Review: Sonos Subwoofer
Easy to use and easy to enjoy.
June 20, 2012 by Grant Clauser

Setup and Play
Integrating the sub into a Sonos system is easy. The sub, like the PLAY:3 speakers, is wireless and includes its own built-in amp. The sub actually has two class D amps, each one drives a woofer that together equal about a 10-inch driver (Sonos won’t reveal the power spec). The two woofers face each other inside the circle design of the sub, and according to Sonos, they cancel out each other’s vibration so you don’t have any rattle. The sub can be played upright or lying flat on the floor.

Once the Sonos app recognized that I’d added a sub to my network it asked me what room it was in. I then paired the room’s two PLAY:3 speakers and went through a simple setup procedure within the app to adjust the phase and volume (the Sub doesn’t include a phase switch, and in fact the company doesn’t even use the term phase). After that I dove into some music.

Being that it was early in the morning, and my kids where peacefully sleeping while I was up working, I decided to start with something loud and obnoxious—Ozzy Osbourne’s Bark at the Moon and then I moved on to AC/DC. I just learned a new trick to get my kids out of bed.

After jumping around to a few different tracks, I was convinced this sub was designed by rock fans. It added a lot of presence to rock music in terms of depth, soundstage and overall power. Sonos told me that when you add a sub to the system, the other speakers tend to get louder because less of their amp energy goes to low frequencies. I confirmed that with a sound meter and RTA app. On average the system played about 3-5db louder with the sub engaged (you can easily turn the sub on and off for A/B testing within the Sonos app), but volume wasn’t what gave the system life. All I had to do was turn the volume down to the original listening level in order to hear what the sub was really offering.

Once the kids were up and moving I turned to Cat Stevens’ Wild World, and while this isn’t a bass-heavy track, the sub filled out the gaps for a more three-dimensional sound. On some Johnny Dodds blues tracks I was impressed with how the sub helped the trombone come forward.

While there was lots of bass provided by the Sub, it doesn’t overpower the music. The sound was tight and well-integrated into the music. It’s a bit more thumpy in rock than in jazz or classical, but nothing out of line with the music style.

You might note that in my original PLAY:3 review I was pretty satisfied with the sound quality of the speakers. Adding the sub to the mix takes the system to a higher level. While $699 sounds like a big jump considering a pair of PLAY:3 speakers and the Bridge will run you $650, believe me, it’s worth it.

Sonos Subwoofer

Here’s a little video Sonos made about the subwoofer design:


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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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