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Review: Sonos Five – largest Sonos speaker gets an update

Review: Sonos Five is a well-finished and powerful wireless speaker that takes advantage of the user-friendly Sonos experience.
4.4/5 - (51 votes)

The Sonos Five is the largest wireless speaker of the popular audio brand. The brand new speaker takes the place of the Play: 5, but has not changed enormously. Is Upgrading Worth It? And is a stereo pair worthwhile? Read below!

Sonos offers the new Five as the largest and most powerful speaker. It is a much heavier thing than the popular Sonos One or the Play: 3, which is now due for an update. Perhaps this 579 euro wireless speaker will therefore sooner end up in the living room or another room where music is listened to more carefully and critically. In that scenario, you might even consider combining two Fives in a stereo pair (cost: 1,158 euros), for a real hi-fi worthy stereo reproduction. We also look at that in this review.

Consistent experience

An advantage of Sonos is that all its devices, including the Five, all have the same streaming options. So you should not compare endless specifications to avoid purchasing the wrong device. Do you have a Sonos One in the kitchen and a Five in the living room? You control them via the same app and you can do exactly the same with both. The only thing you should really look at if you are in doubt between different Sonos speakers is the performance in terms of music reproduction. Everything else is largely the same. We’re referring to a whole host of features that are specific to the Sonos platform – and there are quite a few. Take a deep breath to list them … You control the Sonos speakers via the Sonos app with its many streaming services and internet radio. Or if you own an iPhone or iPad, you have the alternative option to work via Airplay 2 and streaming services’ own apps. If you use Spotify, you can operate the Five directly in the Spotify app. Both the Sonos app and Airplay 2 also allow multiroom use. You can therefore pair the Five off hoc with other Sonos speakers or (via Airplay) even with Airplay 2 devices from other brands, such as Bang & Olufsen or Denon. Finally, with a separate microphone, the Five can be controlled with your voice, for example with a Nest mini and via Google Assistant. There is no built-in microphone, which is somewhat surprising because Sonos previously focused strongly on voice control. You can tell, this 579 euro wireless speaker has a lot to offer. then you can control the Five directly in the Spotify app.

Both the Sonos app and Airplay 2 also allow multiroom use. You can therefore pair the Five off hoc with other Sonos speakers or (via Airplay) even with Airplay 2 devices from other brands, such as Bang & Olufsen or Denon. Finally, with a separate microphone, the Five can be controlled with your voice, for example with a Nest mini and via Google Assistant. There is no built-in microphone, which is somewhat surprising because Sonos previously focused strongly on voice control. You can tell, this 579 euro wireless speaker has a lot to offer. then you can control the Five directly in the Spotify app. Both the Sonos app and Airplay 2 also allow multiroom use. You can therefore pair the Five off hoc with other Sonos speakers or (via Airplay) even with Airplay 2 devices from other brands, such as Bang & Olufsen or Denon. Finally, with a separate microphone, the Five can be controlled with your voice, for example with a Nest mini and via Google Assistant. There is no built-in microphone, which is somewhat surprising because Sonos previously focused strongly on voice control. You can tell, this 579 euro wireless speaker has a lot to offer. Finally, with a separate microphone, the Five can be controlled with your voice, for example with a Nest mini and via Google Assistant. There is no built-in microphone, which is somewhat surprising because Sonos previously focused strongly on voice control. You can tell, this 579 euro wireless speaker has a lot to offer. Finally, with a separate microphone, the Five can be controlled with your voice, for example with a Nest mini and via Google Assistant. There is no built-in microphone, which is somewhat surprising because Sonos previously focused strongly on voice control. You can tell, this 579 euro wireless speaker has a lot to offer.

What Wireless speaker
Inputs WiFi (2.4 / 5 GHz), aux, ethernet
Supported services Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Qobuz, YouTube Music, Soundcloud, and more
Drivers 3 tweeters in a phased array, 3 woofers
Dimensions 20.3 x 36.4 x 15.4 cm, 6.35 kg
price 579 euros

What is the Sonos Five?

