Price Range: $494.99 - $499.98
CNET Editors' Rating: 4.0 / 5
The good: The Sonos Connect:Amp is an excellent all-in-one digital music system that offers superb sound quality. It gives you access to nearly any cloud music service (Pandora, Spotify, Amazon, Rhapsody, and so forth) using any iOS device or Android smartphone as a remote. The Connect:Amp has a line-in, which is particularly useful for connecting a TV or DVD player.
The bad: You'll need to have separate speakers and a tablet or smartphone. The Sonos Connect:Amp doesn't support iTunes Match. While it can wirelessly interact with other Sonos products, you'll need a hard-wired connection or the $49 wireless Sonos Bridge accessory if it's your only Sonos component.
The bottom line: The Sonos Connect:Amp is an excellent streaming-audio solution for sound-quality sticklers who prefer to supply their own speakers.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
At the start of 2012, rumors started spreading that Google was readying a home theater device to rival the likes of the Apple TV and the Sonos system. But when that mythical creature turned out to be the Nexus Q, it was hard to swallow our collective disappointment.
While the Nexus Q will remain a curio until Google can boost its feature set, the competitive Sonos Connect:Amp feels like a real hi-fi system. From its solid build to the simplicity of the user interface it's something that the Nexus isn't: refined. It's compatible with nearly every online music service on the market, and can also stream your personal digital-music collection.
But if you thought the $300 Nexus was expensive -- and for what it does, it is -- then you might want to hold on to something: the Connect:Amp is two-thirds more expensive. (Thankfully, Sonos also offers three other models -- the Play:3, the Play:5, and the ampless Sonos Connect -- at $299, $399, and $349, respectively.) Yet, regardless of the price, the Sonos Connect:Amp is a full-featured digital audio system with a lot to offer both casual users and serious audio enthusiasts -- especially if they're looking to eventually build out a multiroom audio system.
Measuring 3.5 inches high, 7.28 inches wide, and 8.15 inches deep, the Sonos Connect:Amp is larger than your average "small black box" media streamer such as the Roku or Apple TV.
The Sonos features a two-tone color scheme with an "anodized precision-machined extrusion aluminum case" nestled on a white plastic base. The 5.1-pound box has some heft to it, and -- unlike a lot of the flimsy plastic boxes you buy today -- the Connect:Amp feels really solid and well designed.
The front panel is about as minimalist as it gets: Volume Up/Down and Mute; everything else (including redundant volume controls) is controlled through an amp on your tablet or smartphone. There's no power button, since the Sonos is designed to remain in standby mode at all times.
The Connect:Amp was formerly known as the ZonePlayer ZP120, and was renamed when the Play:3 came along. While the ZP120 was initially offered as part of the BU250 Bundle, that package is no longer available, not least because the CR200 touch-screen controller has been put to pasture. The company instead offers free control apps for PC, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. In other words, nearly any smartphone or tablet -- including iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, Kindle Fires, and all newer Android phones -- can double as the remote.
The Connect:Amp is a rare product in that it is part music streamer and part amplifier. When I say rare, I mean there are a couple of products like it, but most are hideously expensive music servers, or...ahem...the aforementioned Google Nexus Q. Whereas the Nexus Q has a 25W amplifier, the Connect:Amp features a much beefier 55W -per-channel output.
Obviously, the built-in amp means that it's up to you to supply your own (unpowered) speakers. You could go for something like Dayton Audio B652s, or step up from there.
If you have an existing stereo or home theater system and you're looking to add streaming to it, might I suggest the ampless Sonos Connect ($349). Alternatively, you can go the all-in-one route with the Play:5 and Play:3, both of which have built-in speakers.
One feature offered by the Connects and that the all-in-one Play:3 and Play:5 systems lack is audio inputs. The Connect:Amp has a single stereo RCA input that can be used to connect an external audio device -- perhaps a turntable or an iPod dock.
For speaker connections, the Sonos includes solid, spring-loaded speaker jacks at the back for connecting banana plugs or bare wires -- though not spades.
Last in the list of connections is the subwoofer-out, which can be used to connect to a third-party subwoofer. Or you can opt to go with the wireless Sonos Sub instead.
