It costs $500, £429 or AU$749.
Multiroom audio maestro, Sonos, has just released a refresh of its flagship Sonos Play:5 smart speaker. The result is that bass heavy dance tracks sound powerful while folksy acoustic tunes are played clearly with individual instruments easily identifiable.
In my limited hands-on time with Play:5, I found the new controls to have a slight learning curve at first. Even the Sonos badge is punched out to ensure nothing gets in the way of your audio enjoyment. The old Play:5 had five speakers-two tweeters, two mid-range drivers, and one woofer. Tap to the left or right and the volume goes up and down. Once you set it up, and the company’s constantly been working on simplifying the setup headache, the system is super easy to use. Yes, I’m not just an audio gadget blogger, I’m a customer, too. During the Dylan track, there was excellent separation between vocals and accompaniment, with harmonica, guitar and percussion delivered with real presence. The Play:5 changes that, big time. They’re designed into every unit, however, regardless of how many Play:5’s you own, which creates a visual blemish similar to the iPhone 6 camera bump design. Smart sensors make these touch controls responsive to all orientations, so the volume-up is always facing up. It may seem obvious, but it reinforces a message delivered by Fink throughout my time with the device – if Sonos can’t do things well, it simply doesn’t do them at all. When paired with another Play:5, the dancing stereo effect upgraded that single word to an all-caps AWESOME. You see the grill and you see the case. But Fink explained that even high-resolution audio only needs an 802.11n connection. Sonos won’t elaborate on its long-term plans, but I’d say support for spoken commands isn’t out if the question – so you can just flop down on the couch at the end of a long day and have your favourite music at beck and call. There are also some really nice touches, such as the centered Sonos logo, which looks good in any orientation thanks to its palindromic nature, and simple, flush plastic grille.
Wireless speakers have become essential gear for music lovers, running the gamut from portable Bluetooth devices to higher-end Wi-Fi systems from the likes of Denon and Samsung.
SonosThe Sonos family of wifi connected speakers.
And while he understands the principles of acoustics that are central to an audiophile, he also understands that most of us think that speakers should not have to be placed in a shrine-like position in the house to worship music. “But it should also be simple to achieve”.
What do you have to do to tune Sonos Trueplay?
I got a demo with a badly placed Play:1 speaker and it definitely sounded better after the calibration. The resulting sound? Well, let’s say it’s sub-optimal. “Sonos then smartly tunes that speaker so the music sounds its very best” said Niv Novak from Sonos Australia. When the Play:5 is oriented vertically the top tweeter is actually turned down so that sound isn’t intentionally directed up towards the ceiling. It’s interesting that Sonos is future-proofing its speakers in this way, even if it’s unsure of the future that it’s proofing against. However, Sonos’ new Trueplay software allows users to carry out the calibration themselves during the set-up process through an app. “We are obsessed with improving the home music experience, which must take into account acoustically unfriendly rooms”. Of course, all Sonos speakers sound good, but the reason I, and many others, have been willing to pay so much for the company’s equipment is more to do with the software experience than audio quality. Or maybe its ears.
Furthermore, not all mobile devices will support Trueplay at launch.
Unfortunately, tuning isn’t currently available on Android or Windows devices – it’s iOS only for now. This is because of the standard hardware inside, so Sonos knows how each microphone performs. Sonos representatives were coy about what exactly the company is going to do with these microphones, only saying that they were not meant to be used for voice control – and then quickly adding that Sonos could nonetheless, possibly, one day, venture into voice control as well. Fink confirmed that an Android version of the feature is in development, and “will be released when its ready”.