Comparison of stereo pairs: Play 5 gen. 2 vs Play 1 (without sub)

  • 22 February 2018
  • 21 replies
  • 16400 views

Userlevel 2
Badge +2
I’m a little hesitant to share these observations, given that my previous contributions to this community consisted mainly of flip-flopping on the issue of a single Play 5 gen. 2 vs a stereo pair of Play 1s, but I thought this might be interesting to some here:

Whilst there’s lots of discussion here regarding a stereo pair of gen. 2 Play 5s vs a pair of Play 1s with a sub, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comparison between the Play 5 pair and a Play 1 pair without the assistance of the sub. Whilst I realise not many will be choosing between these two options, given the cost difference, I did happen to get the chance to compare these two set-ups directly yesterday: Set up as stereo pairs in the same room/location, both with Trueplay tuning applied.

The main take-away from the comparison? To be honest, it was quite how amazingly good the Play 1s are relative to their tiny size and price. Of course, on the whole, the Play 5 pair was significantly better but the difference was smaller than I would have supposed and with some music (where the extra power, weight and bass of the Play 5 were not relevant) there was no discernable improvement at all: Bach’s cello suites sounded every bit as lovely on the Play 1s as on the Play 5s. Similarly, tracks with a single vocalist and sparse background instrumentation sounded just as good on the little Play 1s as on their big brothers. Whilst I’m still very happy that the pair of Play 5s are the ones staying resident in my living room, given that a pair of Play 1s costs barely more than a third of the cost of the Play 5s, I think this is a spectacular achievement for the smallest and cheapest Sonos speaker.

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.

21 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +20
I'd say that's a pretty accurate summary.

I operate a PLAY:1 pair, a PLAY:5 pair, and a PLAY:5 pair + SUB. All these setups are well into audiophile territory, despite what many would confidently assert.
Whilst I’m still very happy that the pair of Play 5s are the ones staying resident in my living room, given that a pair of Play 1s costs barely more than a third of the cost of the Play 5s, I think this is a spectacular achievement for the smallest and cheapest Sonos speaker.
I agree and I believe that the play 1 remains even today the best product in the range. At the present reduced prices it becomes even more compelling value, to do cheap and cheerful on its own, all the way to serious audiophile quality sound in the 1 pair + Sub configuration. And as surround speakers for the HT solution.

If it had a line in jack, it would have been the complete speaker because it would then have been able to overcome even the limitation of not having bluetooth. And it could have seen use as the perfect wired companion for the Dot, two years before Sonos released its still half baked Alexa integration, having lost huge market share in the interim to other speakers that worked well to enhance the sound quality of the Dot to even beyond that of the Echo. I believe that the decision to deprive it of the line in jack to protect play 5 sales was a poor one for this and many other reasons, that would have allowed much higher sales of the little champion. It may even have allowed Sonos to retain employees that were laid off two years ago after the hit Sonos took from Echo+Dot.
Userlevel 2
Badge +2
I agree and I believe that the play 1 remains even today the best product in the range. At the present reduced prices it becomes even more compelling value, to do cheap and cheerful on its own, all the way to serious audiophile quality sound in the 1 pair + Sub configuration. And as surround speakers for the HT solution.

If it had a line in jack, it would have been the complete speaker because it would then have been able to overcome even the limitation of not having bluetooth.


If, as I presume, you also mean relative to its price/size, I think I would agree with you that it’s Sonos’ best single product (and visually most attractive). Of course in absolute terms the Play 5 is a better speaker and I think, in my own space and with the range of musical genres I listen to, I would still prefer one Play 5 to a pair of Play 1s but it’s a very close run thing (and also significantly more expensive now). Happily, the Play 5 pair now gives me the best of both worlds.

Agree with you also about the line-in, though in my case it’s because I want the reassurance of still being able to plug in a music source directly to the speakers.
I suspect that in some situations, a 1 pair + Sub will outshine a 5 pair. And run it close in most others, at about the same price point.
Which is why I rate the 1 unit as highly as I do, for its versatility. Sure a 5 pair+ Sub will do even better, but the 5 unit won't sit in many places where the 1 can comfortably do so.
Userlevel 2
Badge +2
I suspect that in some situations, a 1 pair + Sub will outshine a 5 pair. And run it close in most others, at about the same price point.
Which is why I rate the 1 unit as highly as I do, for its versatility. Sure a 5 pair+ Sub will do even better, but the 5 unit won't sit in many places where the 1 can comfortably do so.


