Sonos Play:5 evaluation (2015): a generational leap ahead

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

The all-new Sonos Play:5 is the corporate’s first main hardware revision; a recent flagship for its fleet of WiFi-enabled audio system. Sonos’ merchandise have all the time been praised for his or her design and performance, however not essentially their sound high quality or worth. The brand new Play:5 undoubtedly is not low cost: At $499, it is truly $one hundred greater than the unique. However the previous Play:5 was the corporate’s first try at constructing a speaker, and though it sounds okay, Sonos has come a great distance within the six years since its launch. This time round, Sonos lastly created a product that appears and sounds nearly as good as its price ticket. Nevertheless it’s nonetheless not for everybody.

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Sonos

Play:5 (2015)

Execs

  • Easy setup and tuning
  • Straightforward to show into multi-room system with different, cheaper Sonos audio system 
  • Audio high quality is superb
  • Lengthy record of supported providers
  • Line-in provides limitless music choices

Cons

  • Looking for music in app is cumbersome
  • No devoted distant
  • Priced even larger than earlier era

Abstract

The Play:5 is one of the best speaker Sonos has ever made. Its reliance on a single app for controlling all of your audio providers means the software program expertise is not fairly as slick because it could possibly be, nevertheless it’s straightforward to arrange and sounds nearly as good as its $499 price ticket suggests.

The Sonos proposition

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

From left to proper: the Play:1, Play:5 and Play:three.

Should you’re new to Sonos, it is a multi-room speaker system that allows you to stream audio from quite a lot of net sources or from native storage. The record of providers is complete, however not exhaustive. Subscription-based mostly streaming corporations like Spotify, Rdio, Deezer, and Tidal are all there, as are music lockers and one-off buy outlets like Amazon Music or 7Digital. In-between choices like Google Play Music and Groove are current, and various or radio providers like Bandcamp, 22tracks, SoundCloud, TuneIn and Radionomy are additionally supported. For the Play:5 particularly, you may also hook up just about something with a headphone port to the system.

All this help comes by way of one place: the Sonos controller app for PC, Mac, iOS and Android, which does its greatest to place no matter providers you need right into a single, coherent interface. From the app, you possibly can search all of your providers, browse and create playlists and select the place your music will play. For hardware administration the app is nice — it is easy to navigate, and you will find it straightforward so as to add new audio system, and create speaker zones and teams, in addition to tweak quantity and EQ settings. For truly enjoying music, although, it is a combined bag.

Usually issues work properly sufficient, however the expertise of managing music via Sonos’ software is all the time second-greatest to only going instantly via your streaming service’s app. Whereas playlists and different organizational instruments port over properly, looking for new tracks is a problem. There’s simply no intelligence to it. Say I am on the lookout for the music “Undercover” from the Solos-Duos album by Pierre Van Dormael and Hervé Samb. Spotify’s app is sensible sufficient to learn me typing “samb undercover” and recommend the right music earlier than I am achieved writing the second phrase. Sonos, then again, solely permits you to search by artist, monitor or album, and can fail to acknowledge any mixture of those. For those who’re on the lookout for a music with an vague identify, you are going to have a tough time discovering it with out digging by way of album after album. The track I simply referenced is the forty first search end result for the phrase “undercover,” in case you have been questioning.

Sonos has its points, however does an amazing job of pulling a number of providers right into a single app.

Regardless of its imperfections, the Sonos controller does a commendable job of pulling a number of providers right into a single place. The search points are an actual disgrace, because the app is nice for mixing and matching a number of providers. With the ability to construct a playlist that effortlessly pulls from, for instance, Spotify, SoundCloud, Deezer and my PC is a reasonably distinctive promoting level, particularly as SoundCloud is house to loads of exclusives and eclectic stuff that does not sometimes make its strategy to different streaming providers.

The opposite advantage of Sonos’ system is that there is no restrict on the variety of customers that may management it. Anybody related to the identical WiFi community can become involved by downloading the app, making it a terrific system for events and get-togethers. It’s also possible to join a number of accounts from the identical service, so if in case you have a big household you’ll be able to every, for instance, have your personal Spotify playlists and favorites syncing.

Hardware

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

The Sonos emblem is surrounded by precision-drilled holes that cease it blocking sound from the tweeter behind it.

I’ve already touched on the Play:5’s lofty place in Sonos’ broader lineup, however it’s value wanting on the complete choice in a bit extra element. On the backside of the vary is the Play:1 at $199. The mid-vary choice is the Play:three at $299, whereas the Play:5 is significantly extra at $499. The Play:1 is a tiny factor, providing a single tweeter and mid-woofer, every with its personal amplifier. The Play:three retains the only tweeter, however replaces the mid-woofer with a pair of mid-vary drivers (all independently amplified) and a passive bass radiator. For the Play:5, Sonos goes all out, with three tweeters (one central and two aspect-firing), three devoted mid-woofers and, in case you did not discover the sample, an amplifier for every.