Ask someone what a Sonos Five is and the answer might be, “A speaker.” That is of course not wrong, but it is also an answer that is too succinct. A device like this is actually a complete hardware and software platform, a complete computer that produces sound. That’s so central to the concept that Sonos itself cites more memory and a faster processor as the main improvement on the Five. With a speaker … If you still have doubts: this is completely different from a traditional passive speaker that you hang from an amplifier with cables.

Why is this important? It means that when assessing a speaker like this one, you should not only look at sound quality. Ease of use is just as important, as is support. Our very first Sonos test dates back to more than 13 years ago. During that time, we have seen both the installation process and operation evolve significantly. The company was one of the first to realize that ease of use and app operation are really important; moreover, the company has always continued to tinker and improve. That is very positive.

This support is immediately the first strength of Sonos and therefore also with the Five: the manufacturer has demonstrated that they continue to support their software and therefore the user experience. Whether all these changes over the years have always been positively received is another question, but we must objectively determine that Sonos has a better track record in terms of support than many competitors. The most worthy challengers for Sonos – we think of Bluesound, for example – are the brands that have learned the right lessons from Sonos’ pioneering journey.

Setup is easy

Setting up a Five is very easy via the Sonos S2 app (iOS and Android), especially if you already have Sonos devices at home. With us, the speaker was immediately automatically detected, thanks to the better Bluetooth 5.0 module in the new speaker. Bluetooth is only used here to make the installation easier, with Sonos you cannot stream via this technology. The only exception to this: the Sonos Move.

After detecting a new Sonos device, the app immediately starts a step-by-step plan to set up the speaker. It quickly explains itself, because you get clear explanations along the way with not a word too much. It seems to us that there is little potential for problems. In short, this is how it should be done. If you set up multiple devices for the same room, you will even immediately be asked whether you want to form a stereo pair. That too was fixed in a minute or two. The only minor criticism we have here is that each speaker must be updated one after the other, even if it concerns the same type of devices. Why not let the updating take place collectively, so that you don’t have to wait as long? There are a few extra steps if you set up a Five as the very first Sonos device, but even then you will receive enough explanation to complete it successfully.

The Five only works with the new Sonos S2 app, not with the older S1 app for older Sonos devices. And since those older devices do not work with the S2 app, that means that you cannot combine the Five with certain (very) old Sonos devices. Like the very first Play: 5 or the very old ZonePlayer products for example. There are also a range of Sonos products that you can use with both the S1 and S2 app. That split between ‘old’ and ‘new’ is not that relevant if you only stepped into the Sonos story in recent years, but if you have doubts about your older Sonos devices you can find an overview of compatible products on the website .

Can be used landscape or portrait

The Five is a larger speaker that does need some space. You can’t see it because the front is a grille with a lot of small holes, but it contains many separate drivers or speakers. Behind the hole in the grid is a so-called phased array of two tweeters for higher tones with a third tweeter in between, and just a little lower, three woofers for the lower and mid tones. By the way, Sonos mounted the two outer tweeters lying in waveguides that send the high detail to the left and right – at least if you place the speaker with its long side on a piece of furniture. The light and the three touch buttons are then at the top. This more complex tweeter setup creates a stereo image from one speaker. It never gets perfect when your starting point is one point, but the Five does convey a stereo experience to some extent. And especially when it comes to music where that stereo separation is actually played out, for example with instruments that play very strongly on one side of the stage.

When placing the Five you have more flexibility than you might first suspect. After all, a Five contains a sensor that can detect whether the speaker is resting on a long or short side (lying vs upright). In the first case, a single Five plays in stereo – the drivers thus spread the left and right channels widely, as mentioned. In the second case, the speaker is straight and plays in mono. That is less interesting if you only want to use one Five.

However, if you create a stereo pair, you can place the two Fives however you wish, but of course each speaker only plays one of the two stereo channels. By the way, small feet are provided on the four sides of the housing so that the housing is stable in any position (and does not get scratched).

Design doesn’t stand out (and that’s the intention)

In terms of design, Sonos strives for a minimalism that should fit into any interior. That is immediately a perfect description for the well-built Five, because there is very little about this speaker that really attracts your attention. It’s just very sleek and sober, with rounded corners that make it look less ‘technical’. You can choose between a Five in white and black, two neutral matt colors that disappear well in most room furnishings.

