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A completely spontaneous NON-Photo gear endorsement...

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Ray Sachs, Jan 18, 2014.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I don't know that I've ever made a post like this before, but I've just bought some new sound system gear that has my head spinning. In a GOOD way!

    This is NOT FOR AUDIOPHILES - this is strictly consumer level gear and I'm sure would never satisfy the urges of those looking for the ultimate in high end sound.

    But for anyone who's mostly playing digitized music off of a smart-phone or tablet or via your computer and who just wants a convenient way to have your music where-ever you want it in your house as quickly and easily as possible, and who's sick of having a bunch of stereo components sitting around not really being used....

    It's just a series of wireless speakers made by an outfit called Sonos. They're are three levels from sort of large to quite small, with one nice intermediate size. They also make a TV soundbar and a sub-woofer but I haven't and probably won't try those. But you basically either plug one of the speaker units or a cheap little "bridge" unit directly into your wireless router via an ethernet cable and that first component creates another parallel wi-fi network just for your music. It links up to any of the music on your computer (and/or any other computers on your wireless network) and to Pandora, Spotify, or any other online service you use, as well as giving you access to zillions of streaming radio stations. Then you just stick other speakers anywhere else you want them around your place, take about 2 minutes to connect each to your Sonos wireless network, and then you can play anything you want on any one of or combination of the speakers and control it from ANY of your devices - phone, tablet, computer, whatever. You can play one thing on three or four speakers on the main floor of the house, while someone else plays something else in another room in another part of the house on however many speakers they have there. The individual speakers, other than the smallest, put out sort of stereo sound, although it's from a single source, so it's sort of like boombox stereo, without much separation. But you can combine any two like speakers into a stereo pair if you want true stereo. Or not, if you don't. The flexibility and ease of controlling this system are simply mind-blowing. In a way that I'm sure I'll take for granted within a couple of months, but for now I'm totally tripping on how cool the whole setup is.

    The system is not totally without it's hiccups - it can have trouble with some routers. And Macs are evidently somewhat reticent about sharing their musical libraries. I had to spend an hour or so on the phone with the tech support folks to get both my iTunes library and my wife's to both sync up to the system. But once those initial wrinkles were ironed out within the first couple of days, the thing has been seamless and and an absolute joy to have around the house. Oh, and if you have some really nice speakers and a really nice amp to play them through, you can also buy a component to hook that setup into your Sonos system - we had a few not terribly great speakers around the house that we also got rid of and the Sonos speakers are at least as good as any of the non-audiophile gear I've owned through the years.

    This is one of those developments that's just made my head spin. I believe both Bose and Samsung have somewhat similar competing products (although I think they rely totally on your existing wi-fi network instead of creating a separate one, which should have both upsides and downsides). But I recycled my receiver and CD changer and speakers and a few freestanding radios around the house and I'm just wondering how long it's gonna take me to get rid of my whole CD collection.

    I have absolutely no connection with this company and I don't necessarily endorse this system over the competing ones - I'm just an immensely satisfied user. Seems like yet another digital era game changer of the digital era we're living in these days. But one I'm enjoying immensely!

    -Ray
     
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  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Thanks for the reminder to check this out, Ray. I gave up the audiophile pursuit years ago when I got the point of diminishing returns. We hard wired in a whole home audio solution around 10 years ago and it served us well, but we're in the midst of buying a house and we'll be selling the house "wired" since the basement theater may be a selling point and we won't have a good spot for the projector in the new one. My local "high end" audio shop is run by a couple guys who enjoy great sound, but are MORE into the music (rare in the audiophile arena) and they have endorsed and sell the Sonos system since day one. I think maybe that will be a good setup for the new house. I'll look into it a bit more.
     
  3. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    We're getting ready to redo the entire main floor of our condo, including eliminating the wall the current speakers were on and the furniture that holds (err, HELD) our stereo gear. That was the impetus for me to look into this too. And in reality all I'd been doing was plugging my iphone into the auxiliary plugs on our receiver when we wanted to listen in the living room. And pretty much on our computers or just with a little blue-tooth speaker if we were anywhere else in the house. The Sonos gear makes it all so frickin' easy and we've got almost the whole house covered with four speakers. When the rehab is done, we'll probably add one and make a stereo pair in the main room, but that's about it. The combination of this gear and Spotify seems to be inspiring me to get back into music again in a way I hadn't been in a while. Like the Kindle somehow did for upping the amount I was reading.

    This seems sort of counter to your line of work though, selling LPs and CDs (or is it just LPs?). But I frankly don't know how you can make a living in that anymore, unless you're incredibly specialized in an area that you just can't get anywhere else. Spotify doesn't have all of the old obscure stuff I love (although it surprisingly has a hell of a lot of it), but I already own most of that stuff in digital format, and for new stuff, I'm better off not buying new albums because I won't listen to them enough to justify the cost or ongoing digital storage. I feel for folks like you and the friends who run our little local CD store. They're mostly selling tee-shirts and other novelties now, as well as CDs, but I can't imagine CDs are gonna be viable that much longer. I'm sure you've worked out a business model for staying relevant in this business going forward in ways that I'd never think of, but all of my behaviors, despite my best intentions, run counter to what you do.

