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Making the move to small active lifestyle gear

A Surfer

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After much thought and time, I have decided to pull the plug on having a full-sized stereo system. Since the 1980's I have always lived with and owned stereos with big speakers and large amps. Over the years the systems have matured, but the theme was still the same, large floor standers supported by large sub woofers. Currently I have some gorgeous Monitor Audio PL200 (although they are now sold) and a pair of SVS SB2000 Pro subs. The trouble is the amount of room such a system takes up, because you need an amp and DAC to go along with the speakers so when I got down to looking at how much room it was taking up, I started to wonder if I really wanted that anymore. Truthfully, I have been spending less and less time just listening to music this last year and I don't see that changing soon if ever. People change right?

Anyway, I have built a Sonos system that is going to help smooth the transition. Sure, small active lifestyle products like the Sonos gear I have will never be able to provide that palatable feeling that bigger drivers pushing air can give you, I will miss that experience for sure. I can say that after spending some time with my new Sonos system running together for the first time this weekend, I was pretty impressed. You don't get truly low bass, you get the lowest mid bass and perhaps a tad of the upper low bass, but that is ok as I think for quite a bit of music, probably the vast majority of musical information doesn't go much lower anyway, and if in some material I miss the lowest of the low, well, I can live with that. I think anyway, at least so far.

What you do gain is pretty darn snappy sound. There is certainly plenty of good low frequency information, and because it doesn't dominate, the mids and treble feel like they have room to breathe. For those who may be curious I built the Sonos system from an Arc soundbar with a pair of Sub3 (I think of them more as good midbass extenders, they fatten up the sound from 100Hz down). I also have a pair of Fives set as surrounds and a pair of Moves. In my smallish listening space it is a pretty capable rig. I am likely going to get a second pair of Fives added into the mix. I was pretty impressed with filling the room and finally having sound around me. As much as I love 2.2 channel audio, at least in my experience, the sound is always clearly coming towards you. My Sonos rig is not of course true surround, but it certainly feels more immersive than what I had. I have given up a great deal in terms of scale of sound and power, but I find myself not really wanting to play loud music often anyway. When I do, it is playing the drums along to tunes so I still get my big sound fix.

Anyway, just thought I would start discussing my transition as I am sure some will be considering the move themselves. I know that you can go actives that are large, but I am also trying to fill a room with sound that is a little more discrete. Although in all fairness, 9 speakers is hard to hide, but smaller speakers and no large components is a step towards what I want. In the ideal world if I had the proper room and lots of money I have stuff built into the walls and ceiling, but I can't see that happening.
 

Andretti60

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This is a very interesting subject, I went thought it myself.

Starting from high school (early seventies) I always had "big" systems, large passive loudspeakers, heavy class B amplifiers. I gave up the turntable when I move out from my parents, where I left my huge collection of vinyl, and started to listen only to CD (and occasionally radio). I switched audio gear many times in my life, until almost twenty years ago when Dear Wife and I decided to buy a condo, suddenly our huge loudspeakers with heavy metal stands did not look good at the sides of the fireplace, with big cables going around on the floor. So we decided to downsize, the speakers were already damaged anyway, the CD player stopped working, we thought what the hell and we bought a Bose Wave system that was sitting nicely hidden to one side of the couch. The results: I stopped listening to music in the living room, and switched to my small desktop powered speakers. Until I finally gave up, bought a nice set of small bookshelf Dali (the biggest I could without upsetting Dear Wife) for the living room, put them at the sides of the television, powered by a Yamaha AS301, with an AppleTV as tv box and streamer, using the BluRay as a CD player. Before that I tried other systems like Bose and Sonos, soundbars too, but I have been always disappointed.

Because I am still working (inching my way onto retirement) I still listen most of the time at the desk during the day and I use the living room only during the weekend (I just talked about that in another thread)

The really BIG difference from the past is the music source, I still have my huge CD collection but they are now stored in CD booklets (I throw away the hideous plastic jewel boxes, kept the covers) after I ripped them, so I use the AppleTV as a streamer for both my collection and internet services.
 
