Sonos Listening Tests & Conclusion
CD: Hoobastank - The
I popped in Hoobastanks's latest CD, The Reason and ripped it to MP3 at 320kbps, adding it to my comprehensive music collection. I then proceeded to play it through the Sonos system on all three zones using the All Zones - Party Mode. While I wasn't surprised to hear the music coming from all over the house, I was pleased to find that it was all in sync (you may hear delays caused by the speed of sound and distance between the zones of course). Sonos states that the maximum delay introduced by the system is 2ms and took great care to ensure that the system would perform well as a site-wide music distribution system. I also felt that the MP3s sounded as good as they can for 320kbps files - which is fine for whole house entertainment purposes. To hear the differences I did a few comparisons:
- First I made a copy of the CD
- I then queued the CD up in a DVD player and fed the stereo outputs into a remote ZonePlayer. This source would stream WAV to Reference System 3.
- Then I ripped 320kbps MP3s which served as a final source streaming from my music library.
- The Denon DVD-5900 was used as the reference player in Reference System 3
I then started comparing the 3 zones using streaming MP3, streaming PCM/WAV, and the original source CD. While I could hear the differences between the MP3 and the CD in Reference System 3 when switching inputs on the receiver, the differences were acceptable and varied from track to track. In general I would say that the MP3s would clip reverb or sound a bit more fatiguing over time, especially on very compressed tracks. This is the nature and result of the compression I utilized for my MP3s. When playing orchestral passages or Classical music there would be some noticeable loss of high and low frequency detail - but nothing that was out of the ordinary for an MP3 to CD comparison. As for the CD stream itself, the Sonos did not appear to be truncating the file or re-encoding the data in any way. In fact, after conversing with Sonos they informed me that the WAV files are kept unchanged and streamed in full bandwidth until it is decoded by the ZonePlayer. MP3 files are also kept in their native encoded rate (in this case 320kbps), not downsampled to a lower bitrate. I was really pleased with the results and track 3 "What Happened to Us?" sounded awesome - in all three formats.
Continuing to stream MP3 I listened to the rest of the album and felt that the Sonos system could not only provide access to your entire library collection - the ultimate in convenience - but also do so with accuracy and fidelity that made the most of the formats.
Ever since stumbling into Internet radio a couple years ago I have been hooked. Sonos brings enough samplings of Internet radio to satisfy casual listeners with the best of R&B, Country, Pop, Rock, Top40, 80's Rock (my personal favorite place to tune-in) and even Classical. If you have a favorite station that isn't on the Sonos list, simply add it by grabbing the URL (make sure it is indeed an MP3 streaming station) and selecting Radio/Add New in the Desktop Controller application. It will add the new station to your Favorites list and you will be able to enjoy it.
One nice thing I noticed was that the Sonos Controller (and Desktop Controller) provided continuous real-time feedback of the currently playing Internet Radio station. This listed the current song title and artists - at least from the stations that provided that information accurately in their streams. Of course, when playing MP3s the album cover art and song title are also displayed in the respective players, provided your MP3 library is correctly tagged.
Conclusions and Overall Perceptions
Sonos stands out from the vast landscape of digital music systems for good reason. Its uniqueness and attention to detail earns it a place at what should be the top of everyone's shopping list. The Sonos LCD Controller is the icing on what is a very robust cake, taking a well-thought-out music system and making it excellent. I actually had fun reviewing this product and, in fact, couldn't stop talking about all of the features and conveniences offered by the system and the wireless Controller. This is a statement piece that brings together the best of whole house audio and your portable media music collection. Why settle for a solution that only goes half-way when, for less that $1500 you can have true multi-room audio with a system that truly puts control in the palm of your hand.
The Score Card
The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:
Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating
Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.
Audioholics Rating Scale
- — Excellent
- — Very Good
- — Good
- — Fair
- — Poor
|Analogue Audio Performance|
|Ergonomics & Usability|
|Ease of Setup|