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Sonos Port

scene

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Sep 25, 2008
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Sigh. Bit disappointing to read this review.

I've got three Connects and have found them a great way to get streaming music & internet radio to my AV & HiFi systems. The new Ports sound like Sonos have gone "meh" - we need to provide an upgrade path for the existing users, but they're not our core market...

I really think it's time to look at Bluesound or Audio Pro

Actually: Can WHF do a head-to-head on Bluesound/Audio Pro/Sonos...
 

jacobmorrison

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2009
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Wait, so the sound quality issues with the Port aren't primarily down to the DAC or analogue circuitry but with it's ability to handle ones and zeroes in the digital domain? Doesn't this turn all science and audiophile orthodoxy on its head? I shouldn't surprised I suppose, this from the magazine that can "see" differences in HDMI cables.

I've upgraded a Connect to a Port just to take advantage of the trade in deal and looking ahead to future Sonos support for "high res" audio. Sound quality wise the two were very similar. The Port doesn't get hot, the analogue output is surprisingly good against the Musical Fidelity MX DAC I have connected to it, and via this DAC the sound quality is superb, teeming with detail with a wide sound stage. Of course the Sonos OS remains excellent.

Ludicrous to recommend a Sonos Amp over the Port to integrate Sonos into an existing hifi. Presumably this is the new 4* reviewed Sonos Amp with the same digital circuitry as the Port, which contains an amplification stage that you wouldn't use as you'd be integrating with an existing setup, and you'd be paying £200 extra for?

Sigh....
 

scene

Moderator
Sep 25, 2008
778
174
19,070
Wait, so the sound quality issues with the Port aren't primarily down to the DAC or analogue circuitry but with it's ability to handle ones and zeroes in the digital domain? Doesn't this turn all science and audiophile orthodoxy on its head? I shouldn't surprised I suppose, this from the magazine that can "see" differences in HDMI cables.

I've upgraded a Connect to a Port just to take advantage of the trade in deal and looking ahead to future Sonos support for "high res" audio. Sound quality wise the two were very similar. The Port doesn't get hot, the analogue output is surprisingly good against the Musical Fidelity MX DAC I have connected to it, and via this DAC the sound quality is superb, teeming with detail with a wide sound stage. Of course the Sonos OS remains excellent.

Ludicrous to recommend a Sonos Amp over the Port to integrate Sonos into an existing hifi. Presumably this is the new 4* reviewed Sonos Amp with the same digital circuitry as the Port, which contains an amplification stage that you wouldn't use as you'd be integrating with an existing setup, and you'd be paying £200 extra for?

Sigh....
So the Port is an OK piece of kit in your opinion - better than the mediocre review WHF have given it?
 

jacobmorrison

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2009
47
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So the Port is an OK piece of kit in your opinion - better than the mediocre review WHF have given it?
Yes it's good. If you already have sonos in your house and want what this device offers, ignore this review (which is the first time in many, many years reading this magazine I've ever been prompted to say this).
 

Darwinia

Member
Mar 20, 2020
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0
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Wait, so the sound quality issues with the Port aren't primarily down to the DAC or analogue circuitry but with it's ability to handle ones and zeroes in the digital domain? Doesn't this turn all science and audiophile orthodoxy on its head? I shouldn't surprised I suppose, this from the magazine that can "see" differences in HDMI cables.
I've upgraded a Connect to a Port just to take advantage of the trade in deal and looking ahead to future Sonos support for "high res" audio. Sound quality wise the two were very similar. The Port doesn't get hot, the analogue output is surprisingly good against the Musical Fidelity MX DAC I have connected to it, and via this DAC the sound quality is superb, teeming with detail with a wide sound stage. Of course the Sonos OS remains excellent.
Ludicrous to recommend a Sonos Amp over the Port to integrate Sonos into an existing hifi. Presumably this is the new 4* reviewed Sonos Amp with the same digital circuitry as the Port, which contains an amplification stage that you wouldn't use as you'd be integrating with an existing setup, and you'd be paying £200 extra for?
Sigh....
You really need to read this review again instead of mischaracterizing it to defend something you have paid for.
For one they did not say what you claim they said about the Amp.
The Connected very poor and dated sound quality so saying the Port is as good isn't saying much.
$450 for the Port is also an idiotic price for what it is.
 

