One of the things about the Bluetooth speaker revolution is that it’s easy to blend self-contained, single devices into a room. That’s great for decor freaks, but it also means you may not be getting the best sound possible out of the unit. While traditional audiophiles will still insist on a pair of stereo speakers on proper stands away from the walls — or floorstanding speakers, which still exist — that’s not practical or desirable for many music listeners. Sonos, the venerable multi-room audio company, has just unveiled the redesigned, flagship Play:5, which unlike most speakers will configure its sound profile to match the room it’s in automatically. The best part: You’ll be able to do that with any existing Sonos speaker as well.
The new Play:5’s dipole array of drivers disperses sound throughout the room, but that’s not all that’s going on here. It also has an accelerometer to help it determine where and how it’s positioned and will adjust its sound accordingly via DSP. And thanks to new software, the Play:5 and existing Sonos speakers can now account for the size, layout, and even furnishings of a room — for example, a room with hardwood floors and plenty of windows will sound quite different than one with thick pile carpeting and a couple of fabric sofas.
How does that work? Many years ago, I had an AudioControl equalizer, which came with a pink-noise generator and a small microphone that would “listen” to the sound of the speakers in the room and let you EQ the room to compensate. Sonos’s method is to use your phone to basically to do that in reverse — it listens to the sound of the room, compares the audio of what it’s hearing to what it’s playing out and seeing the difference, and then adjusts itself on its own. Sonos calls this Trueplay, and it works by using an iPhone as the mic; you wander around the room with the phone, and it will play some sounds and run some tests. (For now, this capability is iOS-only.)
Otherwise, the Play:5 works within Sonos’s multi-room ecosystem, which supports over 60 music services as well as locally stored music on up to 16 PCs, Macs, or NAS devices. It’s also a straight up Bluetooth speaker for connecting to your phone, tablet, or computer. This thing is larger than most Bluetooth speakers, though; the Play:5 measures 8 by 14.3 by 6.1 inches (HWD) and weighs a hefty 14 pounds, putting it on par with something like a Bower & Wilkins T7 or a Marshall Stanmore.
There are touch controls on the speaker itself, along with six internal antennas to stabilize wireless performance. It contains six class-D amplifiers driving three woofers and three tweeters, and you can adjust bass, treble, balance, and loudness controls via the Sonos Controller app. It also contains two non-functional mics that could be used for additional customization down the line in addition to the new Sonos app.
Sonos says the Play:5 is coming later this year, will be available in either white matte or black matte with a graphite grille, and will cost $499 a pop. You can also buy a second Play:5 and the two units will configure themselves as a stereo pair, and interestingly, you can add a pair of Play:5 speakers to a Sonos Playbar and subwoofer for a home theater setup. And of course, you can buy multiple speakers for different rooms in your house like any proper Sonos system.
Audiophiles have had a bit of a second coming lately, thanks to a renewed focus on improved audio quality, defeating the loudness wars with simple fixes like Apple’s Sound Check and Spotify’s automatic level matching, higher-quality streaming services like Tidal, and (admittedly unnecessary) attempts to market 24-bit/192kHz tracks to consumers. It’ll be interesting to see how this speaker sounds when it comes out. Sonos speakers generally sound quite good considering their form factors, although they rely on a large amount of digital signal processing that doesn’t sound exactly natural, as I found in a number of tests back when I was writing for our sister site PCMag. I’m looking forward to hearing this latest Play:5 model.
Source: Extreme Tech