Is it worth it to add a Sonos SUB to a GEN 2 PLAY:5 stereo pair?

  • 14 January 2016
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Does anyone see the value in adding a SONOS SUB to a stereo pair of GEN 2 PLAY: 5's?

I've been told that the DSP / crossover functionality of adding the sub to this set would lighten the low end load of the PLAY: 5's, allowing them to more powerfully and clearly produce the mids and highs.

My specific questions:

1. Are there really high and mid frequency benefits to be gained from allowing the sub to handle the low end? Or would the sub just handle the low end, while the highs and mids on the PLAY: 5's sound exactly as they did without the SUB?

2. The pair of PLAY: 5's already deliver substantial bass, so are there even more substantial / noticeable gains to be had from adding the SUB? Or do 2 PLAY: 5's roughly equal the low end output of 1 SUB?

I consider myself a very lightweight audiophile, so I would love to gain more clarity and power if adding the SUB can achieve this, but I do not want to waste the money, if the stereo pair can provide roughly the same clarity and high / mid range power as it already does, while also handling similar low end to the sub?

Many thanks in advance to anyone, who may have input.

Best,

Patrick

63 replies

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Hi Patrick. I decided to make an account on this forum for the first time, just to participate in this thread 🙂

I currently rock this exact setup in my living room. Let me start out by saying it sounds amazing! I had the same worries as you when thinking about adding the sub to my pair of play 5 gen 2's. I consider my self a light audiophile as well and often listen to flac files through the system. The 5's on their own of course sound amazing, but the sub definitely adds something to the system. I'd say its pretty hard to hear any noticeable difference on the mids and highs. I can hear some improvement with the sub, but its not very much. The low end frequencies however are quite different with the sub attached. The sub definitely goes deeper than the 5's and adds a lot of power to the low-end frequencies.

In addition to this the sub gives the low frequencies a whole new dimension. With the 5's alone it is quite easy to locate the bass coming from the speakers. With the sub attached it is virtually impossible to locate the source of the bass, which makes the musical experience much more immersive (in my opinion). My girlfriend - who is not at all an audiophile - described the difference in the sound in a way i find quite striking: "With the 5's alone its like someone is spraying water at you from the front, while with the sub attached its like being underwater and being completely immersed in the sound."

Granted, the sub won't add as much as it would to a pair of any other players, since the bass on the 5's is very good on their own, but it definitely adds a lot to the system. I for one have not regretted purchasing the sub at all.

Hope this helps. Best of luck on deciding.

Rune
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Many thanks, Rune!

I greatly appreciate you joining the forum in order to chime in!

It's good to hear that you do indeed notice the difference as I feared the low end frequency response of the gen 2 PLAY: 5's might be "close enough" to that of the SUB.

Since you've had hands on experience, my next question would be how did you calibrate the speakers? Did you do TRUEPLAY, or did you tune them yourself? The EQ with SUB added seems a bit confusing since it looks like you can adjust bass for the stereo pair and the SUB on separate faders in the SONOS app. Since adding the SUB automatically sets up the low end frequency crossover, the fact that there are 2 different BASS adjustment faders could be potentially confusing.

Did you mess with the EQ at all?

Thanks again for you reply!

Patrick
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Glad to be of help 🙂

The EQ with the SUB added was definitely confusing for me in the beginning as well. I played around a lot with all of the EQ settings and found the following (bear in mind that EQ settings depends greatly on personal opinion and the geometry of the room):

Software:
Trueplay affected both the play 5's and the SUB. The LOUDNESS setting affects both the 5's and the SUB. Turning up the bass on the room setting also turned up the bass of the SUB. Adjusting the SUB level only changes the bass output of the SUB and not the play 5's.

