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Hands-on: Sonos Trueplay technology and PLAY:5 speaker (2015)

We went ears-on with Sonos’s updated take on its PLAY:5 speaker and its impressive new Trueplay technology.

If you’re familiar with Sonos as a brand, you’ll know that it make some pretty solid speaker systems and the name has fast become one of the most popular when it comes to rigging up multi-room sound systems.

Sonos PLAY:5

The PLAY:5 has been the top dog in the company’s lineup since it launched in 2010, but Sonos finally decided it was time for a refresh and the new 2015 models feels like a the perfect update, after three years in development.

Inside the new Sonos PLAY:5

Aesthetically it falls more inline with the company’s newer PLAY:3 speaker; a curved grille hiding an impressive array of six custom drivers that are designed to emulate a stereo pair in a centralised position when in a landscape orientation.

The beauty of the design is that if you stand one on-end and pair it with another PLAY:5 the gyroscope inside detects the orientation change and can direct the sound in a wholly different fashion (the rotational symmetry of the logo also means that it’s the right way up, either way around).

The PLAY:5 will work in either orientation.
The PLAY:5 will work in either orientation, solo or as a pair.

As well as excellent clarity, dynamic range and impressive overall volume, alongside its gyroscope the new PLAY:5 also shows off smartphone-esque backlit capacitive buttons for music playback and volume control.

Sonos Trueplay

The company has also complemented its speaker lineup with a great companion app for managing music from a local source as well as any streaming service you might be subscribed to.

Sonos Trueplay works with iOS devices
At launch Sonos Trueplay will only work with iOS devices.

Trueplay is an impressive new technology (and a fresh addition to the app) that leverages hardware that most Sonos owners (existing or prospective) will already have in their pocket, their smartphone.

The technology ensures that your tunes will sound better in any room, irrespective of said room’s natural acoustic properties. It does this by simplifying a process that’s typically reserved for the more discerning music lover – acoustic calibration.

As part of the updated app setup process the user has to do what Sonos’s internal technicians have dubbed ‘the room dance’. Whilst you feel a little like a ghostbuster scanning for spectral beings, you’re actually helping your Sonos judge the acoustic properties of the room it (or they) has/have been placed in by waving your handset (or tablet) around.

Sonos Trueplay room dance
Be prepared to do the ‘room dance’ to get your Trueplay settings just right.

Your Sonos speaker(s) emit a unique tone that the app on your smartphone picks up through the device’s inbuilt microphone and the result is then analysed to create a custom EQ map to better even out the speaker’s output – giving you more true-to-source audio and more consistent playback from room to room in your house.

It’s an impressively elegant solution to a complicated problem (as no two user’s rooms will likely possess the same acoustic properties) and the results speak for themselves. There is however a slight caveat to being able to enjoy the benefits of Trueplay.

The development team quickly realised that being able to assess sound was dependant on consistent hardware (and software) with which to test with. iOS devices are not only more pervasive in the market, but use a far smaller pool of components and software builds, whilst Android comes in many forms and hardware can vary wildly from device to device, making it much tricker to gauge a consistent method for analysing room acoustics.

Sonos PLAY:5 library

We were told that the team is looking for ways to bring the same benefits of Trueplay calibration to other devices, but for the time being it’s a feature unique to the company’s iOS app. The silver lining is that even if you don’t have an iOS device of your own, you can still calibrate your PLAY speakers using a friend’s iPhone or iPad and the feature covers every PLAY speaker thus far.

The Trueplay update will arrive in the coming weeks and the new 2015 Sonos PLAY:5 speaker will go on sale in black and white in time for the holidays for £429.

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