If you compare the Five with the slightly older Play: 5 (2nd generation) you will not detect that many differences. Yes, the white version is now completely white, while the Play: 5 in white had a dark speaker grille. But that’s about it. Sonos does say that the housing is a bit better, which in theory should make the display a bit tighter. But in a real-life comparison with a Play: 5 (2nd generation), we didn’t notice that much.

You can hardly be critical about the finish of the Five. It is simply very well put together and every detail has been thought of. Even the power cable fits almost seamlessly into the housing thanks to an adapted connector. The dark gray brand name is also very subtle on the black version, which undoubtedly pleases logo haters. Although you may control this speaker via an app, there are three subtly arranged touch buttons at the top of the Five. They are hardly noticeable, but they are useful for quickly adjusting the volume or skipping a track. A light touch is enough to activate them.

You can connect a record player

You won’t find much on the back of the Five. The back is actually even more sober than the front. There is only a button that you normally press once (during setup), a network port that most people will never use (because WiFi is much more convenient) and an auxiliary input. The latter is interesting for those who want to connect a record player or a CD player. Not only can you play a disc via the Five, you can also send that audio stream to other Sonos devices elsewhere in the house via the app. Having a party where you play vinyl in the living room and the music can be heard on speakers in the garden becomes easy. Note: if you want to connect a turntable, you must go for a model with an amplified output or place a small phono preamplifier between the record player and Five.

Tuning for the room: a good idea

More and more manufacturers of wireless speakers and sound bars are discovering the usefulness of room correction. Sonos was even a pioneer in that area, at least with wireless speakers. But what does such a function actually do? In summary, you can say that room correction restores music to a more correct representation. After all, the shape and decoration of a room can affect the sound quality, for example by over-amplifying basses. Or think of the sharp sound in a small bathroom with tiles or the hollow sound of a large room. So there are things in the room that can influence the sound quality, but where you place the speakers also has an impact. Consider, for example, the duller sound that you get if you place your speaker behind a thick curtain.

At Sonos, that function is called Trueplay. Configuring is not really difficult, although it may seem a bit strange the first time you set it up. The procedure requires you to walk around the room for a minute while slowly swinging your iPhone or iPad back and forth. And no, we don’t just mention those two Apple devices. Trueplay can only be set with an Apple device. Not because there is a deal between Sonos and the iPhone builder, but because the microphone properties of these Apple devices are better known. The fact that Trueplay is iOS-only is a downside. It is true that you really only need that iOS device for setting up. You can always enable / disable a Trueplay correction afterwards, and that can also be done via an Android device. Borrowing an iPad from the neighbors is therefore an option.

Trueplay can be applied to the Five and also to a stereo pair. In addition, if you add a Sonos Sub to a single Five or a stereo pair, Trueplay is still possible. The impact of Trueplay is highly dependent on the situation. In our test room, the difference was subtle but certainly noticeable. Although the basses seemed more subdued at first, there was more definition in the bass. You notice that more with music with acoustic percussion than with techno hits where a single tone is heard, but there is also a difference. Because the basses become slightly less dominant, the detail is also slightly fresh. Vocals take a step closer to your seat, precisely because the micro detail that tells your ears and brain about the placement of instruments and artists is more audible. Trueplay therefore offers real added value in a number of situations. You can always switch the function on and off after the TruePlay measurement, which allows you to compare the situation with and without it.

AirPlay 2 is an interesting alternative

With the Sonos app you can control the Five in every possible way. But there is also another option: AirPlay 2 . It offers you an alternative way to do just the same as via the Sonos app, but simply by selecting your music from the app of your favorite music service. However, this is only possible if you work with an Apple device (such as an iPhone or iPad). It’s not an either-or story. You can work with the Sonos app and stream audio at any other time via AirPlay 2.

