Multi-room marvellousness: Sonos Play:5 (2015) reviewed

Rock kicked in next, and there’s a lovely sound and distinctive separation from the multi-layered strings, piano, and boy-like vocals of Ben Folds in “Phone In A Pool”, while Radiohead’s “Exit Music” and Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” revealed a certain clarity for the wispy vocals of each singer and the buzzing of the guitar.

Even here, the feeling that you get from these speakers is that they can handle any sort of music, especially that of the “loud” variety, and that continues with Muse, with deep and rich separation in “Psycho”, with a fresh attack in the mids and highs of the guitar and drums, while the bass line through the Play:5 helped to make our walls tremble.

Here at half way, we have more than enough volume for the room, and even testing it briefly at large volumes, we found we weren’t even pushing the speaker past where its limits.

When the volume is too loud, touch the flat button on the left up top and you can turn it down.
When the volume is too loud, touch the flat button on the left up top and you can turn it down.

If you love loud rock, this is a fantastic speaker without doubt, and The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” confirms it with a clear organ and solid band sounds coming together with a really versatile soundscape, almost to the point where the back end organs feel like they’re coming from around you.

To jazz, and the light drums of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” are distinct, with the high hat and cymbals separate from each other, and a perfectly clear spacing from sax and piano.

The infinitely quiet bass on “So What” is now audible, distinct from the horns and drums, which take point, though it’s quite clear when you turn this one up that this is a track — and an album — which almost feels like the Play:5 was designed to play, even though it does need some more leeway on volume than say the rock we were testing before.

Meanwhile, the rich bass of Christian McBride is almost like listening to the instrument being played and plucked in the same room with you, offering up the snap of McBride’s finger across the fingerboard, and the vibration so real against Angelique Kiddo’s soulful lyrics in “Afirika”.


Finally, there’s classical, and both Claude Bolling’s “Baroque In Rhythm” and Nigel Kennedy’s “To Shiver, Frozen” shine, offering rich strings and a sharp sound, imploring you to turn up the volume to immerse yourself in the dynamic symphony appearing all around you.

Overall, our impressions of the Play:5 is that it has more than enough sound to fill a mid-sized room, but that if you want the bass to match the treble output from the speaker, you may need to fiddle with the equaliser in the room settings like we did.

That’s not a hard ask and literally takes two seconds, but we still felt it needed to be done.


Mind you, we haven’t been this impressed with a speaker under a grand for ages, and it’s one that can also be paired with an extra speaker and set in a portrait stance, the switch inside the unit changing the way the drivers fire and creating a more loudspeaker oriented space, provided you have two that are paired as stereo speakers.

The other side of this review stems from the extendability of the Sonos Play:5, and that exists in two features: line-in and the multi-room support.


Unlike any other Sonos speaker, the Play:5 lets you plug in an external source, relying on a 3.5mm line-in to take an audio feed that you can switch to.

This means you can bring in another audio source, such as a CD player or even a record player, choosing to send this source through the Play:5 itself, or even the rest of the Sonos-equipped household, which we’ll talk about next.


Interestingly, this is one of those features we’re a big fan of, simply because the Sonos Connect does the same sort of thing, but it’s an old product and does it for a $549. If you’re fine with turning up the volume a little, you’ll find the Play:5 lets you plug in a 3.5mm-connected audio source and gives you a speaker in the package for about $200 more.

That $200 easily pays for the speaker, and provides more current technology, even if the products are different.


We used it for a record player and found it worked a dream, with the line level able to be pushed up in the Sonos settings, and thanks to the multi-room technology, we could send the warm crackling sound of old jazz records to every speaker in the home, not just from an MP3 found on the network drive or via Google’s Play Music service.

Every speaker in the home received the vinyl, from the Play:1 speakers behind the couch… the Play:3 upstairs serving the bedroom. Vinyl everywhere.
…to the Play:3 upstairs serving the bedroom. Vinyl everywhere.