Who really listens to wireless multiroom speakers?
Having music "on" isn't the same thing as listening to it.
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
You can't beat them for convenience and ease of use, but does anyone really listen to their multiroom music system? Streaming music around your apartment or home may be pleasant, but can a multiroom system really draw you into the music? Does the sound of your Sonos speakers reach out and grab you? Do you stop what you're doing to tap your feet or start to dance?
Do you ever find yourself mesmerized by Beck, Beyonce or Beethoven? Do you rock out to the Foo Fighters, or feel Nine Inch Nails' tunes down to your toes? After all, isn't that what music is supposed to do? If it's mere sonic wallpaper does the quality of the sound really matter?
I've heard my fair share of Sonos Play:1 . Play:3, and Play:5 wireless speakers over the years, with and without the Sonos Sub, and they all sound decent. But wired speakers, starting with the inexpensive Pioneer SP-BS22-LR, mated with an entry-level stereo receiver such as the Onkyo TX-8020 sound a lot better. Adding an inexpensive digital converter for use with your computer, like the Schiit Modi 2, would be a worthwhile upgrade. If you're getting into vinyl, the Audio Technica AT-LP60 turntable is a fine starting point.
The wired Pioneer speakers and Onkyo receiver together sell for less than a pair of Sonos Play:1 speakers. Heck, for just a little more money you could go for Pioneer SP-FS52 towers that will blow away Sonos' top-of-the-line Play:5 wireless speakers! If those towers are too big, the wired Wharfedale Diamond 220 bookshelf speakers would do the trick.
I'm comparing Sonos to Pioneer or Wharfedale speakers simply as examples, but it's not hard to assemble very decent-sounding wired music systems for less cash than decent quality wireless speaker systems. Most wireless speakers are purchased for ease of use; wired speakers for sound quality.
I'd be the first to admit that the convenience of wireless multiroom speaker systems trumps sound quality concerns for many consumers, and that's fine. But if you can deal with a few wires and occasionally want to really enjoy the music, perhaps it would make sense to forgo wireless for at least one room in your home.
The better high-end wireless systems, like the Dynaudio Xeo produce excellent sound quality, but you can get better sound for less money with wired Dynaudio speakers.
I'd love to hear from readers who live with both: wireless and wired music systems. Share your thoughts in the Comments section.