Nobody does multi-room sound much better than Sonos, but its wireless speakers are limited in terms of stereo. The Sonos Play:5 is a wonderful speaker, for example, and you could link two units together to make a $998 stereo pair. But if you buy a $599 Sonos Amp, you need to use any conventional loudspeakers that spark your fancy. As well as perhaps more than two.

Sonos is coming full circle here, as its initial retail product was a tiny amplifier dubbed the ZonePlayer 100. That was succeeded by the ZP120, that was later renamed the Connect:Amp (now discontinued). The brand new Sonos Amp is light years before those products, both with regards to specs and performance. I still have a ZP120 in the home, but I haven’t used it in years because it’s so underpowered, delivering just 55 watts per channel.

The Sonos Amp isn’t targeted at everyday music listeners. That market is way better served by Sonos’s wireless speaker lineup: The Sonos One smart speaker, the easier Play:1, and their big sibling, the Play:5. The Sonos Amp is suitable for sound enthusiasts who wish to blend the music-streaming convenience and multi-room audio tracks features that Sonos is indeed popular for with a high-end amplifier and conventional high-performance loudspeakers. The Sonos Amp is suitable for critical listening in stereo, and for movie soundtrack experience that certainly are a cut above what you’ll get from the normal soundbar.

Driving speakers with the Sonos Amp
The brand new Sonos Amp not merely gives more power-125 watts per channel into an 8-ohm load-but it’s also outfitted with HDMI (with ARC), in order that it can hook up right to your TV. In this scenario, the Amp can drive wired front left and right channels, any other couple of Sonos wireless speakers (aside from Sonos soundbars) as surround channels, and a radio Sonos Sub (or any wired powered sub linked to the Amp) for low-frequency effects. If your TV is equipped only with an optical output rather than HDMI, Sonos sells an adapter you need to use.

Michael Brown / IDG
The Sonos Amp’s rear panel features HDMI (with ARC), stereo RCA inputs, an RCA subwoofer output, dual 10/100 ethernet ports, and left/right speaker outputs. When the binding posts are removed, as seen here, you may use conventional banana plugs.

If you have a sizable home theater, you need to use both a Sonos Sub and a powered wired sub as well, and/or another amp to power wired surrounds. The thing you won’t get is a genuine center channel, however the Amp creates a convincing phantom center channel by blending the audio tracks from the left and right front speakers. I certainly didn’t miss having a dedicated center channel in my own movie tests.

The Sonos Amp may also handle wired speakers that present significantly less than 8 ohms of impedance, creating up to 187.5 watts per channel while driving a 6-ohm load and an impressive 250 watts with 4-ohm speakers. The Amp can accept standard banana plugs or you should use its robust binding posts with bare wire (between 10 and 18 AWG). In the latter configuration, you can wire two pairs of speakers to the Amp in parallel to provide the same music to two stereo pairs (with speakers in the same or in several rooms), provided the impedance presented to the amp doesn’t drop below 4 ohms.

The Amp’s binding posts are ingeniously designed in order that you can pull them out from the Amp, thread bare wires through the posts, cinch them down, and plug them back. That’s easier than needing to reach around to the trunk of the amp to accomplish everything. If you’re using banana plugs, you won’t need the binding posts at all because you’ll insert the banana plugs directly into the Amp. When driving Sonos by Sonance speakers (in-wall, in-ceiling, and outdoor models can be found), the Amp are designed for up to three pairs of speakers wired in parallel.

Michael Brown / IDG
Sonos engineered the Amp’s binding posts in order that you can take them off to thread bare wire through the holes, cinch the wires down, and plug them back. You can even use banana plugs instead of the binding posts.

The Sonos Amp’s physical design
The Amp has left and right analog RCA audio tracks inputs and a subwoofer output, but I suspect most of the people use the wireless Sonos Sub with the Amp. Sonos didn’t create a phono preamp in to the Amp since it assumed vinyl veterans would curently have a phono pre-amp they like, while LP neophytes would begin with a turntable which has a built-in phono pre-amp.

Gleam couple of 10/100 ethernet ports in back, in order to hardwire the Amp to your network for maximum reliability for those who have the infrastructure for this. Having two ports means you can daisy-chain a couple of Amps to your network while needing just one single ethernet cable from your own router. It’s also possible to utilize the Amp as a network switch or a radio bridge if the Amp is operating SonosNet, but Sonos doesn’t recommend this for the reason that Amp’s quality-of-service settings will prioritize Sonos data traffic over other things.

There are touch-sensitive controls on leading of the Amp for play/pause and volume up/down, but I don’t imagine these will dsicover much use because the Sonos application is indeed much more convenient. Also you can control the Sonos Amp using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, just as that can be done with other Sonos components, but you’ll desire a smart speaker (or the correct mobile app) to achieve that for the reason that Amp doesn’t have a microphone of its.

