It was only a couple of months ago that Sonos introduced the Play:5 as the newest member of their speaker family and being somewhat into music, audio equipment and generally enjoying good sound I took one for the team and stuck my hand up to review the unit for Ausdroid. After having had the speaker at my house for a few days, I published a first impressions post and frankly the underpinning message hasn’t really changed: Sonos make great hardware, they produce great sound and being a premium product you pay a premium for the hardware in this case $749RRP for the speaker.
First things first; the sound is the main reason people will buy streaming speakers and you’re going to struggle to fault these for sound quality unless you’re a sound engineer. The quality and depth of sound from the Play:5 shows in no uncertain terms how Sonos earned their name as the best in the business for streaming speakers and gives them a solid foundation to keeping it for the foreseeable future.
It always interests me to hear people equating power to volume, which really isn’t the case; if you’ve got buckets of power you don’t need to crank the volume to enjoy a rich sound. In fact that can often detract from the listening experience if your speaker is not balanced correctly for the room you’re in. Sonos do have an answer to the issue of speakers being incorrectly tuned for the room they are located in called TruePlay which (currently is only available on iOS but soon to be available on Android) allows users to take advantage of the mobile phone or tablet they have to use a piece of Sonos own proprietary software to tune the speaker to the room. It essentially involves waving your device around the room to capture the varied sound frequencies and automatically tune the speaker to the acoustics of the room. We hope to get a closer look at the TruePlay software very soon.
Even without the tuning from TruePlay the Play:5 hit the spot right out of the box on hip hop, rock, classical and the audio quality blew me away when I listened to some acoustic sets – There is a clarity and depth of that is deserved of a speaker with the reputation Sonos have. Bass had power and punch, the mid range sounds were crisp and the high end sound was flawless (to my ears) and clearly was to the liking of the younger members of my household as well, particularly my son who (at 6 years old) was drawn to it from the first song telling me he could “feel the music” and really likes the new speaker. It didn’t take him, or his 3 year old sister long to work out the gesture controls either; first it was play/pause, followed by volume up (I found this at out 6:15 Christmas Morning when I was woken by the Wiggles rattling my living room windows) and ultimately how to skip a track which did not bode well for me listening to music I like anytime soon.
Hey Sonos, I’ve got a sales pitch on the Play:5 for you – it’s so simple that a visually impaired child has worked out the gesture controls!
The quality of the Sonos doesn’t just end with outstanding playback quality, clearly a lot of time and money has gone into designing such a gorgeous piece of hardware. It really does look great and being available in (like the other speakers in the Sonos Play range) either black or white, means that for the larger majority of home interiors it won’t look out of place.
So where is the value in a product like Sonos?
This is a bit of a loaded question, the problem is that as a stand alone speaker the Play:5 does cost a significant amount more than a similar (spec, not necessarily end result) piece of hardware. But there is a lot to be said about the Play:5 and the Sonos platform that offers so much value over competitor products.
Let’s start with the hardware…
Paying a premium for hardware means that users are going to expect a lot from it; now and for some time to come. Sonos deliver on this easily, I have friends who are still receiving firmware updates for their Sonos equipment that is in one case nearly 5 years old. So there is an unwritten understanding from Sonos that their equipment is a long term investment that users are not entering into lightly.
The physical speaker, or should I say speakers… are all designed and built at Sonos and each individual speaker has its own dedicated amp in this particular model. The previous iteration of the Play:5 was a fantastic speaker which has taken a huge leap forward in looks, design and delivery.
I own and like my LG Music Flow speakers, to me they represent great value for money and give a really solid listening experience. I’ve also spent some quality time with the Samsung streaming speakers, both are excellent systems in their own right but having never owned a Sonos speaker, I wasn’t aware of the huge number of little differences that ultimately make a huge difference to the user experience.
While testing the Sonos I deliberately made the effort to immerse myself in the platform holistically and that meant software for my Android devices, my PC, my Mac and of course the other Android devices around the house that are regularly used for entertainment purposes. It was on the Mac/PC interface that you could really see how much detail Sonos have gone into when designing their playback systems with the ability to add networked drives on a PC or even NAS storage to your music library for playback as well as a host of other features that are not relevant to this review as I only have the one speaker.
The first of many things that came to my attention by doing this was the attention to detail in providing a complete user experience regardless of the platform you’re on which is both a blessing and a curse depending on who has access at the time so rather than only one device having access to the play list, everyone can see and alter it to their desire.
Having used Google Cast to my own speakers one of the big differences I found was that you only need to add an account to the Sonos system once for that streaming service to be available to all users who have access to it. While you can easily use the Google Cast function, there really is no specific need to for music. Sadly; my only criticism of the Sonos system is that Google Cast doesn’t work and I use this a lot with my current speakers to listen to Podcasts. The speaker storing streaming accounts makes life really simple, where other systems require individual connections to have their own connection/account for whatever particular streaming service they want to push to the speakers.
At the end of it all there is a lot going for Sonos speakers, as stand alone speakers and when combined into a whole of home entertainment system. The speakers look great, sound great and integrate with each other to play music on any combination of speakers in your home. It offers But looking directly at the Play:5 – put simply:
This isn’t just the best streaming speaker of 2015, in my eyes this is the best streaming speaker I have ever listened to.
If you’re in the market for a streaming speaker and are fiscally empowered enough to afford the $749 price tag then I would not hesitate for a moment to recommend the Sonos Play:5 to anyone, it really is a display of brilliance from the moment you see the packaging through to the user experience for weeks, months and years to come.
If this is sounding too good to be true, head in to your local JB Hifi or Harvey Norman to check out the range of Sonos speakers that you can build your system with. The recommended retail for the Play:5 speaker is $749 and at the time of writing this, was the best price available on any of the major retailers websites. Be sure to keep your eyes open over the next few weeks though as there’s bound to be some sales on.
Will you be considering a Sonos speaker for your home soon?