Sonos Play:5, Play:1, Sub, and Bridge
Device Type: Portable WiFi Speaker/Streamer
Input: Ethernet, WiFi, SonosNet, 3.5mm analog input
Output: 3.5mm headphone jack
Dimensions (H x W x D): 8.5 x 14.40 x 4.8"
Device Type: Portable WiFi Speaker/Streamer
Input: Ethernet, WiFi, SonosNet
Dimensions (H x W x D): 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69"
Device Type: Subwoofer
Input: Ethernet, WiFi, SonosNet
Dimensions (H x W x D): 15 x 6.2 x 15.8"
Device Type: SonosNet Bridge
Dimensions (H x W x D): 1.75 x 4.15 x 4.15"
Availability: Direct Online and through Authorized Dealers
Do you watch TV? Sports maybe? If so, you've probably spotted one of the Sonos commercials. White immaculate rooms are suddenly filled with liquid color, with flowers, or with paint spatters until the rooms are transformed. By music. Cool. And its cool for a few reasons; the message, the presentation, and the fact that a hi-fi company can afford to advertise on network TV during high profile/price sporting events. I'd imagine that Sonos is the only company to come through AudioStream to be in a position to pull that off.
I think we can agree that Sonos is a success. But what is Sonos and more importantly what does Sonos sound like? Sonos offers a range of products geared towards delivering music wirelessly around your home all controlled from a single app. Under review are the Play:5, a pair of Play:1s, the Sub, and a Bridge. Let's take 'em on one by one.
The Play:5 is a portable speaker with a built-in streamer. There are five Class D-powered drivers packed into its relatively small body including two tweeters, two 3" mid range drivers, and 3.5" woofer. There's an Ethernet input, a removable power cord , a 3.5mm analog input, and a 3.5mm headphone jack all around back. Up top is the unit's mute button and volume controls. You can pair a pair of 5's for stereo but we're reviewing just one. Solo.
The Play:1 is a smaller version of the 5, more or less. Housing a tweeter and one 3.5" mid/woofer each having their own Class D amp, the Play:1 is also a streamer. There's just an Ethernet input around back, a removable power cord on the unit's bottom, and the unit's mute and volume buttons up top.
The O-shaped Sub is a subwoofer with "two force-canceling speakers positioned face-to-face for deeper, richer sound and zero cabinet buzz or rattle" driven by a pair of Class D amps. The Sub is rated down to 25Hz. All EQ is done digitally and there's a simple setup program within the Sonos app that steps you through matching the Sub with the accompanying Sonos speaker in-room. There's an Ethernet input underneath and a removable power cord.
The Bridge connects to your router via Ethernet and creates a dedicated wireless network for all of your Sonos devices. While every Sonos device includes its own wi-fi capability and SonosNet, "a secure AES encrypted, peer-to-peer wireless mesh network", the Bridge is intended for homes where your own wi-fi network does provide adequate coverage for all of the rooms where you'd like to have music. A Bridge is also required if you want to do a home theater setup with a Playbar (not reviewed), a Sub, and two Play:1s.
Connecting and Setting Up Sonoses
In the Sonos ecosystem, one Sonos device has to be connected to your network. That connection can be via WiFi or Ethernet. The remaining Sonos units, the company claims you can add up to 31 in total, can connect to each other via SonosNet. This is really the beauty of the Sonos setup. SonosNet is a dedicated WiFi network so your music is not riding along with your data on your home network and Sonos devices connect automatically. Plug and play.
I connected the Bridge to my router and the Play:5, Sub, and Play:1s were connected wirelessly via SonosNet. To physically setup the Bridge, I first had to download and install the Sonos app for the iPad (there's also an Android version). Then I plugged in the Bridge, connected it to my router, opened the Sonos app and received a message that my Sonos device needed to be updated which I accomplished with the press of a button in the app. Next I selected "Add a BOOST or BRIDGE". The app walks you through the process which basically entails pressing the join button on the unit's top. Done.
Adding the Play:5 and Play:1 were equally simple. Select "Add a Player or Sub", press the mute and volume up buttons simultaneously on the device, name the device (Living Room, Dining Room, etc) and you're pretty much done. The Sub follows similar steps but also adds the EQ process. The first step in this process entails A/Bing the same track and selecting which, if any, is louder. Next you listen to the same track while changing the Sub's level until it sounds most natural. I settled on -1 (-2 through +2). Simple.
I decided to add one of my NAS devices to the Sonos network so I just had to go into "Music Library Management" and add my NAS' network address and login credentials. Done.
I also set up Spotify and Deezer Elite, the latter's lossless service, by setting up a new account with a free 30-day trial. You can also access Internet Radio and a number of additional streaming services including 7digital, Amazon Music, Bandcamp, Google Play Music, Pandora, Rdio, Rhapdosy, Slacker, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, and more. In terms of services, I have yet to see a wider and more comprehensive set than Sonos.
