In the decade since Sonos first launched its now lauded wireless music system, the entire audio market has gone topsy-turvy: The music industry collapsed, the iPod became ubiquitous, and iPod/iPhone speaker docks replaced stereo components as the standard (oh and some dot-bomb thing happened…). Yes, there have been many pretenders to the throne, but no company has been able to even approach the comprehensive, plug-and-play perfection of Sonos. Now the company has introduced its first subwoofer to the mix (dubbed the Sub), bringing bone-rattling bass to your living room.
Without going too deeply into the details, Sonos’s wireless audio system lets you wirelessly connect either amp units with wired speakers, or wireless self-amped speaker units as a proprietary “mesh” network, sort of like WiFi. Then, depending on how many units you have and how they’re distributed, you can play lossless (very high quality) audio from virtually any source – your PC, iTunes, internet audio apps like Pandora or radio stations, your TV, whatever – in any room where you have a Sonos device. So, you might put on one song in your kitchen, and a different one in the basement, and another one in the garage, or have all three playing the same thing at the same time. You control the whole network using an iPod/iPad or Android app, or a dedicated Sonos-branded touchpad controller. Its claim to fame is that the whole system works beautifully, easily, and consistently. It’s just well-designed hardware and software that only seems to get better every year.
Unlike most sub units, which are meant to be heard and never seen, Sonos evidently spent time crafting its latest entry, a 16-inch-high, glossy black, square-sided O. It’s a pretty object (but it apparently works just as well laid on its side and tucked away, if need be). There is a single button on the side, which you press to have it pair with your Sonos network. Housed inside the two vertical sides are a pair of amps with drivers facing each other across the center of the O. That sounds odd, and in our experience, it is, but it’s a technological flourish put to clever effect: The two drivers counteract each other to neutralize any shifting or stressing of the cabinet, so you don’t get buzz or rattle at any volume. On the bottom, there is a power jack and an Ethernet port along with L-shaped feet.
In action, the Sub is sonic-boom-in-your-face powerful – yet without ever getting muddy or distorted. Setup is idiot-proof, and involves accessing a desktop or tablet/phone app and hitting that sole button on the Sub’s side. You’re then taken through a brief calibration, which will pair it to the speakers you want and also have it automatically adjust to the sonic signature of your room (a fantastically helpful feature we wish you could get with sofas and coffee tables). Coupled with a single or pair of Sonos amplified speakers like the Play 5 (which has five drivers built in) and you have a markedly richer, more immersive audio experience, which is the whole point with a subwoofer.
If you already have a Sonos system, or are in the market for a wireless audio system, then the Sub is a seemingly flawless addition to a nearly foolproof setup. Our only caveat is that the price, at $700, is steep, much less for a proprietary speaker that can only be used with a Sonos system (it has no audio jacks). Still if you’ve chugged the Sonos Kool Aid, as so many of their deliriously happy customers have, then the addition of a Sub to the mix couldn’t sound any sweeter. [$699; sonos.com]