Photograph by the writer.
Touch-sensitive play/pause and volume up/down controls can be found on the Sonos Amp’s front panel.

The Amp’s enclosure was created to draw air in from underneath and vent it from its concave top, a passive cooling strategy which allows several Amps to be stacked along with one another without concern with them overheating (though I’d err privately of caution and then add active ventilation easily was stacking them within an enclosed entertainment center).

The Sonos Amp is ostensibly a retail product, nonetheless it was made to also address the needs of custom installers who might mount a couple of them in an element rack. The Amp measures 1.5 RU high (2.52 inches) and is 8.54 inches square. This permits them to be mounted two abreast in a typical 19-inch rack.

The Amp doesn’t have rack-mount ears, nonetheless it is outfitted with a typical M5 thread mount on its bottom. At a press event at Sonos’ Boston headquarters late this past year, Sonos Amp product manager Benji Rappoport showed me an actively cooled rack cabinet holding 32 Amps.

Sonos
Despite being passively cooled, you can stack multiple Amps along with the other person (active cooling is preferred for dense rack installations).

Sonos Amp listening tests
I first tested the amplifier with four completely different stereo speaker pairs, one pair at the same time. I used Q Acoustics’ Concept 20 bookshelf speakers (6 ohms nominal impedance) in my own home entertainment; Bowers & Wilkins’ 603 tower speakers (8 ohms nominal impedance, also in my own home entertainment); B&W’s M-1 Mini Theatre satellite speakers (8 ohms nominal impedance) mounted on top of a wall in my own living room; and Focal’s Custom OD 108 outdoor speakers (8 ohms nominal impedance) mounted on top of a wall in my own enclosed patio. For the tests with the M-1 Mini Theatre (the tiniest of the three sets of speakers by far), I paired the Amp with a Sonos Sub.

Michael Brown / IDG
The initial step of the Sonos Sub tuning process plays a rapid-fire bass line within an A/B listening test that enables you to measure the Sub’s phase.

The Amp performed just like a champ with each group of speakers. Volume didn’t get loud enough to operate a vehicle me out from the room while hearing the two-way Q Acoustics bookshelf (1-inch tweeters and 5-inch woofers) or the three-way B&W tower speakers (1-inch tweeters, 6-inch mid-range, and dual 6.5-inch woofers), but both combinations easily filled my home entertainment with no need to crank the quantity to the max.

Listening at more moderate-and realistic-volume levels that could permit folks to speak to one another at a celebration, I played the title track to Lyle Lovett’s Step Inside this House (ripped from CD and encoded in FLAC) and the amplifier produced Lovett’s vocals clear and strong against an engaging backdrop of guitar, pedal steel guitar, and bass.

The B&W M-1 Mini Theatre satellites are smallish two-way speakers (1-inch tweeters and 4-inch mid-range/woofers), plus they found as very bright by themselves while I was hearing “Send My Love (to YOUR BRAND-NEW Lover),” from Adele’s album 25 (also ripped from CD and encoded in FLAC). Remember that the Sonos software provides not a lot of EQ adjustments: It has sliders to improve or cut bass and treble, and adapt the left/right balance, but that’s all.

I’ve always augmented the M-1s with a Sonos Sub paired with a Sonos One smart speaker in a bedroom on the other side of the wall (the Sub can’t are powered by its own, it should be paired with another Sonos component). The M-1s themselves usually are driven by an Onkyo M-282 stereo power amp wired to a Sonos:Connect. Yes, that’s a weird scenario for Sonos components, nonetheless it works ideal for me-thanks in no small measure to Sonos’ exceptional networking technology that keeps all of the audio tracks streams in perfect sync.

Michael Brown / IDG
The next step of the Sonos Sub tuning process offers you an possibility to boost or slice the Sub’s output.

While testing the Amp with the M-1s, I linked the Sonos Sub to the Amp instead. You should use Sonos’ excellent Trueplay technology to tune its Sonos by Sonance architectural speakers (provided you have an iOS device, that’s), but that option isn’t available with third-party speakers. Sonos yet gives you an possibility to tune the Sub to the area you’re using it in (and by extension, to the loudspeakers you’re using it with).

That is accomplished in two steps, you start with a straightforward A/B test that enables you to correct the Sub’s phase. In the next step, you can further boost or slice the Sub’s output. If you’re unhappy with these tuning results, you can adapt the Sub’s level, its crossover frequency, and its own phase in a dedicated setting you’ll find elsewhere in the app.

The Focal Custom OD 108 are large outdoor speakers, built with a bass reflex port, an 8-inch fiberglass woofer, and a 1-inch aluminum inverted doom tweeter. There is absolutely no dependence on the Sonos Sub while driving these bad boys with the Sonos Amp, but I was impressed with how great the blend sounded while hearing Lucinda Williams sing “I Envy the Wind,” from he