The new Sonos amp is something that few consumers would ever
consider as part of their music streaming setup. Sonos set out to correct that misconception.
GadgetGuy went to a hands-on session with the Sonos Amp, and indeed perceptions changed. Whereas AV specialists may buy truckloads of these, and rack mount them to power/control all manner of speakers in a home (or business) Joe and Jane Average may not appreciate the power of a 2.1, 125W-per-channel, amp loaded with Sonos smarts.
(Please assume all speaker references are passive – unamplified
– except where we mention Sonos)
The first use case is
bringing Sonos to your existing unamplified stereo speakers.
The Sonos amp may cost $999, but many have amazing bookshelf, floor or ceiling speakers costing several times that. While Sonos capabilities are unique (dozens of streaming music sources, AirPlay 2, voice assistants etc) you could shell out a lot more for a Denon, Marantz, Sony, HEOS, Onkyo, Pioneer and more 5.1 AV amplifier and not get anywhere near the Sonos functionality.
The second use case
is to add rear speakers and a sub-woofer
The Amp supports two Sonos One, Play:1, Play:5 as rear speakers
and a Sonos Sub to get 4.1 sound. It decodes up to 5.1.
The third use case is
to have two (or more) Sonos amps
The first controls the
front speakers (2.0 or 2.1 with a wired amplified sub or a wireless Sonos sub)
and another controls the rear speakers making 4.1.
Each Sonos amp communicates with the other over Wi-Fi 2.4Ghz
or Ethernet, and that is where things can
get interesting. Apparently, there is a great demand for rack mounting these to cover multiple
speakers in different rooms and provide multi-room or party mode.
More Sonos Amp
HDMI ARC for connection to a TV
RCA stereo for connection
to a turntable (must have a built-in pre-amp) or another analogue sound source.
RCA out for a sub-woofer with adjustable cross
over from 50-100Hz to ensure that it complements – does not down out – existing
Dual Ethernet Ports to enable hard linking of
multiple Sonos Amps. It can also link over Wi-Fi N, 2.4Ghz.
Small – 21.69 cm square x 6.4 cm x 2.1kg. The
Sonos App or touch controls on the front can control the Sonos Amp.
Works with all Sonos
products including the Sonos Beam soundbar. And your TV’s IR remote will control it as well (if using HDMI ARC).
compatible to tune the speakers to the room
(Apple iOS only)
in mono or stereo – useful for multi-room music.
all Sonos products, it will receive OTA
updates for further functionality (OK Google Please!)
Is 125W RMS per
channel into 8-Ohm speakers enough?
The demonstration was at Mojo Record Bar in York Street Sydney. Yes, I had one lovely Six Strings unpasteurised Pale Ale (made at Erina on the Central Coast of NSW close to where I live), so my head was clear.
Maximum volume on a pair of KEF Q750 floor speakers (about
$4k for the pair) was 114dB with a THD of
.0015%. Yes, 125W-per-channel is more
than enough for a 50m2 space at half volume.
But given the Sonos Amp
price, I would be more comfortable
driving even lower cost speakers and seeing what its EQ app can really do.
BTW – the Sonos Amp can work equally well with 4-Ohm
speakers and is stable down to 2-Ohm.
The elephant in the room
is Dolby Atmos, Hi-Res support and no centre channel
Sonos Amp decodes 3.1 signals by sending them to the L or R
channel – called a phantom centre channel. Centre channel is more for clear voice.
During the demo, the 2.0 system was
flawless with its speech enhancement mode.
Hi-Res is not necessary for music streaming or TV use – it supports
Dolby Atmos is now on most premium 4K TVs, and content availability is increasing. That is
the Sonos Amp’s one Achilles heel. It supports 5.1 decoding but not spatial up-firing channels, e.g. 5.1.2 or 7.1.4. Yet
I suspect its use cases and sound quality may compensate until they have a
The Sonos Amp is available from Sonos online and is a breeze for hi-fi buffs to install. But I strongly suggest you consider wider uses like multi-room or whole of home speakers. Sonos Australia can point you to AV integrators that specialise in that.
GadgetGuy Thomas Bartlett a.k.a. The Hi-Fi expert will be testing these soon.