The Sonos devices are capable of handling up to 16/48 data in MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, Ogg Vorbis, Audible, Apple Lossless, FLAC, WAV, and AIFF formats. That's right. No high resolution audio with Sonos. As someone who has invested in higher resolutions and wants to fully enjoy them in all of their native glory, that pretty much rules out Sonos for my personal use. Bluesound offers a very similar set of products which are high res ready so I'd steer anyone interested in high res and multi-room wireless audio in that direction. For those who enjoy and need nothing more than CD-quality. read on.
The Sonos App
Navigating around the Sonos app on my iPad to play music was intuitive and easy. Tap and play. For music from my NAS, browsing was through the familiar folder structure including Albums, Artists, Composers, Genres, Tracks, Imported Playlists, and Folders. I pretty much stuck to Album mode which shows cover art, album title, and artists name. To play an album or track, just tap and hold and a window pops up with the options to Play Now, Play Next, Add to Queue, or Replace Queue. Simple. You can save Playlists, edit them on the fly, and re-arrange the order of tracks.
Switching between music sources was also a snap (or I should say a tap). Deezer Elite, Spotify, Internet Radio, and back to my NAS-based library was all accomplished with just a few taps. You can also save Favorites including Internet Radio stations so they show up on the home screen for easy access.
The Sound of Sonos
The first device I setup and listened to was the Play:5. I sat it on my equipment rack approximately 7' from my listening chair and began listening. I dialed in the new Weyes Blood album The Innocents on Deezer and sat back for some folkie enjoyment. While there was nice amount of detail and delicacy, the overall presentation was a bit light weight. In other words, it sounded like a portable speaker. My room is large and open, the listening area alone measuring approximately 25' x 15' x 12' so this is asking an awful lot from any portable speaker.
Next up I coupled the Sub to the Play:5. Now we're talking! Body, real booty shaking bass, and generally just a more fit and fun sound. For anyone looking for serious listening pleasure, I'd say the Sub is a must-have item if you plan to fill a room with music. I'd also say that a pair of 5's would help deliver even more weight and a stereo image if that kind of thing floats your boat.
I played some ripped CDs from my library including the test track "Bemsha Swing" from Don Cherry's Art Deco and was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of sound from the Play:5 and Sub, an $1100 combo. Remember, we're not just talking about a speaker, we're also talking about a streamer. The app also allows you to seamlessly navigate between your music library, in my case NAS-based, streaming services, and Internet Radio. Very nice. The Deezer Elite lossless service got the most use here because its sounds better than Spotify and the music selection proved to be good and deep.
I took the Play:5's headphone output for a spin with the NAD Viso HP50 'phones and was greeted by a nice, natural sound. Bass heavy music like The Bug's Angles & Devils sounded big and bold with plenty of bottom end. Overall I'd say the sound was on the darker side but enjoyable none the less.
Next up I added the pair of Play:1s to my desktop. The Play:1s also proved to be detailed and delicate and together they threw out a very nice wide and deep sound image. Upper frequencies were on the sweet side, where I prefer them, and the midrange was relatively rich and nicely present. Bass response is a bit shy, even compared to my ADAM A3Xs but overall the Play:1s were easy to listen to and easy to like especially in the near field. I found that they lost a lot of their umph at distance, the Play:5 + Sub being more appropriate for room-filling sound.
It's very easy to create a Group in the Sonos app so that multiple units will play the same music. Just click on Group then select the devices you'd like in the group. Done. My desk sits near my equipment rack so I kept the Play:5 and Play:1 un-grouped but for a multiroom setup Sonos is a breeze to use. You can also just as easily have different music playing on different devices with just a few clicks in the app. Mozart in the Dining Room and Handel in the Hall? Hendrix on the Porch while Ella entertains in the Living Room? That is the point of Sonos. Well that and it sounds good, too.
I did encounter a few glitches when grouping and ungrouping the Play:1 and Play:5. On occasion, it took multiple clicks to get the app to recognize my changes, whether grouping or ungrouping. This was not consistent behavior. Also, while playing back only on the Play:1s, I hit the mute button on the app, and music played through the Play:5 as well. Multiple taps of the mute button corrected this issue. This was also not consistent behavior and only happened 1 in roughly 20 times.
If you can live with CD-quality music and want to fill a few rooms with the same music or with different music and you're not a fan of wires take a look at and a listen to Sonos. They were the first in this market and there's a very good reason why they're still on top. The Sonos components are a snap to set up, a breeze to get working together, the app is a pleasure to use and offers access to tons of streaming services including Deezer's lossless service, as well as your network attached storage, and Internet Radio. And it does all of that while delivering music that sounds like music. That's cause for a smile.