The Play:5’s six audio system are all neatly enclosed in a subdued, however nonetheless lovely enclosure. It is a far sleeker object than the Play:three and the earlier-era Play:5, with a mild curve to its entrance and a mix of rounded and sharp edges forming pleasing, clear strains when seen from any angle. There’s barely something to catch the attention, nothing to distract from its general type. Even the bodily buttons have been changed in favor of capacitive keys that additionally settle for swipes for issues like skipping tracks. What won’t be perceivable within the photographs accompanying this assessment is the precision of the engineering right here. Seemingly no element is missed. Working example: Sonos is certainly one of only a few corporations that designs solely customized energy plugs at each ends for no cause aside from it needs them to appear and feel good.

Should you like colourful audio system, then look elsewhere. Sonos has however two choices: grey-on-black or black-on-white, each completed in a matte polycarbonate. I am an enormous fan of the latter, however sadly I did not get to decide on my evaluation models. Though it is nonetheless a wonderful object, the grey-on-black model simply fades away into the background. Most individuals would in all probability respect that, however I needed the audio system to be a press release, a dialog piece, and the black-on-white model is absolutely putting.

Getting began

Whenever you first plug in a Sonos, you need to use a telephone, pill, PC or Mac to get began. Setup is straightforward regardless of the system, however it works greatest with iOS. When utilizing an iPhone, iPad or iPod Contact, after pairing — which includes urgent a sync button on the speaker and never a lot else — you will be invited to make use of a brand new Sonos function referred to as Trueplay to tune the Play:5. We have written about this iOS-solely function intimately, however to catch you up, it primarily performs a seemingly random number of sounds and makes use of your telephone’s or pill’s microphone to check your room’s acoustics and your speaker positioning. It’s going to then modify the speaker output to greatest go well with its environment. The thought is to not create a single candy spot, however to tune your speaker for the whole room.

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

So this is the factor about Trueplay. It is a easy course of to undergo, nevertheless it requires some thought. The app exhibits a bit video guiding you on find out how to wave your system within the right method and shows a woman wandering throughout a room. In follow, this is probably not the easiest way to go about issues. I’ve examined the speaker in a number of rooms of my home, and in most places the overall wandering-and-waving method labored properly, however there have been a few conditions the place it didn’t.

In my bed room/workplace the place I do most of my music listening, I’ve the speaker on a bedside desk, angled to fireside over my mattress instantly at my desk on the opposite aspect of my room. With this setup, following Sonos’ directions and wandering your complete room left the Play:5 tuned utterly incorrect, with very weak bass notes and overly loud trebles. The second time I ran the tuning, I stayed round my desk and mattress, ignoring the remainder of the room, and was rewarded with a close to-completely tuned speaker.

Sound high quality

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

Trueplay does add an actual readability to music by eradicating or decreasing frequencies — particularly low notes — that reverberate oddly as a consequence of obstructions or room acoustics. Nevertheless it’s not good. Tuning points apart, it’s kind of overzealous with bass discount, which may destroy the stability of tracks with a robust concentrate on the low finish. General it is well worth the commerce-off, however I might like a neater solution to flip it on or off inside the app. Proper now it’s a must to dig by way of the settings menu to seek out the right checkbox, however I might wish to see a button on the playback display as an alternative. Sonos already has audio-setting shortcuts like this for its Playbar, so there is no purpose it could not do the identical right here.

The bass challenge launched by Trueplay has truly been an extended-time period grievance about Sonos. The Play:5, just like the Play:1 and Play:three, has a sealed speaker system with no port to attract or launch air. This sometimes leads to bass that is crisper, however much less boomy than ported methods. The impact is not noticeable once you’re blasting music out at, say, 70 % of max quantity, however pay attention at decrease ranges and issues are a bit bass-shy. To fight this, there is a “loudness” setting within the EQ that helps music sound extra bass-heavy at decrease volumes. I routinely have this switched on, as I do not are likely to blast music ridiculously loud.

These are pretty small points, and though I am no audiophile I do settle for I am extra uppity about sound high quality than most. The Play:5, even with its niggles, sounds unbelievable throughout a broad vary of music. An hour-lengthy number of tracks I used to check the audio system is embedded on the appropriate — I truly used Deezer Elite for the audio testing, however Spotify is there on your comfort. Anyway, that is simply the most effective speaker that Sonos has ever made. It blows each sensible speaker I’ve ever used out of the water, and it really competes with non-sensible choices in the identical worth vary.

