Sonos Sub review
Sonos, the company behind the multi-room wireless music system, has launched a wireless subwoofer to fit into any room, promising to boost the performance of the company's range of zone players instantly. But can it really be that easy? We’ve been listening to one in our home, rather than a controlled environment, to find out.
Arriving in a box that is enough to crush a small child - your small children will love you if you give them the box afterwards - setup of the Sonos Sub is frighteningly easy.
The Sub is big and covered in a piano-black lacquer, making it shimmer and shine as the light hits it. Aside from a small single button on the side, and the Sonos logo in white on the front, there are no other imperfections disturbing the casing and its powerful sound inside.
What's also immediately apparent is that the Sub's two speakers point inwards and are revealed only by a hole in the centre. This means you can't block the sound, no matter how hard you try. The upshot is, you can hide it in the corner of the room or under your sofa, if there's enough space. If you're looking for something to hide, then it's worth noting that there is a cheaper version that doesn't have such a pretty finish.
Once you've worked out where to put your Sub, it's all about connecting the system to your current Sonos speaker.
When we’ve played with sub-woofers before, the setup normally involves having to dismantle your current speaker system, inserting the sub into the loop somehow and then turning a couple of dials to get the right settings and the right levels to maximise your bass.
This being Sonos, the experience is vastly different. In our setup we placed the Sub in various positions to see if it made a difference to the sound. It doesn’t, and that’s great news if you’ve got a funny shaped space or are keen to hide the Sub out of the way. Even lying it flat rather than standing it up didn’t seem to affect the tunes we listened to.
One element that will help determine where you need to place it, is that it will need access to power. Plug it in o a power socket, load the Sonos app or software on your computer and press the connect button on the unit.
Ten seconds later and the software asks you a couple of questions about what your setup is, letting you implement some small refinements and tweaks, and then away you go - it really is that simple.
We were ready to enjoy the new bit of kit within two minutes. No wires, no hassle. Setup out of the way, all that is left to do is work out what you want to listen to.
The Sonos Sub will work with all the Sonos gear apart from the non-amplified Sonos CONNECT/ZP90/ZP80 and this, Sonos tells us, is because it can't monitor the volume levels on a third-party amp and thus can't adjust the sub to match it.
With the rest of the system the Sonos Sub works to increase the volume accordingly in harmony and - using the array of Sonos controller apps available - you can manage things like gain and bass levels at the press of a button. It's very easy to use, like everything Sonos makes.
Better still for showing off your new toy, you can disable the sub at the press of a button. This will no doubt be invaluable for demoing it to your mates, and proving to Mrs Pocket-lint that the investment has been worthwhile. "Look you really can hear the difference," you'll be heard saying.
As we found in our first demo from Sonos, the Sub really adds plenty of depth to your music regardless of the speakers you are using.
Our first test system consisted of two Play:3 units connected in stereo with the Sonos Sub sitting in the middle of the room. For our home test, we used a Sonos Connect:Amp with two small compact speakers in a large living room.
Music was via Spotify as well as streamed from a network drive. We tested it with several tracks including Invaders Must Die by The Prodigy and Dummy by Portishead. We chose those because both tracks have heavy bass elements alongside high treble or female vocals.
We also listened to music from the Drive soundtrack as well as a range of the "top tracks" currently available on Spotify.
What was noticeable, and confirmed by Sonos, is that in this set up the Play:3 units are able to stop worrying about bass and concentrate on the treble, and do a better job of it as a result. That's a very clever move, and should produce some fantastic quality sound.
As Sonos has continued to expand and go "mass market" some could say it has forgotten the core music audience it started out to impress. Not so any more. This is Sonos returning to its roots and delivering a music device that is all about sound.
The Sonos Sub sounds great, offering plenty of bass, and if you are happy to turn the levels up, tooth-rattling amounts of noise. The big concern will be that your neighbours aren’t going to enjoy your newfound love for sound, and it’s something we would definitely suggest you should consider if you're not in a detached house in the middle of nowhere.
This isn't for everyone, something even Sonos admits, but for those intrigued enough to pay double what you would a regular sub-woofer you won't be disappointed.