OK, that title is a bit unfair.
In fact very unfair. Phillips may have brought us the nifty Hue lightbulb, but they can't write off the contribution of Thomas Edison so easily. And in the same vein, we shouldn't ever forget who packaged the multiroom audio system in all those years ago (13, to be precise) in such a way that it became not only a new product, but a new industry.
Multiroom audio is the most common sub sector of the rapidly growing Smart Home industry. It's the thing that even people who don't want a Smart home want. It’s the thing that no party could or should be without. And Sonos used to be the only one that mattered.
Sonos, Sonos, Sonos.
In 2009 when Peter and I set this little AV corner shop up, Sonos was our bread and butter. Even then, the concept of being able to summon any song you could think of into your home, via a little touch screen controller, was so exciting that the £349 Play:5 speaker was easy to shift. A few years later when the little Play:1 came along at just £169, it was easier still. So easy in fact, that soon the customer didn't need the specialist anymore, and before we knew it the margin shrunk and Amazon and John Lewis took over.
I love Sonos as a product. It’s great. But it's not the best anymore. And the introduction of the new Playbase isn't going to hide the fact that the younger players in this market and fitter and more talented. (I'll do you the courtesy of ending this particularly pregnant sports metaphor there). Especially so soon after the media backlash against price hike of almost 20% across the range.
So what to put our weight behind now? Well, say hello to HEOS by Denon, the fabled Greek God of streamed audio. The Heos range appears at first glance unsurprisingly similar to Sonos. A Heos 1, a Heos 3 and a Heos 5 all go head to head with their Sonos brethren, yet the 3 and 5 come is at £249 and £349 respectively, undercutting their rivals on price. The Heos 1 is priced at the same level as it's Play:1 antagonist, yet has a hugely desirable 'wireless' option, allowing you to simply disconnect the power and go for a wander with it, uninterrupted. And, if you do stray out of WiFi range, it also doubles as a single point Bluetooth speaker. Sorry Sonos, but you had your chance on those two points - we'd been asking for them for years.
Sonically, all three have the edge on the competition, though to be frank few people will test the two side by side and base their decision on frequency response and vocal reproduction. The fact is that the Denon is cheaper, prettier (to my eyes at least), truly wireless when needed and has a much tidier interface through the free app. Recent feedback is that the Sonos app has become too 'busy' and first time users get lost an awful lot.
Oh, and yes - there is Amp (even an 8 channel, 4 zone one for custom multiroom audio), a Heos adaptor for your existing systems, 2 different sound bars, an AV receiver and a big old Heos 7 (oddly priced the same as the less powerful Sonos Play:5).
We've still got our Sonos demo kit in the showroom, so feel free to come and have a listen to them both.
Don't leave it too long though...
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