Sonos has long been my favorite speaker company. While the sound quality is fair to good – I’ve heard better and I’ve heard far worse – the ease of use, the simplicity of setup, and the access to millions of pieces of streamed content far outweighed any grumbling I had about not hearing the highest highs and lowest lows. Thankfully, with the new Play:5 speakers, even those qualms can be put to rest.
The Play:5 speakers work just like every Sonos product. When you pull them out of the box you simply press a button on the speaker which makes it available on your mobile device. Every speaker you plug in gets similar treatment and you can either connect multiple speakers together in one room or you can put Sonos devices throughout the house. Each room has separate settings and you can even enter party mode where every speaker is playing the same thing. While I’ve never experienced this “party” mode – I have very few close friends – the times I brought NPR podcasts or a little Celine up in party mode accidentally were amazing.
So every Sonos device has thus far been easy to use and connect. Because there were no wires to run except for power there was no need to drill holes or mess up your walls and the sound quality, as I mentioned before, was on par with a higher end all-in-one surround system and, with the Sonos Sub installed, full immersive and rich.
These new speakers have been engineered for far better sound. A tweeter – hidden behind a perforated logo plate – offers excellent separation from the mid and the bass. Adding two of these to my home theatre/surround audio setup was amazing. Whereas before the Play:5s I had paired near the back of the room barely registered these new speakers took over and truly added to the complete sound field. They have also improved the interface by adding capacitive touch swiping to the top of the speaker as well as a mini jack for audio input that doesn’t come from a streaming source.
If you already have a set of Sonos devices in the home the Play:5 is definitely a tempting upgrade. At $500 each you could feasibly put one of these in a room and listen to some great sound. however, there is some value in picking up two and setting them up as bookshelf or tabletop speakers. While you can use only one Play:5 per room, the quality and stereo separation in two units still makes a set of these far more compelling.
Further, Sonos’ new Trueplay technology allows you to tune the speaker to the room, allowing you to assess the various reflections and interactions in an enclosed space. The speaker, in turn, modifies the sound to match the room. This works best in awful environments – large, glassed-in places or small, crowded rooms – but the times I used it in bedrooms and in the kitchen resulted in slightly improved sound.
But, in truth, you’re not paying for perfect sound quality. While these new speakers are very, very good, you’re actually paying for a whole-home wireless system that just works. There are many similar offerings on the market, from the cheap to the outrageously expensive, and Sonos has consistently offered the most interesting product at the most interesting price. The Devialet Phantom, for example, pumps out sound like a beast, allowing you to fill an entire McMansion with sweet treble and bass but it costs a little under $2,000 and the streaming features are wildly primitive. Sonos just works.
Thankfully the Play:5s aren’t just “good enough.” They’re great and they’re a noted improvement over previous generations. There are obviously lots of good ways to get music from point A to point B these days but none of them are as simple and usable as Sonos’ solution and none of them offer the audio quality and compact design of these new speakers.