One feature I kept wishing for while using the Sonos was an IR port, usually in order to mute the system. Instead, you'll either need to unlock your phone and launch the Sonos app, boot up your PC, or finally -- heaven forbid! -- walk over and press the Mute switch.
Audio-only -- but that's a good thing
Unlike some of the more well-known media streamers on the market, the Sonos devices are audio-only, no video. While that may seem limited in scope, the Sonos is more about focusing on doing one thing as well as possible.
Sonos' tagline is "Stream All The Music On Earth" -- and the company's products come very close to that goal. The Sonos is compatible with nearly every popular music service: Mog, Pandora, Spotify, Sirius XM, Last.fm, Slacker, Rdio, Songza, TuneIn Radio, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio, Wolfgang's Vault, Aupeo, Stitcher, and -- most recently -- Amazon Cloud Player.
For those keeping score, that's nearly every cloud music service out there. And while, as mentioned above, Apple's iTunes Match isn't supported (thanks, as always, to Apple), the Sonos does support streaming from PCs and Macs running the iTunes software, so your home music collection is always accessible. It also supports many NAS servers, for those who don't want to keep their PCs powered on all the time.
For local music, nearly all popular file formats are supported: MP3, WMA, AAC+, Ogg Vorbis, WAV, AIFF, Apple Lossless, and FLAC. That said, while it will only concern a small subset of people at present (myself included), the Sonos system doesn't play back high-resolution 24-bit files: it's CD-quality only.
Totally wireless -- with one caveat
The Sonos family of products is designed as a multiroom audio system, and connect to one another via a proprietary wireless mesh system. The advantage of that is that it's not limited by your home's Wi-Fi network. The drawback is that there needs to be at least one wired connection between your home network and a Sonos unit. (Think of it like a DECT cordless phone system: one base station needs to be plugged into the wall jack, while the others communicate with that one wirelessly.)
That gives you two alternatives: you can situate the first Sonos in your home near an Ethernet connection, or you can buy a $50 Sonos Bridge.
Like any hi-fi system, the performance is mostly dictated by the speakers you use. When using the Connect:Amp I got the best results from the Intimus 4T Tower Speakers with a sparkling treble underpinned by detailed mids and tight bass. Sure, you could spend more on a dedicated amplifier, DAC, and music streamer, and get better-sounding results, but it would a) cost a lot more and b) lose the cohesion and convenience a one-box system offers.
Whether it was playing music offered by Spotify or from a local NAS, I enjoyed glitch- free playback from the Connect:Amp and there wasn't a hint of lag time. This was especially important when connecting a TV, and I found there weren't any sync issues despite simultaneously streaming around my apartment. The only thing to keep in mind is that any line-in signal is converted to digital, and when I hooked up a Pro-Ject Debut III turntable I found that the sound was more restrained than when connected to an analog amplifier. As such, I would class the line-in as more of a convenience feature than a true "hi-fi" consideration.
As far as other speakers were concerned, I also had good results with the laid-back B&W 685s, though when compared with beefier amplification the bass was a little lean. Listening to "Life" by The Beta Band, I felt the system wasn't as capable in relaying the bass synth outro (2.36), sounding a little more reticent than my Marantz receiver. The amp was able to drive the speakers to party levels quite easily, though.
Not all speakers were as successful, and it was surprising to find one of Sonos' to be less than exemplary. Adding the Sonos Sub, I found it didn't boost the midrange performance in the same way it did with the Play:3. The inability to set a crossover from where your speakers' bass performance tails off also meant you couldn't tailor bass response. A third-party sub from the likes of HSU or REL for the same $699 price or cheaper would give you more flexibility and better performance.
While I found the software quite easy to use, it did have some niggling problems that competitive systems don't have. Firstly, the "sort by folders" option in the software doesn't read folders that haven't been indexed yet, and you need to reindex (but not on the fly) to find recently added files. Secondly, and quite irritatingly, it's very easy to bump the app's volume slider up to ear-splitting volumes. Thirdly, Spotify integration could be better. I was really taken by the Squeezebox Touch's take on the software, which enables users to use it in much the same way as they would use normal Spotify -- starring items and editing playlists, for example. In comparison, the Sonos is limited to reading playlists and starred items. It's also difficult to play a starred album, as the Sonos is set up to play individual tracks generally, and so the continual playlist nature of "starred tracks" means playing an entire album is problematic.