Sound:
Trueplay always improved the overall sound (with more than 10 trueplays performed). Results varied a bit from each trueplay, but not significantly. With the LOUDNESS setting on and the SUB set to neutral in its own settings, i hardly noticed the SUB when turning it on and off. Setting LOUDNESS off however made it quite easy to hear when the SUB was off or on.
Having LOUNDESS off also resulted in noticeably higher fidelity in the overall sound of both the 5's and the SUB. The 5's sounded clearer and the SUB was a lot tighter than with LOUDNESS on, where i found the low end frequencies to be a little muddy. Having LOUDNESS off however meant that there weren't quite the amount of oomph to the bass than with LOUDNESS on. I compensated for this by setting the SUB to around 70% (with 50% being neutral). I found no improvement in changing the settings for treble and bass in the room settings.

In conclusion i found having that LOUDNESS off improved highs and mids of the 5's and improved the tightness of the SUB. I found that having the room settings of treble and bass to neutral and the SUB level to around 70% (to compensate for LOUDNESS off) - all while using trueplay on the speakers as the first thing -resulted in the best sound. I'd say playing around with the EQ settings like this resulted in around twice as good sound as leaving them neutral.

I'm going to bed now, but will be happy to answer any further questions tomorrow.
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Rune! Again, many thanks!

Your in depth guidance is a good baseline for me to start.

I think I will give the SUB a try with my stereo pair, and I'll let you know what I find.

I can't thank you enough for being so specific.

Best regards, and I'll follow up when I've done the deed.

Take care,

Patrick
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Hi Patrick. I decided to make an account on this forum for the first time, just to participate in this thread 🙂

I currently rock this exact setup in my living room. Let me start out by saying it sounds amazing!


Welcome to the community Rune and Patrick! Thanks for joining and helping out. Just adding a little confirmation as well, the SUB will free up some of the PLAY:5's power to handle more in the highs and mids. If you're interested in testing it out, we offer a 45 day money back guaranty for all units purchased through our shop directly. You can pick a SUB up here and give it a test drive at home.
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Hi Patrick. I decided to make an account on this forum for the first time, just to participate in this thread 🙂

I currently rock this exact setup in my living room. Let me start out by saying it sounds amazing!


Welcome to the community Rune and Patrick! Thanks for joining and helping out. Just adding a little confirmation as well, the SUB will free up some of the PLAY:5's power to handle more in the highs and mids. If you're interested in testing it out, we offer a 45 day money back guaranty for all units purchased through our shop directly. You can pick a SUB up here and give it a test drive at home.




Thank you, Ryan! Also good to know that addition of sub should benefit all frequency ranges. I'm looking forward to setting one up.

Best, and thanks again.

Patrick

I think I will give the SUB a try with my stereo pair, and I'll let you know what I find.

That is a good idea.
Given the sound quality of the new 5 units, a Sub will not add as much value as it would to a 1 pair. And the mid range clean up benefit is also greater in smaller speakers like the 1 units, where the bass note delivery can "take over" the smaller enclosure, and muddy the mid range.
One downside to one Sub is that bass notes are delivered in mono - not usually a problem unless the Sub is located a distance away, it isn't easy to locate these by ear. But I know people that prefer to have 2 smaller subs, in stereo over one large one, to get over this issue. By adding a Sub to a 5 pair, you are giving up the stereo bass stage effect that the 5 units do pretty well, going down to as low as the Sub does. With Sonos, only one Sub can be in use.
I suspect that a Sub benefit over and above giving up stereo bass will truly be visible if you play loud in a large room; bear in mind all of this factors in your trial. Finally, what sounds good to you is the best judge of what is right for you.
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I think I will give the SUB a try with my stereo pair, and I'll let you know what I find.

That is a good idea.
Given the sound quality of the new 5 units, a Sub will not add as much value as it would to a 1 pair. And the mid range clean up benefit is also greater in smaller speakers like the 1 units, where the bass note delivery can "take over" the smaller enclosure, and muddy the mid range.
One downside to one Sub is that bass notes are delivered in mono - not usually a problem unless the Sub is located a distance away, it isn't easy to locate these by ear. But I know people that prefer to have 2 smaller subs, in stereo over one large one, to get over this issue. By adding a Sub to a 5 pair, you are giving up the stereo bass stage effect that the 5 units do pretty well, going down to as low as the Sub does. With Sonos, only one Sub can be in use.
I suspect that a Sub benefit over and above giving up stereo bass will truly be visible if you play loud in a large room; bear in mind all of this factors in your trial. Finally, what sounds good to you is the best judge of what is right for you.


