Bluesound vs Sonos review: surprising result


(Michael Fanning) #1

Just read this review, which came to this surprising (for me) conclusion on sound quality:

“Bluesound’s approach creates sound that, while powerful, clean, and precise, lacks warmth, fullness, and range. Sonos, by contrast, doesn’t deliver the same precision, and can’t get as loud, but its EQ acrobatics let you experience more of the low and midrange — that “warmth” we’re referring to — while simultaneously shaping the way the music fills the room. We auditioned the systems for friends and family, without telling them any of this, and simply asked which system sounded better. Without exception, they preferred Sonos. That’s not at all scientific, and it’s quite possible that if we had brought in a dedicated group of audiophiles to listen, they would have said the opposite. The takeaway here is that, while a flat frequency response may indeed be the most authentic way to reproduce a song, many ears may prefer something else.“

Huh!

The review attributes the better sound of Sonos to its DSP implementation — dubbed Trueplay — while Bluesound favors a flat frequency response. Anyway, if you buy into this, it would suggest that Roon’s digital shaping could be a nice differentiator. BTW, I own a Bluesound Node 2 and like it; I use it with Roon/Tidal to play primarily MQA files and to my ears it’s terrific.

Thoughts?


#2

That’s also my personal experience with Node 2. It’s a joke sound quality wise, but a nice enough piece of digital technology (with a very digital sound) for the money. I have one because I had to start somewhere (I was curious to see what ROON + Tidal it’s about). I ended up using him just as a bridge between the network and the coaxial input of the DAC (I’m not too much into MQA). It’s due for Audiogon the second I’ll buy something else :slight_smile:


(Paul) #3

I can’t agree with that at all. I find the Node 2 good value for money in all respects, with a decent sound, far from a ‘joke’. All down to individual perceptions I guess.


#4

It’s a good value for the money, no doubt about, but I believe the subject here is the sound not the value. And it’s indeed down to individual perception. It just happen that mine is the same as the one in that review or whatever.


(Chris ) #5

One thing I notice on my Pulse 2 is the warmth and just realistic sound compared to a friend who has
Sonus. Also I have enough volume available for a street party, so it hardly breaks a sweat in normal use. Coupled with that I have MQA, high res to 192K and proper Roon functionality… what’s not to love?


(Rian) #6

The review seems to be all about the speakers, and not the Node 2. The review might very well be accurate in terms of Sonos vs. Bluesound speakers, but I think in any head to head streamer comparison the Node 2 will beat out the Sonos Connect every time, especially if they’re connected to a good DAC.


(Michael Fanning) #7

@rianvdm Rian, that’s an excellent point, which I missed in the review. Indeed, I have a Node 2 connected to my Devialet 200 with both coaxial (direct to the Devialet DAC) and analog (using the Bluesound DAC for MQA final rendering) connections. I appreciate the flexibility of the device as well as its sound quality.


(David Toole) #8

I doubt that most Roon users will be connecting small multiroom speakers to a good DAC. The beauty of Roon and my Sonos speakers (which I owned before Roon) is that you don’t need to do that. You can effortlessly send material to these wireless speakers through both Roon and their native apps. I save the “good DAC(s)” for headphone listening and for “serious” listening through better speakers.


(Rian) #9

The Node 2 is not a speaker.


(Yiannis Kouropalatis) #10

For what is worth, I had both sonos and bluesound speakers at my place for a while and I listened to them extensively side by side. I read through the review at digital trends and found it interesting. I agree that Sonos is the way most people will go for (due to price, availability at major retailers, word of mouth, etc etc), Sonos has more visibility and more consumers are more ‘exposed’ to it in various outlets.

Having said that, having tested bluesound speakers (Pulse 2, Flex) against sonos (Play 5, One, Soundbase) I reached very different conclusions that those in the digital trends review.

To my ears, the Sonos speakers have gradually changed their sound signature (I owned various sonos for more than 8 years) over time. While initially (Play 5 Gen I) sonos sounded quite balanced and warm … it now sounds (to my ears) very boomy and sharp at the same time. I found the Play 5 impossible to listen to for more than a few minutes. Tried Trueplay, manual eq adjustment, different placement… the lot. Very fatiguing sound.

The Soundbase was the worst with piercing treble requiring a drastic manual EQ adjustment. Unfortunately such drastic tweaking (treble all the way down) tended to degrade adjacent frequencies resulting in what I felt was a ‘hollow’ sound.

The Bluesound Pulse 2 on the other hand sounds much much much better even without the feature of trueplay. It just needs a bit of space otherwise it also can get a bit boomy (nowhere near the Sonos 5 though). The bass reduction via the EQ seemed to help a lot. The sound is detailed (vocals) and relatively warm overall. Very comfy pleasant listen.

The Sonos One sounds quite boomy and veiled but also distorts (bass popping) from 50% volume upwards. This is especially so when Trueplay is engaged. A problem regularly reported in the sonos forums.

The Pulse Flex to my ears sounds quite warm and without dynamics, especially at normal listening volumes. Quite boomy as well but the manual EQ can address this. No dynamics unfortunately but good with vocals.

The sonos app is amazing and the spotify integration is superb. In contrast I found the BlueOS app to be frustrating and badly designed with bugs. Despite indexing my iTunes music a number of times, playlists never worked and Bluesond recognised this as a problem pending fix.

