Pre-Order the Sonos Play:5 Smart Speaker Now

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

All-New SONOS PLAY:5 Now Available for Pre-Order.

Sonos has long been my favorite speaker company. The original Sonos Play:5 has long sat at the top of Sonos’ range of multiroom speakers as its flagship model, so much so that its design was beginning to look a little dated. While the sound quality is fair to good – I’ve heard better and I’ve heard far worse – the ease of use, the simplicity of setup, and the access to millions of pieces of streamed content far outweighed any grumbling I had about not hearing the highest highs and lowest lows.

Sonos says the end goal was to put “massively better sound and wireless performance in a really iconic package.” The company wants these products to last as long as 10 years in a customer’s home, and the Play:5 fits that part pretty well with a simplistic but stylish design that’s available in either white or black. The speaker goes on sale November 20th in all of its U.S. retail partner and dealer locations, while retail locations in Canada and across the globe will begin selling the PLAY:5 on November 25th. Particularly with the white model, you can set it in a corner of your living room (any room, really) and never worry about it picking up dust or fingerprints. Like its predecessor, it’ll be available in a choice of black or white and while the speaker looks great from afar, the closer you get to it, the more you’ll be impressed by the innovation under the hood.

Do that, and you’re looking at hundreds and hundreds of dollars in set-up costs (this stuff is pricey), but you do end up with a kick-ass experience. Aside from a button used for setup on the back, the other controls — play/pause, volume, and track controls — are all capacitive touch buttons that automatically adjust for the Play:5’s orientation.

Importantly, the rectangular design now means that the speaker can be stood horizontally, or vertically on either end, giving you more flexibility as to where you place the speakers. With six, custom-designed drivers, (three mid-woofers for smooth mids and deep, powerful lows, plus three tweeters delivering impressive highs, without high volume distortion) the speaker produces a surprisingly wide soundstage with precise and impactful separation of vocals and instruments. Every speaker you plug in gets similar treatment and you can either connect multiple speakers together in one room or you can put Sonos devices throughout the house. Around back is also a 3.5mm input jack, giving you the flexibility to play pretty much anything through this speaker if Sonos’ app can’t do what you need it to. The PLAY:5 can be oriented in three ways – like its little brother, the PLAY:3, the PLAY:5 can be positioned in a horizontal or vertical orientation and is smart enough to know which way it’s standing.

But as music has become increasingly tied to my ever-mobile laptop and phone, my listening has gradually drifted towards headphones—until I got a couple of Sonos Play:1 speakers a few years ago, that is. The horizontal position offers the wider soundstage, but if you’re looking for the widest sound, configuring twin PLAY:5s in a stereo pair is the way to go. While I’ve never experienced this “party” mode – I have very few close friends – the times I brought NPR podcasts or a little Celine up in party mode accidentally were amazing. Sadly it can’t be removed to showcase all that’s new inside: Sonos has designed six drivers (three tweeters and three mid-woofers) in-house, and the company takes great pride in the fact that it builds each component from the ground up. Backing up, Sonos was the first company to get wireless multiroom audio right—a central system, which allows you to control speakers in many different rooms.

The company got out in front of everyone by creating a great wireless experience when basically your only other option was the original Jawbone Jambox. All of this results in a product that Sonos claims is “several generations ahead of where we’ve been in the past.” And to my ears, it sounds pretty fantastic. Over the course of several days, I had the speaker playing music for hours, constantly hopping between genres so I could better gauge its versatility. Whereas before the Play:5s I had paired near the back of the room barely registered these new speakers took over and truly added to the complete sound field.

There are a ton of competitors making similar (clone?!) systems now: Bose, Samsung, Polk, Yamaha, and Denon, just to name the a few of the noteworthy. One thing that’s immediately noticeable is that the Play:5 sounds rich and full at any volume; the Play:3 can sound a bit weak if you’re not cranking it. As with Sonos’ other multiroom speakers, the real strength lies in how well-supported Sonos’ speakers are when it comes to internet streaming services through its Sonos Controller app for iOS, Android, Windows and OS X. The improvements to both the physical enclosure and the audio quality are enough that I’d recommend it not only to those looking for their first speaker, but also those who are expanding an existing Sonos setup. If you want loud, Sonos’ latest speaker can outperform everything else in the company’s stable. (I tend to disregard the Playbar here, since it’s really meant to be a home theater piece.