jacobmorrison

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2009
47
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You really need to read this review again instead of mischaracterizing it to defend something you have paid for.
For one they did not say what you claim they said about the Amp.
The Connected very poor and dated sound quality so saying the Port is as good isn't saying much.
$450 for the Port is also an idiotic price for what it is.
"If you are set on incorporating your hi-fi system in a Sonos multi-room set-up, we’d recommend spending a little more on the four-star Sonos Amp. While it isn’t perfect, it is more accomplished, whether or not you ever make use of its added features. "

How have I mischaracterized this quotation? If you want to add to your Sonos network and keep your current hifi they have recommended spending an extra £200 for what is the same device with an amplication stage that you wouldn't use.
 

jacobmorrison

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2009
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Also, given that the Sonos Amp has no digital output or tape output that could connect to an existing hi-fi system, it cannot be connected to an existing hifi system without replacing your current amplifier. WhatHiFi should make this clear.
 

scene

Moderator
Sep 25, 2008
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"If you are set on incorporating your hi-fi system in a Sonos multi-room set-up, we’d recommend spending a little more on the four-star Sonos Amp. While it isn’t perfect, it is more accomplished, whether or not you ever make use of its added features. "

How have I mischaracterized this quotation? If you want to add to your Sonos network and keep your current hifi they have recommended spending an extra £200 for what is the same device with an amplication stage that you wouldn't use.
Agree - what's the point of buying an Amp to plug into an amp?

Are WHF saying that the Amp's line out / digital out is better than the one on the Port?
I'd be surprised if the two didn't have nigh on identical electronics apart from the amplification stage...

And has jm said "given that the Sonos Amp has no digital output or tape output that could connect to an existing hi-fi system" it would be a complete chocolate tea pot for plugging in to my existing amp.

If the Port will support Hi-Res sound with the S2 update, it's got to be better than the Connect - I can plug the hi-res digital output into my Marantz (say) and use its excellent DAC...
 

Bialykot

Well-known member
Feb 4, 2010
5
0
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Oh blimey. Digits aren’t digits anymore. Perhaps it would ‘sound better’ with $10k cables attached (but only if they’re advertised in WHF).
 

BenLaw

Well-known member
Nov 21, 2010
475
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I’ve always thought ‘timing’ is one of the more nebulous and ambiguous words used by whathifi reviews. Even when I’ve tried to get my head round it, I’ve never understood it to mean that a 4/4 beat is ‘out of time’, as this review suggests. How would that even be technically possible?
 

EnriqueC

Member
Mar 21, 2020
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0
20
On the west side of the Atlantic, this review sounds like a bunch of Bla, Bla, Bla....
A Port using the Digital output to Decent DAC with a Decent Amp & Speaker + TIDAL Service, sounds equal or BETTER than Bluesound with a MUCH BETTER & RELIABLE user interface.
BTW it will also sound WAY better than the SONOS AMP
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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Wait, so the sound quality issues with the Port aren't primarily down to the DAC or analogue circuitry but with it's ability to handle ones and zeroes in the digital domain? Doesn't this turn all science and audiophile orthodoxy on its head? I shouldn't surprised I suppose, this from the magazine that can "see" differences in HDMI cables.

I've upgraded a Connect to a Port just to take advantage of the trade in deal and looking ahead to future Sonos support for "high res" audio. Sound quality wise the two were very similar. The Port doesn't get hot, the analogue output is surprisingly good against the Musical Fidelity MX DAC I have connected to it, and via this DAC the sound quality is superb, teeming with detail with a wide sound stage. Of course the Sonos OS remains excellent.

