Play 5 huge letdown


Anyone else purchased a gen 2 play 5 and been shocked at the poor sound? I have had it a few weeks and can't believe all the rubbish spouted in the press. Despite being used in a few locations and having true play set up its terrible. Closed in mid range, splashy treble and flat sounding. Does Sonos only offer 100 day returns if bought from them? Anyone want to buy it?

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30 replies

Unfortunately, I don't believe sales are allowed here in the community, however Sonos does have a generous return policy, should you have purchased it directly from them, otherwise check the store from which you purchased it.

I'm honestly a bit baffled, however, by your contention of poor sound. There have been many of these devices sold, and yours is the first complaint of this type I've seen. Is it possible that there's some sort of manufacturing issue with yours? Did you listen to one before purchasing to make sure that it was appropriate for your ears? I do hope that you can find satisfaction, there's nothing worse than spending a lot of money of something that doesn't suit you.
What did you play through it, in terms of format and bitrate?
I smell another drive-by. :8
Sorry, not sure what you mean by drive by. I've been streaming Spotify premium at extreme rate ang playing lossless files from CDs stored in my iTunes folder on a laptop. I am genuinely not trolling, I'm really having a hard time with the fact it cost £500 and I'm actually not listening to music as it sounds so un natural.
What are you comparing it with?
Well this may be the problem, I had a Cyrus setup running some nice speakers. But even a £200 amp and £200 speakers would destroy it. Maybe I have just bought the wrong thing. I really wanted to expand it and use the multi room feature, but if all the speakers sound like this I couldn't. The bass is so overblown but in the really low registers, it sounds like a boom box to me..
I've used more expensive conventional kit over the years, from monoblocs plus passive speakers to good quality actives. Now I'd never go for anything other than actives -- it's simply the superior technical solution. An amp attempting to drive potentially mismatched speakers through a passive crossover is inherently handicapped compared to well designed, close-coupled, per drive unit amplification fronted by an active crossover and appropriate DSP. It's no accident that studio monitors are generally active.

The icing on the Sonos cake is Trueplay digital room correction. The best speakers are frequently compromised by room acoustics. I don't know whether you've got a bad unit, but unless you've Trueplay tuned it you definitely won't have had the best out of it.
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I agree with every word that ratty said.

I'd confidently put a single Play:5 up against any equivalently priced traditional setup for fundamental audio quality, though not stereo separation. I'd put a stereo pair of 5s up against much more expensive systems, with an added Sub edging it forward a little, but not really necessary. One unusual characteristic is the ability to play at high volumes with no hint of harshness, making them very untiring to listen to.

However, audio quality is very subjective. I have a hunch that the Play:5 would win most comparisons based on objective audio quality measurements, but that doesn't mean that any given individual will like the sound. I quite like the warmth of my old Arcam amp & Tannoy speakers, but they sound boxy compared to the Sonos.
I have a Cyrus set up myself. DAC XP+ and two 8 Powers, driving PMC floorstanders. It sounds better than my pair of Play:5s. But the gap is nowhere near as great as the difference in cost.

The Play:5s sound great to me. It's a very subjective thing, of course.
A single PLAY:5 against a stereo pair of anything is not an apples to apples comparison. A pair of PLAY:5s, ideally with a SUB, would definitely hold their own against traditional separates. Neutral overall, the mid-range is especially open and natural for voice, piano, acoustic guitar, etc. "Flat sounding" tends to be the reaction of a listener used to a coloured response. IMO a test track of properly miked drums sounds like, well, drums.
I don't know whether you've got a bad unit
+1 to the entire post. and recommend ruling out the above via replacement under warranty after Sonos investigation.
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Late to this conversation but want to say a few things. Firstly I am very much into Sonos as an owner of 8 Sonos devices including 5 all in one speakers and a connect amp. I got the new Play 5 a couple months back and have to admit I was not that impressed myself. I true played, tried multiple positions in my room but was still a bit underwhelmed. I put it down for a while to very high expectations having read the glowing reviews. I felt strongly that Sonos needed to upgrade the sound on the original Play 5 having fallen a bit too far back on sound quality to Bluesound and a couple others I would not name as some will get their panties in a knot. So was really happy when I heard of the release of gen 2.

Also I suppose I inevitably compare the experience of my new Play 5 to what I get from my connect amp set up (paired with Wharfedale Diamonds 10.1) - admittedly probably not a fair comparison. My main issue is that I find the bass muffled and just not tight. The bass from my Diamonds is superbly controlled.

I have also come to realize there are a number of nuances in terms of listening to audio equipment. One thing I have learned is that sound preferences are also highly subjective. It could happen that some persons just don't like the sound of certain speakers. It's not that something is wrong with them or the unit. It is just not a balance that they enjoy. Then sometimes it just takes a while before a speaker sounds good to a user. Is it speaker break in period for which there are many arguments about? Or is it over time something happens in your brain that gets used to the sound of the new unit. So over the last couple months the speaker does sound better to me though still not wowing. Still it's progress having actually borderline hating it at first.

I still feel that the best Sonos speaker I have heard is the Play 1. I loved that one from the first second. It's a great speaker for its size class. The Play 5 is ok.


