Sonos, without doubt, is one of the biggest names on the market when it comes to multi-room speakers.
With so many to choose from, their ability to integrate in a smart home, and their massive reputation for sound; they have been at the forefront for general consumer listening and streaming music systems for well over a decade.
Apple's HomePod, Amazon's Echo range, as well as audio giants such as Bose, JBL, Naim and Denon, (even the UK’s up and coming challenger Lithe Audio) all have competitive Sonos alternatives, but that’s just it.
When you say Sonos - it is still the company synonymous with multi-room audio.
Whether you want a single speaker, a stereo pair or to sync up in a multi-room set-up; the configurations are almost endless - and your audio playback options are similar - if it’s stored locally on your device, streaming services, internet radio, audio from your TV and much more.
From a price-point, there are some on the market that won’t hurt your wallet as much, but you are getting significant and reliable quality and performance when you choose Sonos.
It does lack somewhat on the smart home front, compared to its dedicated smart speaker rivals, but that's an area where it's continuously improving – not only with its own Alexa-packing speakers, but by opening up to the other ecosystems too.
Whilst we said that you can integrate their products in a smart home environment, there are others out there which are more defined for that, but there are improvements, for example, with their Alexa-integrated units such as Sonos One, and slowly it is opening up for more.
Sonos - Where it all began
Back in 2005, Sonos was effectively a remote control and an amplifier box, known as the ZP100. It was simple to connect passive speakers, and has Ethernet and WiFi connection so you could play stored digital music and some initial internet radio services that were out there.
Nowadays, Sonos is effectively a collection of connected speakers (although the ZP100 does live on, more on that later) that team up with an app – mobile or desktop – to let you stream your music from a huge array of sources. You can have just one Sonos speaker in your setup but the fun starts when you begin to team them up.
Sonos - Where we are now
Sonos is now almost everywhere when it comes to home audio. Connected speakers seamlessly come together on the Sonos App, either mobile and also desktop, so you can stream music from a wide variety of sources. You can just have the one standalone speaker, or you can go to a fully home integrated system; all with the same control.
Get yourself set up with a Sonos account, regardless of where you want to start from.
So long as your PC or mobile device is connected to the same WiFi as your Sonos system will be connected to (or at least to start with) - download the Sonos App and create an account. You’re then given a step-by-step guide to adding your Sonos product(s).
To make the most out of Sonos now, it’s best to use an iOS device (Apple) to unlock Sonos’ Trueplay technology.
What this does is use your iPhone or iPad’s microphone as a calibration tool - cleverly measuring the audio output from your Sonos speakers as it bounces around your room to determine the room size, layout, any furniture, where the speaker is positioned and more that makes an impact on sound quality.
You will, for a few minutes feel a little silly walking around with your Apple device doing this but it will adjust your speaker’s woofer and tweeter for ideal sound.
The HomePod does do this for you, however Sonos does produce incredible speakers that give it that edge.
If you have multiple Sonos speakers to add, rename and assign them to rooms (even creating stereo pairs if you wish) and you’re moments away from experiencing an incredible multi-room audio set-up.
You can select to play back different music sources in different rooms, or even group speakers together so they play back the same source, at the exact same time, perfectly in sync, at the same volume or differing if you wish!
Once groups are created, your Sonos set-up will remember these as they are until you edit and ungroup them. All you need to do to edit these groups is either check or uncheck a box in the Sonos App. You can have as many groups as you wish, but a speaker can be attributed to only one ground at a time.
If you’re driving Sonos from another source, these groups will also stay as they are. For instance, you can also use Amazon Alexa devices with Sonos speakers and create groups where the Sonos products are, by deafult, the main playback for commands heard by Alexa.
It’s worth always remembering, Sonos speakers/amplifiers are not Bluetooth speakers - they are purely run using the WiFi spectrum.
There are lots of pro’s to this, particularly larger range to control around the home and uncompressed audio is outputted.
On initial set-up, your Sonos speaker/amplifier, by deafult, will more than likely run on your home WiFi network, so there needs to be a good signal from your router without any lag or drop-out.
It can be improved by creating a Boost setup, or what is sometimes known as ‘Sonosnet’.
This is essentially a 2.4GHz “mesh” network that operates separately to your home WiFi, but still uses your router’s connection for Internet-based audio sources.
How you do this in the simpliest way, if you can, is to connect one of your Sonos speakers/amplifiers to your main router using an Ethernet connection - in effect turning this into a hub for Boost.
