One of the main reasons to buy the Sonos audio ecosystem instead of the smart speakers from Amazon, Google or Apple is the overall flexibility: Sonos simply produces more types of audio products than any of the other players, and That means that you can build a relatively simple, personalized home audio system.
The unannounced key to that flexibility for years has been the Sonos Connect: $ 499 Amp, which is exactly what it sounds like: a small amplifier connected to Sonos that can handle any standard speakers People (and professional integrators from smart homes) have used Connect: Amps in all sorts of extravagant ways, from driving multiple sets of mono ceiling speakers to jointly configuring TV speakers using a box that was never designed for that. The Connect: Amp is tremendously useful, but it has a little bit of power at 55 watts per channel, and the basic hardware is getting quite long on the tooth.
Therefore, Sonos joins the line with the new $ 599 Sonos Amp, which is a totally new design that offers unparalleled flexibility for a connected audio component. It's much more powerful than the Connect: Amp at 125 watts per channel, and much more capable, with AirPlay 2, HDMI input and a variety of custom configurations and control settings.
You can use the amplifier to drive a pair of bookshelf speakers. You can pair it with two more Sonos speakers and a subwoofer and build a 4.1 home theater system around your TV. You can control it with Alexa (and eventually with the Google Assistant). You can play giant vintage speakers with it. You can mount it in a rack, if it is the type of person with racks for equipment in the basement. It does all these things easily and with aplomb, and consolidates Sonos as the most flexible and powerful connected audio system available.
The Sonos amplifier is a Smart, minimal black square. There is a round depression at the top that adds a high design feel, but also serves to facilitate the stacking of multiple amps. On the front, it has the usual elements of the Sonos interface of an LED and touch buttons for volume and playback / pause, while the back has RCA and HDMI inputs, two Ethernet sockets, one subwoofer output, the power, sync button, and speaker connections.
Let me say: I love the speaker connections on the Sonos Amp. The basic connectors are designed for banana plugs for a clean installation, but if you are using a bare speaker cable, there is a very smart adapter that has standard screw terminals, which you then connect to the amplifier. This sounds small, but it means that you can place the wires in the screw terminals without having to move around the Amp itself: first connect the cables and then simply connect the adapter to the Amp. It is intelligent and makes connections in small spaces much easier.
Once you have everything connected, the settings are the same as any other recent Sonos device: open the application, open the new device configuration process and press the torque button on the back. I was using my own speakers, as I suspect that most people will, but if you buy Sonos Architectural's special speakers created by Sonance, you can run the Trueplay tuning process. (Why TruePlay can not tune in to other speakers?) Sonos says he can not predict which speakers you would use and what his abilities might be, however, I think you should still allow yourself to try.)
I tried the amplifier with three speaker systems in my house, all of which are very different: the Klipsch Cornwall III in my living room, which are gigantic monsters of 90 pounds designed in the 70s, a couple of Polk Atrium5 two The external speakers hanging on our platform and the home audio speakers Monitor Audio Radius 270 in our media room.
Polk outdoor speakers have always been connected to a Sonos Connect: Amp, and in short tests (it's cold outside). !) I can not say that I noticed a big difference in the quality of the sound. What I noticed was a difference in volume at different points of the volume slider: the Connect: Amp was quite powerful for that application before, and seemed to increase faster than the Amp. According to Benji Rappoport, principal manager of hardware products at Sonos, the increase in amplifier power is only noticeable when the volume slider is halved, although the company is thinking of adjusting this in a future software update.
I never ran my outdoor speakers at such high levels, so it was not a big problem. If you have a configuration with Connect: Amps and you're happy with it, I do not think you'll see enough improvements to justify an update, unless you're a fan of AirPlay 2 or you. I absolutely need more power.