Thank you, Kumar! I am grateful for the varied responses from everyone thus far.

The potential lack of stereo bass is something that I would not have even accounted for. When I demo the sub, I am curious to see how much I notice the difference between mono and stereo bass. Maybe SONOS will one day initiate an update that allows for 2 SUBS in a single setup. That would definitely make sense for people with larger rooms to fill that can afford it.

Thanks again for the thoughtful, informed reply and giving me another aspect to pay attention to.

I am excited to experiment with the SUB soon and let you all know what I think of it.

Best regards,

Patrick
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As someone who has 4 2nd gen play5s and a SUB and who Has tried this setup. My experience is that although it is a wider bass with the sub added it was overall not a great enough difference with the sub because of the already great sound and low freq with the new play 5s. There were some tracks I could hardly notice and only when blaring dance or rap tracks could I tell a bit of a deference in the low end.

In cknclusion it wasn't substantial enough to keep the sub bonded (unless j was having a rave) because play5 pair was great on own.

In my opinion the SUB was best served bonded with a play1 or play3 pair and the play5s on their own with good bass in multiple rooms hat way
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The support of the SONOS Community is great; thanks again to all of you for your input. I've taken all of your advice into consideration, and then I got a SONOS SUB to pair with my GEN 2 PLAY: 5's. Here are my observations:

1. In my somewhat large open space, my ears definitely can discern a considerable difference between the stereo pair PLAY: 5's with and without the SUB. The PLAY: 5's offer a surprising low end, but I would have to agree with RUNE: the low end from the PLAY: 5's sounds directional, coming straight from the speaker, while the low end from the SUB envelopes you and the room, providing the PLAY: 5's with a all encompassing foundation to shine on. This is true even when you keep the bass at a moderate level.

Again, the PLAY: 5's have great bass, but the SUB provides a tighter and much larger punch--the bass is thicker, richer. It also helps that (like RYAN S said) the power and clarity of the highs and mids benefit from allowing the SUB to handle the load of the low end. The already great stereo separation of the higher frequencies was cleaner and louder--in a good way.

KUMAR mentioned that I would sacrifice stereo low end by crossing the bass over to the mono SUB, but I preferred the pervasive, broad thump of the SUB's low end as opposed to the directional bass from the 5's. Plus, my PLAY: 5's are only about 5 feet apart, so the lower end stereo separation is not as noticeable anyway.

I know CHIROSONO does not think the SUB is worth pairing with the 5's, but to my ears, it's worth it in my room. Every frequency feels richer and more present--even when the bass is not turned up loud.


2. TRUEPLAY does not benefit my room. Until now, I never had time to manually EQ my setup, so I just used TRUEPLAY. I thought it sounded good, but, after paring the SUB with and without TRUEPLAY, the default audio settings provide a much fuller range of sound. Relatively speaking, TRUEPLAY sounded thinner and limited--like the sound was being funneled through a tunnel. When I turned the bass up as RUNE suggested, it sounded better, but still not as full as by turning TRUEPLAY off and doing my own slight EQ.

Turning off TRUEPLAY dramatically thickens the sound, so I had to turn the SUB bass down about 5%-10% from neutral. I also notched up the 5's treble about 10%. I turned loudness off. This made the PLAY: 5' s sound as good as I had read they sound in reviews. The sound was clear, powerful and at the fullest range I've ever heard from a SONOS setup. Any slight muddiness I used to hear in the mids and lower end frequencies is completely gone. I have pictures of my EQ settings below.

As mentioned, my PLAY: 5's are about 5 feet apart on a table, and my SUB is right next to them on the floor--in a parallel line. My PLAY: 5's are oriented in the vertical position for better stereo separation. Also, I tested audio by streaming HIFI files from TIDAL PREMIUM, which is usually pretty good. I can only imagine how great they will sound when I stream my own HIFI files from my NAS.