Ludicrous to recommend a Sonos Amp over the Port to integrate Sonos into an existing hifi. Presumably this is the new 4* reviewed Sonos Amp with the same digital circuitry as the Port, which contains an amplification stage that you wouldn't use as you'd be integrating with an existing setup, and you'd be paying £200 extra for?

Sigh....
There are many things that can affect sound quality besides just the DAC. Power supply, circuitry isolation etc. If any of these come short jitter, among other things, will come into play and affect those digits.

So nothing WHF has stated turns knowledge on its head. BTW, many have stated that adding a DAC to the previous Connect could also only do so much for the sound.
 

Dave Gypsum

Member
Mar 27, 2020
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There are many things that can affect sound quality besides just the DAC. Power supply, circuitry isolation etc. If any of these come short jitter, among other things, will come into play and affect those digits.

So nothing WHF has stated turns knowledge on its head. BTW, many have stated that adding a DAC to the previous Connect could also only do so much for the sound.
So you are saying that the stream of 1s and 0s that come out of the digital output of this box are somehow inferior?
How does that work then?
 

Biggles1999

Member
Apr 18, 2020
1
0
20
Have upgraded or if you prefer replaced a Gen 1 Connect with a SONOS Port and I am using digital out to DAC with Qobuz/Deezer FLAC and honestly I can't (with my ears) distinguish any differences. Maybe slightly better overall detail, but could be placebo affect. But not experiencing any of the negatives described by WhatHifi. Pleased with the replacement at 30% discount and the future upgrade path it will offer when S2 is released.
 

russelk

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Jun 5, 2016
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I’ve always thought ‘timing’ is one of the more nebulous and ambiguous words used by whathifi reviews. Even when I’ve tried to get my head round it, I’ve never understood it to mean that a 4/4 beat is ‘out of time’, as this review suggests. How would that even be technically possible?
You can add "subtlety" to that list of ambiguous words as well. What Hi-Fi reviews are basically just a load of waffle. Meaningless. I take ALL hi-fi reviews with a pinch of salt nowadays, but you definitely need a bigger pinch with WHF. I find Hi-Fi Choice reviews give a better idea of how a product actually sounds.
 

jacobmorrison

Well-known member
Feb 6, 2009
47
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18,545
HiFi Choice have reviewed a Limetree Bridge transport. From their opening paragraph on sound quality:
"As with any streaming transport, the performance of the Limetree Bridge is largely defined by the components it is connected to"
So plug a Sonos Port into a decent DAC and stop worrying that the Port is affecting the sound quality in any noticeable way.
 
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manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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HiFi Choice have reviewed a Limetree Bridge transport. From their opening paragraph on sound quality:
"As with any streaming transport, the performance of the Limetree Bridge is largely defined by the components it is connected to"
So plug a Sonos Port into a decent DAC and stop worrying that the Port is affecting the sound quality in any noticeable way.
If one has an existing DAC fine, but if you have to add the cost of one on top of the Port, then you need a serious rethink as then you’re playing with the big boys at around 800 quid total.
 

brotherharry

Well-known member
Dec 2, 2007
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I've got a port vs connect thread running over on the Sonos forum after spending a couple of days back to back testing them. Short answer, I'm convinced I heard differences between the two units. I only tested the digital coax connections, running the two Sonos boxes into an Arcam AVR450. So far my working theories for explaining what I experienced are:
  1. There aren't differences, I'm imagining it.
  2. There are hardware differences between the Port and Connect that can affect what I hear
  3. There are software differences between the Port and Connect that can affect what I hear
  4. There are hardware differences between the input channels I used that can affect what I hear
  5. There are software differences between the input channels I used that can affect what I hear
For 1, we're in the realms of neuroscience, psychology and sensory processing if the differences I heard where confected. I was listening really carefully, a lot, with both speakers and headphones. I want the Port to be better because it's newer, future proofed etc.