AirPlay 2 also brings a few extras to the table. This way you can play multiroom music with speakers from different brands. A soundbar from LG in the living room, a Sonos Five in the dining room and a Harman Kardon Citation speaker in the kitchen, you can combine them just like that via Airplay 2. Although with less flexibility than with a Sonos-only system. But it is possible. Via the Sonos app you can only operate Sonos devices and Ikea Symfonisk speakers.

We discovered a second, unexpected possibility of AirPlay 2 in the test room. In principle, you cannot use the Five as a speaker for your TV. There are no suitable entrances. But it is possible in one situation. With an Apple TV as a player, you can designate the Five (or a stereo pair, as in our case) as speakers that play the sound of apps on the Apple media player. This can be Netflix, Disney + or another streaming service or the apps of certain TV providers. The synchronization between image and sound turned out to be fine in our tests. The highlight is that you first connect the speaker

Stable app

The Sonos app is as much a part of the Sonos experience as the speakers themselves. Fortunately, it is a very good app that is easy to use. Stability is also not a problem. The S2 app almost always functions perfectly on the various mobile devices we have in our house – multiple iPads and Android tablets, different Android phones of the family members. You can also perfectly have multiple devices in the house running the Sonos app. Your smartphone is not the only controller, your partner and children can also dive into the app on their mobile device at any time.

Very occasionally there may be a moment where there is a little delay in a response to something you do, but that rarely happened to us. And then it is also difficult to say whether it is the Sonos system or a disturbing element on the network. Good to know in advance: in this review, the two Fives were tested in an existing Sonos system with six other products, including an Amp and a Symfonisk from Ikea. We just used the existing WiFi network (based on Ubiquiti), not a separate WiFi network. With a Sonos Boost or by connecting one Sonos device with an Ethernet cable, you can also launch a separate Sonosnet network that is separate from your WiFi network.

Most streaming services

In the app you quickly discover that almost every music service available signs. Apple Music, Deezer, Tidal, Qobuz, Soundcloud, YouTube Music and many more are in the list of supported services. In terms of numbers, Sonos is without a doubt the leader (although they also offer a number of services that are very niche). You won’t find anyone else with Apple Music integrated, outside of course Apple’s own HomePod. Spotify is also embedded in the app, but you can also work via Spotify Connect. If you really only listen to music via Spotify, you may indeed continue to do so. As long as you don’t want to play any other service or your own files and don’t really want to connect speakers, you will rarely need the Sonos app.

Recently Sonos has started rolling out Sonos Radio, an alternative to the TuneIn service that used to provide internet radio. TuneIn is still in the app, but you can now find Belgian and Dutch radio stations via Sonos Radio. But not only that, because at Sonos Radio you will also find your own radio stations around certain genres and curated by well-known names, such as Thom Yorke from Radiohead, Ludwig Göransson (composer of The Mandelorian’s music) and Brittany Howard (soul singers and also known from Alabama. Shakes). It is all somewhat comparable to the radio stations that Apple offers through Apple Music. The times we listened to the artist stations, the playlists were very listenable and well composed.

We continue to really appreciate two functions in the Sonos app in particular: the search function across all music sources and the favorites screen. The former is especially useful if you use multiple services or mix your own files with a music service. And if you set up the favorite screen properly, you can quickly find your fixed music choices. To the favorites you can pin radio stations, albums, playlists and even a specific input on a Sonos device, so that you can activate them immediately.

A disadvantage of the recent Sonos app: the company increasingly uses the app to make messages (read: advertising) for new features but also new products. Fortunately not with third-party advertising, but those pop-ups are sometimes really disturbing.

Music everywhere in the house

Via the app you can quickly connect speakers with each other via the System button at the bottom. That goes really smoothly. Recently, you can also define semi-fixed groups consisting of multiple speakers (such as all Sonos devices on the ground floor), so that you can immediately provide multiple devices with music with one tap. However, such a group does not appear in the zone overview. You have to tap a few more times to activate a group, which in practice does not make it any easier than simply indicating the desired speakers. What is missing is the possibility to create a fixed group where you can fix the volume differences between the speakers. This would be useful, for example, for the catering industry or with a large open kitchen with many ceiling speakers.

