Question

Why I'm returning / selling my brand new Sonos Play 1



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Whereas a crossed pair recording a live event would be a much closer approximation of how the human ears would hear it. Then we're back to the room acoustics you replay it in...!
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It was more about having two speakers and being able to easily discern for example (and not necessarily in this order) that the drums and lead vocal (if non-instrumental) were center, brass to the right, strings to the left and back ground vocals wherever they were placed. Todays music has very little separation of instruments or vocals - left / right / center. Consequently it's more about the "Sweet" spot in the middle.

It is still about the same thing today, the term for it is stereo imaging, and it still available via good recordings.

And the sweet spot is where the listener needs to be to get the illusion of the stereo image from the sound that is projected from two speakers. Sweet spot does not refer to anything in the image itself.

In the early days of stereo, recordings were made with some instruments only from the left and some only from the right. That doesn't sound very nice after the gimmick effect has worn of; often the mono version of the same performance sounds better.


Thanks for the response. I understand the concept of stereo imaging and the illusion created by the "Sweet" spot. I love listening to music in the manner it presented today. As I told someone that the true test IMO given the recording techniques used is to be able to stand maybe two feet in front of a left or right speaker and not be able to tell that you are off to the left or right. The sweet spot or sound stage is perfectly balanced.

Back to my original comment about Left / Center / Right / placement of instruments (and/or vocals). Back in the day....even when sitting in the so-called sweet spot you could tell if a horn was positioned to the right or left. It was more like being at a live concert...which is how I like to immerse myself.

In the 70's stereo almost gave way to Quadraphonic sound (not to be confused with surround sound as those who never experienced Quad try to compare it to). Quad was Four full size speakers positioned around the listener. The recordings were awesome instruments/vocals were very localized yet combined. The only problem was the positioning aspect. The open concept in living quarters hadn't taken off as people were still sitting in a chair or sofa that was positioned against a wall. Consequently, Quad became a fad and lasted only a few years before Stereo recordings continued to rule.

Back in the 90's DVD-Audio tried to revive the Quadraphonic concept using the surround speakers in a home theater setup in conjunction with the front left/right speakers. Given that Home Theater was still an emerging concept and very few low-end systems existed DVD-Audio became more of a listening experience for the well-heeled vs. the masses. DVD-Audio did a pretty good job of approximating what Quad had sought to offer back in the 70's but as you know surround speakers are not intended as full speakers which is what Quad utilized.

So, in conclusion IMO listening to music wherein a drum was center and a horn was left or right was not a gimmick it was just true old-school 2 channel recording. The tracks were mixed to mimic the placement of the instruments in the studio. There was no recording the horn in one location, the drum in another and mix them together in a 3rd. All instruments were together in the same room. Sweet 🆒
the illusion created by the "Sweet" spot.

So, in conclusion IMO listening to music wherein a drum was center and a horn was left or right was not a gimmick it was just true old-school 2 channel recording.

Where I don't agree with respect to the above:
The illusion isn't created by the sweet spot, it is available to be heard only in the sweet spot.

And to the second quoted sentence - I agree it is not a gimmick but that is exactly what good stereo recordings do today as well - provide as it were a virtual stage, with different instruments on different parts of it, with nothing seeming to emanate from just either speaker - not just everything stacked to either the left, or to the right speaker with a hole in the middle. I have many jazz albums from the fifties/sixties that are recorded and mixed in this latter manner and the same albums include mono versions that usually sound a lot better because they don't suffer from this effect. One doesn't usually get albums mixed to give that kind of stereo effect these days, and that is a good thing.
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I have five Play1s dotted around the house and the sonic performance for their size never ceases to amaze me.

You do not really say in your post what source you are feeding to the speaker?


I have 3 play1s and think they are well made products that sound just fine for $150. I have also seen sound quality vary CONSIDERABLY based on what content you are playing (Youtube vs Pandora vs Rhapsody) which is directly related to the streaming quality and the audio bitrate available to the service.
Userlevel 7
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Great discussion everyone, and thanks for jumping in. @nathanielbennett456 wherever you land I hope you're happy and can enjoy your music, good luck! Maybe someday you'll check out Sonos again now that you've got some more information.

