Sonos Play 5 Review
Sonos was the first manufacturer with a stable, intuitively controllable multi-room system. And it speaks volumes about the programming and development skills of the Californian company that only very few serious competitors have emerged to date. As a result, the all-new Play 5 is the streaming leader’s best speaker yet.
Sonos Play 5 WLAN speaker, white – Powerful WLAN speaker with the best, crystal clear stereo sound – AirPlay-compatible multiroom speaker:
- Big sound without compromise: With six amplifiers & six speaker drivers, the largest Sonos speaker fills even large rooms with pure, crystal-clear sound – without distortion
- The box for discerning music lovers: three powerful woofers ensure an extraordinary bass that gets under your skin – without reverberation or echo / easy setup in less than 5 minutes.
- Big, powerful sound
- Easy setup
- Flexible design
- No high-res support
- It can now be beaten for outright sound quality and value
Sonos Play 5 review
The latest Sonos innovations show that the developers have not made themselves comfortable with their technical lead but, on the contrary, are stepping on the gas. The previous Play 5 was the oldest smart speaker in the range, originally presented as the S5, then renamed, but the hardware has been built unchanged for five years. Now it’s getting a successor, also called Play 5, which was unofficially shown at IFA 2015 in early September.
However, our report is not based on a short listen during the fair but on a 14-day test with different locations and room sizes. This is doubly important with Sonos because one of the most exciting new features focuses on room acoustics. Thanks to SonosTrueplay, an automatic calibration system, Sonos speakers – all models, including the old Sonos Play:5 and those still current Models Play 3 and Sonos Play 1 – now always sound balanced and precise almost regardless of the installation location.
Room acoustics and space have a particularly drastic effect on the bass. Certain frequency ranges can build up to a multiple of the correct volume (then it sounds boomy and thick) or shrink to a fraction of the target level due to cancellations (then the music sounds thin or hollow). The deeper and more bassy a speaker works, the more these phenomena can become apparent – and the more clearly you can hear the effect of SonosTrueplay.
As the largest Sonos speaker, the new Play 5 is ideally suited to testing the room acoustics adjustment – even more so than the predecessor of the same name, which has a larger housing volume and a slightly larger membrane area. The new housing design is smooth all around and does without beads, recessed grips, and the like.
Unfortunately, this and the fact that the satin-matt plastic used is very high quality and precise and extremely slippery means that the surprisingly heavy Sonos Play 5 is best unpacked over a soft blanket. It is also only transported with increased caution – until you become a little familiar with its obtrusive tendency to slip out of your hand.
Meanwhile, inconspicuous, non-slip rubber feet ensure a secure footing on the pitch. Feet are found on the underside and both sides of the Play 5 because the speaker – like the Play 3 – can be operated both lying down and standing upright. The latter arrangement is particularly useful if two Play 5s form a stereo pair.
Like all other setup steps, pairing is done via the exemplary, logical, and stable Sonos app, available for iOS and Android, or via its desktop equivalent under OS X and Windows. In any case, the program controls all Sonos zones and their settings and, if desired, also bundles them into groups playing in parallel for music throughout the house without echo effects.
If several apps are active in the same system, they work equally and synchronously. Of course, this is not something that can be taken for granted, but it is extremely practical because someone can start their Sonos app at any time and add something to an existing playlist or edit it in some other way.
Local music stored on the respective smartphone or tablet can also be streamed directly to the Sonos system via the app – a small consolation for the lack of the popular transmission standards Airplay and Bluetooth.
If you want to beam the sound of any number of apps (Youtube would be a typical example) wirelessly to your system, you, unfortunately, have to look elsewhere. Apart from that, the media variety of the Sonos ecosystem is enormous. In addition, no other system natively supports so many streaming services – including Apple Music, Amazon Prime Music, or Edelkost – like the somewhat more expensive providers Qobuz and Tidal, which stream in full CD quality.
In addition to music from the cloud, Sonos can, of course, also play files from local hard drives. The only requirement is that these are visible or readable over the network. The system itself takes care of sorting by artist, album, and so on, so it is not dependent on a separate server program for this point. This saves nerves and money when buying a NAS, for example, because Sonos is also satisfied with old and slow models without sacrificing performance.
For our test, we integrated the new Play 5 into an existing Sonos network, which now has a total of nine zones. It went without any problems and, thanks to the app, which is also exemplary in this respect, absolutely self-explanatory in about a minute.
Of course, all the important comparison devices were found among the available Sonos models, above all the old Play 5. Apart from the fact that the new one looks much smoother, more modern and cleaner next to it, the old one is less voluminous and can therefore be used on surfaces that would not be deep enough for the new one.
The operation directly on the device is better with the new device, instead of the somewhat fiddly volume rocker and the combined play/pause button. A generous touch area on the top now invites you to tap and wipe – thanks to the latter casually; you can finally do it too conveniently skip to the next or previous song.
The sound comparison quickly became apparent that Sonos did not fill the additional volume with hot air but with technology. The speaker arrangement behind the finely perforated, non-removable front grille is completely different from the Play 5 of the first generation. While the latter had two two-way combinations with a common mono bass and thus five individual drivers on the front, the successor even has six drivers there – but now in the form of three two-way configurations arranged side by side.
The right and left tweeters sit in small horn-like sound guides pointing outwards; the middle one is mounted flat. With such an array and a properly programmed DSP crossover, the horizontal directivity of both channels can be controlled very effectively. Still, the Americans have commendably avoided an exaggeratedly spectacular base broadening.
Instead, the new Play 5 plays more spaciously than the narrow housing would suggest, but above all, it is very homogeneous, consistent, and as if made of one piece. In addition, however, it is much more detailed and livelier than its predecessor.
The level stability and the bass depth of the Play 5 are astounding; visitors regularly suspect the full-blown floor-standing speakers placed to the left and right of the Sonos to be the source of the powerful, room-filling euphony. However, clear progress could also be heard with voices – such as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (“Rich Woman” from the album “Raising Sand”), which rose from the mix more clearly and concisely, but without any noticeable discoloration.
There’s no question the Sonos Play 5 is one of the best one-box streaming speakers on the market. But it becomes even more desirable thanks to the SonosTruesound room calibration, which helps to exploit the tonal potential even in difficult acoustic conditions.