There’s no denying that I love Sonos. I love it for the ease of setup, ease of use, stability and customer support. What I wasn’t as enamoured with before, however, was the sound quality. While decent, I could never have used my Play:1 and Playbar + Sub combo beyond Muzak level. To me, beyond background music, the sound quality wasn’t good enough for serious listening.
Last year, Sonos solved part of the issue with the introduction of Trueplay, a semi-automatic calibration software upgrade for iOS users of Sonos. I call it semi-automatic because the user interaction is still needed throughout the Trueplay room optimization process. By merely waving your arm around while a test tone is being played through the Sonos speaker(s) in a given room, a huge improvement of sound quality can be achieved. The Sonos app will then prompt you to start tuning. After following the steps, it will emit a series of test sounds made up of brown noise, pulse sounds that allow for echoes and a frequency sweeps intermingled into one.
The microphone in your iOS device detects how these sounds react to the room you are in by measuring how the sound waves reflect off the walls, furnishings, and other surfaces. This information is then used to determine the acoustics signature of the room. After finishing this two-minute procedure, the tuning takes place automatically.
Note, however, that the instructional video that outlines how to use Trueplay within the Sonos app is a bit misleading. From my observations, experimentations, and what’s been personally shown to me by the Sonos team, in order to create more audiophile-like sonic improvements, the sweeping motion should be done only in the main listening position and its vicinity and not in all areas of the room, and especially not too close to the speakers themselves.
But the problem wasn’t completely solved yet. Trueplay, up until about two hours before I sat down to begin writing this column, only worked with Play:1, Play:3 and Play:5 speakers. The worst sonic offender, the Playbar, was not on the list. Bass response was mediocre and dialogue sounded forced and unnatural with a very narrow stereo sound field. So imagine my delight when the latest update of the Sonos app allows me to use Trueplay on my Playbar as well.
The joy after tweaking the sound of the Playbar with Trueplay was immense. The sonic improvements are much greater than the sonic improvements afforded by using Trueplay with the Play:1, Play:3, and Play:5. Bass response (even without the Sonos Sub activated) is now more rounded, vocals are noticeably more full-bodied and, the spatial imaging is more pronounced yet not exaggerated. With the subwoofer activated, there is no more audible gap in the frequency response between the Playbar and the Sonos Sub, something that used to bother me prior to this Trueplay upgrade.
I have never experienced this much sonic improvement merely from an automatic calibration app (or any app, for that matter). And that includes when Sonos introduced Trueplay for its other speakers. Great job, Sonos! Now, I’m waiting impatiently for Trueplay for the Sonos Connect and Connect Amp to be available. But before it comes, I’ll be enjoying my music collection using Sonos. No longer is that system relegated for background music only.