We have a theory. There are two types of people who buy high-end sound equipment. There are audiophiles who want the best possible sound quality with equipment made with the best materials, best components and optimised signal processors. And there are those who want great looking gear that fits into a modern home and delivers great sound.
The new Sonos Play 5 speaker system delivers on both counts. During a demonstration before the official launch later this year we heard the new Paly 5 in action and we’re amazed.
Mark Sehler, the marketing and brand manager for Sonos Australia, told us material design can only take sound quality so far. The next major advances in speaker quality will come from better integration between hardware and software.
This focus on software is very important to Sonos. The about-to-be superseded Play 5 has been on the market for about six years and has, over that time, seen some significant updates. Even products that were released before the iPhone were upgraded so that they could be controlled via apps that didn’t exist when the hardware was made.
“Products get newer as they get older through software,” says Sehler.
This gives the products long life cycles – something Sehler says is very important, as it expects customers to use their Sonos gear for a decade or more.
Later this year, all of the Sonos Play range will receive a software update that takes advantage of the new TruePlay tuning system.
TruePlay uses the microphone on an iOS device to measure the ambient noise and acoustic characteristics of a room by listening to series of test tones and then tunes the speaker to optimise its performance.
I listened to the before and after of a Play 1 speaker placed in the corner of a kitchen behind a coffee machine. The difference in sound quality after TruePlay was used was stark with much clearer sound.
This is important as, Sehlar notes, many speakers are placed where there’s a convenient power source rather an acoustically optimal location.
Although speaker tuning is not new, the TruePlay system is very easy to use and takes just a minute or two.
Replacing a highly respected and regarded product that’s been in the market for some time can be challenging. But from what I saw and heard during a private demonstration, this is a significant upgrade to the flagship $749 speaker.
Unlike its predecessor, the new Play 5 can be oriented either on its base or on a side. The top surface has capacitive controls that can be used for controlling speaker volume and skipping forward and back between tracks. Accelerometers in speaker automatically adjust the sound coming from the three tweeters and three woofers so that sound is optimised regardless of how the speaker is placed.
Output volume has been boosted, now twice as powerful than before while idle power consumption has been dropped from 8w to just 2.3w.
Apple Music support
Sonos has said Apple Music support will be added to their software later this year although whether that will be a public beta or final release is yet to be confirmed.
API opening up
Sonos is also opening their developer API to third parties so solution providers can create their own solutions. We’re looking forward to seeing integration with home automation systems so our favourite tunes play and the lights come on as we unlock the front door.
We’re certain this will help spur on the next round of home automation.