I just wanted to let everyone know I've moved this thread over to the Wireless Speakers board instead of the New Community Feedback section.
I have also seen sound quality vary CONSIDERABLY based on what content you are playing (Youtube vs Pandora vs Rhapsody) which is directly related to the streaming quality and the audio bitrate available to the service.
My experience is that more than the above, the mastering quality of the recording and the sound levels that are produced have a bigger and more audible impact. A small drop in sound levels results in music quality appearing to collapse. Easily fixed, but little can be done if the mastering has been botched up.
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It might be a duff speaker, or maybe the speaker doesn't meet your expectations. But for £150, and given its size, you can't expect too much. I think anyone buying any of Sonos speakers hoping for Hi-fi sound is a bit mistaken. If you want that, get the Connect or the Connect:Amp and pair it with a pair of quality speakers. The Play:5 serves me well as an office radio, but it's certainly no hi-fi beater.
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I wasn't overly impressed by the Play:1 sound until Trueplay came around and with calibration it really makes the Play:1 shine!
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Play:5 with Trueplay - that should be a hi-fi beater especially if you had a pair of Play:5s in stereo like a true hifi.
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I have Play 5 (Gen2) x 2 in stereo pair with sub tuned with TruePlay. Awesome!!!

Not an apples to apples comparison but they come close to my 10 year old Def Tech setup when new (USD) @ $599 per Tower x 2 and $600 Sub (end table size). The Def Techs can handle a larger room.
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True Play could be Placebo Effect. :-)
I have 2x new play 5 in stereo setup and true play or not it doesn't sound that much difference to me.
I also have 5x Play1 in each of the kid bedrooms again not sure I can tell the diff between true play tune and no true play
True Play could be Placebo Effect. :-)
No, it isn't. It's even physically observable in the driver excursion of a SUB.
True Play could be Placebo Effect. :-)

tt isn't that, as I found when I used it to tune a 1+Sub, where the bass bloat that it eliminated can be picked out even when someone else toggles Trueplay on/off.
But where the speakers have been optimally placed, then there is little for it to do, and the toggling doesn't seem to render any audible change. As I have found in standalone 1 units as well. And in both switch positions, the sound quality is good, and with no charge for Trueplay there is no cause to complain.
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Play:5 with Trueplay - that should be a hi-fi beater especially if you had a pair of Play:5s in stereo like a true hifi.

A single play:5 is never going to compete with a decent mid-fi setup. Two in stereo along with a subwoofer - maybe, but it's not a cost effective solution.
What solution at the price point of the next gen 5 pair would sound better? Indeed, the only one with similar SQ that comes to mind at the same price point is a 1 pair + Sub. Properly placed, that is much better than a mid fi set up, whatever that means. In my listening tests it came quite close to a Harbeth speaker set up for mid range, and trumped it for bass.

Note that the comparisons I am referring to would need the alternative to have a CDP+amp+speaker pair+cabling to make the prices comparable. With perhaps a hundred dollars added for the Sonos kit to accommodate a dedicated NAS.
And though the post above may come across as a fanboy one, I always remain interested in sound quality value for money, that ought to always be getting better with tech progress, since I don't really see much forward progress by anyone on the sound quality front in absolute terms in more than a decade of tech progress. If you can't make it better, at least make it cheaper!

Any solution that beats Sonos will always be of interest, therefore, though I haven't found any till now. I though that the Chromecast Audio looked promising till I used it - too clunky/fiddly to use daily, though the delivered sound quality is just as good as any other once it starts streaming.

On sheer convenience and ease of use anywhere that one goes as well as on the value for money front, I have found a bluetooth speaker like the JBL flip 3 to be very good too, but that does involve making of sound quality compromises at this time. Perhaps in a couple of years those will disappear and make for a compelling alternative.
Play:5 with Trueplay - that should be a hi-fi beater especially if you had a pair of Play:5s in stereo like a true hifi.

A single play:5 is never going to compete with a decent mid-fi setup. Two in stereo along with a subwoofer - maybe, but it's not a cost effective solution.


