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Sonos PLAY:5 review: old vs new

A side-by-side comparison of the original and the redesigned PLAY:5 wireless speaker

Old and new Sonos PLAY:5 wireless powered speakers

Sonos doesn’t often introduce new hardware into their successful lineup of multi-room speakers. So when they do, it’s a big deal — especially considering how much our customers (and LOTS of our employees) love their wireless powered speakers and components.

The new PLAY:5 was designed to replace the original flagship speaker in the Sonos lineup. Naturally, we wondered about the differences between the two. So I volunteered to take them both home for a side-by-side comparison.

Improved looks

The redesigned PLAY:5 has a more modern look that’s streamlined and curved. I’m no design expert, but the new one definitely looks more elegant. Like the original, it’s available in black and white, though the grille is black in both versions.

Simpler control

The functionality of the redesigned PLAY:5 is the same as the original — using the free Sonos app, you can play music wirelessly through the speaker using your smartphone, tablet, or computer from a variety of music services as well as locally stored music files. But the onboard controls of the new PLAY:5 are slightly different.

Comparison of old and new controls

The original PLAY:5's control buttons (left) have been replaced by a smart touch interface.

While the original had control buttons on the top panel, the new version features touch sensors. Tap on the play/pause strip at the top to start or stop the music. Swipe your finger left-to-right across the top to skip tracks, or right-to-left to skip back. Volume controls are as simple as tapping on the sensors on the right or left side. The big benefit is that once you use them a few times, you never have to look at them again. You just tap and swipe rather than having to make sure you’re pressing the right button.

More drivers, more amplification

The new PLAY:5 adds a sixth driver and amplifier to the five found in the original. That should mean better sound and more power. It’s also worth noting that the new version weighs almost five pounds more than the original.

Exploded view of the updated Sonos PLAY:5

The redesigned PLAY:5 has six built-in drivers powered by discrete amplifiers.

Sound Quality

Listening to both speakers side by side, there’s no doubt: the redesigned PLAY:5 is a significant step up from the original.

The first thing I noticed was bass that went much deeper with more punch. I demoed Missy Elliot’s “Get Ur Freak On” to see just how much lower the new version goes. I was shocked — this speaker has the power to be an instant party machine. If you think a single-box speaker system can’t deliver the low-frequency goods, you need to hear the new PLAY:5.

Compared to the original, the redesigned version creates a soundstage with more width and depth. The old PLAY:5 sounds more like it’s projecting a flat plane of sound, while the new one is much more spacious. It offers better instrument separation so you can hear more detail in the music. It’s definitely closer to the experience of stereo speakers.

The ability to make vocals stand out in the mix was a consistent strength of the redesigned speaker. I sampled “Hope She’ll Be Happier” by Bill Withers from his Live at Carnegie Hall album. When his vocals kicked in, they startled me with how immediate and up-front they were.

Tonally, the new PLAY:5 is smoother than the original. High frequencies were never grating like they can sometimes be at loud volumes with wireless speakers. I also noticed how the redesigned version seems to have a lower noise floor. When I sampled quieter tracks, like some acoustic blues, the new version did a better job of placing the sparse instrumentation on a quiet background. Think of it as the audio equivalent of a TV that offers deep blacks for more picture contrast.

The new version will play a little louder than the original. But it’s really more about how much better it sounds as you push the volume higher and higher. The new PLAY:5 maintains its smoothness, while the original starts to get a bit harsh as you approach the upper limit of its output.

New Sonos PLAY:5.

The new version of the PLAY:5 offers extended bass response and a deeper, wider soundstage.

Stereo pairing makes a killer one-two punch

In a demo here at Crutchfield HQ, we got to hear two of the new PLAY:5 speakers paired for stereo playback. More than a few jaws dropped at just how much clear, dynamic sound they produced. This setup rivaled some truly fine stereo-speaker-and-amp combinations we’ve heard in the same room.

When you're setting up a stereo pair, you can rest the new PLAY:5 speakers on their end for vertical orientation. The speaker will automatically detect this setup and adjust the sound accordingly. That allows you to get the best stereo image while also fitting these speakers into narrow spaces on a shelf or stand.

The bottom line

With the redesigned PLAY:5, Sonos has taken a big leap forward with their flagship speaker. Its looks are cleaner and more modern, the onboard controls are easier to use, and the sound quality is as good as I’ve heard from any single-box wireless speaker. When you combine that with the excellent app experience and simple setup that Sonos offers, you’ve got as strong a foundation for a multi-room music system as you can find.

  • Andy from Thousand Oaks

    Posted on 4/24/2018

    I have the original Play five and also have the amplifier and have enjoyed the original Sonos products. The good; I think Sonos is the leader in wifi music, their electronics are the best by far. I wanted to purchase another play 5 or two for a cabin we just purchased but after listening to the new Play 5 I was very disappointed. While David is right the bass is much deeper they lost something on the mid-range and highs. I was listening to it at a Best Buy location and listen to the Bose wifi system and found that to be a better sounding speaker. I am a big sonos fan and while the Apple Home Pod doesn't compare to the Play 5, I ended up purchasing that for it's portability and felt it sounds better then the Sonos Play 5. What happened? I was hoping that it was an improvement but it didn't have my vote on the new Play 5.

