Price (RRP): $999
Sonos is famous for its multiroom, multizone, network speaker systems. It wasn’t the first such system (the original Yamaha MusicCast beat it), but it was the first successful system. And now it has added a component I think is vital for such a system: the Sonos Amp.
Apparently, the impetus for its development were the demands of system integrators and installers. And, indeed, the Sonos Amp is capable of being rack mounted. But as far as I’m concerned, its minimalist design is verging on beautiful. I think there will be a big market with regular consumers.
It is, literally, a black box. But a stylish one. It measures 215mm square, looking down from the top, and stands 63mm tall.
Sonos Amp Features
Sonos has three different powered speakers for its system, plus a subwoofer. And it has three different soundbar types. But what if you want to use better speakers that you’ll get in any soundbar or powered speaker. That’s where the Sonos Amp comes in. It features the network stuff and a built-in 125 watt per channel stereo amplifier.
The Sonos Amp is a bit like a 2019 take on an old-fashioned hifi amplifier. It takes an input and drives a pair of connected speakers.
There are three kinds of input. One kind is a pair of RCA sockets which act as the stereo analogue input. Then, there are network connections in the form of two Ethernet ports and built-in Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi is 2.4GHz only, 802.11b/g/n. You can use one of the Ethernet ports instead. The other Ethernet port allows it to double as a network switch.
At the back are four banana-plug sockets for speaker connection. Included in the box are adaptors to allow the use of bare wires. There’s also a wired output for an active subwoofer, should additional bass be required. The system also works with Sonos’ own wireless subwoofer.
Finally, there’s a HDMI socket. That’s the third input since it supports the Audio Return Channel feature of HDMI. The Sonos Amp sends a cool screen-saving abstract black and white picture down to the TV, and accepts audio back from the TV. So, you can use the Sonos Amp to play back the sound of broadcast TV and any other sources being fed to the TV. The HDMI output does not show any information about the music that’s playing.
Sonos Control App
Keeping with the minimalist theme, there are only three controls: marked touch sensitive points on the front panel allow volume up and down and play/pause.
But you use an app to exercise most control over the Sonos Amp. With that you choose music to play, select speakers (actually, “Rooms” because each is assigned to a room), and group and ungroup them speakers.
The only network audio listed on the app when you first load it TuneIn Radio. But you can add any number of additional ones from the list supported in setup. That list includes an astonishing 71 options, ranging from YouTube music to Tidal to Triple M to Stitcher to Deezer to Apple Music to Google Play Music to Audible.
And that, of course, includes Spotify. Unusually, uniquely I suspect, the Spotify control functions are incorporated into the Sonos app. Spotify is traditionally stand-offish about this kind of integration. Every other control app I’ve used simply includes a link to the Spotify app when Spotify is invoked. The Sonos way makes for a more integrated operational environment.
The services you choose are listed on the main “Browse” page in the app, along with the other inputs such as TV, Line Input and “On this Mobile Device” (so you can play its contents).
I used an Android tablet as my main control device, but I also installed the app on an iPhone to make sure all was well there. The “On this Mobile Device” entry was missing from that.
Likely the reason for that is that the Sonos Amp/Sonos App supports Apple AirPlay 2. If you want to play something that’s on your iPhone, you just use your favourite music app and select the relevant “Room” as your AirPlay speaker.