Audio high quality is all the time a troublesome factor to guage. There is a character to every pair of headphones and audio system that may’t be seen on a spec sheet or a frequency-response graph. Past the quantifiable, you simply have style, which is why there are $1,000 headphones that I dislike, and $35 pairs that I really like. I do not truly love the Sonos gear I presently personal (two Play:1s, two Play:3s and a Playbar). I invested in Sonos for the multi-room expertise, and the 2 Play:3s that I exploit every day ship an satisfactory sound, however all the time really feel just a little limp and lifeless. Utilizing even a single Play:5 of their stead has been a surprisingly nice expertise. It is higher balanced, clearer and much punchier towards the low finish. Stereo separation is not good, however you possibly can’t anticipate a single-field setup to completely isolate the left and proper channel with out it sounding unnatural. General, it is a stellar speaker, and one I think will win over many naysayers.

The Play:5 really competes with non-sensible choices in the identical worth vary.

I can take heed to the identical music on totally different headphones, and it will sound distinct on every. I discover a specific mid-vary observe in a single pair of cans — a really “balanced” pair of AKGs — that’ll be solely lacking in my every day “out-and-about” headphones, which in flip will spotlight some digital noise added to a bass word. Neither is essentially higher or worse; they’re simply… totally different. I’ve these little revelations every day with my admittedly costly headphones, however by no means with my Play:3s, which, all informed, set me again $600. The Play:5, nevertheless, joins the dialog. I’m noticing new issues about tracks each day, and it feels nice. To be clear, that is one thing I might anticipate from a $499 speaker. Nevertheless it’s not one thing I essentially anticipated from a $499 Sonos.

Two’s firm

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

These are the broad strokes; now the small print. I’ve primarily targeted on the expertise offered by a single Play:5, however a pair of the audio system can, just like the Play:three and Play:1, be set as much as work as a left- or proper-channel speaker. Pairing is straightforward: Add the second speaker by way of the app; let Sonos know if it is the suitable or left channel; after which undergo the Trueplay course of. Upon getting two paired, the expertise is actually spectacular.

Even after a brief hour-lengthy demo final month, I used to be already bought on simply how good the Play:5s sound when stereo paired. Within the week or so I’ve spent with them in my residence, I have been capable of take heed to a broad vary of tracks I do know nicely, and I am much more satisfied of their deserves. There are literally two setup configurations so that you can check out that may end in a definite sound. There’s an orientation sensor inside every, and the software program will energy totally different drivers relying on which positioning you select. In case you place the audio system vertically, you will get fairly intense separation, however extra focused at a “candy spot” in your room. Flip them horizontal, and the aspect-firing tweeters present properly separated stereo sound to a surprisingly broad space. And I imply “shocking” — I might be sitting instantly in entrance of the left-channel speaker and nonetheless hear the person channels.

As a result of I usually take heed to music alone, the vertical association makes probably the most sense for me. Nevertheless it’s actually helpful to have the choice to only flip the Play:5s on their sides, have the audio system detect that and allow them to modify their output to play music to a bigger group of individuals.

Line-in and future-proofing

The Play:5 additionally has an choice distinctive inside the Sonos lineup: a line-in port. With a three.5mm cable, you’ll be able to play music from something with a line-out or headphone port. Sonos appears virtually begrudged to carry this port over from the final era, however it provides a number of performance to the general expertise, as you possibly can stream the road-in audio to any speaker in your community with little or no latency.

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

Throughout a part of my testing, I had the Play:5 on my desk and used it as a PC speaker. With the ability to play my PC’s audio wholesale all through the home is beneficial, particularly if I am listening to a video podcast or watching a soccer recreation in my browser and wish to go to the kitchen to seize some meals. There is a tiny little bit of lag, which it appears is a necessity to sync the audio throughout all the home. It isn’t sufficient to make lip syncing an enormous drawback for films, and video games labored nicely sufficient additionally. So, though Sonos in all probability does not need you to make use of its flagship speaker to blast out YouTube clips, the Play:5 is greater than succesful.

Software program updates are frequent and sometimes very helpful.

One factor I have never talked about but is one thing that is not likely potential to evaluation, however is certainly value figuring out. Sonos often updates its audio system and software program with new options and performance. This covers not solely primary stuff like including new streaming providers — for the report, Apple Music help is coming quickly — but in addition issues like Trueplay tuning, which was introduced alongside the Play:5, but in addition works with the Play:three, Play:1 and the earlier-gen Play:5. Maybe probably the most notable replace in current reminiscence meant that Sonos not wanted to be plugged into your community to perform correctly. Previous to the replace, a minimum of one piece of kit required an Ethernet connection to your router.

