Audio

Wireless speaker's upgrades sure to please Sonos fans

The new Sonos Play:5 has the same width and height as the original but is now thicker and can be propped up three ways: horizontally or on either side.
The new Sonos Play:5 has the same width and height as the original but is now thicker and can be propped up three ways: horizontally or on either side.PHOTO: SONOS

Sonos Play:5 (gen 2)

Before Sonos came along, wireless speakers were one-trick ponies that merely played tunes from your music player.

With Sonos, users got an app that connected their speakers to devices. The company was also one of the first to allow more speakers to be added to a basic set-up, making it effortless for users to expand their listening experience to up to 5.1-channel surround sound.

Along the way, software updates improved the sound stage of the speakers and the app added popular music streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and AMPed.

The only thing that Sonos did not do was to upgrade the hardware - until now.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $999

    AMPLIFIERS: 6 (Class D)

    TWEETERS: 3

    MID-WOOFERS: 3

    AUDIO FORMATS: Compressed MP3, iTunes Plus, WMA, AAC (MPEG4), AAC+, Ogg Vorbis, Apple Lossless, FLAC (lossless) music files, uncompressed WAV and AIFF files

  • RATING

    DESIGN: 3/5

    FEATURES: 3/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

The new Sonos Play:5, the company's first major upgrade, shares the same width and height as the original. But the device is now thicker and can be propped up three ways: horizontally or on either side.

Its orientation does not affect the sound but gives you flexibility when it comes to its placement around your home.

The acoustic/bass port at the back has been removed and the device is now a sealed unitthat provides a deeper bass than the original.

The new Play:5 has six speakers - one more than the original.

These are supported by six digital amplifiers. Behind the grill are three tweeters arranged above three custom mid-woofers.

Together, they produce a whopping sound that easily fills the room, whether it is a regular HDB bedroom or a larger living room.

Vocals came across with great clarity and it was not because I had turned up the volume. The speakers sounded great at lower volumes as well.

A new feature in the iOS app is Trueplay, which analyses the acoustics in a room and adjusts the woofers and tweeters accordingly to bring out the best sound.

While the new changes should satisfy Sonos fans, they may not hold the same appeal for new users. This is because Sonos is still a closed system and any existing hardware, such as TV sets and tablets, will not work with it beyond being able to connect to its standard 3.5mm audio jack.

There is no optical port or basic Bluetooth function, so you cannot pair your TV set or set-top box to the new Play:5 the traditional way. This means you will not be able to do something as simple as listening to audio through it while watching Netflix on your tablet.

The addition of speakers to a set-up is also limited to Sonos-branded units.

  • Verdict: Sonos continues to improve on its hardware and software, but limits the barrier to entry to only those willing to invest heavily in its ecosystem.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Wireless speaker's upgrades sure to please Sonos fans'. Print Edition | Subscribe