Sonos, a company well loved for its audio products, has outdone themselves once again with the second generation Play:5 speaker. Sonos’ products have always been praised for their design and functionality, but not necessarily the sound quality or value. This time, however, Sonos created a product that looks and sounds as good as its price tag.
If you aren’t familiar with Sonos, the company aims to offer a multi-room compatible speaker system that lets you stream audio from a number of different online or local sources. Here’s our take on a Sonos loaner review unit they sent us to check out. Update: actual pictures coming soon.
Unboxing & Setup
When you first unpack and plug in your Sonos Play:5, you can use a phone, tablet, PC, or Mac to get started with the setup process. The process is simple no matter which device you decide to use, however, it does work best with iOS.
Pairing the Sonos speaker with your device is as simple as pressing a sync button on the back of the device when prompted. When using an iOS device, you will be invited to use a new feature called Trueplay, which plays a random selection of sounds and uses your phone or tablet’s microphone to optimize the speaker’s output settings for your room’s acoustics given the position of the speaker.
Trueplay is a simple process in which the app shows a little video that guides you on how to wave your device in the correct way to get the most optimal results for the room you are in. I have tested this feature in multiple rooms in my house and the wandering-and-waving technique worked very well in each scenario.
During testing, I had the speaker on top of my desk and used it mainly as a speaker for my Mac. However, I also had a chance to test it as a part of my home theater system. In both cases the Sonos Play:5 performed extremely well. All my testing was with a single Play:5 speaker, however, when paired with other Sonos products users can get a seamless multi-room experience. Sonos makes it really simple to pair multiple speakers together and start playing audio in-sync across all of your Sonos devices.
Sonos wanted to create a product that users could control entirely using a single app. While I don’t think the controller app is bad, I do find it a little limiting at times. If all I want to do is skip a track, and the speaker is on the other side of the room, I have no options but to either walk over to the speaker or pull out my phone. Neither of those are really hard tasks, however, for a $649 product the company could have thrown in a remote control or even voice control. Given that the device does have a microphone that is not yet in use, we could see additional features to control the device launch in the future.
The speaker system supports subscription-based streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Radio, Deezer, and Tidal, in addition to other options like Google Play Music, Groove, SoundCloud, and TuneIn. The Play:5 also has an option for a line-in connection. With a 3.5mm audio cable, you can play music from any source directly on your Play:5. Sonos seemed a bit skeptical when holding over this port from the last generation, but it does add a lot of functionality to the experience. Personally, I am glad that Sonos decided to keep the line-in audio port.
Sonos regularly updates its speakers and software with new features and functionality. This covers not only basic stuff like adding new streaming services but also covers features like Trueplay tuning. With this, Sonos aims to make the latest and greatest features available to every Sonos user, without the need for buying a new (quite expensive) speaker.
Trueplay truly does add real clarity to the music by reducing or removing certain frequencies based on your environment. The Play:5 has a well-rounded sound profile, from lows to mids and highs, it can play any song with great clarity. I believe the Sonos Play:5 is one of the best ways to hear music in the way that the artist intended.
If you are interested in very bass heavy songs, the Sonos Play:5 may not meet your full criteria, depending on how picky you are. The speaker system is sealed and therefore has no port to draw or release air. Adding this port would typically result in a crisper bass. Or if you have bags of money, the Sonos Wireless Subwoofer is available for $849 ($50 off).
The effect of a fully enclosed speaker is not too noticeable at medium to high volumes, but it can be noticeable at lower levels as things tend to be a bit bass shy. To mitigate against this issue at low volumes, there is a loudness setting in the EQ that helps music sound more bass heavy at these lower volumes. I don’t tend to blast music, so I did find this setting to be quite useful.
I have played and studied classical music for years, and to me, the speaker performs fantastically across a broad range of music. Listening to an orchestral piece, you can hear each and every instrument play each and every musical note. The sound coming from the speaker fills the rooms, and quite often more than just one room, making it perfect for listening to music no matter what the occasion is.
Most of my testing was done using Spotify as the main music source, however, there are a bunch of other services that you can use. The Sonos Play:5 is definitely the best speaker Sonos has ever made and it completely blows every other smart speaker I’ve used out of the water. The speaker also competes well with non-smart options, offering the connected capabilities of a smart speaker in the same price range.
Audio quality can be a very difficult thing to judge, especially when you consider the character of the music. Frequently, users will pick a $35 pair of headphones over a pair that cost $1,000 because they just sound better. Beyond quantifiable metrics of sound, you also have personal taste, which makes a huge impact when listening to music through headphones or a speaker system.
The Sonos Play:5 is an absolutely fantastic speaker, however, for the price it may not be in the reach of everyone. If you’re new to Sonos and to the idea of spending lots of money on home audio gear, the $649 price tag (Play:5 on sale for $599 right now) is probably enough to scare you away. If you are looking to buy into the Sonos environment without breaking the bank, you could purchase a Play:1 or a Play:3 and bring your total costs down.
If you already have old speakers and want the same smart functionality of Sonos’ ecosystem, you could purchase a $45 Chromecast Audio and attach it to any speaker in your house. This option works great if you want to use your existing speakers and want a connected experience. With the latest update to the Chromecast Audio, users can even stream the same song across multiple speakers (requires one Chromecast Audio device per speaker).
There are a growing number of competing multi-room systems to consider from the likes of LG, Samsung, Bose and others. Many of these support Google Cast, which works similarly to Chromecast and lets you send music from your phone to the speakers.
If you’ve got your heart set on a Sonos, but are undecided about which to get, I would recommend the Sonos Play:5 if it fits your budget. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative in the Sonos line I would recommend the Play:1, seeing as the Play:3 is long overdue for an update.
If you are looking for a speaker that will fill any space with the most incredible sound, the Sonos Play:5 is the perfect solution. The device relies on a single app for controlling all of your audio services, which means that the software experience isn’t quite as good as it should be, but it is very simple to setup. Sonos is a premium product and comes with a premium price.
Sonos Play:5 is available in black and white from the company’s online store for $649 CAD, or currently $50 off from Amazon.ca for $599. A bunch of Sonos products are currently on sale for up to $50 off on Amazon.ca right now.
If you already own a Sonos device, feel free to share your experience with the company’s products in the comment below!