Not cost effective? Two play:5s is less than a grand, try finding any half decent hi-fi system for that, once you've got the speakers, amp and however many sources you intend to use.
This is just accumulated prejudice at work; if Sonos were to look like traditional hifi kit, wrapped in wood veneer, it would sound better to some. I doubt that the market for that is large enough for it to be worthwhile for Sonos to take the trouble though. The only losers are those that don't get to benefit from all the other Sonos features and conveniences in their hankering for "HiFi".
And though the post above may come across as a fanboy one....

You think?

I think that most people here would agree that Sonos kit is very good for the money... I certainly don't regret buying mine, and don't know of anything better at the price point..

The problem comes when people make exaggerated claims for it's performance. The classic was when the main guy in Sonos claimed that Sonos kit would out-perform anything up to $40k - a ridiculous statement, and damages the credibility of anything else that they say.

It seems to me that many Sonos users choose the convenience, usability, domestic friendliness and flexiibilty over ultimate sound quality - and there's nothing wrong with that - sometimes 'good enough' really is the best compromise 🙂

The problem comes when people make exaggerated claims for it's performance. The classic was when the main guy in Sonos claimed that Sonos kit would out-perform anything up to $40k - a ridiculous statement, and damages the credibility of anything else that they say.

I am not sure about the context of that statement, but to say that the right Sonos kit will outperform some that cost $40k isn't a stretch - which is perhaps what ought to have been said. In the world of audio, price isn't a good indicator of sound quality.

And of course, with Connect, it is quite accurate to say that it will not degrade the performance of any system which has it for a front end, regardless of what that system costs.

I would love to see a level matched blind test of a 5 pair + Sub in a usual sized domestic room, with any of the said expensive kit, and see how many users mark down the latter as the sound they prefer. I haven't seen such a test anywhere, and I doubt it will ever happen.
Surely you realize that $40k systems are mostly hype. You're paying for furniture grade cabinetry, thick metal faceplates, overpriced cables and the hyper exaggerated reputation of some audio "designer".

There's nothing that can justify paying exorbitantly for an amplifier, as a property designed one will sound exactly like the next. Having one amplifier per driver, as Sonos does, eliminates issued with crossovers, and lets each amplifier be optimized for a specific range of frequencies. Ideal, and well beyond the abilities of boutique audio "designers".

Expensive cables are, of course, utter nonsense, and eliminated altogether in Sonos' multi amp wireless speakers.

I don't think you can get better sound from anything pricier than the Linkwitz LX521s, at about $5K per pair, plus some relatively inexpensive ATI amplifiers to drive them. They are larger than most people will want to have in the living room; a pair of Play:5s will sound almost as good, and are far more wife-friendly.

I don't think you can get better sound from anything pricier than the Linkwitz LX521s, at about $5K per pair, plus some relatively inexpensive ATI amplifiers to drive them. They are larger than most people will want to have in the living room; a pair of Play:5s will sound almost as good, and are far more wife-friendly.

Never heard these, but I am sure that in a sighted test, most wives will say the 5 pair sounds just as good because they will, perhaps subconsciously, take looks and convenience into account into their subjective assessment.

A possible candidate for the blind test I spoke about perhaps?!
@Amun - does your Sonos listening experience include a stereo pair of gen 2 Play:5s plus Sub, Trueplay-tuned?

If so, and you still think Sonos is only a "good-enough compromise", then fair enough. Our views are different but I respect your opinion. If it doesn't, then you are not in possession of the necessary information to judge.
Linkwitz is an engineer's engineer, as was Peter J Walker. No hype, just years of research into speaker design. He's the exact opposite of the boutique audio "designer".

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siegfried_Linkwitz

http://www.linkwitzlab.com/LX521/Description.htm
Surely you realize that $40k systems are mostly hype. You're paying for furniture grade cabinetry, thick metal faceplates, overpriced cables and the hyper exaggerated reputation of some audio "designer".

You are also paying for the costs of small scale in everything - from component sourcing to manufacturing costs. And small volumes over which marketing costs have to be amortised. Even a higher profit per unit is needed to obtain an economically viable profit volume.

In addition, you are paying for the propensity of audiophile buyers to think that high price = high end = higher fi + more bragging rights. In that world, pricing logic isn't what it usually is. More people may buy a system with a price of USD 40K than would buy the same if priced at USD 20K. Not rational, but that is how these market niches operate, with a logic unique to them.