One thing I have learned is that sound preferences are also highly subjective.

Then sometimes it just takes a while before a speaker sounds good to a user. Is it speaker break in period for which there are many arguments about? Or is it over time something happens in your brain that gets used to the sound of the new unit.

I still feel that the best Sonos speaker I have heard is the Play 1.

All true/agreed. That said, speaker placement can make a night and day difference. As can Trueplay in some cases.
I just purchased play:5 and have to agree with Beans. I am not sure if I am doing anything wrong, but putting it against my outdor Polk Atrium 8 - which retails for $250 it sounds really poorly 😞 I am really disappointed and either I got a lemon or everyone else online is drinking Sonos kool aid. I found someone in my neighborhood owning play:5. I am planning to play some of my tunes on his speaker.

I know this post is old. I just want to contribute in case someone else have similar experience.
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Just got my second play 1 a few weeks ago to make a stereo pair. Sound is great. Thought my old compact stereo was OK but it's muddy compared to the play 1s. Only thing its got going for it is more power and the two play 1s are loud enough for me.

You might try a replacement in case you were unlucky and got a dud.
I’m surprised at beans comments. I’ve been a Bose loyalist with a large Yamaha main system. I have to say, the sonos system is a revolution to me. Once I got the EQ set up Right the sound is stunning. From such a tiny unit it Stuns me. I get as much satisfaction out of this as I do from my amp, floor standing speakers and sub. Yeah it’s not as powerful but you can get lost in the sound and thats a real achievement from a speaker so small. Thumbs up from me and I will be adding this throughout the house. Wipes the floor with Bose.
My guess is that it's truly dependent on three things. Expectations, sometimes set by the press, personal preference and what you're accustomed to. At the end of the day, it's a persons ears and mind that has to be satisfied, and that's entirely subjective.

Unfortunately, that means that not everyone will be pleased. However, K08psy, I fall on your side of the spectrum.

I'm quite pleased with what Sonos is, and what it does. Sure, there's perceived holes that I would love for Sonos to fill, but I recognize that my personal needs may not meet the needs of a corporation, trying to sell millions of speakers.
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Yes, for me Sonos Play 5 was a big letdown. My comparison is against a pair of Play 1 L&R. No contest and much better bang for my bucks.
I have to say that all 3 of my Play 5s seem to have lost both quality and volume since I first got them. I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but I think it’s been within the last 6 to 9 months.
I just recieved a new play 5 for Christmas and it has the same problem.
When I originally got these I was blown away by the sound. It prompted me to sell my old sound bar and buy a playbar too. At 50% volume in my bedroom the sound used to be to loud for the room and it was full and rich. Now I have to turn it up much further and the fullness and quality are gone. The same is true for the other two Play 5s in the house.
I have wondered if it was one of the updates that did it. If I can’t fix it I will likely switch to a different system.
Comparing a pair of any Sonos unit v a single speaker is apples to oranges; those that like apples will not prefer oranges and vice versa.

As to the volume drop, this is unusual if it has happened in all your units, and the first culprit is the source; what is the source and any changes in that over the same time?
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I have to say that all 3 of my Play 5s seem to have lost both quality and volume since I first got them. I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but I think it’s been within the last 6 to 9 months.
I just recieved a new play 5 for Christmas and it has the same problem.
When I originally got these I was blown away by the sound. It prompted me to sell my old sound bar and buy a playbar too. At 50% volume in my bedroom the sound used to be to loud for the room and it was full and rich. Now I have to turn it up much further and the fullness and quality are gone. The same is true for the other two Play 5s in the house.
I have wondered if it was one of the updates that did it. If I can’t fix it I will likely switch to a different system.
.

Sometimes after an update, the speakers connected to my playbar lose their fullness setting. I have to back into the app set the surrounds back to full for music playback.
The sources are an iTunes music library stored on NAS and Spotify.
The problem has been recently highlighted when a friend brought his B&O A2 Bluetooth speaker over to listen to on the back patio. I brought out my Play 5 (on a stand), and the small Bluetooth speaker sounded much better.
That is a different matter altogether; then it isn't as if the 5 has deteriorated from how it sounded in the past but that you prefer the sound of the A2 more. There are also now far too many variables in the mix, and it is also possible that you happen to prefer the sound signature of the A2, a valid but subjective personal preference. And just because it is bluetooth is not a factor; implemented well, Bluetooth can deliver excellent audio.

Just one of the many variables in play now is this one - changed location of the 5. That becomes much more impactful if it has been true play tuned for its normal location.
The Play 5 was new out of the box. Not tuned for any specific area. No, I don’t think that Inlike the sound signature of the A2, A much smaller Bluetooth based speaker, than the Play 5s that I used to live so much.
The Play 5s that are in their regular locations in the bedroom and Kitchen/Family Room do not sound as good as they used to. And they are not as loud at the same volume level.
If all three suffer from the same symptom it is a rare enough one for it to be suspect. Note that there is also a very high correlation between sound levels and sound quality.

Best send a diagnostic to Sonos support and quote it in an email to them; I don't see that any other solution exists in your case.