Oh, I don’t doubt that with the addition of the sub, a pair of Play 1s will be as good as a pair of Play 5s, maybe even better. I haven’t been able to compare these setups, sadly, but seem to recall opinion is pretty evenly split among those who have been able to do so?

In my particular case it’s a non-issue as it would be awkward to place a sub near/between the speakers in my tiny living room, whereas I can reasonably accomodate the Play 5 pair. I do also appreciate the aforementioned line-in option.
Your post is extremely helpful as i was wondering what the feeling was between the 2 obviously the 5's are better but your description of how much or little was the exact info i was looking for.

I have the Playbar and a Sub in my front and have been debating on what rears Its a big room with a 75" Sony 4k. The price of the 5's make me cringe. so i thought about 3's , with your post 1's are a strong possible.

Thank you for the excellent information.
Badge
Hi to all, this is my first post here and I am new to SONOS but familiar in their products for years...
Have both setups at the same room (pic in attch.)
Play 1 pair best that money can buy in that size of speaker
Play 5 hm.... People who have them will also just say hmmm with that little devil smile because of power, clearity of sound and earth shaking bass. Next year the SUB is must have. My room is 40m2 and it is is overkill with those setul but I don't mind...
Regards
Sasa
I'd say that's a pretty accurate summary.

I operate a PLAY:1 pair, a PLAY:5 pair, and a PLAY:5 pair + SUB. All these setups are well into audiophile territory, despite what many would confidently assert.


Nope. Audiphiles don't buy Sonos.
Audiophiles also don't buy Chromecast Audio; in general what they buy or don't buy is a reflection of them and has nothing to do with the objective merits of any product. This, by definition.

The thing is that some will be more generous than others in how audiophiles are defined, as pwt has been in the quote above.
Audiophiles also don't buy Chromecast Audio; in general what they buy or don't buy is a reflection of them and has nothing to do with the objective merits of any product. This, by definition.
The thing is that some will be more generous than others in how audiophiles are defined, as pwt has been in the quote above.


Yeah, no.
They don't buy Chromecast audio because they have heard really good sound quality and now the Chromecast sounds terrible with that tiny little dac.
Sonos is OK but not anywhere near audiophile territory for the same reason. They are fine for secondary speakers though.
the Chromecast sounds terrible with that tiny little dac.

Clearly you do not understand the progress made in the world of ICs and microprocessors if the only reason for the quoted statement is "tiny". Because there is not one DBT in the whole world that supports the quoted claim.
FYI, bits and even bytes are very tiny too.
We have moved into a new house and in the kitchen/dinner area we currently have one Play 5 1 Gen. It is not really enough - the room is 11 meters long and 4,5 meters wide so in total around 50 square meters and the speaker is at the one end of the room. Our option is then to buy two new Play 5 and mount them at the ceiling in the one end or buy 3 or 4 Play 1 and mount them at each corner of the ceiling. The Play 1 solution would be far the prettiest, but any idea if it would sound close to as good? I cannot have a sub in our kitchen 🙂
Badge
We have moved into a new house and in the kitchen/dinner area we currently have one Play 5 1 Gen. It is not really enough - the room is 11 meters long and 4,5 meters wide so in total around 50 square meters and the speaker is at the one end of the room. Our option is then to buy two new Play 5 and mount them at the ceiling in the one end or buy 3 or 4 Play 1 and mount them at each corner of the ceiling. The Play 1 solution would be far the prettiest, but any idea if it would sound close to as good? I cannot have a sub in our kitchen :-)

I have to say that if you want bass and lound sound go for 2xPlay5 and maybe 2xPlay1 on other end of room. If you want cristal clear sound at top 70% volume go for 4xplay 1 and you will be happy bit than there is no earthshaking bass that comes from play5 stereo...

Regards
Sasa
The Play 1 solution would be far the prettiest, but any idea if it would sound close to as good?
Aimed downwards towards the listening areas, the 4 unit solution would sound very nice indeed for the space, allowing for even sound levels across such that you don't suffer the effect of needing music to be too loud near one end of the space to be well heard near the other end.

