Play 5 vs play 1


Userlevel 2
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I had a play 1 in my fairly large kitchen, and I thought I’d replace it with a play 5. The 5 arrived yesterday, and if I’m really honest, I’m not hearing much of a difference between the two speakers. I’ve done a side by side comparison with classical, rock, pop & jazz and there’s no noticeable improvement when listening on the 5 vs a 1. Even when I listen to bass-heavy music the play 1 sounds just as good as the 5.

It’s not that the 5 sounds bad, it’s just the play 1 sounds just as good to me.

I have a 5.0 setup in the living room (Playbar and 2x play 1s) and that does sound better, probably due to the stereo separation of the play 1s at the rear.

I think I might return the play 5 (£500) and get another play 1 (£150) to create a stereo pair in the kitchen.

I was surprised to discover this. I’m no audio expert but I do listen to a lot of music.

Has anyone else come to the same conclusion?

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14 replies

Userlevel 5
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Yes and no.but in a slightly different context.

I guess everyone’s hearing is slightly different and therefore perception of relative value and improvement will differ. But all other things being equal - placement, music, true play etc then I would expect the 5 to be markedly better, and certainly perceptible.

Maybe not 10 to a 100 better, maybe more like 60 to 100, if that scale makes sense. That’s just a testement to how good the 1 is, but there is certainly a noticable difference to my ears between a 5 and 1 nevertheless. But it is certainly not 3x better as the price difference might suggest, or at least set expectation.

This is amplified (non pun intended) more than the sum of the pair when two are used in stereo mode. Value to sweet spot in my mind is a pair of 1s and a sub. Standalone I can hear quite a difference between the 5 and 1 though. But as those over the pond say, YMMV. And whether that difference is worth the price difference is a matter of personal opinion.

I must confess that initially I was a little bit underwhelmed by a single 5 alone, I thought it would be ‘awsome’ but found it only to be ‘good’. After trueplay and finding best placement and maybe just getting used to the sound, it went to ‘great’ .

A pair are something else altogether, at least if wireless is the way you want to go. I appreciate sonically that they can probably be matched or bettered with same budget in a traditional setup. I have a pair of mid range Genelec monitors, as a ‘reference’ and whilst certainly are not ‘audiophile’ are used in studios across the world and not shabby by any means. And for music listening the play 5s hold up very well in comparison.

I’ve done side by side comparisons with all the combos of players In my sig you can think of and there is certainly a big difference between a pair of 5s and a pair of 1s in the mid and bottom end. 1s have great bass for such a small speaker, especially if they can use a stable flat surface to ‘resonate’... but that extra ‘fake’ bass struggles at times with cetain music types, especially at higher volumes. Where the 5s cope with ease and still have room to breath.

I suspect given yoour experience to date you’d be happier with 2 pairs of 1s for the budget a 5 will give you. Greater flexibility and can fill a woder space woth sound, which ultimatley is the biggest ‘joy’ with Sonos. Having music wherever you want it. In this regard flexibility and convenience srumps ‘best’ sound quality anyway.

Long ramble, and maybe not directly to your point. But my own experience. Hope it helps (someone) 🆒
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
I notice a lot of differences in my Play 5s, 3s, and 1s, haven't done a lot of side-by-side testing though.

I find a single 3 or 1 to sound very flat as it is only mono, OK in the bathroom but beyond that it gets old fast. A single 5 isn't so bad and I can listen to one for hours quite happily, we haven't paired any of our 5s aside from fooling with them when they were new.

As to sound quality I'm not impressed with the 1's sound aside from the fact that it sounds so good for such a small speaker. My ears are pretty poor these days but to me (and my hearing aids) the lower mid range sounds a bit weak compared to the 3 or 5 in the same location. The low end on the 1 comes across as a bit boomy in comparison.

Aside from the bathroom and a portable unit that goes from the patio to the garage mostly I have gone with single 5s or paired 3s and am quite happy with that arrangement.

Before you return anything you might want to run TruePlay on the speakers and see if that changes things. You will need to borrow an Apple device to run it if you don't have your own.
Userlevel 2
Badge +2
Thanks both for the replies.

To use your analogy, I had expected an improvement from about 20 to 100 going from a play 1 to play 5. I seriously cannot tell the difference at the volumes I am listening to them (usually from 30-50%).

I am going to try out some classical music with high vocals this evening to see if that makes a difference 😃 but if I can't convince myself then I'm going back to a play 1 (or possibly a pair of play 1s).

BTW both speakers have TruePlay switched on.
Userlevel 2
Badge +1
I do agree with you. I bought a pair of play 1s first. And then I read so many reviews extolling the 5, how it was better than a pair of 1s plus sub, yadda, yadaa....
So I bit the bullet and bought a play 5, expecting to hear rainbows or at least really loud sound
I was so underwhelmed with it. It has good bass, but that’s it, the plays sound louder and I honestly can’t make out the almost x 3 difference in price
It’s not that the play 5 is bad, it’s great, it’s just that the Play 1s are so good, there’s not much difference according to me..
Buy a pair of play 1s and be done with it, if you want more bass, save up for a sub
Userlevel 2
Badge +2
I decided to keep the play 5 in the end. After a few weeks of listening I could hear subtle differences between a play 1 and play 5 (although if I were to get sonos for any other rooms in the house I’d probably go for a play 1 again).

I got a sub to turn the living room from 5.0 to 5.1 and my goodness what a difference! That sounds amazing!
Badge +3
What are you listening to? If you are streaming music it is likely to be lossy. If you are listening to lossless files you will notice a bigger difference.
I think you have noticed that the Play 1 is simply an exceptional speaker!
Userlevel 2
Badge +2
I think you have noticed that the Play 1 is simply an exceptional speaker! agreed ?
What are you listening to? If you are streaming music it is likely to be lossy. If you are listening to lossless files you will notice a bigger difference.
I think you have noticed that the Play 1 is simply an exceptional speaker!


Depending on the streaming source. 64kbps mp3 will be noticeably crappy on any speaker. Most subscription services stream at 256k AAC or 320k mp3, both of which are transparent on 99.999% of songs, so will sound no different than FLAC.
Badge +3
MP3 of any sort is noticeably inferior to 16/44 flac files. This is especially true on familiar music.
MP3 of any sort is noticeably inferior to 16/44 flac files. This is especially true on familiar music.

Show me a single blind test proving your assertion.
Badge +3
https://youtu.be/7ExZm4E63VY
That’s 192K mp3, not the 320K that subscription services use, or the 256K AAC+ that’s even better. Fail.
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My assertion was ‘MP3 of any sort’ with ‘familiar music’. You said show me a single blind test. I did. It was ABX. They passed and so did I.
Badge +3
https://youtu.be/UoBPNTAFZMo