Sonos Five review: High-fives all round

(Pocket-lint) – Sonos introduced the Sonos Five speaker as a successor to the Sonos Play:5 back in 2020. The company dropped the ‘Play’ part of the name and upgraded that already excellent speaker with a new processor and memory to better handle the Sonos S2 software, along with NFC (near field communication) to offer an easier pairing experience.

Aside from the processor, an all white colour option, and the name changing to fit with the other speakers in the Sonos portfolio, not a great deal more has changed. But that’s not a bad thing – because, just like the Play:5 before it, the Sonos Five is an absolutely superb speaker. 

Lovely design

  • Dimensions: 364 x 204 x 154mm / Weight: 6.36kgs
  • Vertical or horiztonal orientation
  • Black or white colour options
  • Plastic design

The Sonos Five offers the same design as the Play:5 that launched in 2015. It’s an aesthetically excellent one, though, as far as speaker designs go. It’s still a big box that pumps out tunes, but it looks good while doing it.

The Five comes in an all-white colour option though, rather than a white casing with a black speaker grille, which the Play:5 offered. The all-white option is lovely looking, highlighting the intricate details of the design, such as the 60,000 holes that make up the plastic grille itself, broken up only by the Sonos tag. 

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Otherwise, everything is the same as it was, with clean lines from the curved oblong design – something that is carried throughout the full Sonos line up. The Five tapers in towards the rear, too, offering a great visual.

It’s big, bold and heavy, but we love all those things about it – this is a speaker you want on display.

Touch controls

  • Capacitive touch controls
  • Smart sensors to detect orientation 

The Sonos Five can be positioned horizontally or vertically – both of which look great – and there are capacitive touch controls on the top or side, depending on the orientation. These controls are easily located above – or next to – the Sonos tag.

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As with other Sonos speakers, like the Sonos One and Sonos Move, you’ll find a play/pause button and volume controls on either side. A swipe across the controls from left to right allows you to skip to the next track, while a swipe from right to left enables you to go back to the previous track. Pressing-and-holding the Play/Pause button will bring the Sonos Five into a group of Sonos speakers already playing.

There’s no microphone on/off button on the Five, as you’ll find on other Sonos speakers, such as the Sonos Arc, Sonos One and Sonos Beam. That’s because while the Sonos Five has microphones on board, they aren’t designed to be used for smart speaker control, as there’s no built-in Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa smarts.

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That said, while you can’t directly use the Sonos Five as a speaker to control compatible smart home devices or ask what they weather is like for that day, you can still control the Five using your voice via another smart speaker, whether that’s a Sonos smart speaker like the One or Roam, or an Amazon Echo or Google Nest speaker.

Great features

  • Support for over 100 music services
  • Voice control via smart speaker
  • Ethernet port, 3.5mm line-in
  • Trueplay, AirPlay 2

Despite lacking the direct voice control aspect, the Sonos Five also offers a whole host of features, just like other Sonos speakers. There is support for over 100 music streaming services and the ability to group the Five with other Sonos speakers to use independently or as part of a multiroom setup. 

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You can stereo pair two Five speakers, and use them as surrounds to a Sonos Arc or Sonos Beam, and there’s support for the Sonos Sound Swap feature too, allowing you to cast music from the portable Sonos Roam to the Sonos Five by pressing-and-holding the Play/Pause button on the Roam.

There’s also Sonos’ Trueplay tuning software on board – which launched at the same time as the Sonos Play:5. You can read more about it in our separate feature, but in a nutshell, it allows you to easily tune the Five to its respective surroundings using an Apple iOS device and the Sonos app (Google Android isn’t supported, sadly). Trueplay takes around three minutes to complete but it can make a big difference in terms of sound output, taking into account furniture and how your room responds to sound.

Our Sonos tips and tricks feature dives into all the features offered on Sonos speakers, but overall, the Sonos app is an excellent interface that has come a long way since the company first started in the mulit-room market. There’s more flexibility with the ability to control speakers directly through the Spotify app, for example, and there’s Apple AirPlay 2 support too, making playing music on the Sonos Five very easy. 

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The updated processor and memory on the Sonos Five compared to the Play:5 make everything run that little bit more smoothly, while the addition of NFC makes setup more simple. It’s also worth mentioning the Sonos Five has a 3.5mm line-in port, like the Play:5 did, allowing for streaming records through your Sonos system.

Superb sound quality

  • Three tweeters
  • Three mid-woofers
  • Six Class-D amplifiers
  • Two microphones

The Sonos Five doesn’t just look great, it has the audible personality to match those good looks. As with all Sonos speakers, the audio output is slightly bass heavy, but the Sonos Five sounds absolutely brilliant, just as the Play:5 did. 

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The Sonos Five’s sound architecture remains the same as 2015 Play:5. Behind the front grille are three tweeters, three long-throw mid-woofers, six Class-D digital amplifiers, as well as two microphones built-in for future features – though not Alexa or Google Assistant, for now, as we mentioned.

There is a great dynamic range and some serious volume from the Sonos Five. Detail is clear even at lower volumes so you don’t lose anything by not having the speaker on at full blast, but it isn’t lost at higher volumes either.

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We listened to several tracks and genres – from Eagle’s California to Massive Attack’s Unfinished Symphony and both vocals and instruments were as crisp and full-bodied as the booming bass. The Sonos Five covers all departments well, offering a wide and impressive sound quality, and for those who enjoy a bit of extra bass, it won’t disappoint. 

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Verdict

Sonos has a fantastic track record in delivering great speakers – and the Sonos Five sets yet another precedent. It has a subtle yet sophisticated design that we love – especially in the all-white option – offers a brilliant app to connect to streaming services and all your music, among other great features such as the capacitive touch controls and Trueplay tuning.

There’s still no Bluetooth or Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant support like some other Sonos speakers, but those are about the only downside we can leverage at this otherwise superb speaker.

Sonos has competition nipping at its heels left, right and centre, but the Five shows what nearly two decades of experience can deliver. It’s an ideal way to start a Sonos multi-room system, or add a badass centrepiece to an existing one.

Also consider

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Sonos Move

This semi-portable speaker doesn’t have quite the same sound capabilities as the Five, but it’s still excellent, whilst also delivering portability and Bluetooth. It also has built-in Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, though you can’t use two Sonos Move speakers as surrounds.

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Sonos Arc

This soundbar is more expensive than the Five but it offers excellent sound quality, Dolby Atmos support, and not only expands your TV’s capabilities – but it can act as a standalone speaker too when the TV is off. 

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Writing by Britta O’Boyle. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on .



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