I have never been happier with my PLAY: 5's (or any of my other SONOS gear), and I feel that I have finally created an SONOS setup that is worthy of a junior audiophile. So that makes the addition of the SUB very much worth it for me. It didn't just improve the low end, it improved everything.

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this conversation, and I am always interested in any other advice or questions you may have.

Best regards,

Patrick
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My point is only that compared to any other sonos stereo pair the SUB affects/improves the sound quality of the other speakers the least.

SUB is great for MOST sonos paired speakers-but $749 for adding "wider, not directional bass"?!? Come on lol
I tested audio by streaming HIFI files from TIDAL PREMIUM, which is usually pretty good. I can only imagine how great they will sound when I stream my own HIFI files from my NAS.

I feel that I have finally created an SONOS setup that is worthy of a junior audiophile. So that makes the addition of the SUB very much worth it for me. It didn't just improve the low end, it improved everything.

Useful report, thank you! I am still looking for a good comparison between a 5 pair+Sub as you have in place, and a 1pair + Sub; I suspect that with bass duties handed over to the Sub in both cases, there will be little difference to be heard.

I have done enough of the audiophile stuff in my life, and based now on my 1 pair + Sub experience, I can say that your 5 pair + Sub set up goes a lot beyond junior audiophile set ups, in sound quality.

And don't hold your breath over the NAS quality - there is no reason why it should sound better than streamed, except expectation bias. I listen to a lot of music from Apple Music and that bought on iTunes, both are 256 kbps lossy files. I can't make out any difference from the same recordings on my NAS, ripped lossless from CDs.

You can, if you choose, do the blind testing to come to your conclusion about the above assertion; or, forget about these trifles and enjoy the music from either source:-).
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My point is only that compared to any other sonos stereo pair the SUB affects/improves the sound quality of the other speakers the least.

SUB is great for MOST sonos paired speakers-but $749 for adding "wider, not directional bass"?!? Come on lol


LOL. I completely get your point. I was quite satisfied with my PLAY: 5's even before I added the SUB. I imagine most people would be satisfied with a PLAY: 5 stereo pair as we were...but then I got picky. : ) It helps that I had a generous Best Buy gift certificate and finally found an OPEN BOX SUB! Ha!

I could have spent the same amount of money for better bookshelf speakers, an amp, and a wired sub, but then I either have wires all over my living room OR I'm paying to run wires through the wall and set up in a room not so much intended to look tech-y / man cave-y. SONOS does deliver for the money with a clean, easy set up that does a lot of the DSP / crossover work for you. I have a real / wired 2.1 HIFI setup in my guesthouse, and it is much more of a hassle for me to find the right EQ / bass management setup.

The SUB is a tremendous luxury, but I have no buyers remorse. It is not as much of a bass upgrade as it would be for a stereo pair of PLAY: 1's (which I also love), but my PLAY: 5 + SUB 2.1 setup exhibits a combination of power and clarity that I never imagined I would get from a SONOS streaming system!
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I tested audio by streaming HIFI files from TIDAL PREMIUM, which is usually pretty good. I can only imagine how great they will sound when I stream my own HIFI files from my NAS.

I feel that I have finally created an SONOS setup that is worthy of a junior audiophile. So that makes the addition of the SUB very much worth it for me. It didn't just improve the low end, it improved everything.

Useful report, thank you! I am still looking for a good comparison between a 5 pair+Sub as you have in place, and a 1pair + Sub; I suspect that with bass duties handed over to the Sub in both cases, there will be little difference to be heard.

I have done enough of the audiophile stuff in my life, and based now on my 1 pair + Sub experience, I can say that your 5 pair + Sub set up goes a lot beyond junior audiophile set ups, in sound quality....

You can, if you choose, do the blind testing to come to your conclusion about the above assertion; or, forget about these trifles and enjoy the music from either source:-).


