Today I got the long-missing part of my setup in the mail — er, UPS. I think I can write a better review of the system as I see it now that I have all the parts in one house.
First off, here’s the overview of what’s where:
- The family room has a Sonos CONNECT connected to my internet and, more importantly, the receiver and the 5.1 speaker setup.
- Receiver: Onkyo TX-NR709 (newer model here)
- Speakers: Yamaha 5.1 setup. 5x NS-A480 + YST-SW45 subwoofer. Not horribly expensive, but seems to work great.
- Interconnect: Digital “coax.” (I used a 30-year-old bit of RCA cord I had in my parts bin, only using the red side. The bits: they go through!)
- The living room has a matched pair of Sonos PLAY:5 speakers.
- We have a floating Sonos PLAY:3 speaker that we can move around wherever we want — presently it’s in the bedroom.
- As a control I’m including a Klipsch THX 2.1 speaker setup that’s attached to my iMac. It’s not Sonos, but it makes sounds quite well.
I have a free Sonos:BRIDGE that’s not hooked up, but then again I didn’t have to pay for it. I’m going to keep it around in case the wiring of my house shifts around a bit.
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The first question I’m going to answer is sound quality. It’s why you have a sound system in the first place.
It won’t come as a great surprise that the system in the family room — 5.1 with a TXH receiver — wins the contest hands down. (Note: I’m not trying to make it seem like I’m an audio geek) The sound is, by far, the most transparent. I can look at a speaker and not perceive that sound is coming from it; the sound just shows up. In this case all the Sonos CONNECT does is feed line-level (does that make sense in the digital realm?) to the receiver. I have to say it’s doing a might fine job of that.
The next is going to be a toss-up between the computer speakers and the set of Play:5′s. The computer speakers seem to be tighter in how it sounds, like it’s getting out of the way of the music a bit more. That being said it’s not a whole-room sound system, it’s more of a “as long as you sit in the computer chair” system. I think the biggest difference is the sub that it brings to the show compared to the Play:5′s. With the bass being more ambient, I’m thinking the main speakers don’t have to work nearly as hard.
Don’t get me wrong though — the Play:5′s sound incredibly good. The even better part is how little visual space they take up. (More on that later) They fill the room well, and neither me nor En have anything bad to say. They don’t come with a big sub, but they have a port in the back to get more bass out of a small package. Putting it near-ish to a wall let’s it work a bit better since the bass reflects off the wall behind it.
Finally we have the long PLAY:3. In this case last place isn’t really bad — I never really thought that I would have the same sound from a three-driver small speaker. What it gives up in brute force it makes up in space and weight. The intent we have is that this is the speaker we can carry around the house, plug in to any outlet, and start up some tunes. It does that job superbly! You don’t get a lot of stereo separation from the small enclosure, but you do get some. I’m sure if I paired a couple of them it would sound even better, but I don’t have that setup.
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The next big thing is ease of setup and use. If Apple made speakers this is how they would work. Setup was nothing more than:
- Plug the speakers (or BRIDGE or CONNECT) into the wall outlet
- Connect any of them to your router
Once you have this done, fire up the software on your computer and pair each one to the ad-hoc mesh network it sets up. This makes it sound complicated, it’s not.
- Select “Add a Sonos Component…”
- Press the mute and volume up at the same time.
Setting up a stereo pair was easy as well. I was thinking I would have to experiment with which is left and right. Nope. Once both speakers were on the network, all I had to do was push the make-a-pair button and choose the other speaker. Then, the coup-de-grace, press a button on the left speaker.
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Day-to-day usage is just as easy. Pick any Windows PC, Mac, iOS or Android device and load up the app. Then do the mute-volume-up dance with any component to pair things up.
Right now I’m listening to 69 Love Songs all over the house. All of the speakers are synced perfectly. If I want to split things up, all I need to do is ungroup speakers. No problem.
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The only downside is the cost. That being said, if I even tried to replicate this even 10% of the way it would take me weeks — or drilling holes all over the house. Or, maybe I can write my own software.
Or I could just buy it.
Problem: solved. Solved incredibly well. Solved better than I could solve it myself.
An elegant system that works superbly is worth something to me.