Pros / This is one of the best-sounding speakers in our lineup.
Cons / It lacks Bluetooth connectivity.
Verdict / If having multiple connectivity options isn't a priority, the sound quality alone makes this speaker well worth owning.
The Sonos PLAY:5 is part of the Sonos family of wireless speakers that can be grouped together with the mobile application to wirelessly stream music throughout your home. The PLAY:5 is one of the few speakers to combine exceptional sound quality, ample volume and a mobile application that gives you complete control of the speaker.
The Sonos PLAY:5 is the largest and most powerful unit from the Sonos wireless speaker family. The speaker features six active drivers – three tweeters and three midrange drivers to propel the sound – all of which are powered by individual amplifiers. The engineering behind this speaker is obviously well thought out. The PLAY:5 produced some of the clearest music throughout our listening tests.
The Sonos received perfect scores in the vocal and instrumentation clarity segments of our tests. This Wi-Fi speaker projects crisp, natural sound. On top of pure treble clarity, the bass production is equally outstanding. Many wireless speakers that have good treble clarity end up sounding thin or tinny because of the lack of bass. Sonos avoids this problem by producing balanced, punchy bass that rounds out the overall sound quality of the speaker.
We played tracks from Pretty Lights and Break Science, two bass-heavy bands, to judge the bass production from the speaker. It was impressive to say the least. This speaker can run with any speaker in our lineup in terms of quality bass. Only one other speaker scored better in our bass production scores. When we cranked the volume up to its highest level, the PLAY:5 still maintained composure. The speaker didn't distort, the high frequencies didn't become too sharp or piercing, nor did the bass gobble up the rest of the frequencies. It all remained tightly packaged and focused at high volumes.
We also listened to a mix of the bands Radiohead, The National and Lettuce to test instrumentation and vocal clarity – areas where the Sonos excelled. The home wireless speaker finds space for all instruments to shine but also pushed vocals to the front of the mix. The sound dispersion is impressive as well. It didn't matter where we stood in the room; the punch and drive of the speaker never diminished. Frankly, this speaker is impressive in all realms of sound quality.
Many of the speakers we reviewed, including the Denon HEOS 5, take just a few steps to get the speaker from out of the box to operational. The PLAY:5 setup process is much more extensive and takes longer than any other wireless speaker we reviewed. The process begins by downloading the Sonos smartphone application, and the entire setup process is done through the application. There are many steps to fulfill before the setup is complete, including registering the speaker through the application. The final step is going through the Sonos TruePlay process. TruePlay is how the speaker acclimates to the room where you set it up. The speaker plays a pulsating tone and uses your smartphone's microphone to listen for obstacles or distractions. Think of it as a type of sonar or echolocation. The process seems bizarre, but the result is great sound quality. The setup process more time consuming than with all other speakers we reviewed.
The Sonos application is useful beyond the setup process; you also use it as a remote control for the speaker. The application is one of the best that we reviewed. It is neatly organized with a menu that pulls out from the left side of the screen and disappears when you don't need it. It aggregates all of your music streaming services so you can access them all right within the application. It is compatible with many different streaming services, including Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, iHeartRadio and others. The application can also be used to set alarms, queue songs, create playlists and group multiple Sonos speakers together within the household.
We feel the biggest downside to Sonos speakers outside of the lengthy setup process is the lack of connectivity options. Sonos tries to push Wi-Fi connectivity as the main option for its speakers, leaving out many other connection standards such as Bluetooth and Airplay. The PLAY:5 does feature an aux-in located on the back of the speaker for a hardwired connection to your smartphone.
This lack of connectivity makes is disappointing for a few reasons. First, you have to go through the lengthy setup process if you want to use this speaker – no way around it. Second, if someone else wants to connect to the speaker, they'll have to connect to the home Wi-Fi network and download the application. The need for Wi-Fi and the lack of most other connectivity options is frustrating.
The speaker weighs 14 pounds and is heavier than most speakers we reviewed. It's 6.1 x 14.3 x 8 inches (L x W x H), which also makes it one of the bigger speakers we reviewed. The speaker is completely matte-black and features a few buttons, including a play/pause button and volume controls. The power cable port is located on the back of the speaker while the aux-in and Ethernet ports sit below. The speaker has a straightforward and simple design with little to no outstanding design qualities.
Help & Support
The PLAY:5 is covered by the standard one-year warranty that many other wireless speaker companies offer. The Sonos support page provides a variety of support options including phone, email and support via Twitter. There is additional information about warranty coverage and policies on the support page.
The Sonos PLAY:5 has outstanding sound quality. That's a big reason it is among the best wireless speakers in our lineup. It doesn't matter what style of music or genre you prefer to listen to – it all sounds great coming out of the PLAY:5. The speaker does have its drawbacks, including lack of Bluetooth and the long setup process. If you are satisfied with Wi-Fi and aux-in connectivity, this player's natural sound is worth the investment.