Play 1 vs Play 5 (second gen)

  • 2 January 2017
  • 9 replies

Userlevel 1
  • Contributor II
  • 3 replies
I wanted to offer my opinion on these two speakers. I've spend the better half of three day comparing one of my play 1's to my new second gen play 5. Rules were simple, flat EQ and both tuned in the same location. I put right next to each other and ran numerous tests. I tested with loudness on and off. Tuning on and off and have come to some conclusions that were pretty unexpected. I reran tuning multiple times to try and improve sound from both.

- Play 1 clarity, voice accuracy and instrument separation sound much better under 50%
- Play 1 bass is very impressive under 50%, without a noticeable improvement using the play 5, in fact its more pronounced than the play 5's bass under 50%.
- Play 1 voices and instruments are far more pronounced at lower levels. I can hear the rasp of someone's voice and the strum of a guitar much better.
- Play 5 sound is more 'soft' and set back.
- Above 50%, the play 1 begins to sounds like a tiny speaker
- Above 50%, the play 5 comes to life and displays its capability of low lows and accurate full sound.
- Above 50% the play 5 is easily the better speaker
- Under 50% I've concluded I like the sound of the play 1 more.

I asked about 5 people to listen to both speakers, switching back and forth without giving them knowledge of which speaker was playing (they were right next to each other in a large room) and in every test, they all thought the play 1 sounded better below 50%. Above 50%, they all felt the play 5 did with ease.

My problem? I listen to under 50% volume 90% of the time. I really hope Sonos pushes an update to fix the overly subdued voices at low volume. Hard to justify inferior sound under 50% for $300 extra to have superior sound above 50%.

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9 replies

I listen to under 50% volume 90% of the time. I really hope Sonos pushes an update to fix the overly subdued voices at low volume.
As a play 1 fan, I too agree that it is the most versatile product in the range.

And if you add a Sub to it, you will be surprised at how much better it does at low volumes, where the Sub allows the music to still remain rich sounding, much better than any loudness switch can do.

While there may be a small benefit from a 5 pair+Sub, I believe that a 1 pair + Sub is the best music solution that Sonos has to offer, that can hold its own against kit twice as expensive; and with some kit that is even more than twice the combined price of two play 1 units and a Sonos Sub.
I'm comparing the Play 1 and the Play 5 too. I can't get away from how good the Play 1 sounds. I think your 50% volume assestment is spot on.

The Play 1 sitll has a nice punch in the bass that doesn't get in the way of the mids, which is what really stands out.

More bass is only good when it stays tight and musical.

I listen to music in that volume range most of the time too so I'm leaning towards adding a Play 1 and pair them in stereo.
Based on the OP investigation I bought 2 Play 1s yesterday (i already own 2 Play 5). I tested them alongside the play 5s and was dumbfounded.... it’s completely true! They sound better , marginally better but noticeably better, than the fives. You have to really turn the volume up to reach the point when the 5s outshine the ones. Result: the 5s go to eBay
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I have a Play:1 on our landing, just the one speaker but it does an excellent job!.

Downstairs I have a 5.1 setup but music wise the Playbar is just a filler really, the two Play:1s and Sub bring most to the party.

I can't really push more than 50% without annoying the neighbours so the Play1's are perfect.

Was considering a 5 for the kitchen but might just go for a Pair of Play:1's as we'll never push the 5 hard enough for it to shine.
You have to really turn the volume up to reach the point when the 5s outshine the ones.
Does this conclusion change if the loudness switch is toggled to ON on both units?
Userlevel 6
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Now I kinda want to see this with Play:3's and Play:1's. Ive got both, in stereo pairs of each, and I've never felt any reason to complain about either. In fact, my Play:3 pair in my master bedroom was the first thing to get my gf to admit she could hear a difference in the sound that she could appreciate over cheap-arse speakers. She's even spent her own money to get Play:1s for her house to go with the Play:3 I loaned her.

Those Play:1's really punch above their weight class.

Those Play:1's really punch above their weight class.

I have believed this since I heard my first buy in early 2014. And if they had been equipped with a line in jack from the start, I believe that Sonos would have lost a lot less of the market than what they ended up losing to Echo. A Dot wired to the line in of a Play 1 would have led the market for voice controlled speakers for everyone that wanted better sound than Echo, but with all its features.

IMO, it is the best single product Sonos has ever made and it holds that place even today.
Agree. In fact it was this thread that made me question my purchase of 2x Play 5s. I wanted ‘the best’ and they probably are the best.

However, my living space is about 6m x 5m and two play 5s was massive overkill. I sold one and found having just one a better option. But I was still listening at about 30% volume and found vocals and midrange muddy.

When my wife took the kids out I cranked it to 21st birthday party volume and they rocked. But I’m 40 odd.

I sold the other and my two play 1s arrived today. MASSIVE improvement for my space. If I had a warehouse apartment, probably a different story.

So, you can listen in a showroom and get wowed by the excellent play 5 but if you have a small to medium space and don’t want to shake the glass I totally agree with comments above. Two play 1.

I spent ages reading forums but you can’t really tell until you have them in your space.

Play 1s are amazing. And I came from a set up with a high end receiver, KEF speakers and a Paradigm sub.
Total agree on the volume increase causing lower quality except I would say it starts at about 30 to 40 percent not 50. Of course that's very much an individual thing. I would also wonder if turning down loudness helps with detail at higher volumes and will experiment with it.