spring for a home stereo system. Having done some research, Sonos is clearly a no brainer. I cannot wait to get my hands on some of this gear. I'm literally obsessed and own nothing at this point.

In researching what pieces of equipment will be best for me, and reading through lots of this community, I'm running into a question about stereo pairing. It is clear that 2 x Play:1s in a stereo pair is a hugely popular set up on this forum. Likewise, it seems 2 x Play:5s is also mentioned as a good set up.

My question: is a stereo pair still recommended if you're not likely to be in the "sweet spot" very often?

In my living room, I am looking at getting a Play:5 for use with the line in so I can start enjoying my record player more regularly. I am thinking if I have this set horizontally in the corner, it will set a wide enough soundstage to adequately cover the room. Please note that the corner is the ideal placement due to being near the optimal place for the record player and router for easy connectivity to Ethernet for the Play:5. It seems the sound could be improved by adding another Play:5 in the other corner, but my couch isn't in the middle of the room. Where we sit would likely favor one channel (the left). In this situation, would a stereo pair be counterproductive?

Likewise, looking at using the Play:1 in the kitchen. Again, this is a room with a lot of movement, from being at the stove, to the sink, to the counter, to the breakfast nook in the corner. Although as a gear whore 2 x Play:1s seems awesome, I might only ever be in the sweet spot when either at the stove or at the sink, depending on placement decisions. Again, would doing a stereo pair be counterproductive as opposed to just having one Play:1 in the corner?

Appreciate any insight you can offer! It seems the beauty of Sonos is I can always easily add more speakers as my budget allows and test things out, but I'm more interested in confirming whether or not my theory regarding rarely being in the stereo sweet spot defeats the purpose of paying for a stereo pair. Thank you!

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9 replies

Definitely set them up in a stereo pair even if you are not often in the sweet spot. The reason is because you lose the "side" channel when the signal is summed into mono. Just as you can think of stereo sound as "left" and "right" channels, audio professionals usually think of it as "mid" and "side," where "mid" is the sum of the left and right channels, and "side" is the difference between them (i.e. right subtracted from left). When you sum stereo sound down to mono then all you get is the mid channel without any side channel, but the side channel is where most of the ambience is found in the music, which is why a Play:1 by itself sounds quite flat and dull, while a pair of them in stereo sounds much better.
if I have this set horizontally in the corner, it will set a wide enough soundstage to adequately cover the room.

It seems the beauty of Sonos is I can always easily add more speakers as my budget allows and test things out

One unit can never yield a stereo soundstage beyond a couple of feet away from it. It may be loud enough to cover the entire room, but it will deliver mono sound beyond that distance.

You can still use two units to better fill the entire space as independent grouped zones as well as a stereo pair, and the former may be the better solution for you. And it is easy to try both options to see what works best.

Beyond what you have pointed out, the beauty of Sonos for most locations also is the returns policy that allows you to effectively try out kit before buying it. Use this feature if available and see what works best for you in both rooms.

PS: In your case, in each room I would start with just one of each unit.
With its angled tweeters, a single horizontal PLAY:5 Gen2 actually does a surprisingly good job of spreading the soundstage, even 10-12 feet away. Much better than the Gen1.

But wherever possible go for a stereo pair. Music in a well-trafficked area such as a kitchen will still sound much better, whether or not you're anywhere near the centreline.
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My question: is a stereo pair still recommended if you're not likely to be in the "sweet spot" very often?


Yes, A pair of play1, 3, or 5 will sound better than singles.

In my living room, I am looking at getting a Play:5 for use with the line in so I can start enjoying my record player more regularly. I am thinking if I have this set horizontally in the corner, it will set a wide enough soundstage to adequately cover the room. Please note that the corner is the ideal placement due to being near the optimal place for the record player and router for easy connectivity to Ethernet for the Play:5. It seems the sound could be improved by adding another Play:5 in the other corner, but my couch isn't in the middle of the room. Where we sit would likely favor one channel (the left). In this situation, would a stereo pair be counterproductive?

What I would do is go with one Play5 for the record player and then scatter play1s in pairs around the room. This way no matter where in the room you will be enveloped with sound. It won't matter where you are. If you just go with one play 5 or even two the room will sound good but the sound will be directional.

Likewise, looking at using the Play:1 in the kitchen. Again, this is a room with a lot of movement, from being at the stove, to the sink, to the counter, to the breakfast nook in the corner. Although as a gear whore 2 x Play:1s seems awesome, I might only ever be in the sweet spot when either at the stove or at the sink, depending on placement decisions. Again, would doing a stereo pair be counterproductive as opposed to just having one Play:1 in the corner?

No, I started with one play1 in my kitchen and put in a second and paired them and the sound is much better, I had to put the second one on top of the fridge.

Kris 🙂
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I'm very impressed with paired Play 1's, bought them as surrounds but in full music mode the do sound rather good.

May buy a couple more for upstairs evenually!.
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We went with a Gen 1 Play 5 in two of our rooms where our situation is similar to yours. While the sound is not ideal we are very happy with how listenable it is. A pair or a pair and sub would have been better of course but finding space was more of an issue than the cost.

We also have two Play 3 systems as desktop and chair-side speakers, again not ideal but very listenable. With these I wanted to have good sound within 2 to 3 feet of the Sonos but minimal noise to bother others in the household. I considered Play 1s for this but after listening to the 1 and 3 side by side I made space for the larger, more expensive 3. A 5 was tempting in the chair-side spot but at the levels I was planning on playing it at I couldn't hear much difference from the 3.

If these were my main listening locations or systems I'd have gone with pairs, either 3s or 5s and probably a sub but my main listening areas are covered by component systems and Connects.
With its angled tweeters, a single horizontal PLAY:5 Gen2 actually does a surprisingly good job of spreading the soundstage, even 10-12 feet away.
Question: Would this be the equivalent of a stereo sound stage that is perceived to be heard from a 10 foot apart speaker pair, from 10 feet away? It seems to me that it would be more of a spreading of mono sound over a larger part of the room than what say a play 1 will achieve, unless bouncing the sound from adjacent walls is in play, as is so in the case of some sound bars like the Yamaha DSP ones. I suspect this would still be mono sound, but not from a point source, and not the same as a genuine stereo illusion. I agree that it would still be an improvement over point source mono.
With its angled tweeters, a single horizontal PLAY:5 Gen2 actually does a surprisingly good job of spreading the soundstage, even 10-12 feet away.
Question: Would this be the equivalent of a stereo sound stage that is perceived to be heard from a 10 foot apart speaker pair, from 10 feet away?

No way. That would be asking far too much. There's just an impression of a certain amount of spread outside the confines of the enclosure. There's definitely channel separation -- as one would expect from the angled stereo tweeters.
OP, I was wondering if you had an update about your setup. I was in the same dilemma (kitchen area) and had 2 Play 1s. I decided to separate the pair on opposite side of the room. I feel this is best suited for this area as the "sweet spot" generally moves depending on the activity (cooking, eating or reading a book).