System Design


Hi. I'm looking to set up a system and am having some trouble deciding between multiple Sonos Amps or a Sonos Connect and a separate 6 zone amplifier. I own a Sonos PlayBar and a Sonos Amp. They are used in a room in which I'm about to install in wall speakers for the rear channels for 5:1 sound. I have 5 other rooms that have ancient/broken in wall/in ceiling speakers which I'm replacing. All wiring drops down to a central point. I'd like to have 5:1 sound in the theater room and plan to use the bar, sub and in wall rears there. I'd like whole house audio capability in the other rooms and live Sonos interface, simplicity, etc. Top priority is ease of use for family. Not too distant second priority is price but have some flexibility here. Third priority is neat features (playing different music in rooms, adjusting volume separately, etc.). Can/should I be thinking about multiple Sonos Amps or can/should I effectively do this with a Connect and a six zone amplifier? Other considerations? Thanks in advance!!

4 replies

Sorry...own a Sonos playbar and a Sonos sub (not a Sonos amp yet)! Thanks
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With six zones, you're talking about $US3,500 for just the Sonos amps ... but ease of use/flexibility is not actually the best if you go that route (assuming you can tame the networking on having at least 9 Sonos products in a home) for the money. For one thing, your HT system is controlled independently, and even if you use the Harmony Hub or similar, that's one app for HT, one app for everything else. Plus, you're throwing out one of Sonos' biggest advantages - it's wireless so you don't need to have your speaker wires brought to once place, because once you do, there are companies that have been doing this for long before Sonos was out and doing it well - Sonos was really originally to offer much flexibility of all wires to one location without actually doing it.

I had the same problem, just bought the house and had great wiring access everywhere to mount speakers in-wall, I considered Sonos, among other products and ended up using a Niles MRC-6430 (it only amps four zones/8 channels, but 2/4 channel amps fairly cheap), and an added HT zone that the Niles system controls using a Denon AVR. Want Sonos streaming audio in a room? choose the Sonos connect. Want our music library? Select the Logitech Transporter (older but great). It's a single app to control your entire home's entertainment system, including cable boxes and Blu-Ray players, and audio can be routed anywhere you like from any source, in perfect sync. You can pick up the remote control in the living room, and turn on the TV, select a music channel, then pipe it to the rest of the house, without whipping out a second app to handle it. Or use that same remote (or app) to turn on a Sonos system in all rooms. I still use the other big advantage of Sonos: streaming services, using a Connect to pipe into the system. If I want more simultaneous streaming, I can add a another connect on one of my unused inputs, but as it's just my wife and I for now, we're good with one.

It makes the Play:Bar and Sub redundant (unless you throw them on another TV outside of the system), and you'll have to pick up a L/C/R/Sub solution for the HT zone (which can still be a passive sound bar), but for myself I can't say that I'm sorry I went this way at all. I get better sound processing in the HT zone, with support for TrueHD and other codecs, and when playing music can kick it into ProLogic mode using all of my speakers to give the music more spaciousness. And the SAF is much higher than a system that needs multiple apps to control everything.

My only caution is that it's an integrator level solution and not for the faint of heart. There's tons of documentation, but lots of planning is required to get it set up right.
With six zones, you're talking about $US3,500 for just the Sonos amps ... but ease of use/flexibility is not actually the best if you go that route (assuming you can tame the networking on having at least 9 Sonos products in a home) for the money. For one thing, your HT system is controlled independently, and even if you use the Harmony Hub or similar, that's one app for HT, one app for everything else. Plus, you're throwing out one of Sonos' biggest advantages - it's wireless so you don't need to have your speaker wires brought to once place, because once you do, there are companies that have been doing this for long before Sonos was out and doing it well - Sonos was really originally to offer much flexibility of all wires to one location without actually doing it.

I had the same problem, just bought the house and had great wiring access everywhere to mount speakers in-wall, I considered Sonos, among other products and ended up using a Niles MRC-6430 (it only amps four zones/8 channels, but 2/4 channel amps fairly cheap), and an added HT zone that the Niles system controls using a Denon AVR. Want Sonos streaming audio in a room? choose the Sonos connect. Want our music library? Select the Logitech Transporter (older but great). It's a single app to control your entire home's entertainment system, including cable boxes and Blu-Ray players, and audio can be routed anywhere you like from any source, in perfect sync. You can pick up the remote control in the living room, and turn on the TV, select a music channel, then pipe it to the rest of the house, without whipping out a second app to handle it. Or use that same remote (or app) to turn on a Sonos system in all rooms. I still use the other big advantage of Sonos: streaming services, using a Connect to pipe into the system. If I want more simultaneous streaming, I can add a another connect on one of my unused inputs, but as it's just my wife and I for now, we're good with one.

It makes the Play:Bar and Sub redundant (unless you throw them on another TV outside of the system), and you'll have to pick up a L/C/R/Sub solution for the HT zone (which can still be a passive sound bar), but for myself I can't say that I'm sorry I went this way at all. I get better sound processing in the HT zone, with support for TrueHD and other codecs, and when playing music can kick it into ProLogic mode using all of my speakers to give the music more spaciousness. And the SAF is much higher than a system that needs multiple apps to control everything.

