We really, really like the Sonos Play:5 -- it's incredibly easy to set up and use, and gives you smartphone- or tablet-friendly access to dozens of different streaming music and internet radio services. And now it's even better, optimised for stereo listening and with a wider soundrange, clearer treble and more powerful bass. And that's not the only announcement; Sonos has a new top-of-the-line wireless speaker to show off, but some fancy new software tricks that can make it sound even better.
Sonos Play:5: The New Flagship Multi-Room Speaker
The new Play:5 is a $749 wireless and wired network speaker, part of the existing family of smart, 'net-connected streaming Sonos music devices, that has existed since 2002. Inside are six Sonos-made audio drivers -- three tweeters and three mid-range woofers, arranged in a dipole pattern that projects sound both directly forward and at a 45-degree angle from either end of the horizontal speaker. An internal accelerometer detects when the speaker has been turned on its end, and optimises the volume of each mid-tweeter array to function more closely to a conventional standing stereo speaker.
The speaker can be turned on either end and will function in a different manner on either with appropriately adjusted sound; the Sonos logo on the speaker's centre top edge when horizontal is actually palindromic, and so will look upright no matter whether the Play:5 is used as the left or right channel in a dual, stereo arrangement. Like any other Sonos speaker, you can add up to 32 in a single network, although having that many in the one room might not be so good for your long-term hearing. It's going to be available in matte white and matte black finishes when it hits Aussie retail stores towards the end of October.
I've had half an hour's ears-on time with the new Play:5, and I can say it's a big improvement -- both in the staging and stereo imaging of the sound, and in the quality and detail of both treble and bass -- over the already excellent existing Play:5. If you only buy a single Play:5, you'll definitely want to keep it in that horizontal orientation where its dipole tweeters and mids push sound over a wider listening area, but with two speakers placed an appropriate distance (at least a couple of metres) from each other the vertical arrangement sounds cleaner and more stereo-defined.
Sonos TruePlay: Room Calibration Using Your Smartphone
As well as a new Play:5, Sonos is introducing an equally new software feature, and one that can be appreciated by any existing Sonos user. TruePlay is a software EQ and speaker placement calibration tool, and it's incredibly easy to use -- even if you do look a bit dorky using it. The basic process is to, after selecting the TruePlay feature in your companion Sonos app (on iOS only, for now) for any particular room you have set up, just wave your phone around and walk around the listening space while a 45-second ululating audio tone plays. Beyond waving the phone's mic around, all you need to do is wait out the clock.
After that audio tone completes, your smartphone's microphone will have picked up any reflections or secondary harmonics being caused by the Sonos speaker -- whether it's a Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, SUB or PLAYBAR -- and will load an approximate equaliser calibration that cuts down on any harsh treble reflections or excessively booming bass. In practice, it does an amazing job in harsh listening spaces like bathrooms; in a perfect audio environment, like an anechoic chamber, it would do nothing. At the moment, it's only available for Play:1, Play:3 and Play:5; support for other gear will be added over time.