The Play:5 truly has some further hardware that is not lively at launch: a microphone. It might be used for mechanically tuning the speaker sooner or later, or maybe for voice controls. It is unattainable to know what’s across the nook for this specific speaker — Sonos says it is actively exploring the chances — however you possibly can at the very least know that the corporate will help the Play:5 for a very long time to return.

Distant constraints

Again to the current, and Sonos’ imaginative and prescient for its merchandise is that they’re solely managed by means of its apps. Whereas I do not assume the controller app is dangerous, I do discover it a bit of limiting at occasions. If all I need to do is skip a monitor, and the speaker is on the opposite aspect of the room, I’ve no choices however to both stroll over to the speaker or pull out my telephone. Neither of these is probably the most arduous process, I do know, however this can be a $499 product. There is a $10 invention that Sonos might very simply pack in with it: a distant management.

I am primed and prepared for Sonos fanatics to inform me that I am lacking the purpose, however the reality stays that a distant can be tremendous helpful. The corporate used to promote a posh controller replete with a touchscreen, which was outmoded by its personal app. Once I speak about remotes, although, I imply one thing just like an Apple Distant that might supply a easy approach to management quantity and monitor choice with out the necessity to pull out your telephone and open an app.

The competitors

It ought to be clear by now that I am a agency believer in Sonos as a platform, and much more so within the Play:5 as a standalone product. As somebody who’s already invested virtually $2,000 in Sonos gear, I clearly do not symbolize the standard shopper. Ought to you get a Play:5? I can not actually offer you a one-phrase reply. When you’ve acquired a non-sensible house audio setup that you are looking to switch, one or two Play:5s could possibly be good for you, assuming the asking worth works together with your finances.

In case you’re new to Sonos and to the thought of spending numerous cash on residence audio gear, the $499/$998 price ticket might be sufficient to scare you away. I’ve associates and colleagues who’re proud of a few Play:1s dotted round their flats, and also you may be the identical. You would even purchase each a Play:1 and a Play:three and nonetheless save a greenback over the asking worth of the brand new Play:5, so you actually need to care concerning the variations amongst Sonos’ choices.

Changing previous hardware with Sonos audio system is perhaps overkill, although, particularly in the event you’re proud of the sound high quality. You possibly can add some primary casting performance to common audio system for $35 with Chromecast Audio, or if you would like the complete vary of Sonos performance, you’ll be able to stump up $349 for the corporate’s Join add-on. Join plugs into your amplifier or hello-fi by way of RCA cables, and also you all the time have the choice so as to add some Sonos audio system elsewhere in your house to start out constructing out a multi-room system at a later date.

Sonos Play:5 review (2015): a generational leap forward

The Chromecast Audio makes common audio system sensible for $35.

There are a rising variety of competing multi-room methods to think about from the likes of LG, Samsung, Bose and others. Many of those help Google Forged, which works equally to Chromecast in your TV and allows you to ship music out of your telephone to the audio system. I’ve tried all the above corporations’ gear, and remorse to report that none of them get near Sonos’ earlier-era audio system, not to mention the brand new Play:5, for sound high quality.

Rival WiFi audio system cannot come near Sonos, however Chromecast gives quite a bit for a fraction of the fee.

With Chromecast in a position so as to add sensible performance to any pair of audio system — and multi-room help coming quickly — shopping for into an organization-particular system that is not Sonos does not make lots of sense proper now. These on an excellent-tight price range are higher off discovering a non-sensible speaker they’re proud of and including the $35 Chromecast Audio dongle.

For those who’ve obtained your coronary heart set on a Sonos, however are undecided about which to get, I might advocate discovering a cease alongside the Play:5 demo tour, a brick-and-mortar retailer, or a web-based store with a bulletproof returns coverage; actually simply any approach you will discover to spend a while with the totally different choices. Simply keep in mind that the Play:three might be due for an overhaul someday quickly — it is now historic in comparison with the remainder of the lineup.

Wrap-up

As for me? I am going to undoubtedly (after an unspecified interval of counting cash) be choosing up a pair of Play:5s to spherical off my house audio setup. I used to be very happy to see Sonos create a (comparably) price range speaker within the type of the Play:1, however it’s nice to see the corporate making an attempt to push the envelope on sound high quality as an alternative of simply decreasing the worth of entry. The Play:5 is an enormous leap ahead for Sonos, lastly establishing the corporate not simply as a disruptive tech startup, but in addition as a bona fide creator of high quality audio system. Let’s hope the enhancements it is made right here trickle right down to the second-era Play:three.