Klipsch's configuration was the true revelation. The Cornwall III has a decades-old design, with huge 15-inch bass speakers and a powerful mid-range horn. They are usually connected to a Kenwood solid-state amplifier from the 1970s that emits around 100 watts, and the entire platform can be incredibly loud without losing any detail. (Fun fact: vintage amplifiers often have less total harmonic distortion than modern ones!)
The oldest Connect: the amplifier was not powerful enough for these speakers, while the New amplifier is definitely up to the task. But the sound that comes out of the box is too bright and precise, which is a criticism that other critics have also made. I had to spend some time marking the equalizer settings of the amplifiers in the application (which are surprisingly minimal) to get to something that would sound more suitable for the speakers and the room. This is where I want Sonos to offer Trueplay tuning for third-party speakers or have more granular controls in the application; The amplifier can adapt to many situations, but it will definitely have to be equalized in many of them.
Once I had the amplifier marked, it sounded great, clean, powerful, safe. I can not say I like it as much as my vintage amplifier, but it's probably as emotional as any other, since the amplifier does not have VU meters or switches and controls that are extremely satisfying to play.
There was a time when we spent whole nights selecting records and using the vintage system; That time went by when our baby was born last year. Having those speakers directly linked to Sonos without the delicate vintage amplifier in the middle meant that we used them much more, and spent more time listening to music, which ultimately compensates for the buttons and controls, I think.
One thing The amplifier you do not have is a built-in microphone for a voice assistant, which makes sense: it's often hidden in a cabinet or rack, and I could not hear it anyway. But it integrates with voice assistants in the same way as other Sonos products, and it was great to be able to say "Alexa, play music in the living room" and make our best and greatest speakers shine. The same happens with AirPlay 2, which worked perfectly.
(One thing to keep in mind if you're a demented purist: the amplifier is a digital amplifier, so while you can plug in a turntable, it will necessarily convert that audio to digital. I can not really hear a difference, but if you really need If you are reading this while transmitting Spotify to your AirPods, you can really just go ahead.)
Sonos research on the Connect : Amp revealed that a surprising number of people use them with televisions, which required jumping a few rings to work properly with the old box. Therefore, the new amplifier has the same HDMI ARC input system as the Sonos Beam sound bar, which means you can connect a TV directly to the amplifier and reach a 2.1 system with a subwoofer. (Sonos also sells an optical adapter to HDMI in case you need to run an optical system from your TV, I tried this with the Beam and introduced a slight delay, so I would thoroughly test it if that is your configuration).  The TV integration worked and sounded excellent in my tests, with the same sense that the amplifier could be a bit bright from the box. I definitely lost my full configuration of Atmos surround sound, but you can pair two more Sonos speakers to complete a basic surround experience. What I surprisingly did not miss was my center channel speaker: the dialogue sounded clear and well placed with my two Monitor Audio towers in stereo. All I want is the possibility of setting different equalization settings for music and television, which seems a lack.
But it's hard for me to say how my experience will work for you, it all depends on what speakers you have and where you are in relation to your television. Nor can I say that it makes sense to buy a high-end $ 599 amplifier to use bookshelf speakers as TV speakers when you can buy a Sonos Beam for $ 200 less, but if you have ceiling speakers or if you really want to consolidate your life. The audio situation of the room around some beloved bookshelf speakers becomes an attractive option.
Under the new CEO Patrick Spence, Sonos has not only increased the pace of introduction of new products, but has also slowly expanded the variety of forms. You can deliver audio at home. There is the regular set of speakers and sound bars independent of Sonos, such as Sonos One and Beam, but there are also new partnerships with traditional AV companies such as Onkyo to allow Sonos Connect receivers to control directly.
And now there's the new amplifier, which is designed to fill virtually any other gap with the full suite of Sonos capabilities, whether you're running a set of speakers hidden in the ceiling, causing your classic speakers to connect to Modern music platform, or simply make your TV work well with your audio settings in the living room. That breadth means that the Sonos home audio ecosystem is still the best, and the new Amp is the kind of audio product that none of the giants of technology has really launched: competent, focused and complete.
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