Obviously, I like my music, but it hasn’t really been until recently that I’ve become a bit of a snob about what I listen to it on (I blame Sennheiser and my ace Momentum headphones). No matter what you’re playing, if it’s through a poor quality pair of speakers, it sounds a bit crappy right? But I was yet to invest on a decent pair for my home.
So, last month (yes, last month, I told you I’d been a little slack with my blogging lately!) I was excited to be invited by Joe Blogs and Currys PC World up to the recently opened Sonos Studio in Shoreditch to preview the new Sonos Play:5 speaker and participate in a speaker ‘building’ workshop.
You may not be familiar with Sonos? They’re an American company who produce products and software to tranform the home sound system for the digital age. Using their wireless speaker systems they aim to make listening a valuable experience and optimise the quality of music within the home.
There are a variety of products (and even streaming services!) within the Sonos range (which starts at £169 for the Play:1 speaker), but I’m going to talk to you about the Play:5 and the new Trueplay software.
The new Play:5 wireless multi-room speaker is an upgrade to the original Play:5, their first wireless speaker released in 2009. My understanding is that this is the first time that Sonos have retired a product and reinvented it – and from reviews I’d read of the original version in the past it was a tough one to follow.
But they seem to have managed it. The new Play:5 is, aesthetically, simpler and more modern. It’s an attractive piece of kit, available in either black or white and can be orientated three ways (horizontally, or both ways vertically) – which I believe explains the clean design, required to support this function. This versatility in orientation allows greater flexibility in placement and makes it look a bit more natural when paired with another speaker (since the release of the Play:5 Sonos have announced stereo pairing so perhaps this was deliberate?).
One thing I find interesting about the new design is that it’s actually larger than it’s predecessor – looking at other consumer electronics (classic example being the Playstation) the general trend is for upgrades to be smaller and thinner. Now this may be a little above my tech understanding but I believe it’s something to do with the quality of the bass – by getting rid of the bass port the bass sound is cleaner and deeper, which is worth losing some sleekness for in my opinion.
There are other changes in appearance too, such as the front grille, which is now plastic rather than metal so as not to interfere with the wireless performance. But we’re not talking cheap looking plastic, this is classy stuff! The top mounted touch controls (play/pause, volume and track change) are sleek and alter dependent on orientation which is a nice touch.
The Play:5 features six speaker drivers (an increase to the five featured on the original model) with six matching Class D amplifiers, three custom designed 10cm mid-woofers and three tweeters. Now that’s all a bit techy for me, but I can tell you 100% that the sound that comes from this single speaker is HUGE. In case you can’t tell, the Play:5 is most definitely on my wishlist! It’s a shame it’s out of my current budget at £429 – but if it’s affordable to you I’d definitely recommend it!
With the release of the Play:5 comes some impressive new software called Trueplay. Before I tell you about Trueplay, I should perhaps mention that the Sonos speakers can be controlled via a phone app. And it’s a surprisingly easy set up.
Anyway, Trueplay – we had a nice demo of this at the workshop using a speaker placed under a sofa and turned against the walls. Trueplay tailors the output of speakers to optimise the sound dependent on where they are placed within a room. Using the app you can kind of scan the room – I believe it uses the microphone to measure speaker response and adjust the sound accordingly.
Now to my mind Trueplay has one negative – it’s currently only compatible with iPhones/iPads/iPods, Android isn’t yet supported. But as you only need to analyse a room once, you could maybe find a friend with an iPhone if you don’t have one?
On the plus side, although Trueplay was released with the Play:5, you can upgrade the software on existing Sonos speakers to work with Trueplay. Actually, the ease with which you can upgrade the software to Sonos products was something I found really impressive. Sonos design their speakers to last around ten years, so the ability to update the software regularly will keep them performing at their best. Almost makes that £429 price tag seem affordable, right?
After learning about the Sonos range and Trueplay we were split into two teams and challenged to build our own speakers Blue Peter style, as well as to come up with a marketing plan and sales pitch.
Despite me being a shy and retiring wallflower I had to do the talking for my team. Needless to say we lost, haha!
I found the Sonos Studio to be a very interesting place, and a little gem in a convenient location in Shoreditch. The studio itself is on the first floor, and features listening rooms where consumers can test out the different types of speakers before buying. It’s a great space, with the main area designed to just seem like a living room. There’s also a little workshop – I’m not sure exactly how much development is actually done there, but it gave a good effect!
Something I was excited about was the ground floor cafe. It’s a lovely, quiet, creative space with plenty of power outlets – absolutely perfect for some quiet time to get some work done if need be, or even just for a coffee and chat with your friends.
The drinks and food were reasonably priced and looked delicious. I tried the toasted banana bread with a hot chocolate and it was lovely. I even liked the look of the salads, and I’m really not a salad person!
I would definitely recommend popping in to Sonos Studio, if not for the speakers, than for the food!
Thank you for having me Sonos, and for giving me the opportunity to have a sneak peak of your awesome new product!
All photos my own unless stated otherwise.
You can take a look at the official Currys PC World blog post on the event here.