I started writing this review, and then I stopped and thought for a second. I am not audiophile, I couldn’t tell you how the Sonos system compares to the latest ProAc offering or the next generation Splendor setup as I have never heard them. In fact apart from my Philips dock radio I can’t say I have listened to too much else over the last couple of years. But then I realized I can’t think of another similar system to Sonos and that means I don’t have to compare it to anything……winner! All I need to do is to tell you about it, so here goes.
I asked 3 random people what the word Sonos meant to them, OK one of them was my father so not entirely random but you get the idea. I had 3 different comments:
Now these 3 comments kind of sum up Sonos, you won’t see it on any of their adverts but trust me they are all true.
For those of you who have been living on Mars for the last year or so SONOS is the latest in multi-room streaming audio. Tapping into your home wireless network it allows streaming directly from the Internet and from your digital music collection held on you iPhone/Pad/S3. As it’s connected to your network you can keep adding more and more kit making a full scale hi-fi set up in one room or a multi-room system across the house. The software allows multiple rooms to play different music so if no one likes your fetish for The Saturdays you can be banished to the bedroom to…….err……..listen to music.
The current product offering includes:
Play3 – Small speaker
Play5 – Bigger speaker
Sub – Err a sub
Playbar – Sound bar for your TV
A number of other bits are available like the bridge to connect to your network and if you have a traditional set up with normal speakers you can hook these into a Sonos setup too.
Lets get back to the facts, yes its expensive. I started with a Play3 (£230) which was good for a while. I then added another (£230) as I wanted to create a stereo pair. I then felt there wasn’t quite enough bass and got the Sub (£600). I then realized I had two subs in my living room as I had one for the TV. Aha I know what, I will get a Playbar (£600) and create the ultimate Sonos setup. So I have ended up with a system worth £1630 (or a few hundred quid if my wife asks). The problem (for me anyway) is that it lures you in with the ease of set up – just two buttons, and it really does sound good which makes your brain say if one is good imagine two! The Sub and Playbar are just trinkets, but as soon as I read that the paired Play3 speakers I already had could be used as a 5.1 surround setup with the Sub and Playbar I was sold.
They also do look good. In this era of Apple cool they have followed the less is more approach and made products that I like having on display and enjoy looking at. Coolness is also very robust, my kids 1, 3 and 5 – that’s not their names, but it could be an indication of how quickly in minutes it takes them to reduce items to component parts; but I am happy to say the my Sonos minions are standing up well, not damaged and no major marks or scratches. And they all use the Sub as a seat, something which is not mentioned in the bumf.
I think they sound great, music in particular is clear, quality is very good even through streaming service such as Spotify. Sonos are constantly adding more and more radio and music services so all should be catered for. To control the music you use the Sonos app, which is easy enough to use but can be a little tricky working out how to get a whole album to play rather than just one song.
When hooked up to the TV again the sound is very impressive. When not receiving a proper surround signal it will provide a virtual surround which works to an extent but it can be worth just using the Playbar and Sub in these instances. It really gets into its stride when watching HD movies through Virgin’s On Demand service. The surround sound is good, and providing you are happy with an experience that rivals the cinema for loudness, you will pick up every detail. But in this lies the problem, it’s great when you are watching Mr Willis saving the world again, but Eastenders on a Monday night at normal volume lacks the clarity of some other systems I have come across. You strain to hear speech so whack up the volume only to be blasted off the sofa in the next scene. Sonos gets round this to an extent by offering ‘night mode’ which reduces loud and booming sounds and enhances the speech. This mode is OK but I can’t help feeling it’s like buying a supercar and sticking a 40 mph limiter on it.
Another annoying feature is that the 5.1 setup doesn’t support DTS audio which is what a lot of DVD’s use. I am sure this will be sorted in an update soon as people power is starting to gather momentum. This in itself is a perfect example of how versatile the system is, if a feature doesn’t exist, change the software so it does.
Overall it is expensive, too expensive? Not in my opinion, I wouldn’t sell a kidney to get the right setup, but you can start small and work you way up to the level you want. Go on try it you might like it!