  • Al from New York

    Posted on 4/5/2018

    In some reviews, it's been mentioned that these speakers only show their true sound qualities at higher volumes. How does the sound compare to the other Sonos models at lower volume?

  • David Brown from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/24/2018

    Gafmaster, the only physical connection is a 3.5mm minijack input. You can see photos on our product web page.

  • gafmaster from Vegas

    Posted on 1/23/2018

    what type of input output by way of 3.5mm or other does the play 5 have? Any pics?

  • David Brown from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/16/2018

    Doug, I don't think adding the SUB is necessary. But if you're REALLY into bass, you could always add it later on.

  • Doug from Minneapolis from Minneapolis

    Posted on 1/16/2018

    Is the subwoofer still necessary with the improved bass?

  • David Brown from Crutchfield

    Posted on 10/5/2017

    Jon, that's an interesting question. You could put a new PLAY:5 in between your old PLAY:5s. But there's no way to sync all three of them together. You can only pair two speakers for stereo as a single zone. However, you could conceivably set them up as you described, which would consist of two separate zones. Then you could group both zones together to play the same song through all three. But I'm not sure that would be a great solution.

    My advice would be to give the Gen 2 PLAY:5 a try. It really does sound a bit different than the original. You may decide that it is to your liking and might even be a better option for your than your two Gen 1 PLAY:5s. And I can tell you that two of the Gen 2 PLAY:5s paired together is a truly awesome setup!

  • Jon from Middle East

    Posted on 10/5/2017

    Hi. I have two PLAY5 generation 1s working in stereo but I find I have to really mess with the EQ even after TruPlay. Can you ask Sonos if it's possible to put a generation 2 in between the two g1s and do they think the three speakers would work and significantly improve the overall sound experience?

  • John from Chicago

    Posted on 6/20/2017

    I have the original play 5. I have a new wifi provider and since can not get my speaker to work. When I hook the bridge to my modem it crashes everything. Frustrating. Tips for the tech challenged?

  • David Brown from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/24/2017

    Curtis, the PLAY:5 does output stereo sound. Pairing two of them will give you a larger soundstage and a stereo image more like what you'd get from traditional stereo speakers. I haven't heard two PLAY:1s paired, but I can attest to the awesome sound quality of a single PLAY:5. Plus the PLAY:5 will deliver a lot more bass than than two PLAY:1s ever could.

  • Curtis Hatcher from Kansas City

    Posted on 4/23/2017

    I've been having trouble finding the answer to a pretty simple question and thought maybe you could help. Does the Sonos Play 5, a single unit, output sound in 2-channel/stereo? My impression is that this is a single channel speaker because Sonos pushes dual Play 5 units to create a stereo pair. I own a couple of Play 1s along with their sound bar and sub for home theater use. The 5 is a great speaker, I'm sure, and I would like to use it in my bedroom. But if it's not a 2-channel stereo speaker, I might as well purchase 2 Play 1 speakers and make them a stereo pair (and save some money). What do you think?

  • Timothy Keating from Oakton

    Posted on 3/14/2017

    But you can use the headphone-out mini-cable to the 5 input to get all your tv sound, including Apple TV and Hulu.

  • David Brown from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/3/2017

    Davide, you aren't able to use the Apple TV with the PLAY:5 in this manner. However, you can do it with the Sonos PLAYBAR. Follow this link to see how it works.

  • Davide from Indian Trail

    Posted on 1/3/2017

    Can you connect the Gen1 Sonos 5 to the Apple TV via Wifi to stream sound through the Sonos rather than the TV speakers?

  • Reed from Easton

    Posted on 11/28/2016

    Andy, I spoke to Sonos directly. Cannot get true stereo from a Gen 1 and Gen 2 Play 5. I was disappointed, but that is the fact. You can play them together, but not make a stereo pair.

  • Andy Laster from Charlotte, NC

    Posted on 11/25/2016

    can you pair a generation 1 Play 5 with a generation 2 Play 5 for stereo?

  • TED!!!! from Pace Fl

    Posted on 11/2/2016

    Jo Really if you want headphones Why would the speaker have them??? Plug your headphones in the source, not the speaker..

  • JO

    Posted on 10/29/2016

    Big disappointment as no headphone socket on new play5. Poor spec from a company as good as sonos to have no headphone socket available on all currentrange - time to shop for alternatives unfortunately.

  • Larry from Jerusalem

    Posted on 4/21/2016

    Hi David. As an Ithaca college Alumni I am very disappointed that you listen to Missy Elliot.


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