My only caution is that it's an integrator level solution and not for the faint of heart. There's tons of documentation, but lots of planning is required to get it set up right.


Thanks for the really detailed and thoughtful response. I get that Sonos truly is a great solution for addressing the problem of not having in wall speakers and not having to go through that installation. But, I've fallen in love with the simplicity of the set up, user interface, and essentially plug and play use. In our last home before moving, I had spent lots of money and had tons more pain and frustration after having a theater installation/whole house sound consisting of a combination of RTI automation solution requiring a separate, expensive dedicated remote, atomic fireball music server for an iPod, triad sound bar and separate Denon receiver/amp and separate amp for more zones. The complexity of use, money involved in set up and remote programming, times the system glitches, remote shorted out, needed additional programming for the remote, etc. has scarred me! I dreaded having to use the system--and forget about anyone else the family having a shot getting the music to play in a different room. Since we moved into our new house and prior to deciding now to fix up the home theater area and replace the in walls/in wall ceilings in other rooms, I've been using the Sonos sound bar and sub for 3.1 sound and a pair of play 1s that I've been moving around room in the house where I wanted to hear music. I set it up myself. I can get it to play the way I want and expect. I like the sound from the bar and subs. My kids can use their iPad to stream music to the play 1s and just pick up the tv remote, turn on, and use the 3.1 sound...I've kind of fallen in love with that simplicity and was trying to figure out to expand on the coverage but retain the simplicity, and since the wiring and even the cutouts for the in wall existed in the other rooms already, thought I'd take advantage of those. I guess I haven't really thought much about other solutions because of use and set up with the Sonos just has me so impressed, but I guess things may have a long way since needing a music server for your iTunes music and separate automation system to control whole house audio and maybe I need to do some more work to see what's out there. How difficult is your set up and use, how many different remotes does it require, and can a lay person trouble shoot issues? Thanks again-truly appreciative of how much time and thought you put into that response.
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Those old systems were such a pain to use. Capable yes, but painful. URC and Harmony/Logitech really helped end the dominance of such annoying systems, because in a single room you could get a really good experience finally, just by changing the UI. After all, as with all computer systems, they do two things: accept input and generate output, and the box in the middle is largely irrelevant.

Quoted so that future people can isolate the question at the bottom of your post :)
How difficult is your set up and use, how many different remotes does it require, and can a lay person trouble shoot issues?
The difficult part about setup wasn't so much the MRC-6430 itself, or the HT receiver, it honestly has to do with the fact that I've centralized nearly all of my equipment, and 75 foot video runs are troublesome. I had the MRC-6430 figured out in a couple of hours, and to my knowledge it's the only integrator level solution that's fully configurable by the end user. I can pop open my computer, phone, tablet, etc, open the app, press and hold on the logo and enter the four digit code (which can't be changed, it's the same on every system). Integrating IP controlled devices was painless - I just selected them, it found them on the network and integrated them, and then I told it what inputs it was hooked up to - my AVR has digital inputs, and the MRC-6430 itself is running analog (I picked up custom length Blue Jeans cables for that - highly recommend). There's a 2-5 page integration notes for each device you might want to integrate, telling you any notes or issues.

Technically, it requires zero remotes - though we do have one for the HT zone. When I pick up the remote, it gives me a list of sources, I push a button and it sets everything properly in the HT zone. The remote is 2-way WiFi, so music playing information it shown on its screen with album art and so on, from both Sonos and the LMS. If I push the Rooms button, it gives me a list of rooms that I can control. Volume control is 2-way as well, so as I adjust volume there's a volume control bar on the remote as you adjust it on the AVR, or any other zone. The AVR integration is completely seamless, and it's just like another zone, using an IP controlled AVR.

Each app install can be customized to show a limited list of rooms, or all rooms, and which room you want it to launch on by default (if any, it can launch to a room list). Very handy if you want to use a cheap tablet as a portable controller, or for instance, my desktop computer launches to control the Office zone first, then I can select any other zone to control. Or even if you wanted to have a controller in a guest bedroom that only controls the guest bedroom zone. They also offer on-wall touch screens and keypads, as well as apps, but the GUI is the same across all of them - the screens and menus actually run on the controller, and the app is just a remote display device (this works a lot better in practice than it sounds). This means when you update the firmware and there's a UI change, no app updates are required to have it show everywhere - and that you can defer updates if you like until it's convenient.

As for troubleshooting ... honestly, I've never had that issue in six months. The IR controlled devices use discreet commands (one command for power on, another for power off, and one for each input, et cetera, so no getting out of sync and not knowing the state of devices issues). IP devices, including Sonos, use 2-way communication, so the device reports back its status in real-time, so that if I spin the volume knob on the receiver, the MRC-6430 knows about it. And when I lost connectivity due to a switch restart, as soon as the switch was back up it tried again and it call came back online seamlessly. About the worst that can happen is if you try to turn a source off, then turn it back on too quickly, it'll miss the on command ... and the fix is to turn it off, wait 30 seconds, then turn it back on, and this has only been an issue on the Xbox 360.

Feel free to ask any more questions you'd like - I spent a lot of time on this setup, but the Niles part of it was quite straightforward and very thoroughly documented.

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