Sonos Play:5: One of the Best Wireless Speakers Money Can Buy

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From: The Guardian

The new Play:5 is Sonos’s latest speaker – a revamp of its biggest and most powerful wireless system – and it hopes to be all the Hi-Fi you need in one powerful box.

Touch sensitive

The new Play:5 is about the size of a small PC tower with a plain grill and a simple, understated design. Compared to some of the company’s other speakers it’s quite big, but with that comes a lot of sound.

The speaker can be stood up on either end or laid flat, with the touch-sensitive buttons for controlling pause, play, track-skip and volume on the side of the speaker next to the Sonos logo.

Setup

Setting up the Sonos Play:5 is pretty straightforward using an iOS, Android or computer app. Plug the speaker into power, choose your network configuration – whether that’s a wireless or Ethernet connection to your router, or a wireless connection to any other Sonos product – and follow the instructions.

The easiest way is to cable one of the speakers into your home network, which then acts as a hub for all the other Sonos products you might have, but a Wi-Fi connection to your home router works just as well using the app to plug in your password.

For those with poor Wi-Fi, Sonos sells a £79 Boost to sort out the speaker’s connection and make sure your home Wi-Fi network isn’t the weakest link.

Inputs

The Play:5 can also take a line-in from another audio source, which can play though one speaker, or a pair, and be used an audio source with any other Sonos product connected to the same network. It works well, but there is no playback control on the analogue source of course, only volume. Connecting them up to a television output worked well, as would an iPod or other portable music player.

Automatic sound tuning
The Sonos app for iOS devices has a built-in automatic tuning system called Trueplay. The speakers play a loud and obnoxious tone – make sure no one else is in the house and that your neighbours are out – and then make you walk around the room waving the iPad or iPhone about. It uses the microphones to detect the audio and fine tune the speakers for optimum sound all around the room.

Most of the time they sound the same, but if you have a challenging room layout with objects and surfaces in the way, it will work out how to produce the best sound for places that aren’t already in the best spot.

On their own

The Play:5 is the biggest of Sonos’s speakers and as such is really quite powerful. It can be used on its own or as a pair.

On its own it is more than capable of filling a room with high-quality music. Turning the volume up the Play:5 has a nice rounded sound, with excellent separation between instruments, punch in the lows and sparkling highs. It lacks thunderous bass – Sonos sell a separate sub for that – but it will sate most people just fine.

It sounded particularly good with Houlst’s Jupiter or Eric Clapton’s Layla. To get the best performance out of Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy Reconfigured album, you had to turn up the volume a little, while something like Aphex Twin’s Xtal twinkled away in the background very happily at even the lowest of volumes.

On its own it’s the best wireless speaker I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. It doesn’t, however, sound quite as good as some wired speakers costing £430, but what you get with one Play:5 is a speaker and everything needed to drive it, connect to the internet and stream music for £430.

As a pair

When you pair up two Play:5s into a stereo pairing, things start to get a bit murkier. They sound really great with better stereo separation and can be cranked to tremendously loud volumes that can be heard three houses down, let alone around the house.

But for small rooms they can be almost too loud at times, particularly if you’re looking for background music at night for reading. It’s safe to say that for small rooms a pair of Play:5s is overkill, but they will fill a small house with sound without a problem.

Again, the pair of Play:5s don’t sound quite as good as a set of speakers costing £860, but an amp or streaming device that drive speakers capable of that volume and quality will cost a fair amount on its own.

The app

The Sonos Play:5 is controlled like any other Sonos speaker through the company’s apps for iOS, Android, Windows and OS X.

The app takes almost every streaming service available, including Spotify, Google Play Music, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Tidal and more, and will send it directly to the speakers on a room-by-room basis, around the whole house or a mixture of the two.

It also has access to TuneIn internet radio, the ability to stream music from networked computers or hard drives, or music stored locally on an iOS or Android device. The Sonos system does not support Apple’s Airplay, Google’s Cast or Bluetooth, however.

Using the app is simple. Select the desired room (if you have more than one Sonos product), then the music service, the album or track, and hit play or add to your music queue. The speakers then play the music stored in the queue until told not to, meaning you can close the app and leave the music going.

Tracks from multiple music sources can be queued up and playback controlled from the speakers themselves or via any device with the Sonos app connected to your home Wi-Fi network. It means that partygoers can control the music playback. Sonos even has extensions for Android Wear and the Apple Watch, meaning you can control the volume, pause the music or skip a track from your wrist.

Verdict
The Play:5s are some of the best wireless speakers I have heard. Individually they fill the room with full, rounded sound. As a pair they are powerful enough to fill a whole house with your music, let alone a single room.

They’re also easy to set up and use, support almost every music streaming service and have some of the best apps for controlling playback. In isolation it is a very good wireless speaker, but you can buy better sounding wired speakers for the same money. Sonos is all about smartphone-control multiroom audio, though. When the Play:5s are made the centre-piece of several Sonos products placed about the home is when they come into their own.

The Sonos system does not support Bluetooth, Google Cast or Apple AirPlay streaming, but a line-in adds a bit more flexibility for direct connections. If you live in a small flat or house, the Play:5s will probably be overkill, but they’ll sound great while annoying the neighbours.

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