Sonos Connect Amp Audiophile Review

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Sonos is a system of wireless speakers that connect together. Using that you can stream music and you can also set up a home theater system in any room of your home or in every room. You can control it all with your tablet or smartphone.

With the glut of latest streaming services, gone are the days when music or your hi-fi system was confined to one room, tethered by cables. Listening to your favorite music collection anywhere in your home was not easy at all. It involved overcoming some major logistical issues. It either required you to move your sound system from room to room, or put up with cables trailing under doors and rugs causing someone stumbling over wires.

But the rise of digital and computer-based music, availability of Wi-Fi and a multitude of streaming devices in nearly every home changed that. You can now stream your favorite music from a range of devices including laptop, smartphone, NAS drive, to multiple speakers installed around the home using a wireless connection.

Plenty of manufacturers offer this multi-room experience, but Sonos, a US company, is great with its well-developed system. The biggest strength of Sonos’ is to simplify the networking nightmares of installing wireless music systems and to sound good in the process. Sonos Connect brings these capabilities to those who want to add network music to an existing stereo.

You might be wondering we are talking about Sonos Connect and the article title says Sonos Connect Amp. If you are getting confused with the terms Sonos Connect and the Sonos Connect Amp, let’s nip that confusion in the bud and describe briefly about both.

Sonos Connect:

sonos connectThe Sonos Connect is your entrée to wireless music. It is compact and links to any receiver via analog, optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. It essentially turns your wired receiver into a wireless one, so that you can pump music out of your current speakers straight from your tablet, smartphone or computer.

The Sonos Connect comes only in white, so be ready it will slightly stick out if the rest of your setup is black. The Sonos Connect retails for $349.

Sonos Connect Amp:

sonos connect ampAs the name suggests, the Sonos Connect Amp is the amplified version of the Sonos Connect. Still it connects to your existing system and allows you to wirelessly play your music via Sonos Controller app. The Sonos Connect Amp works in place of a receiver and is able to power large or small speakers with 55 watts, per channel, which is pretty good for such a compact package.

Another amazing feature of the Sonos Connect Amp is that, if you add a subwoofer to your system, the Sonos Connect Amp is smart enough to send low frequencies to your subwoofer and the high frequencies to your speakers.

It is pretty pricey at $499, but remember that Sonos Connect Amp acts in place of a full-on receiver, which would run you around that price anyway.

Let’s talk more about Sonos connect Amp.

At the start of 2012, it was reckoned that Google was preparing a home theater device that would be the rival of the Apple TV and the Sonos system. But when that mythical creature was presented as the Nexus Q, the collective disappointment was hard to swallow.

While the Nexus Q will remain a curio until Google boost its feature set, the Sonos Connect Amp, its competent, feels like a real hi-fi system. From the solid build of the Sonos Connect Amp to the simplicity of its user interface, it is something, refined, that Nexus is not. It is compatible with almost every online music service on the market and it can also stream your personal digital-music collection.

If you considered the $300 Nexus to be expensive for what it does, it is. Then you might think the Sonos Connect Amp is two-thirds more expensive. It also offers three other models, the Play:3, the Play:5 and the ampless Sonos Connect costing $299, $399 and $349 respectively. Regardless of the price, the Sonos Connect Amp is yet a feature rich digital audio system which has a lot to offer to both casual users and serious audiophiles, especially if they are looking to build out a multi-room audio system eventually.

Design:

Measuring 3.5 inches high, 7.28 inches wide and 8.15 inches deep, it is larger compared to your “small black box” media streamer such as Apple TV or Roku. The Sonos Connect Amp features a two-tone (white and silver) scheme with an anodized precision and machined extrusion aluminum case, placed on a white plastic base. The enclosure has a smooth finish and its top panel has somewhat a golf ball texture to it. The curved edges and matte finish are the trademark design features of the Sonos that are integrated in the Sonos Connect Amp.

Weighing 5.1 pounds, this box has some heft to it, and unlike most of the flimsy plastic boxes you buy today, the Sonos Connect Amp feels really solid and well designed.Its front panel is about as minimalist as it can get including volume up/down and mute. It’s everything else including redundant volume controls is controlled via an app on your smartphone or tablet. Since the Sonos Connect Amp is designed to be in standby mode at all times, there is no power button.

Setting Sonos up:

A major contributing factor of Sonos’ appeal and meteoric rise in fame is its hugely simple set-up process. Its Sonos Controller app which is available on iOS and Android, navigates you through the set up. When you press the speaker’s sync button, this links the speakers to your network and other Sonos speakers. But it requires a bit more than just pressing the speaker’s sync button. You also have to find the connected speaker on the app and enter details such as your Wi-Fi password.