That said, the Sonos apps are updated several times a year, so anything one may object to currently may well be corrected in a future update.
In my reviewing time I used both the Connect:Amp and the Connect, and when switching back to the Connect I found I missed its bigger, amplified brother. Building a system around the Connect:Amp makes a lot of sense if you're starting from scratch, and the total app control makes it much more compelling than the Connect -- where you'd need to separately turn on your stereo and flip to the correct input before enjoying the music.
There are plenty of cheaper alternatives to the Sonos Connect:Amp. You can stream audio from a smartphone or tablet app to any Bluetooth speaker or a Bluetooth dongle like the Belkin Bluetooth Music Receiver; but Bluetooth sound quality will leave critical listeners wanting.
Another alternative is to connect an Apple TV ($99) to any existing stereo system. The Apple TV supports all of the Sonos services plus iTunes Match, and you use an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad as a remote. But with the Apple TV, you'd have to flip between a dozen apps (using AirPlay), rather than using the all-in-one Sonos control app. And -- unlike Sonos -- it's not useful for Android or Kindle Fire owners.
At the end of the day, the Sonos Connect:Amp isn't cheap, but it's a better no- compromise digital music system than those alternatives listed above -- especially considering Logitech has discontinued its Squeezebox range and replaced it with the UE Smart Radio. If you're serious about your digital music -- and about cloud-based music services in particular -- the Sonos Connect:Amp is a tidy all-in-one system.
|Product Description||Digital audio receivers, Sonos CONNECT:AMP|
|Product Type||Digital audio receivers|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||7.3 in x 8.1 in x 3.5 in|
|Sound Output Mode||Stereo|
|Network Player||Network audio player - WMA, WAV, FLAC, AAC, MP3|
|Connectivity Protocols||IEEE 802.3 (Ethernet), IEEE 802.3u (Fast Ethernet)|
|Power||AC 120/230 V|
Average User Rating: 4.0 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 4
4 Star: 1
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 1
Good - but with sound quality limitations
Rating: 4 / 5
on September 14, 2013
5 out of 5 users found this review helpful
Pros: Very easy setup
Sound quality is pretty good
Connect Amp works very well
Cons: Sound quality average when compared to same price range
Summary: I have purchased the Play 5 speaker for our bedroom, the Connect Amp for the kitchen to replace a micro system (so used the good quality speakers I had on that), a Connect to link to my hifi system in the lounge, and finally a bridge to connect to my broadband. We control the system via our Samsung Tablet or our android phones which works great. Have even had some fun when the wife went downstairs to make a cuppa for us both and return to bed early one morning, and I slapped on a heavy rock track at a loud volume in the kitchen while I remained in bed! She got her own back by putting on Donny Osmond in the bedroom where I was - and so the Sonos wars were born as we retaliated in trying to play an even worse track in the room the other person was in!
Setup, very easy to do, even updating to the latest release of software was very easy. The Play 5 speaker in the bedroom works well, giving us our weekday music alarm in the morning. Sound quality is pretty good although booms alittle bit due to being close to the wall. Only complaint here is that it is a mono speaker! With that size case and the price tag I would have expected to get stereo. I cannot compare the Play 3 as I have not heard it. I would give this individual unit 4 out of 5, where the point was lost for being mono and sound quality average if compared to a sound system of similar cost of $350
The Connect Amp works very well, and because of the speakers we have full stereo from separated speakers and good sound quality. Not cheap bearing in mind it is basically just a small amp with the wireless mesh system, but it does work well. Being able to slap any music I want while cooking where before I would go to the lounge to hunt down the CD I was after! I would score this unit 4.5 out of 5.
The Connect, which I have connected to my hifi system was quite a disappointment. I do have a high end hifi system with a very good CD player, amp and speakers. I appreciate that MP3s etc are not able to carry the sound quality of a CD because they do not encode the full audio range (which is why I still always buy CDs and never downloads) but when I put on a song that I know well the drop in sound quality was astonishing and disappointing. The sound was flat and lacked the depth and clarity of the CD. The crispness of the top end (for example high hat of the drums) was missing, instead delivering a much softer almost slightly muffled sound. The low end was also lacking, missing out the depth and the atmosphere that is normally present. It seemed to lack the definition and the punch.
