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Which Sonos pair is comparable to B&W 600s

  • 18 January 2020
  • 18 replies
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Userlevel 3

I’m finally ready to start unplugging old amps and getting rid of all these cords everywhere.  I’m far from an audiophile but have been underwhelmed by my wife’s Bose Bluetooth “smart” speaker so I’m trying to calibrate expectations.

I think I want to start with my office which is currently just a pair of B&W 600 S3s (no sub) run off of an old Harmon Kardon receiver.  How would a pair of Play 1s compare to this setup acoustically with the highest quality streams from Spotify? J
 

A pair of Play 5s would probably be overkill for this space but I certainly don’t want to downgrade an already modest setup.  I’m also worried about the living room which is next where my wife wants small speakers that are “modern” and I’m worried the play 5’s might be too large for her although I can probably hide a sub somewhere if needed if she’s ok with Play 1s in the visible area.

 

Thanks.

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Best answer by John B 18 January 2020, 09:55

Hi. The Play1s are more or less discontinued now, so you should probably be looking at a pair of Sonos One SLs if voice control is of no interest to you, or a One and a One SL if you do want voice control. 

I don't know the speakers you refer to but I think you will find the sound of the Ones impressive for their size.  But it is frankly irrelevant what I or others think. Buy from Sonos and use the long no quibble return period to let your own ears decide.

 

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18 replies

Hi. The Play1s are more or less discontinued now, so you should probably be looking at a pair of Sonos One SLs if voice control is of no interest to you, or a One and a One SL if you do want voice control. 

I don't know the speakers you refer to but I think you will find the sound of the Ones impressive for their size.  But it is frankly irrelevant what I or others think. Buy from Sonos and use the long no quibble return period to let your own ears decide.

 

But it is frankly irrelevant what I or others think. Buy from Sonos and use the long no quibble return period to let your own ears decide.

Yes, that’s good advice….

I’d only add that it’s worth using Trueplay on the speakers before making a final decision about sound quality, because it can make a big improvement. You need a modern Apple device for the setup, but you can toggle Trueplay on/off with an android device. Obviously, if you change the siting, then you need to redo the Trueplay for optimum sound.

Userlevel 3

Hi guys, thanks for the response.  Yes, I was referring to the Sonos Ones,  not the Play 1s.  A little confusing with the Play 5s.  We currently use a Chromecast audio with the receiver to stream from Spotify and Google Assistant so I would stick with the smart one to reduce cord clutter.

 

Thanks again, internet research is only going to go so far with this I suppose.

Nybhh,

 

ONE’s and 600’s will sound distinctly different, only you will know which is “best”.

A plan would be to start with PLAY:5’s in your office. PLAY:5’s will also sound different from the 600’s, but they are in the same class. Don’t be surprised if you feel that PLAY:5 is a step up. You can test the PLAY:5’s in the Livingroom for esthetics and audio preference.

If you can find a discreet yet acoustically good place for keeping the Sub, the One pair+Sub is another good option. While the Sub can in theory be kept anywhere, the integration necessary for music to sound coherent means that it needs to be in about the same plane as the speaker pair, and somewhere between them, as close to the centre as feasible.

Userlevel 3

Thanks guys for the additional input.  Yea, I sort of figured the 5s would be closer to the B&Ws, even though this particular pair are “low end” ones.  I’m going to see if I can find a place to listen to them and go from there.  Sounds like they have a pretty good return policy as well so I can try them out at home too.

thanks!

Userlevel 3

I ordered a pair of Ones directly from Sonos this morning, figured we could always just use those in bedrooms or whatever if we like the ecosystem enough to keep them but they aren’t what we are looking for in the principal spaces.  I still think the Play 5s are going to be too big for the look my wife wants in the LR as she keeps referring to my father’s Bose acoustimass 10s which is why the Sonos Ones + Sub may work.  

 

Moving on, I understand what you are saying and locking into an ecosystem is always a risk and harder to extract from the larger the investment.  It has certainly played a role for me in keeping these old (but still good) receivers and speakers around.  They are a known and fixed element and I can certainly understand how constant software “updates” taking something that should be static and fixed and making it different every time you turn on the system incredibly annoying.  People are used to their audio systems working the same for years and even decades at a time and breaking that paradigm is a problematic business model for sure.  