It’s all you have to do and it is really that simple. And the slick, easy to use Controller app it offers makes everyday use even easier. Using the app, you can assign each speaker to a room of your house, you can program it so that you can control its volume via your TV’s standard remote and also you can add your favorite streaming services. The app recognizes the speaker you are using as well as the room in which you are using it.

The Sonos Controller app has also made adding another speaker a breeze. You just have to tap in the app in order to add a new speaker, then press the sync button on the back and voila you are done. It is the smoothest multi-room set-up going.

In addition to the main six Sonos products (Play:1, Play:3 and Play:5 wireless speakers, the Playbar, Playbase and Sub for utilizing with a TV), other accessories are also available such as the Sonos Boost (£100).

When you connect the Sonos Boost directly to your router, it expands and strengthens the Wi-Fi for Sonos products. It is ideal if you are planning to set up a multi-room system in challenging wireless environments as it broadcasts 360 signals through walls and ceilings.

A biggest advantage of using the Sonos hi-fi system is that for work you don’t have to part with your system. If you own a traditional stereo amplifier and speakers set up, adding a Sonos Connect will turn it into a streaming system. And in the same way, the Sonos Connect Amp that combines the streamer and the amplifier, you can add it simply to your existing pair of stereo speakers.

Sonos Apps and Services:

The Controller app used to control the Sonos setup from your Android device is free and is available from the Google Play store. It is a small app that downloads as less than 10MB before installing it. Android 2.1 devices are capable of installing the app. The app requires no authentication which means that anyone on your home network can control the music in the house when the app is installed. As long as your Wi-Fi is secure and properly protected, this should not cause any problems.

As mentioned earlier, the Controller app is very simple to use. Music playback is presented in a simply, yet attractive format. Depending on the chosen streaming media sources, options to skip forward and back can be disabled, for instance, Pandora doesn’t allow skipping backward, it only allows forward option.

Sonos mission statement is to provide all the music on Earth, along with playing music from digital libraries such as from a laptop or a NAS device. You will find the widest option of streaming service compatibility on the app, making it the most comprehensive list in a wireless speaker or soundbar. For instance, Amazon Prime Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, Google Play Music, Soundcloud, Tuneln, Deezer- the list of apps goes on. It is also important to note that you will need premium subscriptions for some of those.



In addition, Tidal and Qobuz bring CD-quality, lossless streaming to Sonos. And while other music services provides files up to 320kbps, Tidal and Quboz offer unlimited streaming access to CD-quality FLAC files of 16-bit/44.1kHz for a monthly subscription charge.

The app makes it easy to identify and control the type of music you want to play in any zone of your home. What you have to do is just tap the Group button and link the determined zones together. When linked, volume controls defaults to the group volume, but you can also see and manage each zone as well.

Its station and search functionality enables you to save stations to favorites, to search for music from specific artists and more. The actions menu flocks together the options present within the Sonos system with the options of the currently playing streaming service.

If you navigate away or even swipe the Sonos app out of the Recents list, it leaves a persistent notification on your Android device. It offers the most basic of artwork, pause and track skip operations and media info that allows you to control the tunes in one of your zones, at least, without having to enter the app fully. No matter you close the notification or even force close the application, the Sonos Connect Amp keeps your music playing without interruption.

Sleep timer and alarm clock:

The Sonos app offers a function that enables you to put the system to sleep. It provides several set timeframes for you to choose from 15 minutes to 2 hours. It also includes the ability to create timed alarms. Everybody has surely experienced waking up from ringing smartphones but you will admit that waking to tunes playing throughout the house is pretty special.

This app also allows you to control some of the finer points of your home configuration. You can decide which Amp should act as a Bridge to another, or take control of the Sonos lineup of Connect Amp, DOCK, SUB, BOOST or BRIDGE devices and more.

Apart from the fact that the Sonos Controller for Android is a freebie in the Google Play Store, but you will need a Sonos device on your network to eke out any use from it, for sure.

Trueplay:

The place where you position your Sonos speaker in the room affects the sound. The Trueplay feature within the app aims to counter this. By using the microphone on an iPad or an iPhone, you can measure the response of the speaker in your room and also tweak the sound to suit.

This process of setup runs through a series of test tones and sweeps. Anyone who has set up an AV receiver will be familiar to these. The process tunes your speaker to the room, adjusts the bass and treble to get it sound the best it can.

The Trueplay’s calibration is especially useful if your Sonos speaker is located in a less-ideal location, for instance tucked into a corner. And in the end, if you don’t like the changes, you can set it back to default, of course.

