What hardware as alternative to Sonos?

I have a number of music zones around my house that consist of ceiling speakers (currently served by an old Nuvo system). I’ve considered installing Sonos amps to drive these zones, but have now been bowled over by Roon.

Is there any hardware around that can serve as an endpoint for Roon to drive the ceiling speakers? Ultimate sound quality isn’t an issue here - they’re decent ceiling speakers, but really only for background music. I’ve ordered an MS200 for my serious listening on my main rig. Since there are a number of zones, I would like endpoints to automatically go into a standby mode when not in use, like the Sonos devices do, to save power usage.

One alternative may be to use Sonos devices (that way I can still use Pandora), and play with Airsonos to turn Sonos zones into AirPlay devices that Roon can see. Bit of a cludge though…

All ideas gratefully accepted!

Would this work?

HiFi Berry Amp+

Interesting thought, with the Pi presumably running RoonBridge. Negatives would be fairly low power output and presumably it’s constantly running, with no standby mode. Always like to save power when possible, and I’d need to run a few of these…

With so many variables like speaker efficiency, space, music preferences I don’t think it’s possible to know if 25Watts of power is enough or not. Ceiling speakers generally don’t have large drivers so you may be surprised.

Here are some power usage number I found by doing a search
CONNECT:AMP – 6.2 Watts Idle
Raspberry Pi 2 B – 2.1 Watts Idle + unknown idle power usage of AMP+ card
My Connect (non AMP version) is warm to the touch even when idle.

If you plan on going wireless buy the Sonos. I have never seen another system that works as well. If you have ethernet connections available try the Raspberry. You could save a lot of money over multiple Connects and my Raspberry sounds way way better than the Connect.

Thanks. What do you run on your Pi for use with Roon, and what does it output to? I have all Ethernet, although Sonos is still a little tempting because of other integrations, like Pandora.

I followed the directions given on roonlabs, Linux Install. Currently I’m connectd to an Explorer2 via USB. I have a DIG+ card I’m going to try this weekend.

Don’t let me talk you out of Sonos. I recommend it to my friends.

Hmmm…very tempting. I’ll have a think. I’ll try Airsonos soon to see how that goes too. Thanks very much for your input.

Hi Stephen,

I owned a Sonos system for about a month before upgrading to Bluesound. The hardware for Bluesound is much better (in my and most opinions) as the internal DAC and AMPs are higher quality (made by same company as NAD & PSB). I have the Bluesound Powernode2 (amp) powering some Russound in-ceiling speakers and they have NEVER sounded better.

It would be perfect for your solution but it does not (yet) support RoonReady. I would still recommend it over SONOS though as they have at least confirmed they are looking at supporting RoonReady. It also supports Pandora and a host of other streaming services.

The other nice thing about it is that you can hook up anything else to it by analog or digital inputs, so for example an Android phone as an endpoint could allow you to use Roon as a “source” on the Bluesound system and then group/distribute from there. It’s clunky, but i) fingers crossed for Roonready soon, ii) better hardware than Sonos and iii) you can use digital in from your endpoint, allowing you to use the Bluesound DAC and not the cheap Android DAC.

I’m not sure that I understand this, but there is one feature of Sonos that maybe is what you are referring to and I wonder if Bluesound has: the ability to connect another device either analog or bluetooth and then use that device as a source on other units in the network. Can Bluesound do that (I know not with Roon)?

Yes, I have looked at Bluesound and it looks good. I do read that its apps/UI are not yet quite as refined as Sonos. I guess it should be better than Sonos, because the Powernode 2 seems to be twice the price of a Connect:Amp. Not sure I need the extra quality for the background listening zones I have. But Roon integration sure would be nice! I can Airport Express into one (or more) Sonos units to get Roon support, but, as you say, it is a bit clunky doing things that way.

Oh, and just found out - no Pandora on Bluesound :disappointed:

Hi Robert,

Yes I was referring to the “line in” feature of Sonos/Bluesound, which can then be sent over the network.

I meant to make a few points:

  1. bluesound gives the option of both analog AND digital inputs, Sonos only analog
    2). Through the digital input on bluesound you can have (and then stream) 24/192 hires files vs only 16/44.1 CD quality on Sonos
  2. dac on bluesound and amp on bluesound were sourced much more frequently and with quality in mind… There is no question the sound quality is better.
  3. right now, both Sonos and bluesound are struggling with user interface. Sonos is better imo, but neither are roon. At least bluesound has indicated they are thinking about roon. To my knowledge this is not true of sonos… So if you are stuck feeding your Roon-PC into your multi-room streamer, see point 2 above

Hi Stephen,

See my comments to Robert. I initially switched from Sonos to Bluesound due to the quality of the hardware. In comparison to Roon, both software don’t compete, but at least I can hope for Bluesound to become roonready.

Not sure where you live, but in the US you are looking at $500 vs $800 for the respective amps… Not quite double and street price may vary

In Australia, $726 vs $1,599. Go figure! If I can get Airsonos working, I think Sonos gives the best of both worlds (well, the compromise of both worlds anyway). Direct play via Roon to any Sonos zone (with grouping) as well as Sonos streaming, Roon directly to my main rig for the serious listening, and Pandora support. So many options to think about though. Bluesound with Roon highly desirable, if they can get Pandora in there too. I also have an Apple Music family subscription which Sonos supports, and it sounds like Bluesound might be trying to implement this too.

Thanks so much for your ideas…

Interested in Bluesound for a beginner friend currently using Spotify only – want to get him started on the straight and narrow. So please confirm if my thinking is correct: install regular Bluesound setup, then in the future hook up a Roon system to Bluesound, and you use the Bluesound UI to select Roon as a source, then Roon to choose music. Any problems with that?

Not too clunky. In most systems, I have to select input and maybe control volume in the audio system, then navigate with Roon. Just like for TV, I have to select source and then use TiVo to navigate content.

Using BluOS to select the “Roon” input source should be fine. I had a few issues doing this some months ago… I was having audio syncing issues between rooms but I think it was because I had actually hooked it up: RoonPC --> SPDIF --> Peachtree Amp --> Analog Outs --> Bluesound Aux In… which sorta makes sense since I was trying to have the original PC output and the Bluesound output sync’d. I imagine playing on two bluesound devices they would be sync’d but both would be delayed from the original source.

You shouldn’t have this issue if you hook the PC/Mac directly to Bluesound without the 3rd party Amp in the middle. (for a couple of reasons I didn’t want to do this)

The only thing though is that you may not get volume control on the Roon OS, since it is just outputting a digital stream?.. and would need to control volume using the BluOS.

fyi, I wrote up something quick about airsonos here:

Thanks Danny. I had a play with Airsonos and it did seem to work fine. I’m not sure how important the quality degradation is when you’re just streaming to table-top speakers. The lag is a bit of a pain - pause and play take a second or two to take effect. I didn’t have the chance to see what happened when you grouped multiple Airsonos zones together. Could well work fine.

I’ve been using AirSonos quite a bit too. I would like to see some similar functionality built-in to Roon. Of course I prefer the Roon UI to the Sonos UI but streaming flac direct in Sonos clearly sounds better, even in my cheap Office ceiling speakers.