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SONOS Play:5, Playbar and SUB Listening Tests


The easiest way to play music using the Play 5 is through the SONOS app. Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, Google Play Music and Groove, are all available on the app or you can play your own collection of music stored on your computer or networked drive.


The newest version of the Play 5 that we reviewed has significantly better sound than the previous Play 5 model and an extra $100 on the price tag. For its size the small unit does not lack bass though owing to the three midwoofers.

Pulling up the app I decided to listen to my Pandora Maroon 5 station.  Immediately “One more night” came up.  Adam Levine’s opening falsetto rang out clean.  As the main beat kicked in the bass drum hits were present. Not to overpowering, not too soft. The separation of sounds for such a small unit is exceptional.  The offbeat reggae style synthesizer beats were distinct from Levine’s vocals, both the background and main tracks were easily distinguishable from one another. More Maroon songs played through the Pandora App and the Play 5 showed its prowess in the neodisco genre with ease.

To test the Play 5’s lower end I next pulled up my Today’s hits station betting that something with a lot of overengineered bass would play. Imagine Dragon’s “Believer” started. Imagine Dragons is known for their actual bass drum hits as opposed to synthesized ones. It’ll do. The big drum hits held true with the Play 5. The vocals were still clean and clear, and the dead silence right before the big hit “PAIN!” showed the engineered skills of the SONOS designers and their ability to integrate the Pandora app into their unit.

Next, another retro-style song played on the pop station “Feel it Still” by Portugal. The Man. The opening guitar and cymbals have a great 60’s style beat and the lead singers super high voice add to the feeling that Austin Powers was going to come out of the speaker yelling “Yeah Baby!”.

The Play 5 was consistent through other genres of music. For the size, the unit played exceptionally well. A good comparison would be the Oppo Sonica which we reviewed recently. At $299 (compared to $499 for the SONOS Play:5) the Sonica has slightly less bass owing to the two 3.5" bass woofers as compared to the Play:5's three midsubs. But with the Sonica's ability to stream using Apply Play and Bluetooth right out of the box and the huge $200 price difference I'd give the edge to the Sonica.

Listening Tests - Playbar and SUB

Unlike the setup of the Playbar and Play 5 to a wireless network, integrating the SONOS SUB into either unit (yes I did sync the SUB to the Play 5) was not an issue. All features of the Playbar and SUB were controlled through the SONOS app with relative ease. Pulling content from your phone for the Playbar is a little bit trickier than the Play 5, but since the Playbar was hooked up to my apple tv, most of the content used in the Listening Tests came from that device rather than streamed from my phone.


“Walking Dead” Season 8 Premier

Depending on the episode, “The Walking Dead” can be anywhere from a soap opera’s worth of dialogue, to an explosive fillewalking dead 801.jpgd roller coaster ride of chaos. Luckily this was the later. Rick’s rousing speech to the fighters of the Hilltop, Alexandria, and The Kingdom is easily heard through the Playbar. Although not necessarily needed, the Speech Enhancement option worked well to help clarify some of the dialogue. It did not make a huge difference, but a change for the better was there none the less. The diversity of the number and types of drivers really came through in the action scenes. This was evident in the low rumblings of Darryl’s motorcycle, the explosions of guns, and the breaking of glass.  The Playbar and SUB worked well together to portray what the sound director was looking for in the scenes. The content itself from the cable service didn’t warrant a good soundstage or imaging so I decided to move on to Blu-ray.

Blu-rayfury road.png

Mad Max – Fury Road

This is still one of my favorite movies to use for sampling new units. The opening scene alone has it all and the SONOS Playbar did a wonderful job through all of it.  From Tom Hardy’s low gravelly voice, to the news reports moving from left to right and back again to the voices in the black matter of his brain. The skitter of the two headed lizard, the crunch of his boot and he crushes it and swallows it whole all come through the Playbar with a wide soundstage for a 35” unit. As Max jumps into his car and revs the engine to life, the sub kicks in and shows a surprising amount of punch which is further reinforced as he is chased over the hill and through the desert.

A little finessing was needed to achieve the proper levels of bass for the sub, but I eventually found a good compromise between music, dialogue and explosive movies.   


My home is a revolving Play5main.JPGdoor of new audio products to review. New speaker systems are plugged in, unplugged, moved around, and shipped out on a weekly basis. I found the SONOS speakers to be finicky when moving them around the house, connection wise. If the wireless connection was lost, sometimes reconnecting to the network was a problem.  I also had issues connecting when moving the speakers from one wireless network to another.  On the plus side, when the speakers were in place, the connections worked well with little problems and the speakers themselves were built of top notch materials and the sound was fantastic. If you are planning on using any of the SONOS products as a mobile system to take back and forth to work, I would look into other systems. But if you're setting this up in a stationary environment like an office or a home, then Sonos is a sound option.

Sonos Play:5, PlayBar and Wireless Subwoofer YouTube Review


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

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Network FeaturesStarStar
Ease of SetupStarStarStar
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Tony is our resident expert for lifestyle and wireless products including soundbars. He does most of the reviews for wireless and streaming loudspeakers and often compares soundbars in round ups and helps us cover the trade shows.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Calvert posts on May 02, 2018 21:06
I just read this short article about a possibly new Sonos bar. My question is why Sonos would put more development in Alexa compatibility and a single HDMI than with besting the latest soundbar features found on the Sony 5000 and such? I own and love the Sony but also find the Sonos a suburb bar.

everettT posts on April 28, 2018 13:32
MWD, post: 1235930, member: 78014
Plastic subwoofer? It's 36 pounds.
I have sub drivers that weigh more than that 36#s is light
AlainB posts on April 28, 2018 11:52
I have been selling and using SONOS for 6 years and it's the most complete wireless system out there. Every audio manufacturers have a wireless system to offer. Lots sounds as good and some better than SONOS but the mesh network and ease of use make it number one. Their customer service is awesome which helps if you have the connection issues you are talking about, and is usually related to Wi-Fi.
Hobbit posts on March 01, 2018 11:25
Hi Gene, Thanks for the review. I was just thinking of starting a thread to see if anyone here uses Chromecast and what their thoughts on it is?

I just picked up a new internet radio, GD Mondo Plus, with built in Chromecast. As some might remember, I loved my GD internet radios. I have an eclectic taste in music and most the big music providers just don't go that deep into tracks or even genre's. It takes a little footwork, but you can find some amazing stations out there, with very good quality too. Fusion 101 is one of my favorites.

Going forward, some of the music providers are not allowing built-in (native) apps. Pandora is one of these that is not allowing devices run Pandora as a native app.

The solution for GD was build Chromecast into their devices and then you use your smart phone (i or droid) For those who don't know, there's a little button in the apps that then transmits what's playing on your phone to your Chromecast enabled devices. Actually setup was unbelievably easy. Once you Chromecast enabled devices is running, it doesn't need the phone anymore.

At this time I'm still kind of up in the air about it. There's a wealth of Chromecast enabled apps. I can add a Chromecast dongle for $35 toentertainment systems which will then allow multi room music. The downside is you need your phone, which becomes a remote at this point.

With Chromecast and Chromecast Audio you can connect to just about anything. But, there's extra steps involved; you just can't turn on a device in a room, channel select, and have it work. This may not be an issue when setting up for multi room. It's more of a nuisance when you walk into a room and just want to turn on the device to your favorite selected channel.

Sorry! I went on longer than I thought and probably should have started a new thread.
MWD posts on March 01, 2018 11:21
Plastic subwoofer? It's 36 pounds.
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