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A Surfer

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Interesting that you didn't look further into a more similar substitution. The Bose wave would have decent sound, but clearly it would be a pretty clear point emitter type of system. Same with just a soundbar on it's own. I opted to use multiple speakers distributed around the listening room with enough total displacement to still move plenty of air. It is a compromise as using several speakers still requires a fair amount of space allocation and diminishes the benefits of the move toward minimalism, but overall, I am still pleased, and I think what space savings and lowered system complexity I realized are well worth it.

Time will tell whether or not I can live with the compromises I have made. There is little doubt though that the Sonos gear is very well engineered and sounds excellent.
 

Rufus T. Firefly

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We just bought a new (old) house and I'm going through these contortions as well. The stereo is in a "media" room on the third floor and as much as I had intentions of being up there all the time I'm finding that I'm not and if I'm not I'm pretty sure dragging others up there will be an even bigger chore. That leaves a need for a music system on the first floor living room and the convenience and size of the Sonos is really appealing.
 

NiagaraPete

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I’ve gone though the same. Different outcome though.

I ended up with Genelec’s, DAC, streamer. I’m using zero floor space and very little shelf space probably much less than the Sonos.
 

Shadrach

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Same here. I can't hear much above 13Khz I went from large speakers and large boxes to, I just can't be doing with it and just want as decent sound as possible for a given budget.
Like NiagaraPete I ended up with Genelecs, DAC and headphone amp and a fanless computer.
I've been really pleased with it.
I don't think I could just go portable though.
 

JeffS7444

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I liked Sonos when I had them (Play 1, Play 3, Playbar) but they become obsolete too quickly for my liking, and you can't reconfigure your system without connecting to a my.sonos account.
 

NiagaraPete

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Dj7675

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After much thought and time, I have decided to pull the plug on having a full-sized stereo system. Since the 1980's I have always lived with and owned stereos with big speakers and large amps. Over the years the systems have matured, but the theme was still the same, large floor standers supported by large sub woofers. Currently I have some gorgeous Monitor Audio PL200 (although they are now sold) and a pair of SVS SB2000 Pro subs. The trouble is the amount of room such a system takes up, because you need an amp and DAC to go along with the speakers so when I got down to looking at how much room it was taking up, I started to wonder if I really wanted that anymore. Truthfully, I have been spending less and less time just listening to music this last year and I don't see that changing soon if ever. People change right?

Anyway, I have built a Sonos system that is going to help smooth the transition. Sure, small active lifestyle products like the Sonos gear I have will never be able to provide that palatable feeling that bigger drivers pushing air can give you, I will miss that experience for sure. I can say that after spending some time with my new Sonos system running together for the first time this weekend, I was pretty impressed. You don't get truly low bass, you get the lowest mid bass and perhaps a tad of the upper low bass, but that is ok as I think for quite a bit of music, probably the vast majority of musical information doesn't go much lower anyway, and if in some material I miss the lowest of the low, well, I can live with that. I think anyway, at least so far.

What you do gain is pretty darn snappy sound. There is certainly plenty of good low frequency information, and because it doesn't dominate, the mids and treble feel like they have room to breathe. For those who may be curious I built the Sonos system from an Arc soundbar with a pair of Sub3 (I think of them more as good midbass extenders, they fatten up the sound from 100Hz down). I also have a pair of Fives set as surrounds and a pair of Moves. In my smallish listening space it is a pretty capable rig. I am likely going to get a second pair of Fives added into the mix. I was pretty impressed with filling the room and finally having sound around me. As much as I love 2.2 channel audio, at least in my experience, the sound is always clearly coming towards you. My Sonos rig is not of course true surround, but it certainly feels more immersive than what I had. I have given up a great deal in terms of scale of sound and power, but I find myself not really wanting to play loud music often anyway. When I do, it is playing the drums along to tunes so I still get my big sound fix.

Anyway, just thought I would start discussing my transition as I am sure some will be considering the move themselves. I know that you can go actives that are large, but I am also trying to fill a room with sound that is a little more discrete. Although in all fairness, 9 speakers is hard to hide, but smaller speakers and no large components is a step towards what I want. In the ideal world if I had the proper room and lots of money I have stuff built into the walls and ceiling, but I can't see that happening.
I had a Sonos Five. I have no idea how it would measure but it did sound very good to me. Using it as a single speaker horizontally. I was always curious what they would have sounded like with a stereo pair. I would think it would be a very sounding nice system with no additional gear.
 

