Customer Review

256 of 316 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Almost a great thing, except for one big uh oh, September 27, 2011
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This review is from: Sonos Play:5 All-In-One Music Player with Bridge Setup Solution (S5 Black, BR100) (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
After attending a demo on the Sonos system at my local A/V shop I decided to order a setup for myself. One thing repeatedly stressed by the Sonos rep was their stellar customer support and universal customer satisfaction. Feeling comfortable with this reputation I ordered the bridge, the Sonos 3 and the Sonos 5.

Fit and finish

I received all the units promptly with no issues, as I've grown to love with Amazon. The products were well protected and packaged. The Sonos 5 was quite a large box between the size of the unit and the large amount of styrofoam. The closest I can compare to the fit, finish, and packaging is that everything was very Apple like. Very clean lines, no surprises. Things were looking good.

Initial setup

After getting everything hooked up, I installed the software on my Mac mini and proceeded to ID my individual Sonos units on my network. I have a quirk in my setup in that my music serving Mac is located in my home office, which is about 300 feet away and up a flight of stairs from my house. Not really a big deal except that as you load each Sonos unit, you first put the software into a "searching for Sonos players" state so it's scanning the network for new units. You then press two buttons on the player itself to activate it's "find me" function. Oh, and you have two minutes to find a new unit or it times out. So three trips back and forth, 300 feet each direction, flight of stairs each direction, and hurry, you have two minutes. This would have been solved by having someone on the phone pressing the buttons for me, or taking the units to my home office, activating them, then taking them back to the house. However I wanted this to be as clean of an install as possible so I did it the old fashioned way. I didn't have someone to press the buttons for me at the time. Meh, I needed the exercise anyway but at least now you know what to expect. Btw, everything worked well, but not perfectly the first time. I'd say I made 5-6 trips to get three working.

After getting the players themselves loaded, it was time to load the music. Be warned, you have to have the players loaded before you import your music. I spent some time chasing my tail on this one. Logically it makes sense, but my real concern was importing my music for reasons that will become obvious. I tried that first and the option was basically greyed out with no real explanation for why. Actually reading the instructions would probably have saved me some time but in my case I figured this out on my own.

So it's time to load the music. I have a really large music library, somewhere around 64,000 tracks. This is why I was concerned about loading music onto Sonos because I was concerned it would take hours, which imports often do. I also wanted to see if the software would blow up before I did all the hardware installs. Eventually I was able to import my library into the Sonos library. A quick 300 feet jog and I confirmed that I was able to play music from my library. Sweet! So onto playlists, which Sonos imports from iTunes. When I pulled up playlists all that was available was "imported playlists" which were all labeled "playlist.m3u" Odd. I tried playing one of the playlists to see if I could tell which one mine is. Errors. I tried reimporting. Nope.

Now understand, when your library in measured in terabytes, you need iTunes and the genius playlist. Sitting down and hand building playlists would be a nightmare. Pick one song, hit genius, and 100 great songs are magically built into a playlist in one second. Being able to pull that together from the tens of thousands of songs is awesome. Anything I use has to support playlists to work.

So, online chat for tech support. Sonos has fantastic tech support, remember? "You are in line for a tech, your wait time is projected to be 15 minutes." Ok, that works. 45 minutes later I finally get someone. The time estimate doesn't work. Don't plan on it. But I have someone finally who says to submit diagnostics data to Sonos through the software so here we go.... and my computer locks up. Probably not their fault, can't be helped although it was their software that was active when it locked. Who knows. Reboot, reload iTunes, sign into Sonos, wait in line again. Gonna be 15 minutes, 60 minutes later I'm #1 in line and.... 6pm. Tech support is closed. No sorry, enter your case here, request a call back, just bang, do not pass go, do not collect 200 dollars. Ok, that one is their fault. Give up, try again later in the week. Go through the 15 minute expected wait, 60 minutes later I get a live person on chat. And the answer is, submit your diagnostics. Aha, I already have. A couple of rounds of convincing said person that I actually already did submit the data and it hasn't changed in two days and he finally looks for the diagnostics. His solution? Your library is too large, delete some of your music. Now it took 30 minutes of back and forth trying to get an alternate answer but the end result is, there is a physical limit to the amount of index data the Sonos units can hold, and somewhere around 62,000-65,000 items and it just stops loading. Whatever hasn't loaded yet, doesn't exist. Sorry. So I asked, any way to load in a different order so playlists are first? No. Any way to skip podcasts? I don't need podcasts loaded. No. Anything I can do besides unburn the boxes these things came in and ship them back. Um, not really. Disappointing. Especially since this product is pitched to audiophiles who tend to have crazy libraries of music.

User interface

One of the really nice features of Sonos is the ability to operate any or all of the units from an iPhone, iPad, etc. I have both and the software works nicely. It's really cool to be twenty feet from the unit and skip a track, change the volume, etc. It especially is nice to play with, impress your friends, scare the kids, that kind of stuff. The user interface is well done. I have an issue that is probably related to my large library again but now I notice that when I try to scan artists to build a playlist manually, routinely the tracks cannot be found. I know they are there, Sonos simply cannot see them when I look. So basically you look by artist, that leads to all your artist names. Pick ABC band. A sub-menu opens showing ABC band's albums. Pick an album and you dive down to the tracks. Normal, except the tracks aren't there even though I know they are.

One thing that did throw me for a loop is shuffle. Locating it requires you to press on an area of the screen which is displaying track data, which brings up a sub-menu where you can select shuffle. It's not entirely intuitive since it's basically a hidden sub-menu. To make things even weirder, the iPad version isn't exactly like the iPhone version so I end up hunting around a bit depending on which device I am using. Not a deal breaker but it sure was annoying in the beginning.