    Anyway, it's a really cool system. I hope you work it out in your new house and I hope it's not just another nail in the coffin of actual music storefronts like yours...

    -Ray
     
  4. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Don't worry about me, Ray. Since my last post, I've sold 6 CDs and a dozen LPs and there's seven people shopping right now and building stacks of tangible music media as we speak. I'll always prefer putting on an LP to anything else and luckily more and more people are going that way lately. The future of CDs is definitely murky to say the least, but physical media will always have it's niche adherents. But regardless of whether one is streaming media from a computer or playing back an LP or reel to reel tape, there's no reason people need to be running wires through their walls and floors anymore.
     
  5. Ranger Rick

    Ranger Rick SC Regular

    66
    Mar 12, 2012
    Tempe, AZ
    Rick
    Got the small Sonos a few weeks ago, and delighted with all it can do so seamlessly. Was tired of Airplay dropping out, and this is paradise. The sound quality even from the little guy is amazing. My son has a (stereo) pair, that works just fine.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Glad to hear it Luke - I'm still there's still some market for it, and it sounds like you've got it pretty well worked out.

    And, yeah, I guess there's no reason that you couldn't play back and LP and have it play through a Sonos system. Although does it still retain that LP charm and sound once it's gone through the Analog > Digital conversion to be transmitted wirelessly? Sort of reminds me in the bad old days of trading Dead tapes. Even once digital recordings started showing up, some real serious Nak owners were quite convinced that if you had a second gen tape from digital and then taped through a Nak deck, it would somehow add all of that analog Nak goodness back into the sound. I'm sorry but making an analog tape from a digital source isn't gonna make it sound like it was originally an analog recording. I't just gonna be a less clean version of the digital source... So wouldn't that apply here as well? Not sure I know the answer, the question occurs to me...

    -Ray
     
  7. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Well, the sound quality won't be as "good", but part of the joy of playing LPs is handling them, placing the needle in the groove, the big cover art....... it's not TOTALLY the same, but I could compare playing an LP vs a CD to using an X100 with it's wonderful manual controls to shooting a point and shoot (with the same sensor and lens if such a thing existed) with no controls....just in Auto mode. The end results may be the same, but some enjoy the whole process.

    Another interesting tidbit for you to ponder. One of the co-owners of this high end audio store bought a really nice CD recorder and started recording some of his favorite LPs to disc to play at their shop when the LP was significantly better sounding than its' CD counterpart. He was quite startled to find out that not only did his CD's sound WAAAAAAYYYYYY better than the store bought ones, but when played back on a high end CD player vs. the LP, they were very nearly impossible to tell apart.
     
  8. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Yeah, the process part I get. There are some things that are passions for us and with passions, slowing down and enjoying each aspect of it matters. Cameras are like that for me - bikes and guitars used to be and may be again someday. And other stuff is just tools to enjoy something else - music gear is like that for me now, as is reading on an e-reader I guess. But I GET those who still love the feel and the process of an LP and of a real book (you know, the kind on paper) - I'm just not among 'em.

    And the last story speaks well of digital, if not mainstream digital mastering. Perhaps Neil Young is onto something with his crusade. But I, OTOH, unlike with photography, really don't give a damn. As long as the sound is good enough not to get in the way of the music (but not TOOOO good, because that ultimately has the same effect for me because I'm too involved in pixel peeping the sounds, rather than listening to the image, to mix a couple of metaphors...), I'm good with it. And I'm good with most of the recordings that come out of my iphone. Although there are a few that must have been translated really badly because those few sound pretty bad, but most of it is more than as good as I'll ever need.

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. ajramirez

    ajramirez SC All-Pro

    Jul 9, 2010
    Caguas, Puerto Rico
    Antonio
    In my humble opinion, there is nothing like a well kept LP played through a high end front end. CD does not come close. I know that at least Neil Young agrees with me.

    Having said that, I have not owned a turntable for many years now, and my (sort of) high end system (Primaire electronics, Vienna Acoustic speakers) has been in storage for a few years now. Most of my music listening nowadays is done through a decidedly mid-fi Onkyo receiver and Linn Kan speakers, because that is what will comfortably fit in our family room. And, It's all streamed from my computer through an Apple TV.

    On the other hand, I think I have been a much happier person since I cancelled my Stereophile and TAS subscriptions. If you think photography GAS is bad, you should meet some audiophiles...