NiagaraPete

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No worries and thanks, I kinda figured that would be the setup and true to my suspicions I dont think there is a chance I could sell those speakers to the better half.
There was some discussion about “how fucking ugly” they are. But the noise has quieted a bit.
 

Chrispy

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Man, I fight urges to go the other way....bigger and badder! :) I have no WAF and now have room in my retirement house for all the stuff that has survived my urban adventures....
 
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A

A Surfer

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Man, I fight urges to go the other way....bigger and badder! :) I have no WAF and now have room in my retirement house for all the stuff that has survived my urban adventures....
Heck if I was in your position I would consider the same thing, but would probably still go actives as the technology is really there now in terms of sonic capability. For me, while the smaller actives make sense, and are certainly up to the challenge, I still know that big, room filling sound will always be what I truly want. Still, in life we have to make choices so for me this is my current choice. I wonder if in two years I will have returned to wanting big speakers. Funny enough, my girlfriend who was with me when I built up my full sized speaker rig actually thinks it is sad that I am moving on. Not the typical reaction I imagine.
 
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A Surfer

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We just bought a new (old) house and I'm going through these contortions as well. The stereo is in a "media" room on the third floor and as much as I had intentions of being up there all the time I'm finding that I'm not and if I'm not I'm pretty sure dragging others up there will be an even bigger chore. That leaves a need for a music system on the first floor living room and the convenience and size of the Sonos is really appealing.
That feels like something I can relate to. When I acquired my most recent full sized speaker rig, I was hoping to have somebody to share the experience with, but in reality, very few people care at all, and almost nobody wants to sit there and listen, they want to talk to you and enjoy the music in the background. Over time, I have been finding myself wanting that same thing so I am willing to make this move and see how it goes.

I cannot imagine more than a handful of times until I die when anybody else would remotely care about listen to music in the way that could justify a full sized speaker rig. Seriously, most people could care less. Same for movie watching I'll bet. Movie theatres are so loud to me that it is unpleasant, even dialogue is at an intense SPL and if there are loud passages, it truly can get painful to experience. I wonder if guests who come over to enjoy a movie at peoples home with these big, loud home theatre systems are often just being polite and waiting until their friend's husband finally gets over his new toy syndrome and doesn't try to make every gathering about his desire to show people what he has built.

The pursuit of huge media rooms and audio systems can actually be pretty a-social if what the owners really want is for people to rave about their system with them. For me, I am hoping that putting together a system that is small enough to be unobtrusive, and perfectly happy in the background is enough. If a gathering gets a little lively, great, the volume can go up, but I imagine those types of gatherings are less and less common as we age. Call it a hunch.
 

DMill

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I have both. A “hi-fi” system in two rooms. Sonos in the rest of the house. TBH I might spend 2 hours a week critically listening to music with kids, chores, work etc. where it even matters. The Sonos sounds very good and I don’t think you need to apologize at all for it.
 
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A Surfer

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I have both. A “hi-fi” system in two rooms. Sonos in the rest of the house. TBH I might spend 2 hours a week critically listening to music with kids, chores, work etc. where it even matters. The Sonos sounds very good and I don’t think you need to apologize at all for it.
Nice, thanks for the input. I totally agree that the Sonos gear sounds nice. In the ideal world I would have both types of systems, but not in my current situation anyway, just no room for it.
 

FrantzM

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Hi

If I am to trust my ears :D.. SONOS gears sound good. I have a SONOS Beam in my bedroom and it is pleasing. Good for the purpose of being vastly superior to any TV speakers and honest by not trying too much and too hard.
Now the 5 is different, I have heard a pair of 5 + the Sub and it could be an interesting proposition. Configuration is limited however to what SONOS gives you . No access to its parameters. None. you use the SONOS app and go with what it gives you.. usually decent.

All that to say I'd like to see SONOS speakers reviews here. Could they be serious challengers?

Peace.
 
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