I suspect that I will only use this unit for when friends are around, dinner parties etc where the convenience of queuing up a whole evening of music or passing the phone around to allow people to choose some tracks for themselves as opposed to changing CDs every hour. I would not use this to sit down and listen to music, I will continue to use the CD player for this as it is delivering so much more. The Connect would be fine if just connected to a low end hifi system or the type you would by in a departmental store, but not if you are expecting it to make full use of a system purchased from a hifi specialist. For this reason, I can only give this unit 3 out of 5.
In summary - the system works well and is great for being able to select whatever music you want and playing it where you want. As I encode every CD I buy anyway it means that I immediately had a massive collection for the Sonos to work with. Operating is very easy via either your PC, or smartphones / tablets (but do not think there is a blackberry version at present). Even my wife operates it without any problems, and she is not that technology minded bless her!! I love the system and its convenience.
However, sound quality wise the system is limited. The sound quality is good if you compare it to sound systems of $400-$500, but it is not able to provide a high end sound source if you have a good quality hifi system. To be fair the limitation may be because of the encoded audio files - in the same way that if you plug an ipod into a good hifi system it cannot reproduce the sound quality.
PS: I suggest to check best price for the "SONOS CONNECT:AMP" at: Musicsystembuying.blogspot.com/p/sonos-connectamp.html
I hope it helps.
Updated on Dec 29, 2013
I suggest to check for best price at: Mediaportable.wordpress.com/sonos-connectamp/
SONOS Is Simply Amazing!
Rating: 5 / 5
on October 28, 2011
4 out of 7 users found this review helpful
Pros: + Super easy to setup
+ Easy to use and is very functional
+ Sleep and alarm clock features
+ Touchscreen controller is great
+ SONOS wireless network works very well
+ Access to music is easy
Cons: - I wish the contoller batteries lasted longer when out of the cradle
Summary: When we built our house, we installed speakers throughout (~45 speakers counting indoors and outdoors), but (long story short) we never setup a sound system. So, we've had these speakers in the ceiling with nothing coming through them. I've wanted to setup whole house audio for a long time, but wasn't sure what to use. I'm the type that researches and researches before I buy, and I've been researching this for a couple years, but I couldn't get comfortable with a solution. I've looked at SONOS a couple times, but just wasn't sure. I finally pulled the trigger and bought SONOS. To give you some background on my house, it's a 2-story with about 5,000 SF of conditioned space. I have a central closet with all my phone, TV, network/Internet and other communications wiring. I've heard so many concerns about setting up SONOS with a central closet such as mine, but it's really worked out great. I initially thought about trying to minimize the number of SONOS ZP120 units (to save money) by utilizing other amplifiers and volume controllers and I'm so glad I didn't do that. It was a little more expensive to have SONOS everything, because it resulted in more SONOS zones (i.e., more SONOS ZP120s), but I have no regrets. It's really just amazing how easy this is to use, how much music you have access to, and how well everything works together.
We setup 12 zones. 11 of the zones are ZP120 and one zone is an S5. The 11 ZP120s are in the central closet. The S5 is in the study and I also put a ZP90 wireless bridge upstairs near an outside wall to extend the wireless signal (to the upstairs and the outdoors). I have 5 CR200 controllers (we keep one in the kitchen area, the bedroom, the study, and each of my kids has one that they keep in their bedrooms (both kids are under 10 yrs old and they have no trouble using SONOS)). Each of their bedrooms is a separate zone so they can control their own music.
SONOS changed our lives. My wife thought I was crazy installing SONOS, but she's told me on several occasions that she really likes SONOS and loves having music in the house. My kids are also enjoying it. The TV now spends more time 'off' and the SONOS replaces it with music. How many times do you have the TV on in your house for 'background noise'? Yep, that's what we used to do. We now listen to music in the morning, afternoon, during dinner, etc. It's great. We primarily use SONOS to stream Pandora (Pandora Basic comes built into SONOS). I was introduced to Pandora through SONOS and it's just great. Everyone in the family has separate Pandora 'lists' so we can each listen to our own music.