The app is also used to initially set up the speaker to connect to your network and you’re taken through the process with clear step-by-step instructions for adding your wireless network details; there’s also an Ethernet port if your router is close by. At $500 each you could feasibly put one of these in a room and listen to some great sound. however, there is some value in picking up two and setting them up as bookshelf or tabletop speakers. The protocol’s connectivity is now solidly reliable, and the codecs for transferring Bluetooth audio ensure identical audio quality to what’s possible over wifi.

The key to making everything sound balanced and smooth is a new feature called Trueplay, which employs the microphone in your iPhone (sorry, Android users) to tune the Play:5 based on the acoustics of the exact spot it’s in. Sonos supports a large number of the most popular music-streaming services, including Spotify, Deezer, Google Play Music, and Tidal, as well as plenty of internet radio services including TuneIn and Rdio. Moving a speaker even a few feet can have a pretty major impact on what you hear, and with Trueplay, Sonos is promising that its products will sound superb in almost any placement.

Sonos still dominates the multi-room audio market, even as other companies like Samsung and LG try to provide the company with something resembling competition. The company has managed to eliminate old annoyances and complaints by making its entire system wireless, ditching the need for any ethernet connections or extra hardware. If you use multiple streaming services, the app has universal search, so if you search for a particular artist or album it will search all of the music services you’ve integrated. There are many similar offerings on the market, from the cheap to the outrageously expensive, and Sonos has consistently offered the most interesting product at the most interesting price. Artists and albums you’ve saved in Spotify aren’t displayed in the Spotify section of the Sonos app for you to browse, which means you’ll have to manually search for content instead.

The Devialet Phantom, for example, pumps out sound like a beast, allowing you to fill an entire McMansion with sweet treble and bass but it costs a little under $2,000 and the streaming features are wildly primitive. An accelerometer inside tells the speaker’s software in which of the three possible orientations it’s sitting, and optimizes the playback accordingly. Some aspects of the software can feel very clunky or unintuitive at times, likely because Sonos tries to make so many music apps work nicely within the same controller app. The Play:5 now has three distinct orientations: By itself, either horizontal or vertical; paired with another speaker vertically to provide a tight stereo image; or paired with both speakers sitting horizontally, to provide a wider, more room-filling stereo image. You start to realize how much thought went into the Play:5’s three-year development when you consider the touch controls, positioned in the panel adjacent to the Sonos branding.

What I love about Spotify Connect is listening to an album or song on my smartphone and then swapping over to speakers as soon as I get home, which isn’t possible with Sonos’ system. The company’s controller software runs on any phone or computer, and it lets you stream different audio sources to multiple locations around your home all at once. You need to specifically add albums to the queue for them to play, rather than just selecting a track from the album with it continuing on to the next track as you would expect. If that’s your main objective, the Play:1 and Play:3 remain fine (and cheaper) options, especially when you pair two of them together for a fuller soundscape. The process of setting up a Sonos system hasn’t really changed for the Play:5, but it has gotten simpler since the company released its tiny Play:1 speaker two years ago.

With Sonos’ new Trueplay software, your speaker’s sound is theoretically perfectly tunable to whatever room you put it in, regardless where you put it in the room. After you’ve done this little sound tuning mating dance, your speaker should be calibrated to algorithmic perfection for its exact placement in that exact room. I took the Play:5 down from its perfect perch and put it on the ground near the corner of my living room, next to our big plant, where it’s sort of blocked from projecting well by both the couch and the coffee table.

People already satisfied with the simple minimal setup of Sonos are going to be even happier after Trueplay, which takes the guesswork out of placing your speaker in the right place to optimize sound.

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