Extras:

In addition to the volume controls on the players themselves and the Sonos app, each room can be fitted with a separate volume control on the wall. Of the same size as a standard light switch, these dials can turn the volume up and down and also all the way down. It has a physical click that triggers a pause of the music and clicking it back then re-starts the music. The final result is that you don’t need your Android device to enjoy your basic playback.

Audio-only:

Unlike some of the more famous media streamers on the market, the Sonos devices don’t offer video. These are only audio devices. While that may seem limited in scope but on the other hand, Sonos is more about doing one thing as well as possible. As mentioned earlier that company is focusing on materializing the tagline “Stream All the Music on Earth” and it is compatible with almost every music services as described earlier. .

While Sonos doesn’t support Apple’s iTunes Match, but it does support streaming from Macs and PCs running the iTunes software. Therefore your home music collection is always accessible. The Sonos system also supports many NAS servers for those don’t want to keep their PCs on all the time.

For local music, the Sonos supports nearly all popular file formats such as MP3, AAC+, WMA, WAV, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AIFF and Ogg Vorbis. While it will concern only a small subset of people, the Sonos system doesn’t play back high-resolution 24-bit files.

The Sonos products are designed as a multiroom audio system and they connect to one another through a proprietary wireless mesh system. Its advantage is that it is not restrained by your home’s Wi-Fi network. Sonos system is totally wireless.

But the only caveat is that it requires at least one wired connection between your home network and a Sonos unit, like a DECT cordless phone system in which one base station needs to be plugged into the wall socket, while others are connected with that one wirelessly.


That brings to you two alternatives: you can position the first Sonos in your home near an Ethernet connection, or you can purchase a $50 Sonos Bridge.

To expand your Sonos Music System, the Sonos Bridge is an easy and cost-effective way. This small device connects to your router and allows you to use any of your Sonos players wirelessly, anywhere in your home.

When you create a dedicated network for Sonos, the Sonos Bridge offers a more stable performance than using the already crowded Wi-Fi connection for your Sonos speakers. Thus it is a great way to make sure you will enjoy more music in more rooms throughout your home.

As a general rule, you will not need Sonos Boost or Bridge to start your Sonos system. However, there are few scenarios where you it may be required. Sometimes Wi-Fi at your home is not just enough and some people face problems surfing the web or streaming movies because their network is crowded with many wireless devices, or others have rooms far away from the router and get deprived of the Wi-Fi signal at all.

If you are facing this, you can always plug any Sonos product into the router using Ethernet or purchase a Bridge creating a dedicated wireless network for your Sonos speakers.

The Bridge also enables you extend the range of your Sonos music system. Place the Bridge between the player of your system and the new area where you want to listen, such as a detached garage. Or you can enjoy your music outdoor using the Bridge. You can easily control the player located indoors from a pool on the far side of your yard.

Using the Bridge, you can have up to 32 Sonos music players in your system. Each one player can play an independent selection of playlists or individual tracks. Listen to jazz in the room while your spouse plays rock music in the kitchen or you can pump a single playlist of songs throughout the entire house during a party.

The situations where you use Sonos products but don’t need a Bridge are as follows:

• PLAYBAR used as a standalone player
• Any Sonos player used as a standalone zone player
• PLAY:1/3/5 used with a Sonos SUB
• PLAYBAR & PLAY:1/3/5 used as rear surround speakers-New software update
• PLAYBAR & SUB-New software update

Pros:

  • Excellent all-in-one digital music system
  • Gives you access to nearly any cloud music service
  • A line-in particularly useful for connecting a DVD player or TV
  • Controller app is easy to use

Cons:

  • You will need a tablet or smartphone and separate speaker
  • Doesn’t support iTunes Match
  • If it is your only Sonos component, you will need a hard-wired connection or wireless Sonos Bridge accessory

If you are starting from a scratch, building a system around the Sonos Connect Amp makes a lot of sense. And using the Controller app to control it totally is much more appealing than using the Sonos Connect-where you have to turn on your stereo speakers separately and flip to the correct input before enjoying the music.

Apart from all the functionalities and ease the Sonos Connect Amp offers, if you still find it expensive, there are plenty of its cheaper alternatives available. You can stream audio from a tablet or smartphone app to any Bluetooth dongle like the Belkin Bluetooth Music receiver or any Bluetooth speaker, but the quality of Bluetooth will leave critical listeners wanting.

Another alternative is to connect an Apple TV to an existing stereo system. It will support all of the Sonos services andalso iTunes Match and you can use iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad as a remote. But you will have to flip between many apps rather than using al-in-one Sonos’ control app.

In short, the Sonos Connect Amp is not cheap, but a better no-compromise digital music system than the above listed alternatives. You might have opposite opinion, please do let us know through your comments below.

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