The brand new Play:5 is Sonos' greatest speaker ever
The Sonos Play:5 is the wi-fi speaker that began all of it. Positive, the Santa Barbara, California-based mostly firm had made merchandise earlier than it, however the Play:5 (recognized then because the S5) was its first all-in-one answer for house audio, and it was successful. It is since been joined by a household of merchandise, together with the Play:three and the diminutive Play:1. Now, Sonos has gone again to its beginnings, creating an all-new $499 speaker to switch its ageing flagship. That is the Play:5. It is Sonos, reborn.
The very first thing you will discover concerning the new Sonos is the best way it seems. The unique is not precisely an unsightly piece of tech, however Sonos’ design language has moved on since its 2009 launch, and the previous Play:5 now seems difficult when in comparison with the remainder of the household. The brand new mannequin has a equally utilitarian casing to its extra-current audio system — the primary description that got here to thoughts once I noticed it was “elegantly outsized Play:three” — however there are a couple of good additions to the established method right here. One of the best is a brand new capacitive management panel, which depends on gestures and faucets somewhat than bodily buttons for controls. It seems like a small change, however this permits three issues. First, you get a cleaner, sleeker-wanting speaker. Second, you possibly can change tracks instantly out of your Sonos for the primary time. Third, the controls are usually not orientation dependent. Meaning skipping tracks and turning the quantity up or down work as you’d anticipate regardless of the speaker’s orientation.
The eager-eyed amongst you’ll have famous Sonos’ change to a brand new shade scheme (black and white, fairly than grey), which was first launched with its Increase hub. This alteration makes a much bigger distinction than you’d think about. The matte all-black model will fade into the background of any residence, whereas the white-and-black version is the polar reverse. The white is actually white, and the black is actually black, which creates a punchy distinction and makes the Play:5 a somewhat putting assertion piece. There are additionally some very nice touches, such because the centered Sonos emblem, which seems good in any orientation because of its palindromic nature, and easy, flush plastic grille.
Inside is a trio of mid-woofers, in addition to a central tweeter and two aspect-firing tweeters. Across the again is a big, ink-crammed Sonos emblem, and a number of ports that’ll be acquainted to present customers. There is a flush energy twine, a three.5mm line-in (the Play:5 stays the one Sonos product to have such an enter), and a single Ethernet port. Should you’re trying to substitute your present Play:5, that is perhaps a problem, as the unique mannequin has twin ports and acts as an Ethernet cross-via, however given the advances that Sonos has made with WiFi connections, it does not look like an enormous deal to me.
That is the primary Sonos speaker that sounds costlier than it’s.
Okay, sufficient concerning the appears. How does it truly sound? Judging audio high quality, at the least by ear, is all the time going to be subjective, however I can safely say the Play:5 punches nicely above its pricing, with a balanced, crisp sound throughout the vary. That is a excessive praise, and one thing I’ve not been capable of say about any Sonos earlier than. In fact, all Sonos audio system sound good, however the cause I, and lots of others, have been prepared to pay a lot for the corporate’s gear is extra to do with the software program expertise than audio high quality. The Play:5 modifications that, massive time. I used to be in a position to select the type of delicate particulars that get misplaced once I’m listening on the 2 Play:3s I exploit in my residence workplace. I am speaking about quirks of monitor mastering and tonal shifts that I hear on a regular basis when listening on my (very balanced) AKG K702 headphones, however sometimes get misplaced with cheaper gear.
As talked about, the Play:5 may be organized in three orientations — horizontally, or vertically on both aspect. When positioned vertically, the pair delivers stereo audio that is extra targeted, whereas horizontally they create a wider “room-filling” vary. Because of orientation sensors contained in the audio system, the within-dealing with tweeters are disabled when two audio system are paired horizontally, which prevents the channels from being muddled.
The brand new speaker array has so much to do with that high quality bump, however what’s in entrance of it helps as properly. The “easy” plastic grille I discussed beforehand is in truth ridiculously intricate. There are some 60,000 individually drilled holes throughout its entrance, supported by a honeycomb construction that helps unfold sound evenly beneath. Though you’d by no means realize it, it is a huge change from, for instance, the Play:three’s grille, which is just a bit of plastic. Persevering with the theme, even the strong-wanting Sonos emblem is misleading — there are a whole lot of even smaller holes drilled in there that forestall the brand from blocking sound from the central tweeter.
The general sound expertise is aided by Trueplay, a brand new dynamic tuning system that is coming to the complete Sonos speaker vary, minus the Playbar. You’ll be able to learn our full impressions on Trueplay in one other article, however to briefly clarify, it makes use of the microphones in an iOS gadget to calibrate the audio system routinely. The excessive idea is you can put your audio system anyplace you want, and the Sonos controller app will regulate the facility to varied frequencies to compensate for the room’s acoustic deficiencies. It is a easy system for an proprietor to arrange, and helps stability the audio system significantly.
There are limits to what Trueplay can do, in fact. One demo had a pair of audio system hidden behind heavy curtains, outputting some fairly horribly bassy and echoey audio. On the finish of the Trueplay setup, the music was completely listenable, however some bass channels have been very mild. In much less excessive examples, you will get a greater finish outcome. One fascinating factor concerning the Play:5 is a pair of microphones, which at launch can be deactivated. There’s the potential they might be used to routinely tune the audio system with a future replace, however whether or not that may occur is an unknown. It is fascinating that Sonos is future-proofing its audio system on this approach, even when it is not sure of the longer term that it is proofing towards.
Stereo separation is not good whenever you’re listening to at least one speaker.
If I’ve one grievance concerning the Play:5, it is stereo separation. There is a new speaker alignment inside, which is meant to create a much better single-speaker expertise. The corporate’s “sound expertise chief” Giles Martin was eager to spotlight the improved separation, however to me the channels simply weren’t far sufficient aside. To be clear, that is one thing all single-field “stereo” audio system endure from, and Sonos’ makes an attempt listed here are undoubtedly higher than common. Maybe I used to be on the lookout for a miracle. Martin defined that they might artificially widen them farther, nevertheless it would not sound pure. As an alternative of software program trickery, the separation you hear from the Play:5 comes from the location of the aspect-firing tweeters.
When you might have two Play:5s configured as a stereo pair, although, the expertise is jaw-dropping. At $998 for 2, you’d anticipate them to, I assume, however the high quality right here is mild-years forward of something Sonos has accomplished earlier than. I do not assume we’ll see music professionals utilizing these instead of monitor audio system, however even audio fanatics are going to wrestle to not be impressed with the standard on supply for what, at this worth, are nonetheless “shopper-degree” audio system.
Nonetheless, even a $499 speaker is a troublesome promote to most, not to mention a $998 pair. It is probably that the brand new Play:5s can be extra tempting to present Sonos customers (like me) who wish to increase their system, fairly than newcomers. That is in all probability not such a nasty factor. At $199 the Play:1 is a superb-sounding “finances” speaker that may win over a far bigger crowd than this ever will. The Play:three is an effective mid-approach choice at $299, particularly when you will have two in a stereo-pair, and the Play:5 is the all-out choice at $499.
With two Play:5s, you get very near professional-degree sound.
The truth is, greater than a product, the Play:5 is a press release of intent. It is Sonos saying it could actually compete with a “professional” setup for lower than $1,000, and offer you all the advantages of a WiFi music-streaming system on the similar time. Though it falls a bit of in need of that lofty objective, the Play:5 will get shut sufficient that anybody trying to spend money on a top quality residence audio setup owes it to themselves to test it out.
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