Sonos Port review: A mostly unworthy successor to the Sonos Connect

    Sonos covers all of the bases: The audio part maker builds a spread of powered audio system and soundbars to stream music from each supply, native or on the net, but it surely additionally gives a stand-alone tuner/amp if you wish to use higher-end passive loudspeakers. And for purchasers who need streaming music delivered to their personal favourite amp or receiver and higher-end audio system, the corporate launched an add-on, tuner-like part: the Sonos ZonePlayer 80 in early 2006, which was succeeded by the ZonePlayer 90 in 2008. The ZP90 was later relaunched because the Sonos Connect. That product has been succeeded by the subject of this assessment, the Sonos Port.

    With the approaching launch of the Sonos S2 working system, Sonos Connect house owners should make a vital determination: Replace each Connect with a Port—at $449 a pop—or forgo S2. The state of affairs grows much more aggravating you probably have any mixture of newer and legacy (pre-2013) Sonos {hardware}: The latter contains the aged Connect:Amp/ZP120 and the first-gen Play:5 speaker. These two lessons of substances can’t deal with the S2 platform, so any Sonos system that features a mixture of older and new elements should bifurcated and the 2 teams managed individually (you’ll discover more details in this story).

    If you crave the advantages that S2 guarantees to ship—together with help for higher-resolution audio and Dolby Atmos (within the new Arc soundbar, for example)—you actually don’t have a alternative. But should you can resist the urge to improve to the newest, biggest software program, dangle onto your legacy {hardware} and run it on the unique platform (now known as S1). That goes double for anybody who cares deeply about audio high quality and has a Connect linked to high-end audio elements.

    After conducting a complete sequence of A/B listening exams, I’ve concluded that the Port sounds vastly inferior to the Connect it replaces. The Port places out first rate sound, acceptable in a storm and with music you’re not intimately aware of. But in comparison with the Connect, the Port’s sound discipline appears flattened, compressed, and so missing in character that you simply would possibly suppose it was delivered by telephone line.

    Jonathan Takiff / IDG

    Older elements just like the Connect (left) aren’t suitable with the brand new S2 working system and might’t be grouped with newer elements which can be.

    Feature set

    I get the impression that the Sonos product-management crew began with an idealized sketch of a smaller, prettier, market-friendly successor to the clunky-looking Connect. Then the engineers went to work, squeezing in what they may to ship a slim, trim field that appears good on a retail shelf—and that just about disappears when perched atop an A/V receiver. Most particularly, one thing that may enchantment to the custom-installer group, who will discover the Port simple to make use of and gained’t balk at its price ticket (which they’ll mark manner up of their quotes to their well-heeled purchasers).

    The Port is a trim, buttonless, matte black personal-pizza field with roughly the identical footprint (5.4 x 5.4 inches) of a Connect, and about half its top (1.6 inches). Three Ports will line up neatly on a regular 19-inch, 1U rack shelf. You can join them to your private home’s wi-fi community (the minimal necessities are very low: 802.11b/g, 2.4GHz); or for essentially the most dependable efficiency, you’ll be able to hardwire it to your private home’s router utilizing the 10/100Mbps ethernet ports in again. There are two of these, so you’ll be able to gang a bunch of Ports collectively and devour only one port in your router or swap.

    The Port runs cooler than the Connect and in a wider vary of environments—from 32 levels Farhrenheit to 104 levels F. The producer mildly discourages customers from stacking Ports, nevertheless; principally as a result of it may result in Wi-Fi interference. The Connect’s quantity up/down and mute buttons have been excised, however the Port’s LED on-and-connected indicator appears snazzier than that of its predecessor.

    The ethernet ports on the bottom of the Port are joined by one set of analog stereo inputs for a CD participant or turntable preamp (or a turntable itself, if it has a preamp in-built), and one set of analog stereo outputs for connecting an amplifier or self-powered audio system. There’s a coaxial S/PDIF connector must you personal a cherished outboard DAC—or just need to hold the sign within the digital area till it reaches your DAC-equipped receiver or pre-amp. But I’m dissatisfied that Sonos determined to not additionally carry over the Toslink digital audio output from the Connect. I do know {custom} installers want to make use of coaxial cables, as a result of their connectors are a lot much less fragile than those on Toslink cables and coax cables carry out higher over lengthy runs, however Toslink is way extra frequent on less-expensive audio elements.

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