If you've bought any of the standalone Sonos speakers over the years like the Play 3 or the Play 5, you'll know there's something missing from the sound they produce, and that's a thumping great big bass. Enter the Sonos Sub, an evil-looking wireless sub designed to work with most bits of Sonos kit to fill out the bottom end.
Sonos has become the byword for multi-room audio done well, producing a range of pricey but fantastic boxes that can stream music tracks from your computer, networked hard drive and various Internet services such as Spotify and Last.fm. Unlike Apple's Airport Express, Sonos systems can play different tracks in different rooms and, although they are wireless, they don't use Wi-Fi, which means they are less prone to stopping in the middle of a song (although that does happen sometimes).
Easy to set up
The Sub is as easy to set up as the rest of the range. If you already have a Sonos system and your software is up to date, you simply have to plug the Sub in, select 'add a Sonos component' on your controller, push a button on the Sub, go through a few configuration screens to tweak the sound and you're off.
The configuration screens are pretty painless -- you're asked to listen to a noise and select which version sounds louder (if either), then set the volume of the Sub. If you change your mind later, it's easy to go back and manually adjust the settings in the controller software. If you're using the Sub with a set of speakers, you can also change the crossover frequency to suit the speakers you're using.
You can lie the Sub on its side, providing there is nothing blocking the top, or stand it up, making sure there is a gap on one side if you're putting it flush against a wall. It doesn't matter where you put it in a room. Unlike most subs, you might want to leave it on show rather than tucking it away behind a sofa, as the glossy black finish is quite nice and the hole in the middle might pass for a talking point if you're running low on weather-related anecdotes.
The Sub only works with Sonos gear with an amplifier in it, which means it doesn't work with the Connect, the box that connects to an existing hi-fi. It does work with the Connect Amp, which does away with the hi-fi box altogether and just needs a set of speakers wired to it, and the Play 5 and Play 3, which are speakers already.
To get it working wirelessly, you'll need to buy a £39 Sonos Bridge, which works like a Wi-Fi router to broadcast the music to each of the components in your set up. If you are happy wiring everything up using Ethernet cables, you don't need to bother with the Bridge.
It's a very powerful sub. If you spend a day listening to bass-heavy music like I did, you can really get the floor to shake, especially when you start turning up the volume to see how loud it can go for fun.
I found the bass effect was much more noticeable when the Sub was paired with the Play 3 speakers. Because they are relatively small, there's loads of detail they just can't reproduce, and when I turned the Sub off the difference was so marked, the sound coming out of the Play 3s seemed almost tinny, which is no mean feat as it's not that bad to begin with. When paired with the Play 5s, which are better speakers, the difference was less marked, but there's no doubt it adds a lot of detail to the mix. Essentially, with either system, the Sub sounds great.
I'd recommend the Sub in a heartbeat to anyone with a Sonos system if it weren't for the price -- £599 will buy you two of Sonos' own excellent Play 5 speakers, which you could pair to create proper stereo sound. I suspect that would produce a noise that's good enough for most people's ears, but it's personal preference really, and depends on how much bass-heavy music you actually listen to.
If you have a spare £600 burning a hole in your pocket, you're lucky enough to have a room you can relax and enjoy listening to music properly, and you want the absolute best sound a Sonos system can give you, treat yourself. For everyone else, keep saving the pennies so you can afford to put more players in more rooms.