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Today, by accident, I was at a Best Buy here in NYC and I was told by a manager that there was a Sonos Rep in the neighborhood at another Best Buy at 86th St. and Lexington Ave. Who would've ever thought? (No one, not even the Sonos reps on the phone told me that they had people out in the field demonstrating their wares.) I was so surprised and so I jumped into a taxi and went across town to finally get a real demonstration of Sonos. 

When I arrived at the other Best Buy, I took the escalator downstairs to the audio department and there it was right in front of me, a full Sonos set-up; two Play 3's, one Play 5, and the new and slick Sonos Sub. I was so excited to finally hear what everyone was raving about.

The name of the Sonos rep was Neil. The nicest guy you can ever want to meet and probably a future millionaire if he sticks with Sonos. Neil was very patient with me and spent as much time as I needed shifting components and explaining to me how the system works. 

I was curious and asked questions on these forums as to which is better, two Play 5's and a Sub or two Play 3's and Sub. I was finally able to hear these comparisons for myself. Unfortunately there wasn't a set-up of two Play 5's in stereo mode but, for sure, two Play 3's sounded better to my ears than one Play 5. 

The following comments are not critical ones. I realize I was listening to this sytem in less than optimal conditions. The Sonos demonstration table was smack dab in the middle of one of the busiest Best Buys in the country. It is a mad house in there. Very noisy, busy, and chaotic. 

I am rating each review on a 1 -10 scale, 10 being best. Now onto the music. 

 

Classical Solo: I really wanted to hear this system with acoustic music so for the first track I listened to John Dowland's, Music for Lute. With the Mog Music Network, Neil played this beautiful music for me with a stereo pair of Play 3's and a Sub and then the solo Play 5. 

Pair of Play 3's with Sub - 7 - It's a lute, for goodness sakes, in stereo. : )
Play 5 with Sub - 7

Classical Symphonic: This is where the Sonos System, I felt, really struggled. I threw a wrench at it with John Corigliano's, 2nd Symphony and Stravinsky's, Rite of Spring. Unfortunately, because I was at Best Buy, I couldn't be picky about my sources or recordings. These orchestral works require so much more than these speaker enclosures were built for. Nevertheless I was hoping for more. 

Pair of Play 3's with Sub - 5
Play 5 with Sub - 4

Dance Music: Sonique, It Feels So Good. I feel like the Sonos system was designed for music reproduction that is recorded using a far more compressed space. Electronically generated music fares far better than acoustic music with the Sonos System.

Pair of Play 3's with Sub - 8 
Play 5 with Sub - 7

Other Music: Neil played for me one of his favorite demonstrations to show off the power of the Sonos Sub. He played for me a song by James Blake. I can't remember the name of it but, boy, did it get the ground shaking (though, as he pointed out, not the subwoofer itself). 

Pair of Play 3's with Sub - 8

So those are my initial, unscientific, uncritical first impressions of the Sonos System. Overall what did I think? The Sonos system met my expectations, but just barely. I am rather upset over how it played back challenging symphonic music. The sound was just too compressed. It's been said over and over again that there is only so much you can do with small speaker enclosures and the Sonos was no exception. 

One thing that Neil told me was that Sonos was squaring up to take over Bose. Sonos shouldn't have much problem with this, however, I hope Sonos also doesn't use Bose as a business model. Bose has not innovated their Wave Radios for an eternity. I sometimes see Bose on QVC and it is already antiquated technology.

I am hoping that Sonos won't rest on their laurels and will continue to improve their products, not just their software but their hardware too. For instance, I find that the mid-range drivers in their speakers don't sound good enough for all kinds of music. Sonos is certainly a mid-fi company and not a hi-fi company. I want them to be hi-fi and this is another reason why I hope Sonos isn't looking to Bose as a model. 

As a side note, when I was a Best Buy, I also check out the new Samsung Vacuum Tubed DA-E750. Wow, is this thing a beauty. I believed that the sound quality was superior to the stereo pair of Play 3's by Sonos. It would be unfair to throw in the Sonos Sub to compare as the Samsung did not have a separate subwoofer. With classical music, the Samsung was much fuller and far more detailed. The Samsung wasn't nearly as compressed as the Sonos Play 3's. Problem is, the Samsung does not have the incredible wireless capabilities that the Sonos has. 

I also hope Sonos isn't just engineering their products for the masses, like those of us who shop for audio at Best Buy. There is more to being a respectable audio company than gross profit margins. I hope Sonos will continue to improve their products so that people like me can enjoy our Radiohead but also so people like me can listen to Mozart's, Requiem and be blown away by the sound quality. As of now I don't think Sonos is quite there. Sonos, please don't let me down. 

For now, I am on the fence about purchasing a Sonos System. A part of me thinks I should just continue listening to my Cambridge Soundworks Model 88CD Radio. There is no arguing that Sonos has a huge hit on its hands. To be able to play music simultaneously in every room in the house is a game changer. I just wish the fidelity of the playback were a bit better. So my overall score of my first Sonos experience?

Overall: 7


Edited by davidhunternyc - 11/4/12 at 8:18pm