One day, I will take my pair of PLAY: 1's out of my bedroom and pair them to the SUB for a taste test. I would imagine that the 5's would at least be louder with more mids at the same volume level as the 1's.

I'll do it soon and let you know how it sounds to my ear. I do this in a large room, so my guess is that the 1's will drown just a bit compared to the 5's as well.

My bedroom is not so big, and my PLAY: 1 pair sounds great in there. I would definitely not want a SUB in my bedroom though. : ) Our teeth would rattle!

At the end of the day, it really is just about the music--whether it's on an iPod, a car radio or some ridiculously expensive audiophile setup. Still, my living room setup currently sounds so great, that I have ceased to notice or look for any flaws.

Thanks for you posts.

Patrick

One day, I will take my pair of PLAY: 1's out of my bedroom and pair them to the SUB for a taste test. I would imagine that the 5's would at least be louder with more mids at the same volume level as the 1's.

I'll do it soon and let you know how it sounds to my ear.


That would be interesting. Remember though that any sound quality comparison must be done with as identical sound levels - not levels on the volume control - as possible, for it to be a valid comparison. The question is - where the sound levels from the 1 pair + Sub are adequate, does the 5 pair + Sub sound any different, all other things including sound levels being identical. The volume control may be set lower on the 5 pair, but that isn't relevant.

The lower volume control levels will only be relevant if the room/user demands higher sound levels, which the 1 pair + Sub may not be able to provide, as is quite likely to be the case in comparison with a 5 pair + Sub. But this is a result of system power, not system sound quality. And the question is where the sound levels that can be delivered by a 1 pair + Sub are adequate, is there any sound quality return for the significantly higher cost of a 5 pair + Sub set up.
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One day, I will take my pair of PLAY: 1's out of my bedroom and pair them to the SUB for a taste test. I would imagine that the 5's would at least be louder with more mids at the same volume level as the 1's.

I'll do it soon and let you know how it sounds to my ear.


That would be interesting. Remember though that any sound quality comparison must be done with as identical sound levels - not levels on the volume control - as possible, for it to be a valid comparison. The question is - where the sound levels from the 1 pair + Sub are adequate, does the 5 pair + Sub sound any different, all other things including sound levels being identical. The volume control may be set lower on the 5 pair, but that isn't relevant.

The lower volume control levels will only be relevant if the room/user demands higher sound levels, which the 1 pair + Sub may not be able to provide, as is quite likely to be the case in comparison with a 5 pair + Sub. But this is a result of system power, not system sound quality. And the question is where the sound levels that can be delivered by a 1 pair + Sub are adequate, is there any sound quality return for the significantly higher cost of a 5 pair + Sub set up.


You're absolutely right. I'll make sure to keep the sound outputs the same for both setups...

1. In my somewhat large open space

Plus, my PLAY: 5's are only about 5 feet apart, so the lower end stereo separation is not as noticeable anyway.


Pointing out a seeming contradiction above - this set up dictates that stereo imaging will be available only up to about 5 feet away from the speakers, a very small part of a large listening room.

If you want the stereo illusion to be heard deeper into the room in a larger sweet spot, the speakers need to be further apart, using the equilateral triangle thumb rule. And once you did that, the impact of mono bass from the Sub v stereo bass from the further separated 5 units could be a noticeable factor in driving a preference.
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1. In my somewhat large open space

Plus, my PLAY: 5's are only about 5 feet apart, so the lower end stereo separation is not as noticeable anyway.


Pointing out a seeming contradiction above - this set up dictates that stereo imaging will be available only up to about 5 feet away from the speakers, a very small part of a large listening room.

If you want the stereo illusion to be heard deeper into the room in a larger sweet spot, the speakers need to be further apart, using the equilateral triangle thumb rule. And once you did that, the impact of mono bass from the Sub v stereo bass from the further separated 5 units would be a noticeable factor in driving a preference.


I understand you. What I mean to say is what you are saying: my speakers are so close together that I do not benefit from low end stereo separation. For me, it is much harder to determine stereo separation with lower frequencies when the speakers are only 5 feet apart, so having the mono sub is not a big drawback for me.

