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Sonos Amp review: A jack of (almost) all trades

By The Count - 8 Dec 2019

Setup, performance & conclusion

Setup and installation

Let us be very clear: The Sonos Amp is not your typical home theatre receiver. Yes, you can connect it to (and control) your TV via HDMI-ARC; this lets you automatically switch to TV audio when required, as well as control volume using your TV’s original remote. However, you only get that single HDMI connector, so you’ll need a TV that sports multiple HDMI inputs should you want to also hook up sources like your gaming consoles or Blu-ray players. If anything, the Amp is intended to be a simple drop-in solution for your home theatre setup, so if you’re looking for greater flexibility, you’d be better off getting a dedicated receiver anyway.

Installation-wise, setting up the Sonos Amp is as simple as hooking it up to your speakers and TV, and turning on the device. Connecting the Amp to your existing network, more so if you already have Sonos gear, is equally simple. Pro-tip: The box comes with a bunch of banana plugs, and these make it so much simpler to hook up (or to disconnect) speakers.

A look at the various connectors behind the Sonos Amp. Our only gripe is that it only has a single HDMI port.

Much like the existing Sonos Beam and Playbar offerings, the Amp lets you add on an additional pair of Sonos wireless speakers (the Sonos One, for example), to be used as surround channels. Of course, if you have extra money to burn, you could spring for an additional Amp to power another pair of wired hi-fi speakers. You can also add a subwoofer of your choice, or the wireless Sonos Sub, for the low frequencies. What you cannot do is add a dedicated centre channel, though the Amp does a pretty good job of creating a virtual centre channel when watching movies and TV shows.

For the Sonos die-hards, the Amp lacks one feature that you might probably take for granted: Trueplay. Essentially Sonos’ proprietary room calibration function that works with their existing wireless speakers, the Amp is conspicuously missing that feature as Sonos says that calibration for the room cannot be done if they don’t know what speakers you’re using.

 

Performance

The Sonos Amp provides up to 125W of drive per channel.

Sonos claims that the Amp can drive 125 watts per channel; in our case, we used a pair of Wharfedale Diamond 9 floorstanders.

First off, we’re no hardcore audiophiles, but when it comes to music or video playback, the Amp drove the pair of floorstanders with ease.

For music, you may need to dial up the volume a little to be able to get clearer instrument and vocal separation; things do come across a little muddy at the mid-to-low volume range.

For movies, the phantom center channel worked well with clear dialogue; having a dedicated center channel would obviously be the best, but if a pair of floorstanders are all you have, these do the job fairly well.

Vents in the bottom draw cool air in. Hot air is vented through the top.

Bottom line, the Amp performed reasonably well, and in fact, pretty much on-par with the mid-range Onkyo AV receiver that it took the place of. Even in the confines of a TV console, the Amp didn’t get all that hot. The Amp’s enclosure is designed to draw cool air in from the bottom, and vent hot air out from the top; this appeared to work reasonably well to keep the Class D amplifiers within nice and cool, though it’s always good sense to ensure good ventilation surrounding all your home theatre equipment.

 

Final thoughts

Having made their name in multi-room audio, Sonos is quite literally going back to their roots with the Sonos Amp.

Simply put, the Sonos Amp basically takes what made products like the original ZonePlayer 100 and the subsequent Connect:Amp so compelling i.e. the ability to hook up a selection of whatever hi-fi speakers you may have on hand, and brings the functionality up a notch, or three.

There are very specific limitations to the Amp that you need to remember, such as being limited to 4.1-channel sound at best, with no support whatsoever for newer standards like Dolby Atmos, and not to mention a distinct lack of HDMI ports.

If you already have Sonos hardware and you want the same experience with your passive speakers, the Sonos Amp is a worthwhile investment.

However, the wide support for streaming services makes it so much easier to get great audio in every room of your house (presuming you’ve also invested in a couple of Sonos speakers and a streaming service, of course).

The design of the Amp makes it more of a visual fit for your home hi-fi racks, and if you need to power speakers running throughout your house, users can stack a couple of Amps on top of one another; think custom installations made much simpler.

The Amp is clearly not for everyone, but if you’re in the market for something that lets you build on your existing multi-room audio setup (especially if it's from Sonos), something that’s also a great example of engineering done right, and super easy to install and set up, you need not look any further.

The Sonos Amp is priced at S$1,099 and is available from Lazada and TC Acoustic.