It is hard to find a Sonos user who is not overwhelmingly thrilled with their system. The singular focus of the company is pure and simple: Deliver all the music on Earth wirelessly in any room. This audacious goal has largely been accomplished and Sonos is continually adding features, music services, software updates and new hardware options. However, until recently, one of the missing pieces in the high fidelity puzzle was massive bass in their line of powered speakers. Happily, Sonos has dramatically eliminated this issue with the recently released SUB.
The new Sonos SUB is a wireless subwoofer designed to perfectly complement any existing amplified components in your system including the Play:3, Play:5 or Connect:Amp. Like everything Sonos, setup is not much more complicated than pressing a single button. Once paired with an existing speaker, this nearly 40 pound monster delivers an extraordinarily satisfying low end, rich texture and layers of sound to your system. Having the SUB tucked away in a hidden corner or under a couch, it is a paradoxical experience eye-balling a single speaker and having such huge sound seemingly emanating from it. Pairing the SUB with more than a single speaker (two Play:5′s for example) provides even more impressive results.
[SUB. The newest addition to the Sonos.]
The System We’ve previously discussed the Sonos system and its ease of use in streaming music to different rooms. Creating its own mesh network, components can easily be added into an existing system without any cumbersome process or having anything to wire. Then, your own digital library and many of the most popular music services can easily be played and controlled by a wide variety of devices including laptops and smartphones. A sampling of supported music services include MOG, Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Sirius, Pandora, Slacker Radio, Stitcher FM, Amazon Cloud Player and two new personal favorites in Songza (which is like Pandora on steroids) and DAR.fm (which lets you record radio shows for later playback). If you have access to it, there really isn’t much music that can’t be played back on Sonos.
With an existing home theater system or stand-alone speakers, users can utilize either the Connect or Connect Amp respectively to create a music streaming system. Play:3 and Play:5 are Sonos’ self-contained, all-in-one speakers. Continue adding any of the above mentioned components simply by plugging in, pressing a button and adding to the network. “Jobsian” inspired simplicity & elegance, a massive variety of music services, ability to stream practically any format of locally owned music and constant development- there was seemingly not much more a Sonos user could ask for…except bass. The Sub defiantly and loudly puts an end to that problem.
Hardware The Sub, although a hefty 38 pounds, is actually quite compact and elegant for such an explosive subwoofer. Measuring approximately 16″ in height, 6″ in depth and 15″ in width, it should be relatively easy to stash this subwoofer somewhere unobtrusive if that is your desire. With two force cancelling speakers facing each other powered by two digital amplifiers, the donut shaped Sub can be laid on any side and in any direction without affecting sound quality. Yet, for a device that can be tucked in a corner or under a couch, ironically, the Sub is the most beautifully designed of all the Sonos components. With a glossy black finish and unique shape, it can easily be displayed on a counter-top, mantle, or as the centerpiece of a bookshelf and not look out of place. Frankly, it looks like art.
In addition to the speakers, the SUB is simply outfitted with an ethernet jack (if you are not using WiFi) and a button to connect it to your system which also doubles as a power indicator light. Felt feet are provided if you decide to lay the unit flat so that you don’t harm either the finish of the SUB or the surface you are laying it on.
Setup Like everything Sonos, dead simple and no need to read any instructions. After choosing “Add a Sonos Component” from any of the control apps (computer or Smartphone), pressing the only button on the SUB will pair the device with your system. You then chose which component you want paired with the SUB. Finally, the app will play a pair of test sounds (you pick which is louder or if there is no difference) and allow you to set the overall level.
[Dead Simple Setup]
Sound In a word: Extraordinary. In two words: Awesomely extraordinary.
I’ve never been one that is overly impressed with the thumping bass of subwoofers, headphones or speakers that accomplish the deep bass tones at the expense of everything else. There’s nothing worse than muddy, droning tonality especially when accompanied by vibrations or rattling. Fortunately, the SUB provides exactly what a subwoofer is supposed to add: Impossibly deep and rich notes with seemingly endless layers of music that are both punchy and well defined.
I have an open floor plan in my house with all but one room on the first floor in a wide-open space including family room, dining room, kitchen, bar and kitchen “great room”. I’ve always been duly impressed at how well the Play:5 can fill the entire physical space with room filling sound. Yet, the sound is definitely “directional”. Especially as I move away from the centrally located speaker in the kitchen, it is abundantly clear where the music is coming from. And while the Play:5 on its own has impressive bass and full sound, there are of course practical limitations on what a speaker of that size can pump out.
Pairing the SUB to my Play:5 produced astonishing results. Now, the music seemingly came from every direction. It was as if each part of my first floor had its own speaker system. Likewise, listening to music became an entirely different experience with layers of sound that were previously not even noticed. The bass and low ends were rich and full with crisp, distinguishable tones. No matter how loud or much bass I pushed at the Sub, there was never any vibrations or rattling that had crippled my enjoyment of other subwoofers in the past.
The SUB (like any top end subwoofer) is a perfect example of you don’t know what you are missing until you experience it for the first time. Once you enjoy the Sub, you’ll not want to listen to your music without it.
Price and Value The SUB doesn’t deliver it’s jaw dropping and room shaking sound for a short dollar. While the SUB retails for $699, it is still a good value for many. When comparing Sonos component prices, you have to compare apples to apples. While it is impossible to justify the expense of a Sonos system when simply comparing it against a simple set of desktop or bookshelf speakers, the value becomes abundantly obvious when tallying up the costs of a comparable high-fidelity, whole house system. Amplifiers, high-end speakers, and wiring all cost a premium. You are not simply paying for convenience, portability and flexibility with set-up- you are paying for high end audio that will transform how you listen to and enjoy music throughout the house.
Drawbacks There’s not much to complain about with either the Sonos system as a whole or the SUB in particular. Like the powered speakers, the SUB is locked into the Sonos ecosystem. There are no standard speakers connections allowing you to use it as a regular subwoofer if you ever decided you wanted to use it that way. Also, the Sub is incompatible with the Connect component so you can’t add the SUB to an existing stereo system that is not powered by a Sonos Connect:Amp.
Bottom Line Existing Sonos users will find the SUB a massive and welcome upgrade to rooms not already being serviced by a high end stereo system with the Connect:AMP. With a hefty price tag of $699, the SUB and likewise, the entire Sonos line may be off putting to new users. However, the overall cost of providing whole house high-fidelity sound from “all the music on Earth” is dwarfed by a comparable wired system.
Hidden Track Technology Tuesday
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