Sonos is not a company to move with speed. Its hardware cycle is unlike many in the market – it doesn’t churn out a speaker update every 18 months like other companies, instead it may take years to update its lineup.
The reason: it creates devices that have been built to last, ones that are kept fresh with myriad software upgrades. No matter if you have the first or last Sonos device, the company likes to make sure you get the best out of your speaker system for a long, long time.
It’s with a hint of irony, then, that the Sonos Play:5 hardware upgrade coincides with the biggest software upgrade the original Play:5 will ever receive, the introduction of Truesound – a technology that will completely refresh a device that’s now 5.5 years old. But more on that later.
The new-and-improved Sonos Play:5 is a Play:5 in name only – it’s been completely re-engineered by Sonos that no part has been left the same. It may have that similar lozenge look that the original Play:5 had, but its edges are rounder and the flat foot that was apparent on the original has completely disappeared, making way for very small legs.
These leg rests are on both the bottom of the Play:5 and the side, because this time around you can use the speaker in either a horizontal or vertical fashion – a sensor inside determines which orientation the speaker is set in and adjusts sound quality and controls accordingly.
Interestingly, on the unit I played with the words ‘Encore’ were stamped across the back, leading me to believe that Sonos may have been thinking of releasing this as an entirely new product range. Given the changes, it would have had every right to.
The physical button have gone from the top, too. Sonos’ band of designers and engineers have embraced touch controls, making use of a capacitative top that is signified by the logo in the middle of the device.
‘But won’t a logo on the front mess with the acoustics?’ we hear you cry – Sonos has thought about this and made it ‘acoustically transparent’ thanks to 800 holes lasered into the material. This is alongside the 60,000 holes that make up the grill.
According to Sonos, the designers had a fight on their hands to keep the logo tag where it is but we are glad they did – it acts as a central point for the touch control. Considering there’s no plus or minus signs to point you in the right direction for the touch panel, this is a clever bit of design. It makes something all-but invisible feel intuitive to use.
Colour-wise, there is a choice of black or white for the chassis – the grill stays black no matter your choice.
Looks-wise, the Play:5 is definitely a lesson in reduction. There’s nothing on the chassis that doesn’t need to be there. It’s sleek, minimal and will fit easily into any home, not matter the decor.
Round the back things have been simplified, too with just a port for Ethernet to be found. It’s clear also that the designers have got their hands on the plug. The way the lead has been sealed within the system compliments the minimal look of the Play:5 – attention has definitely been paid to the smallest of details.
Underneath the grill, things have dramatically changed, too. Instead of two mid-woofers, there’s now three 10cm drivers powering the mid range. These are backed by two 22mm tweeters situated on the left and right of the device (in cones) and one 23mm tweeter in the middle. This is by far the most powerful speaker Sonos has created – it built these components by taking a look at what was in the Play:1 and upgrading the drivers accordingly.
All of this is nestled beneath a sealed acoustic enclosure. Again, this is a marked difference from the original Play:5, which was vented. While it has meant Sonos has had to do some clever things to make sure the heat of the speaker escapes, it’s promising that this improves the bass and clarity of the sound, while making sure extraneous noise is kept away.
To test this out, I listened to a number of tracks through the system. For the bassline alone, the first song was A$AP Rocky’s L$D. There was a lovely guttaral sound to the bass, it was powerful without being overbearing. The mid-woofers worked well when flipped as a vertical, too. This array setup offered up a sound that felt much wider than the unit looked like it could offer.
This was also noticed when The Weeknd’s Earned It was playing. The speakers offered a decent amount of dynamic range and the track gave the tweeters something to do. The Sonos Play:5 was also tried out paired with another Play:5. Paired horizontally, Bon Iver’s Holocene filled up the room we were in.
The biggest noticeable difference we heard, though, was the introduction of Truesound. This brand-new tuning software from Sonos isn’t new in the audio world, but the company is hoping that it has made it easy enough to make sure everyone gives it a go. Well, everyone with an iOS device as it isn’t ready for Android just yet. This is because it uses the iPhone/iPad’s mic, a mic that is kept well in check by Apple.
Android devices vary too much from device to device that Sonos just didn’t want to take the chance.
Load up the software – which will soon come to all Play:1, Play:3 and Play:5 devices – and you are guided through a simple process of finding out how acoustic your room is, compared to where you have placed your Sonos speaker.
If you are someone who places speakers so that they hit that perfect equilateral triangle sweet spot, then you won’t notice much difference. But if your speaker is nearer the corner of the room, or obstructed by something then the software will work wonders.
It’s a little strange to walk across a room while the software fires zaps and other strange noises at your Sonos setup, but the whole thing is over in around 45 seconds and the results are definitely audible.
Sonos believes this software will change the way it makes speakers in the future and I am inclined to agree. It’s the easiest way we have found to tune to the speaker to the room you are in – not once did it feel like I was heading into audiophile territory. And, frankly, for a £429 ($499 USD, $749 AUS) speaker that should never be the case.
What we liked
The Sonos Play:5 is a stunning speaker for its price range. Its design will please even the most fussy. The new touch controls are effortless to use and the sound that comes out of this thing is impressively loud and audio does distinctively change when Truesound is used.
What we disliked
The sound is so good, you may not feel like you need another to pair up for stereo – which is a shame, as this functionality is decent. The small ‘feet’ that are on both the bottom and the side of the device and unobtrusive but you do know they are there, regardless of which orientation you have the speaker in.
Truesound really does feel like a gamechanger but we wonder if people will actually be willing to use it.
The Sonos Play:5 continues Sonos’ slow slew of impressive hardware releases. It’s a great-looking speaker with sound that is far more overpowering than the size of the speaker warrants. It does feel, however, that this may be the first release by Sonos that will be overshadowed by a software update. Truesound has the potential to transform the sound of Sonos speakers, no matter where they are in the room and that is a powerful tool to have.
Even if you don’t fancy purchasing the Play:5 but already have a piece of Sonos kit, because of Truesound your hardware is about to get an impressive upgrade.