Note: This article was first published on 19th April 2019 and has been expanded to a full review.
As much as Sonos is a company that sells audio solutions, they’ve mostly stopped short of marketing themselves as selling to the audiophile. Instead, we’d argue that the real value that the Sonos brand and its offerings bring to the table is flexibility.
With their new Sonos Amp, this aim for flexibility is taken to new heights, and in many ways, seems aimed perfectly at the home owner of today who is likely technologically savvy to some extent, yet really just wants something that sounds good, and can be set up with a minimum of fuss.
The new Sonos Amp, is the modern-day replacement of the original Sonos Connect:Amp; essentially a compact Sonos-connected amplifier that lets you hook up (and drive) any standard passive speakers. For the most part, the original was intended to enable home owners to be able to get Sonos functionality into the living room without having to sacrifice the existing speakers that many already have.
However, it was the custom integrators who were really driving the use of the Connect:Amp in many interesting and creative ways. This in turn inspired Sonos to finally design and engineer a new streaming amplifier that incorporates features most-requested by the installer community.
To start, more power was needed. The original Connect:Amp only supported 55W per channel; the new Amp takes this all the way up to 125W per channel into an 8 ohm load. Furthermore, it can drive up to four speakers simultaneously.
Installers were also looking to be able to have this new amp drive more speakers in mono, which is ideal for installations where sound coverage mattered more, such as the outdoors. The new Sonos Amp can drive speakers in dual-mono mode, letting you drive speakers embedded into the ceiling, for example.
Most importantly however, installers also asked that this new amp look the part when installed. The Amp is stackable and have dimensions more suited to standard hi-fi racks.
Visually, this looks like nothing else from the Sonos stable of products. The Amp comes only in black, and sports three touch-sensitive buttons in front for controls. This isn’t designed to be the center of attention in your home audio setup, that’s for sure.
At the rear, you’ll find two pairs of speaker terminals, a subwoofer output, two Ethernet sockets, and a stereo analogue input, and an HDMI port:-
Setup-wise, you can create a pair of standard speakers for a 2.0 setup, and then add on a pair of Sonos wireless speakers (like the One) for a touch of surround sound, for a 4.0 system. Add in a wired subwoofer (or the wireless Sonos Sub), and you have a 4.1-channel setup. It must be said that there’s no way to create a 5.1-channel system; Sonos instead creates a phantom center channel through clever audio processing.
Interestingly, if you want your audio setup to be a little more secure, or simply to remove any potential Wi-Fi interference, you can disable wireless access on the Amp, and instead, connect via Ethernet.
Elsewhere, everything you’ve come to expect from the Sonos ecosystem in terms of music streaming services is still there. The Amp doesn’t come with a microphone but will respond to Amazon Alexa voice commands from connected (supported) devices, including the Sonos One. Of course, Sonos says Google Voice support is coming sometime this year. Yes, Apple AirPlay 2 support is included as well.