For 2+3, there's a few points in the chain where there could be differences. I'm picturing a bunch of 'black box' stages here. E.g. the source FLAC file is the same, streamed over ethernet cables to the boxes. Each box has to accept that stream, process/convert it from source(?), then package the result in some way be output to the coax send stage, then transmited down the cable. Seems like there's 4 stages there that could have objective differences? Is this where the magic of jitter comes in?

For 4+5 have put in a request to Arcam support to clarify. I'm going to repeat my testing, swapping the input channels to see what difference that makes. I'm also going to try using the same physical input channel, but hot-swapping the connection between the boxes.

Any other theories that might explain why the two boxes sound different?
 

brotherharry

Well-known member
Dec 2, 2007
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Update: I’m swinging back to neutral/minimal difference between the Port and Connect (at least over digital connection).

Arcam confirmed there’s no practical difference in hardware of software between the two inputs I was using which ruled out theory 4+5. I tried repeating my test protocol, swapping the input channels I was using to rule out minor differences. That second phase of testing was much less convincing. I swapped back and went a third round and found myself much less able to discern material differences.

Whilst I think that there must be generational differences between the units that may affect timing, clock or jitter, I’m less convinced after a week’s worth of listening that it’s practically discernible. I also twigged that there’s one more variable, the Connect is plugged into a mains conditioner/anti-surge power strip whereas for test setup, I’d just plugged the Port into a spare wall socket. I’m not opening up that can of worms, but it's another factor.
 
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Big Aura

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Oct 13, 2008
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Thanks for that BH.
I have a Connect going into an Arcam SA20 using the DAC in the Arcam. I would like to move to a Port for the upgrade to Amazon SuperDuper HD streaming, but am a bit hesitant. Any thoughts on the difference between 16-bit/44.1 kHz via connect and the "better" quality streaming options.
 

KevH

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Jun 16, 2008
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So you are saying that the stream of 1s and 0s that come out of the digital output of this box are somehow inferior?
How does that work then?
Well - you would think that an exact digital copy would sound the same as another exact digital copy, however there is such a thing as "jitter"! Now I didn't believe it until I heard it myself - different digital sources really do sound different (mind blown)!
So what's going on that two exact digital copies sound so different? Well when the 1 and 0s are transmitted there is something else to take into account and that is the timing that the 1s and 0s hit the DAC. Now, I know what you are thinking - there is no way the human ear is sensitive to the tiny variation in the time it takes for the 1 or 0 to make a sound!
But actually -as I understand it - there's more to it than that. So when way back when the proto-DACs of today were being designed the sound engineers in their infinite wisdom (and I suspect lack of education in the ways of digital) decided that un-clocked DACs sounded better than clocked DACs.
So because all modern DACs are delta-sigma designs, that means that every 1 and 0 has to be converted into a series of pulses which are then converted into audio using filters. However because there is no clock syncing going on between your DAC and source, if your DAC is busy generating pulses and suddenly - unexpectedly it get's another 1 or 0 ,instead of waiting (because that's the sensible thing to do) it instead abandons making pulses and instead makes a start on making pulses for the next number.
As a result the clocks at both end need to be ridiculously well timed to prevent the pulses being cut short and effectively compressing your audio wave.
In theory modern re-clocking DACs like the Chord should fix this problem, but even with my Chord DAC I can hear differences so - not convinced.
** I am no expert and this is just my understanding - so feel free to shoot me down in flames **
 

scene

Moderator
Sep 25, 2008
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Thanks for that BH.
I have a Connect going into an Arcam SA20 using the DAC in the Arcam. I would like to move to a Port for the upgrade to Amazon SuperDuper HD streaming, but am a bit hesitant. Any thoughts on the difference between 16-bit/44.1 kHz via connect and the "better" quality streaming options.
So,: I'm still interested in the Port [and Sonos - I've mostly forgiven them... ;)] and would like to have high-res streaming on my system. Is the Port at least as good as the Connect? Or are their differences in the sound that mean it would be a downgrade (aurally) from the Connect?
 

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