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IS SONOS 5 WORTH IT?
Sonos 5 is definitely worth it because they save you a lot of hustle. Just imagine in a normal setting with floor standing or bookshelf speakers, you will need to pair up with an amplifier connected with speaker cables, then you will need to add a streamer, a CD source or any other source which is capable of connecting to Spotify or Tidal or whatever streaming platform that you use. If you were so inclined, you could then repurpose a computer to run Roon, but whatever streaming solution you’re looking at, you will still need to link them all up with inter connects to the power amplifier.
Then there’s a matter of whether the amplifier is well matched with the speakers and if the sound signature or the streamer plays well with the amp and speakers setup. With the Sonos five the matching is done for you. It is all housed conveniently into a single enclosure connected to your network wirelessly. And if you choose to add another speaker for a pair, they are also linked up wirelessly. There is no need to run a cable from here to there. All of these are controlled with a stable Sonos control app available for free on iOS or Android platform, and it allows you to connect to almost every streaming platform in the world.
I just can’t think of a better, more complete stereo solution at $1,000. The Sonos 5 is supported by a strong software platform. My recommendation for a pair of speakers within a $1,000 budget is to get a pair of the Sonos fives. Now let’s get into a bit of detail here.
When you get a single Sonos five, you will notice that it allows you to place them either horizontally or vertically. Now there are tiny rubberized sleeves on the side of the speaker to allow for them to be placed without marring the surface finish of the speakers; and it appears on all three sides bottom and the two sides in vertical placement. There are two orientations you can choose from; you can either have the controls face the left or the right for your convenience depending on where you want to operate the controls.
You’ll notice that the Sonos logo are read correctly as SONOS, no matter which way you place it, the brand name itself is a palindrome, read either forwards or backwards, it still says SONOS. When you flip it up or down, it still reads SONOS. Their branding is brilliant to this end and it carries through to the design of the SONOS FIVES, whichever orientation you choose, it never looks like the speaker is upside now on the wrong side up. Not only that, another detail that you might have missed is that the volume control switches orientation when you place the speaker differently in horizontal mode; the left volume button reduces the volume and the right increases the volume.
When you swipe across these three buttons from the left to the right, you advance a track, and when you swipe it from the right to the left, you go back one track. When you place a Sonos five vertically, the button below reduces the volume and the one above increases it, this is regardless of whether you face the controls to the left or to the right. The speaker detects the orientation and switches the functionality of each button automatically.
So the same is carried through to the skip track buttons. When you swipe up, you advance a track, and when you swipe down, it goes back 1 track. This is brilliant in terms of usability and very intuitive. So now you know why they never labelled the volume control buttons with a plus or a minus. It is context sensitive depending on the orientation of the speaker.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE SONOS FIVE OR A PAIR?
So how does one Sonos 5 speaker sound on its own? A single speaker quite effectively delivers a decent stereo soundstage. There are three pairs of tweeters and woofers in the Sonos five. All are individually, and more importantly, the left and the right speakers are aggressively angled to the left and the right signal as far to the sides as possible. Higher frequencies are directional and it is easier to give a perceived impression of a wider soundstage just by angling the tweeters.
Now when you place them in the horizontal orientation, you will take advantage of that placement. The sounds coming from a single Sonos 5 will give a pretty decent impression of a stereo soundstage. So if you don’t already know, a single sonos five is effectively a stereo speaker on its own. When you orientate them vertically, the sound changes depending on whether you have a single Sonos five, the left and right channels are summed together and a mono signal is played out. When you have a pair, it will either be assigned to play the left or the right channel signals depending on your selection.
CAN THE SONOS FIVE HANDLE HEAVY BASS TRACKS?
The only good reason why you will stand a single Sonos five vertically is maybe when you have space constraints. Otherwise, if you’re just operating one, prioritise the horizontal orientation for a wider stereo soundstage. It is one of those speakers that you ignore when you just look at it because, you know, it’s quite small, but when you play a bass heavy track from it, it completely blows you away. Now try this track from this movie soundtrack of Lucy titled “First cells”, composed by Eric Serra. When I first got into Atmos home theatre systems, and I was venturing into ever bigger subs, this track was always the one that I went to in order to test the bass response of a new subwoofer.
This track will break lesser speakers. If you hear a cone splattering away like the limits have been breached, they most likely are the notes on this track which goes so low and so loud. Weaker speakers I test give up and all you hear are the cones and not the sound itself. On its own as the Sonos five, it is being handled properly; it comes across clean and tight. It is quite amazing how this is handled in my opinion, if a speaker passes this track, it passes my bass test. So let’s test the bass response out objectively; in fact, let’s see how the speaker handles the entire human hearing frequency range from 20 Hertz to 20 kilohertz. I’ve been relying on the new mic, microphone, and ref software RTW software to measure the frequency response of the speakers that I test.
It peaks out at about 42 hertz which is mighty impressive for a speaker of this size, more impressively, the minus two dB point from the peak is at 30 Hertz. I’ve had a pair of SVS prime power speakers before and it was driven by a 30 watts per channel power amplifier, and they delivered about 30 hertz at minus three dB from the peak on that set up. It obviously got very loud and is mighty impressive, but the SONOS FIVE being able to deliver 30 Hertz at audible levels in your mix is even more incredible.
SONOS 5 Vs SONOS ARC
And if you contrast this with the Sonos arc, the arc peaks at about 50 Plus hertz and drops off a cliff after, not to mention the bass issue that the arc suffers from, again, you should not expect the sound bar to deliver anything meaningful below 50 hertz, but I wasn’t expecting the Sonos 5 of this size to deliver 30 hertz bass either, yet 30 hertz it delivers! They represent the pinnacle of Sonic performance from one single speaker within the Sonos product lineup for music, and the only thing better than a sonos 5 is a pair of them. You get true stereo imaging and increased combined output.
Now there is a major shortcoming in terms of the “line in” input on a Sonos five. It looks like it’s been designed for only music input. The first reason is that when you place them in a surround setup paired with an app for example, the “line in” input stops working. So let’s say it’s got something to do with the fact that they are being used in the Trueplay profile for the surround setup array, but it just sounds like a lazy and lame excuse. Similarly, I wanted a way to quickly group rooms and group speakers in and out of a surround setup. But they are yet to implement that.
There is no optical or HDMI input for this speaker, just one analogue input. So the only way that you will get sound from your TV is to use a headphone or the line level output. But when you do that, your sound will be out of sync. And then you can’t sync it with the visuals, the image will come first and then the sound will come. This delay is what is called the lip sync issue. It is not enjoyable to watch movies with lip sync issues.
So if you choose to use a Sonos 5 as a speaker for your TV, you can choose between two modes, compressed and uncompressed. If you use an uncompressed signal, you can operate at about a 75 milliseconds delay which is actually noticeable enough for most people. If you use the compressed mode, the delay goes up to two seconds and it becomes extremely noticeable; in fact, the video becomes unwatchable. There are ways to reduce the lag by introducing even more powerful processing into the Sonos products, but however fast the processor is there will still be a delay, it will never be zero.
In my experience, anything above 10 milliseconds will probably be noticeable especially in scenes where there are explosions and gunfire. It is distracting when you see the explosion go off and then the sound follows after. Other than that on the hardware side, there’s really not much of a shortcoming when it comes to the sonic capabilities of the Sonos five. If you are considering it, I would recommend that you get it in a pair, stereo set up for the best sonic performance and experience for you.
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