I was considering sticking with the bluesound speakers but I became frustrated with the syncronisation issues (when in multiroom playback via Roon). I ended up selling both systems in the end.

There is always subjectivity with these things and one person’s clean sound is another person’s sibilant / harsh… but I have to disagree with the digital trends review’s assertion that Bluesound speakers have a ‘flat’ frequency response. It is just a different tuning but my sound analyser (and my ears) definitely found a warm (slightly emphasised) bass. Proper placement (lots of space behind the speaker) somewhat addresses this but I doubt this will be the typical placement in an average home.

Hope this helps a bit :slight_smile:


(David Toole) #11

Rianvdm, Indeed, the Node 2 is not a speaker. But the review and this discussion are focussed on speakers. The Sonos Connect is not a speaker, either, but that has nothing to do with this discussion.


#12

This is a great point.

If we are talking DAC vs DAC, both using RCA out, then I can chirp in here and say that Bluesound was better to my ears in a week long taste-test in my home. Wifey agreed.

When it comes to speakers, I can comment less. I rented a ski-house that was all decked out in Sonos speakers and I must say I was very impressed with a Sonos soundbar + 2 Sonos Ones for movies and music. Warm is definitely a word I would use to describe it and detailed is definitely how I’d describe my Pulse Mini 2… so while I haven’t done a side by side of the speakers, I can’t completely disagree with the article.

But if we’re talking the guts of the DAC & streaming capabilities, to me it’s Bluesound hands down. And that being the case, then I’ll stick with Bluesound speakers too, since I wouldn’t want/need a 2nd ecosystem in my house for the few rooms where I limit myself to a single box solution.


(Paul Williams) #13

A little bit off topic.

I also used to use a Bluesound Node 2 for digital connection to my Devialet - due to the instability of Devialet Air. The sound quality is good. However, since the implementation of Roon Air - I now use that rather than the Bluesound Node 2. I find the sound via Roon Air seems to have more air and space than the when listening through the Bluesound Node 2. I now only use the Bluesound Node 2 as a means of streaming Qobuz to my Devialet - and come Qobuz integration with Roon, I will not need it for that. (Of course, its use for listening to MQA files is another matter)


(Hugo) #14

@Yiannis_Kouropalatis great insights but what did you move to? Love to know where you went after dropping sonos and blusound.

Thanks


#15

I heard my first Sonos speakers properly at my mates over the Christmas period he had two ones connected in stereo. All I can say is he can keep them. Bloody awful. They did pack a surprising amount of bass for a small thing but they are just harsh overall with no clarity or depth especially at volume. Fine as a background listening solution not at volume but as a full hifi replacement god no. Made me sad too as he has my old Rotel Amp, cd and Monitor Audio Silvers I sold homes 8 years ago which are so far ahead in terms of sq it breaks my :heartbeat:.


(Yiannis Kouropalatis) #16

Hi @Hugo_Sharp :slight_smile: After returning my Node 2i and Flex 2i I am very much stuck.

I am left with a mix of Allo products, a pc and a few Sonos units. I had previously sold most of my Sonos but kept a play one and my 2 connects as a backup. I actually agree with @CrystalGipsy. I also find many Sonos products sounding bright (upper treble) and harsh. They are set to sound super boomy by default but I can tune them (reduce treble by 3 clicks and bass by 4 clicks) to get them sounding ok. Just ok though. Even the Sonos Connect (when using internal dac) needed some adjustment surprisingly as it also sounded a bit forward and bright. When the connect is used with an external dac it is great. No adjustment worked on the Play 5 when I briefly tested it. Far too boomy (huge boomy bass) and harsh to my ears unfortunately (bright / very strong cymbals in relation to the rest of the sound).

I play music in low volumes at multiple rooms daily (like to walk around the house with music following me) so I still need the multi room stability and ease of use. I mostly use Roon but it could not completely replace the Sonos multi room convenience and ease of use (need Spotify and my family somehow find Roon difficult to use).

So at the moment I am a bit stuck with two systems (Roon and Sonos) and a mixture of devices around the house. I think I will stick to that (mess) as I find no alternative for the time being. In the future, I will either find a way to get Roon to do everything and I will keep an eye on Bluesound as it is the only potential full replacement. I get the feeling it will take them a very long time to get to the point where I can use it reliably.


(Hugo) #17

Thanks @Yiannis_Kouropalatis. I have the same, my gf is not into Roon but loves Spotify. Though more about the ease of press and play. The ‘good’ setup using Roon is a bit fiddly so I get it. Thanks for the insights.


(Yiannis Kouropalatis) #18

@Hugo_Sharp, exactly the same situation :slight_smile: Sonos is the easy ‘press play’ and enjoy Spotify all over the house. Roon for more serious listening.
It just means that I end up with multiple (little) boxes, cables and psus for my main setup: Amp + Dac + Sonos connect + AVR + Allo Digi one + Apple TV, 2 remotes
I just wish I had all that in a single box without sacrificing ease of use, sound quality and system stability.
Cheers


(Hugo) #19

I’ve conceded the TV/lounge setup form separates to a Naim Atom. Have to say it’s really quite good. One touch for the gf but powerful enough for TV and stereo duties on a higher level too. I do still feed directly to it from a server direct connection when i want even better listening but it’s just too good and useful to move away from for now.


(Yiannis Kouropalatis) #20

The naim atom is truly excellent! I had an extensive listen a few months ago and it is amazing.

Do you use a Sonos connect with the Naim or just on its own?