My couches are set up so that I can have focused listening roughly 5 feet away for maximized stereo imaging--although good imaging is available even several feet beyond that. Still, since the room is big, the PLAY: 5's are powerful enough to fill the room. It is not perfect stereo when I am way back in the kitchen, but it still sounds good enough to cook and eat happily. : )

My couches are set up so that I can have focused listening roughly 5 feet away for maximized stereo imaging--although good imaging is available even several feet beyond that. Still, since the room is big, the PLAY: 5's are powerful enough to fill the room. It is not perfect stereo when I am way back in the kitchen, but it still sounds good enough to cook and eat happily. : )

Fair enough - as always, the last sentence is the most relevant, if it sounds right, it must be right too!

And this also makes it easy for you to do the 1 pair sound quality test. Do it from the same focused listening area from 5 feet away. At that distance the 1 pair will not be constrained for power and allow for a valid apples to apples comparison, by placing them exactly where the 5 units are placed.

For your kitchen listening a 1 pair + Sub probably won't be as good, but my solution for that is to plunk in 1 unit/s in any other place that I need music.
Another thought: Since you have a play 1 pair on hand, and your focused listening is from just 5 feet away, there may be an opportunity to drop 1 units in place of the 5 pair and redeploy the two 5 units to another room, or even rooms. In smaller spaces, just one of the new 5 units ought to do very well, by all accounts.

Sonos is rare in offering these kind of options/flexibility.
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Awesome thread. Exactly what I wanted to hear. I have two of the new play 5s in stereo and was thinking about getting the sub in the future. Coming from a Logitech Z‑5500 5.1 setup, I feel that the new play 5 is lacking the bass that my Logitech easily pumps out. On the plus side, the Logitech can not compete with stereo separation and clarity of the play 5s. So, does anyone know if the Sonos Sub as good if not, better than the Logitech Z‑5500?
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Just the read through the thread. Nice input everyone! The Sonos userbase seems very helpful and friendly 🙂
Im very pleased to hear you like the setup Patrick. I will give your EQ settings a try later today and see how i like them. One thing i seem to have forgotten - which you even point out yourself - is how the sub adds a lot of sound to the system when its playing on low volume settings. I enjoy this a lot, since i live in an apartment and cannot crank up the sub when its getting late 🙂
Runedk,

"Loudness" is a human condition. Here is a thread that explains some details. A Wikipedia article has more detail.

In most situations I prefer not to use Loudness, but the SONOS Loudness function is one of the best available because SONOS knows the efficiency of their speakers. Unfortunately, SONOS cannot know the room size.

A subwoofer tends to improve the overall system sound by minimizing system intermodulation distortion because the job presented to the main speaker and subwoofer is simplified. Here is a quick tutorial on distortion.
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Another thought: Since you have a play 1 pair on hand, and your focused listening is from just 5 feet away, there may be an opportunity to drop 1 units in place of the 5 pair and redeploy the two 5 units to another room, or even rooms. In smaller spaces, just one of the new 5 units ought to do very well, by all accounts.

Sonos is rare in offering these kind of options/flexibility.


Kumar:

I have not had a moment to swap out speakers, but I will let you know as soon as I get the 1's hooked up for a detailed comparison, using the criteria we discussed...
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Awesome thread. Exactly what I wanted to hear. I have two of the new play 5s in stereo and was thinking about getting the sub in the future. Coming from a Logitech Z‑5500 5.1 setup, I feel that the new play 5 is lacking the bass that my Logitech easily pumps out. On the plus side, the Logitech can not compete with stereo separation and clarity of the play 5s. So, does anyone know if the Sonos Sub as good if not, better than the Logitech Z‑5500?

Lyzheng:

I am not familiar with the Z-5500, but I would be surprised if you were disappointed with adding the SONOS SUB. I'm completely satisfied with it. If you don't mind spending the cash, GIVE IT A TRY! : )

I'm sure we'd all love to hear your opinion on the setup.

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