Make sure to run Trueplay tuning post installation.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
I'd consider four Play 3s as a possibility, better low frequency support than 1s, cheaper than 5s.
the Chromecast sounds terrible with that tiny little dac.

Clearly you do not understand the progress made in the world of ICs and microprocessors if the only reason for the quoted statement is "tiny". Because there is not one DBT in the whole world that supports the quoted claim.
FYI, bits and even bytes are very tiny too.


Yeah clearly I do understand. I also have tried it and seen many very detailed reviews and measurements.
You should check these out;
https://darko.audio/2016/07/not-as-the-artist-intended-google-chromecast-audio-w-tidal/
http://thehbproject.com/en/reviews/184/Google-Chromecast-Audio
People want to believe they are getting something for nothing with the Chromecast. What they are getting is alot of limitations, poor audio quality, and Google monitoring and selling to advertisers what you do with it.
Anyway I wasn't talking about Chromecast you brought it up.
I will agree the Play 1's and Sonos One's punch above their weight especially if you can get a good deal on them. But the Alexa integration on the One's is so poor that many people are using their echo devices with them which kind of defeats the purpose. They do look really nice though and are more future proof over the 1's. But I find over about 30 to 40% volume they distort pretty quickly. I'm finding the clarity and detail of the Homepod to be better.
My guess is the Play 5 still sounds clear at higher volumes unlike the 1's. I'm not turning up anything very loud btw but i can hear sq fall apart on the 1's above anything over moderate volumes.
My main speakers are Kef LS50W's which are pretty amazing SQ but also $2200.
A link to someone that also claims to need audiophile branded cables to get better sound isn't worth reading further; what little I read there smells of the usual subjective claims on a site funded by audiophile kit maker ads - with the banner for the KEFs very prominent! The other link doesn't work; it seems to have failed in bringing in enough ad support to maintain itself. And I only brought up the CCA to underline how audiophiles the world over behave, being prejudiced in favour of high prices. I prefer Connect to CCA myself, but for its features though the CCA pricing does indicate that the Connect is now ridiculously over priced. Pricing is a seller policy decision though, that has input material costs as just one of many factors driving it and the high Connect price is also there to prevent play units sales cannibalisation.

I have no issue with the sound quality of the play 1s at any sound levels up to 80% which as high as I ever go, and since we are in a price point prejudiced environment/comparison, this finding is in comparison to $4500 Harbeth speakers. Twice the price should clinch the argument🆒 There is no need to add that this, when said speakers were driven by $2500 worth amplification; but $7000 beats $2200 in any audiophile shoot out without any argument left possible.

Any claim that HomePod sounds better is a subjective one and for every such there will be one saying otherwise.

PS: Note that neither linked site bases its claims on a scientific DBT. Not surprising because then the sites will lose over 90% of their verbiage/content, and all advertising support.
I had the dilemma of, do I go with a single play 5 gen 2 or 2 x Play ones. In the end I went with the play ones in stereo pair. These little suckers are great, but when paired, its just that little bit better than the single play 5 in my opinion. Still thinking about the play 5, but my downstairs arrangement is: Playbar - 2x play 1s - Sub.
Userlevel 1
Badge
Oh, I don’t doubt that with the addition of the sub, a pair of Play 1s will be as good as a pair of Play 5s, maybe even better

I've tested both setups, in my opinion two play 1s with sub sound better than two play5s. At least in bigger rooms and provided you use trueplay. By the way I think that is the best sonos setup at all - even for TV (but you need a workaround with connect, Switch and wired speakers to keep it lipsync and without delays).

A play1 stereo pair in my opinion has not enough bass - at least in a big room again and if you mostly listen to pop music. But it's a nice and clear stereo panorama though.
Userlevel 1
Badge +2
Hi,

I’m new to the community and Sonos. Started with a Playbar + Sub in the TV room and a Play5 in the relatively large Family area. Recently upgraded the single Play5 to a Stereo pair and the sound quality was great but at lower volumes it was pretty flat even with Trueplay and minor EQ adjustments.

I decided to take the plundge and invested in a sub for the pair and the results were amazing! The base is now very audible even at low volumes. I’m still using Trueplay with all EQ settings at Neutral and sub at around 60%.

Next project is to get a pair of ones for the TV room.
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
If you like the lower frequencies and don't want to have to get another Sub you might look at the Play 3s instead of 1s or Ones.