You can add a dedicated Sonos Boost if you wish, but if you have the hardware at hand, why spend more - unless of course range is a problem altogether.
What you can play on Sonos
In the beginning, Sonos was just a streamer for local digitally stored music on a NAS drive or even from within your iTunes music library.
You can still use Sonos in that way - but with the speed in which the world of music and technology has moved - there’s now a whole lot more that can be achieved.
All major music streaming services are available including the following; Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, Qobuz, Soundcloud, Spotify and Tidal.
Radio playback of millions of stations is achieveable through TuneIn or SiriusXM.
Lastly, if you use a Sonos product which features line-in, or a Sonos TV-enabled speaker with digital optical audio, you can connect and stream almost anything around your home.
From HiFi units with cassette decks, covering your home with TV audio, and even those classic vinyls played through a record player if you wish.
As a note, we mentioned the Sonos Boost previously, if you are streaming anything other than compressed digital music (streaming services, Internet radio and anything stored audio), the Boost will help avoid any choppiness to audio playback.
Sonos speakers: What to buy and where to buy them
There are currently four different Sonos 'bookshelf' speakers available, all of which have Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity as standard.
There is a wide range of options when it comes to Sonos, so let’s take a quick look at what is out there right now.
The smallest and simplest unit, the Sonos Play:1 is great for bedrooms, kitchens and a more personal audio offering - or double up for a larger room as a pair of stereo speakers.
Less than 2kg and around six-inches in height, there’s plenty within with two Class-D digital amplifiers, tweeter for crystal clear high-frequency response and a mid-woofer for mid-range vocal frequencies all built in to its design.
The mid-range standalone speaker, the Play:3 has a third Class-D amplifier going beyond the Play:1 with three custom built drivers and a bass radiator for low tones.
Again, you have the ability to put these in a stereo set-up just like you would with the Play:1 units.
You may have known of the ZonePlayer S5 - essentially, this is now the Play:5 with six Class-D amplifiers, six dedicated speaker drivers, three tweeters and three mid-woofers.
There is line-in function for anything analogue to connect into and ports for Ethernet connection to.
In recent times, the Play:1 has now had some tweaks, especially with the market opening up to dedicated smart home speakers and the effect of voice-control systems from the likes of Amazon.
So much so, Amazon Alexa now plays a major part in the Sonos One.
Non-Alexa Sonos products can still be used alongside separate Echo devices, but if you want a clutterless solution, the Sonos One gives you just that.
You can ask Sonos One to control lights, locks and a host of other smart home products as you would normally with Alexa. AirPlay 2 also arrived on Sonos One in 2018, and expect Google Assistant in 2019.
There is also a “Gen 2” model, which has a faster processor, more memory and Bluetooth Low Energy, which allows the speaker to get going a lot quicker. You would need to have a serious ear to hear the differences, so it may not be something to concern yourself with in the here and now in terms of which model you have.
Sonos Architectural by Sonance
This year sees the arrival of the fantastic Sonos Architectural by Sonance speaker range.
There are in-ceiling, in-wall and outdoor speakers, designed for true use with Sonos Amp.
They do need to be connected with the Sonos Amp in order to work and maximise TruePlay.
In that regard, it needs to be remembered, that it will cost once you’ve factored in the cost of the Sonos Amp, it is a significant overall cost.
Individually though, if you are looking to alter a current system with a Sonos Amp, the Sonos Amp will auto-recognise and connect to the Sonance wall and ceiling speakers and you’ll be able to tune them via TruePlay.
A great feature with the amount of power from the Sonos Amp means you can not just one pair, or two, but a maximum of three pairs of speakers from one single Sonos Amp!
The Sonos In-Ceiling speakers are available right now at BuyCleverStuff in exclusive bundles with Sonos Amp - with free next working day delivery to most UK addresses.
Sonos for your TV
Whilst a major focus for Sonos with music listening, there are plenty of other options for audio play back with TV.
There are three great products that are dedicated to this for televisions, but connect in different ways.
Both the Playbar and the Playbase require you to connect to your TV through a digital optical cable, whilst the Beam uses HDMI. Along with playing back TV audio in stereo or Dolby Digital, they also work and play music from the same sources as other Sonos speakers/amplifiers, so can form part of a multi-room speaker setup.
The newest member of Sonos’ soundbar family, the Beam features a single tweeter located in the middle of the device, three passive radiators and four full-range woofers.