Another issue I didn't foresee, and this would be true of any application that uses an iPhone or whatever for control. Your controls are almost exclusively on the handheld device. On the Sonos you have volume up, volume down, and mute button. That's it. So say you are playing music and a song comes up that you want to fast forward through to the next track. You pull your phone from your pocket, press the button to bring it to life, swipe to assure the phone that yes you did mean it. Then you scroll to the page that has your Sonos software (you may have done email, a phone call, etc since you originally hit play), you hit Sonos. Sonos must then connect to your network and locate a Sonos player because it lost connection when the phone went to sleep. Not lost your network, just the Sonos player. Give that a few seconds, maybe 5-10. Then you have control. Hit skip and it's magically instant. I mean it's so fast it's magic that it's going wirelessly and still having that kind of response. The problem is, hitting one fast forward button takes about 6 key strokes and about 20 seconds. Kind of annoying if your wife wants to tell you something every five minutes so you have to keep hitting pause, say yes dear, unpause, go back to what you're doing, then wash, rinse, repeat. Or if at the end of the song your kids scream for you to play it again because it's their favorite. After three minutes my phones asleep so it's start over from scratch. It's especially annoying if you are standing beside the Sonos player but have to do all this to hit pause, fast forward, rewind, etc. The units are sexy, but a few more buttons wouldn't have really hurt.

Sound quality

These units, especially the Sonos 5 but the Sonos 3 even sound really good. I wouldn't want them as my home theater but if you want music in your rooms quick and easy, these things are the deal. If you have your music all on MP3, a device like this is awesome. BBQ tonight? Unplug one and plug it in on the deck. Instant party music. If you are an A/V snob, these things are what they are. If you normally shop at Best Buy, these sound awesome. Equal to a Bose, probably better. I haven't listen to a Bose in quite a while. Way better sound than a Logitech Squeezebox, no comparison.


If you don't have a stupidly large library like me, then I'd say give Sonos a try. Most of my issues are self inflicted. I am quite unhappy that the limitation on total tracks wasn't apparent or published prior to my purchase. To my knowledge it's still an unpublished limitation, which is why I took the time to write this review. If you do have a huge library, the Logitech Squeezebox works just fine.
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Tracked by 10 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 41 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 7, 2012 7:26:32 AM PST
NJ Guy says:
"So three trips back and forth, 300 feet each direction..."...
LOL... and are suggesting this is a Sonos problem? You should've configured it before separating them 300 feet apart Dude !!!

Secondly, you cannot compare iTunes with Sonos's software. iTunes better be the best because your most precious device - your iPhone can only be sync'ed with iTunes.

I do see your other points though....
(1) Size of your library is a limitation. I didnt think this was a problem. But then, I have about 10,000 songs as opposed to your 64,000.
(2) To skip a song you need 5/6 keystrokes. I sorta hate that too. But that is really an iPhone limitation. We chose to put the remote on our iPhones. Advantages of having the remote on the iPhone outweights its disadvantages.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2012 8:37:15 AM PST
Dan Moore says:
I don't mean to imply that my setup is Sono's fault. However I went exactly by the instructions and placed the units where they would be used, not beside me at my server which is on a different router but the same network. My reason for telling that story is so people will know you can put them right beside you, not in their final position.

Posted on Oct 11, 2012 1:40:55 PM PDT
Very helpful, and I did the two minute sprint myself a dozen times the other day so share your pain. I was also told by the sales rep that I could stream DVD/Blu-Ray output wirelessly (which was why I bought the Play5 in the first place) and was pretty hacked when the very patient tech told me this was not possible...also you say 'when I try to scan artists to build a playlist manually, routinely the tracks cannot be found. I know they are there, Sonos simply cannot see them when I look' - yep - the search function is useless, and I can have three tracks by one artist in the queue and still have the search respond that this artist doesn't exist. Otherwise they're great.....and I had much better luck with the tech support, routinely within 5 minutes and emails within an hour

Posted on Oct 11, 2012 4:36:36 PM PDT
D. Wood says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2012 2:15:23 AM PDT
Dan Moore says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on Oct 19, 2012 9:12:39 AM PDT
Very nice review. Sorry to hear that the Sonos didn't work for you. Your assessment seems fair and accurate.

Posted on Nov 23, 2012 9:13:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 23, 2012 9:17:53 AM PST
TJ says:
I would like to try the Sonos but its expensive and itunes Airplay does the same thing for what I believe is a lot less coin. Like you I have a very large music library, I have a Denon stereo that is airplay compatible and I will only buy add on speakers or related items that are Airplay compatible. Just like sonos you can select which speakers you want to be active. Plus if you have a party don't forget iTunes DJ. Let everyone (with an iphone) help pick the party music.

Posted on Dec 20, 2012 6:16:34 AM PST
louieg says:
Very interesting thorough and impartial. Thanks.

Posted on Dec 22, 2012 8:20:22 PM PST
iams says:
I don't think you'll find a device that doesn't have this problem.
I have the same problem on my ps3.
In fact usually if you have a folder on your computer with that many files you'll see similar issues, especially if its a networked drive.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 23, 2012 10:35:55 AM PST
Dan Moore says:
I won't argue with your logic. All I can say is my devices that I use, PC running iTunes, multiple macs, and logitech Squuezebox, all access all files with no issues. I've never used my PS3 to access music so I don't know. I do run these files on an attached hard drive now and noted no difference.
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