Despite my negative posts about Sonos’ voice assist integration strategy I still like the company’s products. I only have one speaker, the Play 1, which is reasonably priced, sounds great and is a very convenient way to listen to music and radio in my kitchen.
Sonos’ speakers are usually sold at significant premiums, but the Play 1 (and the similar Sonos One) are priced comparably with other speakers of this size and quality, even those without wifi capability.
I hadn’t purchased more Sonos products because I didn’t need speakers. But lately my Sony home theater receiver has been annoying me. It was affordable at $200 but doesn’t sound great, is physically huge for no apparent reason and has intermittent sound connection issues with my TV. I’ve had it 6 years, and decided to try the Sonos Amp.
The Amp is a new Sonos product, an update over one of its first products: Connect Amp. The new Amp has an HDMI port with ARC support, is more powerful, smaller and more attractive than its predecessor. It costs $600, which is the most I’ve ever spent on an audio product.
Out of the box impressions:
The Amp is beautiful (whereas my Sony AVR is an eyesore). Hooking it up took 5 minutes – plug in the power, plug in the speakers. Done. Connecting it to the network took another 5 minutes. Easy.
But getting it to sound good, that took some time. The equalizer built into the Sonos app is underwhelming. Just 3 sliders: Balance, Treble, Bass. Given the price of this device there should have been an “advanced” mode where you can fine tune the sound, and there should have been pre-sets for different genres to get you started.
Furthermore there is a separate section in the Settings to adjust the subwoofer phase, crossover and level. These settings are crucial, at least with my speakers. Once I had the settings correct the system sounds fantastic. Before I found the sub settings I was very disappointed and leaning toward returning the Amp to the store.
Sonos apparently expects its customers to understand how to set up a sub, because there is no guide to help you. I had to google it because I know next to nothing about subs. I used google to set up my original system 6 years ago and I haven’t thought about it since.
Also, Sonos has software called Trueplay that tunes its speakers to your room. But Trueplay doesn’t work with the Amp in the way I use it (2.1 system, non Sonos speakers). Every other manufacturer selling receivers at this price range includes a device for auto-adjusting the settings to the room. Even if the Trueplay results aren’t perfect it’s helpful to have a starting place.
Also weird is the absence of a dedicated remote. Your phone is the remote, but you can control the Amp with a universal remote as well. It took a little while to figure out, but I can use the Harmony remote and the Apple TV remote to control volume. There isn’t a need to change inputs on the Amp – it adjusts from ARC to line-in automatically when it receives a signal.
I set up the sound the way I like it and it’s a huge difference over the old Sony. In addition I now have multi-room audio between my den and my kitchen, I can control music in the den from my phone without turning on the tv, I can use my den speakers as voice for my Echo Dot (the Amp has a line-in port!) and I can control music with my voice for the services that support Alexa + Sonos (Amazon Music, Pandora, Tune-In). If a game is on, or I’m listening to a CD and I need to go upstairs to prepare dinner, I can move the audio to the kitchen and keep listening.
It’s a significant upgrade over my old system in terms of sound quality and convenience. But is it worth $600? The way I look at it, this amp should last a decade or more. Even if Sonos is bought up and it’s streaming service discontinued it will still function as an amp. I don’t know if it’s worth $600, but I like it and will probably keep it.
As of 4/17/19 the Amp got better. The Apple Music skill now supports Sonos speakers (whether Alexa is built-in or not). The Amp is supported too. Now there is isn’t a need to use the line-in port connected to the Dot. Very Cool.