I’m certainly not pulling wires out of walls or anything like that and won’t be selling-off old amps or speakers at this point.   Interesting enough, we are in the process of building a new building on our property now which is half studio/shop/work space and half screened-in entertainment area and decided to go ahead and home-run speaker wires from key locations in both spaces (and the bathroom) back to a utility room and was planning on moving some of my older speakers into the studio/shop space where aesthetics (and the wife) have less influence and was eyeing at a pair of B&W AM-1s for the screened-in area.  I was considering a couple of Sonos AMPS for those speakers as well but have not ruled out an old-school Russound multi-zone amp to power that building as well through a bunch of Chromecast audios on each zone.  I have some time to make that decision.  

Thanks for all your input, I will report back on the Ones tests with Trueplay.  I’m going to setup a side-by-side comparison between the Ones and the 600s for myself as well as my wife to listen to.   

 

Edit: Moving On’s critical comment which I responded to here was removed by him or moderators.  I saw it before it was removed and I considered it valid, thus my response.

Userlevel 4
Badge +2

Given today’s announcement, I would recommend against moving away from a more traditional set up. 

Put up with a few wires, and have a system that works beautifully for decades without having to throw it in the bin!

Userlevel 3

After today’s announcement, I’ll probably just send back the pair of Ones.  I understand that the tech side of these things makes them different than old school audio equipment that last forever but not a fan of how they are handling it.  
 

Sounds like the old multi-zone amp + speaker combo that last forever is the safest place to spend real money and limited the “technology” to just streaming/wireless interface points to that amp via “disposable” chromecast audios, echo dots, etc is the safest path to multi-room streaming audio at this juncture.

@Nybhh 

I agree, but there may be a balance that can be struck. I would now not invest in a 1 pair + Sub because a five year service life for that amount does not cut it for me - far better a Echo Dot wired to a pair of classic HiFi brand active speakers. On the other hand, a play 1 or two isn't that bad an idea seeing the price point for these, with corresponding expectations for service life.

Userlevel 3

@Kumar

That’s a good point.  A pair of Ones is not a large enough investment to become pot committed to an ecosystem.   A $1000 Russound multi-channel amp to power the new building vs 3 or 4 AMPS is sort of a no-brainer now though.  Even a Rotel multi-channel with enough zones to bridge the primary one for more juice would be about the same as 3 AMPS, would last forever and have excellent resale value long beyond my “end of life”, lol.

@Nybhh

I agree, but there may be a balance that can be struck. I would now not invest in a 1 pair + Sub because a five year service life for that amount does not cut it for me - far better a Echo Dot wired to a pair of classic HiFi brand active speakers. On the other hand, a play 1 or two isn't that bad an idea seeing the price point for these, with corresponding expectations for service life.

 

The service life has been quoted as “5 years after they stop selling” a unit, not 5 years total, and last I checked they are still selling Ones. 

 

The service life has been quoted as “5 years after they stop selling” a unit, not 5 years total, and last I checked they are still selling Ones. 

I took the cue from how they have dealt with Connect Amps; they were still sold by Sonos in 2019, but ones made and sold in 2015 are going to lose support from May 2020. 

I would not count on more than 5 years post purchase now for any Sonos unit being sold, seeing this Sonos action.

@Kumar

Even a Rotel multi-channel with enough zones to bridge the primary one for more juice would be about the same as 3 AMPS, would last forever and have excellent resale value long beyond my “end of life”, lol.

Sonos has made it clear to those that understand these issues that if you want investment protection via long service life, do not go for integrated solutions that have different rates of technical obsolescence. A separate, cheap and throw away smart front end interface wired to a well built amp+speaker combination would be a safer approach at higher price points.

Akin in some ways to TVs where it is better to get a streaming dongle like Chromecast or Firestick than to buy a smart TV.

 

The service life has been quoted as “5 years after they stop selling” a unit, not 5 years total, and last I checked they are still selling Ones. 

I took the cue from how they have dealt with Connect Amps; they were still sold by Sonos in 2019, but ones made and sold in 2015 are going to lose support from May 2020. 

I would not count on more than 5 years post purchase now for any Sonos unit being sold, seeing this Sonos action.

 

If you buy newer models, you should be able to count on over 5 years.  Buy One Gen 2 instead of Gen 1, etc.  So it is “at least 5 years, typically more” IMHO. 

Userlevel 4
Badge

I’m finally ready to start unplugging old amps and getting rid of all these cords everywhere.  I’m far from an audiophile but have been underwhelmed by my wife’s Bose Bluetooth “smart” speaker so I’m trying to calibrate expectations.