The reason I like SONOS so much: (1) the time from arrival to setup is very short (it's super easy to setup), (2) it's easy to use and is very functional (my young kids use it), the linking and separating of zones is simple and you can transfer your music from one zone to another (by going into Zone Group for the zone that's currently playing the music you want to transfer, selecting the zone your going to (e.g., Kitchen) and de-selecting the zone you're in (e.g., Study)), (3) the sleep and alarm clock features (you can fall asleep to music and wake to music or a SONOS chime) (4) the touchscreen controller is great, (5) the SONOS wireless network works very well, and it's easy to extend the network with a ZP90 wireless bridge if you need additional coverage, (6) the access to music is easy (Pandora, music stored on your hard drive, local radio, etc.), (7) SONOS' ability to modify the administrative settings on your PC or firewall on the fly to make everything work (it prompts you for permission before doing this), (8) it's easy to add additional SONOS components and you can rename them to what you want (e.g., I renamed the standard SONOS 'Bedroom' to include my kids names), (9) the 'crossfade' option so you can have the next song start just before the prior song finishes to create continuous music (not sure if this only works in Pandora, but you can disable this feature if you don't like it).
I simply can't say enough about this product. It has surpassed my expectations. We've gone from a house with 45 speakers doing nothing, to a house brimming with music and a family (including young kids) enjoying music.
If there are two things I wish were different they are: I wish it were less expensive ( but I honestly I wish everything were less expensive - SONOS is a good value for what you get and if you will buy this ZP120 I suggest you have to check for best deal before you decide at: sites.google.com/site/musicplayerdeals/sonos-zoneplayer-120 ), and I wish the contoller batteries lasted longer when out of the cradle (but I'm guessing it takes a lot of battery power to drive the color touchscreen on the controller). These are very minor nits. I love it!
Streaming whole house audio has never easier
Rating: 5 / 5
on September 21, 2012
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Easy setup, infinite choices for music, great sound quality, great versatility, sleek minimalistic appearance.
Cons: Somewhat high initial upfront cost. The amps get a little warm.
Summary: The major grip people have with Sonos is the expense and while on paper that may seem like a hard pill to swallow, in reality the difference may not be so stark, especially for a whole house audio setup. If you want to run a whole house audio system, you can easily expect to spend $1000 or more to get up and running and you won't have anywhere near the versatily or ease of setup as you do with Sonos. I have 4 Connect:Amps and 1 Connect driving our 5 zone home audio. Total setup time took less than 1/2 hr. No need to hire an A/V pro to setup.
My wife was skeptical at first given the up front cost but now all she does is rave to me about how this was the best decision we made regarding our new house. She uses it everyday. We use it at night when we go to sleep, we use it to wake up to in the morning, during parties, drinking coffee and reading the news, etc... Everyone is so amazed that we can control everything with the touch of our smartphones.
Sonos also opened up our world to the infinite number of music choices out there. That is how we learned about sites like Songza, Wolfgang Vault, MOG, iHeart Radio etc...The best thing is we can continue to expand the system with Play3 and Play5 systems (for kids or guest rooms for example).
If you can afford it, I think it is worth the little extra cost. The great thing is, you can design your Sonos system however you want with the various components to meet your needs and budget.
Experience your music wirelessly at home
Rating: 5 / 5
on March 24, 2011
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Use Coupon Code FREESHIPSONOS for Free 2-day Shipping on all Sonos Wireless Home Audio products http://*******.com/sonosoffers
If you are Ready to buy or need to know more Call Sonos Experts at 877-816-3761 and press(1)
Cons: Call Sonos Experts at 877-816-3761 and press(1) for more info
Summary: Try sonos its great enough !
THe most amazing system I have installed in my home!!!
Rating: 5 / 5
on March 24, 2011
0 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: - Easy, easy, easy to install vs other systems that require special connectors and programming
- Amazing iPad application that allows me to control the system without an additional remote control
- Allows you to listen different music in multiple rooms at
Cons: - Works best when a home is hardwired and has multiple ethernet outlets
- You need the space for multiple zone boxes
Summary: I was looking for a multi-zone system that was simple and cheaper to install and use vs the higher end systems like Nuvo. This was the answer to all my prayers and everyone that has seen this in my house wants to buy one now... Just an amazing purchase!!!
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