In any case, Sonos scores in terms of the multiroom aspect. It works so smoothly and quickly that you quickly get used to a music system all over your house. You can also always add and disconnect speakers, without the music stopping. That is not the case with Chromecast or HEOS, for example.

The step to true stereo

There are many different ways to listen to music. Many of those options deliver what you want in their own way: let you enjoy your music. That’s why a soundbar is sometimes the right solution, while others may be better served with headphones or an extensive music system. Yet there is one constant, we think: listening in stereo is better than in mono, simply because almost all music is produced for that purpose. With Sonos you can also get a big step in terms of experience by making a stereo pair of two (equal) Sonos devices. We know from experience that with the One that step is very worthwhile. And also with the Five? The advantage of the Sonos Five is that a single Five speaker creates a certain stereo image, thanks to those tweeters that point to the sides. So there is a more realistic soundstage than with a small One. But it does depend on the situation to what extent you experience that. For example, if the Five is on a shelf in a bookcase, the sound will seem more likely to come from one point.

In any case, the experience is much better with two Fives set as a stereo pair, especially if you really want to listen more critically. Especially live recordings of rock concerts, classical music and jazz are much more compelling to listen to, but also electronic tracks in which are played with the left / right separation. With over-produced pop music and urban genres, the wow effect is less pronounced, simply because those songs are mixed less expressly to sound good on a stereo system. The goal is often earphones or the car.

We would only recommend the step to a stereo pair if the situation lends itself to it, especially since it is not a cheap option. Stereo is nice if you can listen in (more or less) a triangle, where the two speakers are a few meters apart and at an equal distance from your seat. That sounds very compelling, but it does not all have to be very exact. After all, the wide appearance of the Five means that you don’t just get good sound in a small spot in the sofa. However, a stereo pair is less interesting in rooms where, for example, you walk around a lot or which are immensely large. In a large loft or open kitchen / dining room where you want background music everywhere, it is better to put those two Fives in one zone than to form a stereo pair. This way you get a thick layer of music throughout the room, instead of instruments that suddenly come from one far corner.

Without a doubt, we’ve had more fun listening through a stereo pair than through a single Five. Two of the Sonos speakers are much stronger in terms of experience, provided you place them correctly and apply Trueplay (and perhaps add a dash or two of bass to your own taste). Vocals, for example with the Scottish folk of Admiral Fallows ‘Dead against smoking’, are put down well, as are the strings that help support the melody later in the song. The indie rock of Oceanator also pops out of the Fives in such a way that you immediately start shaking your head. The Five also provides a heavy bass layer to Deadmau5’s cinematic techno track ‘coelacanth’, but it is more of a solid presence than a rich, detailed reproduction. You will not notice this with every genre and certainly not if you rarely listen to music carefully, but with a set of passive speakers you can still get more in certain areas. On one side, a set of Fives deliver something surprisingly well, on the other hand we find the Sonos Amp in combination with the Bowers & Wilkins 606 speakers in the living room more pleasant to listen to when it comes to genres that are a bit further from pop music. That set with separate speaker is slightly more expensive than a few Fives, but you also get good results with cheaper speakers (such as the Monitor Audio Bronze 100 or KEF Q350). Which one to choose if you go for stereo? Ultimately, it comes down to ease of use and how visibly your audio equipment wants to appear in your interior.

Sonos Five – Conclusion

The Five is Sonos’s largest speaker and therefore the most expensive. For the amount of 579 euros you get a well-finished and powerful wireless speaker that takes advantage of the user-friendly Sonos experience. The easy setup and many streaming options are complemented by the valuable Trueplay feature, making the Five sound better than smaller speakers and many rivals.

The main reason for choosing Sonos is that you can easily bring music to anywhere in the house and also select and play music very easily. And those are major pluses. Experience has taught us that certainly in a family context it is better to have a music system that everyone can and wants to use than one with a more complex operation.

Pros

  • Works with almost any streaming service
  • Multiroom via Sonos or AirPlay 2
  • Easy installation and operation
  • Trueplay
  • Powerful thing
  • Stereo pair is worth it

Negatives

  • Trueplay requires iOS device
  • Pair price is relatively high
  • For critical listening, the step to stereo pair is a must

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