I think I want to start with my office which is currently just a pair of B&W 600 S3s (no sub) run off of an old Harmon Kardon receiver.  How would a pair of Play 1s compare to this setup acoustically with the highest quality streams from Spotify? J
 

A pair of Play 5s would probably be overkill for this space but I certainly don’t want to downgrade an already modest setup.  I’m also worried about the living room which is next where my wife wants small speakers that are “modern” and I’m worried the play 5’s might be too large for her although I can probably hide a sub somewhere if needed if she’s ok with Play 1s in the visible area.

 

Thanks.

Don’t, just don’t - your current system will still work in 6 years time………..

Userlevel 3

The Verdict

The pair of Sonos Ones showed up yesterday and I setup an audition last night.

 

The Sonos Ones were setup and TruePlay was run.  TP did make a modest improvement.  Does anyone know if you play to the Sonos speakers directly through Spotify instead of through the Sonos app if true play still gets used?  The difference was clear toggling it on and off  but more difficult to discern when I switched apps.

 

The B&Ws were powered by a small Fosi mini-amp as I didn’t feel like relocating the larger receiver and unhook everything.  I expect this was/is a significant handicap for these speakers potential but also levels the playing field a bit in terms of quality of amplification.  Streaming/DAC was via Google Chromecast Audio (I fortunately purchased 6 of these when they were discontinued).

 

I also setup a pair of active M-Audio AV40s I had lying around, streaming/DAC via Google Chromecast Audio.

 

All three pairs were setup at ear level, side-by-side with about 8 ft of separation and we were about 10ft away. I do think not running the B&W passive speakers off a high-end amp/DAC keeps the tests pretty even on the front-end and more isolated to just the loudspeakers themselves.  I was switching between all three directly through the Spotify app with their highest quality streams and my wife was “blind”.  

 

We both thought the Sonos speakers sounded pretty good for their size and had the largest sound field of all three.  I would consider it relatively neutral which I like and didn’t sound overly processed like some other small smart speakers in this form-factor.  It did sound the “smallest” of all three and expectedly lacked deeper punch.  It tended to hold up best with pop music vs classical, jazz, and hip-hop (yes, occasionally lol) and fell further behind the louder the music got.  All expected really from this size speaker.  From a value perspective, I feel like these sound like about $200 worth of speaker so you are paying about half for the loud speaker and half for the ecosystem, amplification, dac, in my opinion.

 

The B&Ws are about 15 years old and I probably paid $750ish for them, don’t really remember but somewhere in that range.  These were the largest speakers but still only 5” drivers, rear ported.  These obviously had the best punch on the lower end and very clean, crisp highs.  The tweeters aren’t harsh but could certainly get there with bad or aggressive eq.  Beethoven’s 5th, for example really sounded much, much better on these and jazzy vocal stuff like Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, etc. really excelled on these as did bass-heavier pop and hip-hop.  What did surprise me in the side-by-side tests is there is a “hollowness” in the upper mid-range of these speakers I had never noticed. I suspect with a sub, the 5” driver would round this out more but as-is, the B&Ws were giving up a bit of mid-range in exchange for that clarity and crispness.

 

Probably what surprised us most was the $150-$200 active M-Audios.  These were marketed as computer ”monitors” back around 2008 or so when I bought them for a computer in fact but always thought they sounded pretty good for what I paid.  4” rear-ported driver, not sure what wattage their internal amp claims.  The mids on these were much more well-rounded than both of the other speakers, but they lacked some of the punch and crisp highs of the B&Ws but a normal listening volumes for “most” genre’s, it was right up there and sometimes better.  They did tend to get a bit muddy at higher volumes and with more complex tracks sometimes and I think that has to do with the tuning that has those 4” drivers doing a whole lot of work whereas the B&Ws chose to sacrifice some of those mids to keep clarity high.

 

Pretty fun experiment and we were impressed by the Sonos.  They do a great job at that size but I think the wife has come around to living with slightly larger bookshelf speakers now that she can specifically hear the difference.  I do think we can buy better sound with $400 in an active bookshelf speaker and I’m just not sure the Sonos ecosytem and app are worth the premium any longer in light of the recent EoL developments and that I can pretty much reproduce the functionality with Chromecast Audios and the Google Home app which creates speaker groups that Spotify can see.

 

To be fair, I also don’t hear the B&Ws premium over the M-Audios with this particular setup at normal listening volumes on most tracks.  When pushed, yes, of course, but probably no more than a pair of Kanto YU6s or similar with the same size driver.

Don't go just by speaker price points. Modern manufacturing in China allied to state of the art dsp capability can make for fantastic value. 

Trust your ears if you can find a way to isolate them from all  influences other than sound.