In the last few years Sonos has been steadily adding wireless speakers to its multiroom audio lineup, but its flagship tabletop speaker, the Play:5 hasn't changed in 6 years. Until now, that is. This is the new Play:5 (2015), and it's a bigger, sleeker, and significantly better-sounding speaker. It costs $500, £429 or AU$749. That's around $100 more than the previous model, but after hearing it, I'd say it's worth the extra dough.
It comes in two colors -- white and black -- and can be placed either horizontally or vertically in three different orientations. I personally liked the look of it standing vertically, and while the Play:5 works well as a single speaker with a wider soundstage and better clarity and bass than the previous model, if you can spring for two of these guys, you can create a stereo pair and get some real separation.
In the past, Sonos did have some problems with speakers not delivering a focused stereo image (it was diffused). However, in our tests of the new Play:5, which Sonos refers to as the Play:5 (gen 2) is its set-up menu to differentiate from the, that problem is fixed as we got a much more focused stereo image (it was dead center between the speakers).
This speaker appears to be about 20 to 25 percent bigger than the previous Play:5 and it delivers significantly more bass -- it's got 6 drivers, including 3 mid-woofers and 3 tweeters -- so if you have a pair of them it isn't necessary to add a separateto get decent low-end performance.
The speakers do sound a little different depending on the way you orient them. Sonos says that when you pair them vertically they deliver "top-of-the-line stereo sound with a focused and intense sweet spot." Paired horizontally, they create "a larger stereo image" for more room-filling sound. That said, we preferred the sound when we placed them horizontally.
As you'd expect, the new speaker works with all of Sonos' existing "smart" speakers, which are designed to be wirelessly linked together in a multiroom audio setup with anto your Wi-Fi router (Sonos speakers communicate with each other through their own mesh network).
If you're Wi-Fi connection is a little spotty, you can opt to add a Sonos Bridge ($50) or Boost ($100), both of which connect to your router to create a very reliable wireless connection to your Sonos components and further simplify set-up. The speaker itself is equipped with six antennas -- the most in any Sonos speaker to date -- to help maintain a rock solid wireless connection.
Everything is set up and controlled through a free iOS or Android app on your mobile device, which acts as a remote. You can control every room in your home through a single app and stream music using such services as Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, Google Play Music and Groove, or play your own collection music stored on computer or networked drive.
Along with the Play:5, the company has also created a new Trueplay tuning system to help you get the best sound out of your Sonos speakers based on their placement in a particular room. Sonos discovered that customers were placing speakers in less than ideal spots -- on the floor in a corner, for instance -- and Trueplay compensates for bad placement with adjusted equalizer settings that helps punch up the bass and add more clarity.
You calibrate your speaker -- or speakers -- using a free app and the microphone on your iPhone or iPad. I tried it out with a badly placedspeaker and it definitely sounded better after the calibration. Initially, at least, Trueplay is iOS only and supports Play:1, , and Play:5 speakers. (The orginal Play:5 has been discontinued but can be calibrated using Trueplay.)