    Cheers,

    Antonio
     
    • Like Like x 2
  10. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Yeah, I agree, but it's one of those things you hear when you compare back to back but not that much otherwise. Or at least I don't. And assuming a chain is as strong as it's weakest link, do your even mid-fi receivers and speakers do much to improve the digital files coming through your Apple TV? Unless you're using some sort of lossless format, the files have got to be the weakest link, no? In my non-audiophile world, the Sonos gear sounds as good as anything I've had since the really nice large Altec Lansing speakers I had in college and for the next few years after (that I played LP's through via a good but not great amp). Those things could really breathe and I did appreciate the sound at the time, but I can't say I miss it. Particularly if I don't expose myself to it again!

    I can only afford GAS for one thing at a time. It was bikes for a while. Guitars waaaay before that. It's camera gear at the moment. And that's gonna have to be ramped way back this year because of the construction project we're embarking on. Not a time to be adding anything any new expensive hobbies...

    -Ray
     
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  11. ajramirez

    ajramirez SC All-Pro

    Jul 9, 2010
    Caguas, Puerto Rico
    Antonio
    Of course, you are absolutely right. As with most things in life, audio reproduction is very much GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). The front end is the most important part. A high end set of amplifiers and speakers will not compensate for a lousy front end; if anything, they will ruthlessly reveal all of its shortcomings.

    One of the most satisfying sound systems that I put together was way back in college, when I had a front end consisting of a Heybrook turntable, Linn arm and Sumiko Blue Point cartridge, which I played through a fairly inexpensive NAD integrated amp and Fried speakers. The front end by far outclassed the rest of the system, but it was an extremely musical system.

    As with you, I cannot afford GAS for more than one hobby at a time, and at this point in my life, the pursuit of "musical perfection" is not high on my list of priorities. I enjoy music as much as ever. I just don't worry about quality of reproduction as much as I did before.

    Cheers,

    Antonio
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    Amen to that.
     
  13. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. SC All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    I've got 8000-9000 LPs in the house and I'm still buying in local used record shops -- the the local Friends of the Library sale. Even when CD's first came out, I had too many records to convert my entire collection to CD. Some of the most realisitc sound I've heard came from 1950's monaural records; an old LP of Carlos Montoya sounds like the guitar is in the room with you, and I don't have audiophile great equipment.

    Stores like yours, Luke, are a godsend. I do remember that the industry decided to kill LPs because people were still buying them and not switching to the new medium quickly enough. Thank God they've gotten better than the shrill, treble afflicted discs that things started out with. We have three turntables in the house, one at each computer for doing transfers and one in the living room.

    When it's upgrade time, I'll check out Ray's recommendation for speakers. The books and records stay, even if there is increasingly less room for other things.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  14. stratokaster

    stratokaster SC Top Veteran

    886
    Dec 27, 2010
    Kiev, Ukraine
    Pavel
    I was very impressed by Sonos 1 — it's a perfect small self-contained audio unit to keep in the kitchen; its truly great feature is that you can use 2 of them to create a stereo pair and they require only a power outlet which makes them perfect for cramped spaces. I was even impressed by the sound quality of Sonos Connect Amp which drives my bookshelf speakers of choice very well. They are great for people who have their entire music library converted to digital.

    Alas, I prefer listening to certain genres of music on LPs and Sonos Connect Amp converts analog audio from its RCA input to digital which, regrettably, audibly diminishes the sound quality. I think I need to investigate Sonos Connect, but its price seems a bit steep for a simple streaming unit without its own amplifier and speaker. I also don't like the fact that Sonos system doesn't support high resolution audio — anything beyond 16 bit and 48 kHz is out of question.
     
  15. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. SC All-Pro

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Larry
    That's strange. 24 bit 96k has been the CD standard for a while. Even my old OLD Delta sound card, that I use for transferring LPs to CDs, allows that. I'm not convinced I hear the difference, but I use for the same reason I convert all my raw files to 16 bit tiffs: To have as much information as I possibly can during the processing of the file -- to upload as a jpeg to the internet. Go figure. I always keep the original tiff, though, just as I keep those 24 bit, 96K WAV files. No wonder I need another 2 (or more) TB drive.
     
  16. Penfan2010

    Penfan2010 SC Top Veteran

    747
    Jul 21, 2012
    NJ, USA
    Ed
    Ray - I second your endorsement. Spent a couple of days after Christmas with a good friend who happened to have his whole house "Sonosed". My house is nowhere near as big as his, but I loved it so much and got their basic Sonos Play 1 for our living room. With the bridge hooked up to our wireless router, it was such a breeze to link the speaker to all our iOs devices and computers, and to control music selection from anywhere in our house. I may spring for a second Play1 later. The only other item that got me this excited was the Panasonic wireless app for the GX-7; it's been great to shoot video and still remotely while keeping track of framing, focus and exposure on my iPhone.

    BTW, I don't work for Sonos, Panasonic or Apple, either. :)
     
  17. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    That sounds really cool. I have never even wanted a smart phone before. But to use one as a remote control for a camera AND a remote for my stereo would b e pretty cool
     
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