You also have voice control thanks to a five-mic array, meaning Alexa can hear you over a distance and distinctly pick you out over what is being played - Airplay 2 is also incorporated so you can sync up any HomePods you may have.
With the Playbar, you can have it positioned either on wall and mounted, or sit beneath a television on a TV stand unit. It features an awesome nine digital amplifiers within the product itself.
You get an extra digital amplifier over the standard Playbar, but is tuned to sound very similar.
Another plus is its ability to be a base for your actual TV itself! Other than that, you have very little to choose between the two products.
Amplifiers and more
The original Sonos Zoneplayer developed into what has been known as the Connect:Amp, and for many years has been the go-to product for connecting existing speakers you may have, and making it involved in the Sonos family.
It was capable of outputting 55 Watts per channel at 8 Ohms.
Effectively, the Connect:Amp - without the Amp!
If you had an audio source with an amplifier already, this is designed just so you could run it into that, like an old CD player or HiFi system.
Think of a Sonos Connect as a Sonos speaker without sound – just add it to a group of speakers and whatever you are playing from the line-in, that's what will be played through your speakers (remember to select 'Line-in' as the source in the Sonos app).
Many think that the Sonos Sub, it’s trademark subwoofer, is designed for TV surround - which is fantastic for, however, it’s also got great usage for adding even more bass to general music. Again, just include it into a group in the Sonos App as a regular speaker to get it going.
The Sonos Amp - after many years of development, and desire for more power, the new Amp is twice as powerful, allows for up to four standard speakers with 125 watts per channel - and up to three pairs of Architectural speakers (Sonos by Sonance) - and not just that, but AirPlay 2 and includes Alexa as well.
Check out our bundle packages today for the Sonos Amp with Sonos by Sonance Architectural Ceiling Speakers here.
Sonos 5.1 surround sound system
As well as putting Sonos speakers togehter for stereo sound and in a multi-room function - you can also bring Sonos together for a dedicated 5.1 TV surround system set-up.
You’ll need the base elements of the Sonos Sub and one of the three Sonos TV speakers as mentioned (Playbar/Playbase/Beam); you’ve got a 3.1 system already there!
You then need some rear speakers - Play:1s or Ones are sufficient enough, but why not consider a pair of ceiling speakers from a Sonos Connect:Amp or Amp!
Unfortunately you can’t go so far as to get a 7.1 system with Sonos, but keep an eye out in the future as technology will always develop!
Sonos in the smart home – Alexa and more
Sonos is developing - as we said at the start - when it comes to smart home, and its Works with Sonos program has lots of other partner companies coming on board.
Alexa is a really great compliment to Sonos, and with it living inside the Sonos One, Beam and Amp, and via the Sonos Skill meaning any Echo device connected to existing Sonos speakers will be able to work alongside it. Echo Dot products are a really cheap way to transform your already set-up system.
One of the latest Alexa app updates allows you to associate Amazon Echo devices with Sonos speakers via the Alexa app - meaning you can create groups where Sonos speakers are the default playback for commands.
There were previous issues with the speaker volume not lowering enough for voice commands to be heard, however Sonos has solved that, but you will need to mess around with settings somewhat.
And don’t panic - if you’re a Google user - Google Assistant is on the way with Sonos, and if you’re an Apple user, it is AirPlay 2 compliant.
Sonos and AirPlay 2
Apple’s AirPlay 2 works wonderfully with Sonos - in a fashion - the latest products are all pretty much enabled to work with AirPlay 2 - the Sonos One, 2nd gen Play:5, Playbase, Beam - and will sync with the HomePod and other AirPlay 2 speakers you may have.
Other Sonos products though, the older ones, you’ll be out of luck we’re afraid! However, they can be grouped with newer products on the app which would then work as a hub allowing the older products just to stream the audio required.
Sonos streaming vinyl from your record player
Connecting non-connected audio sources is where the Amp, Connect or Connect:Amp really come into their own - and at BuyCleverStuff, is a major key element for our customers; particularly vinyl listeners.
Simply plug in using the line-in port and away you go! Want to get that audio elsewhere in your home? Then just select the relevant speaker in the Sonos App which your vinyl record player is connect to and group them together and play!
That’s pretty much the full basics of what you need to know about Sonos in your home!
If you have any other questions which we many not have covered, get in touch or take a look at our bundle packages of Sonos amplifiers and ceiling speakers, and get integrated home multi-room audio today ready to install!