Hi all, this year I’m thinking of asking Father Christmas for some smart multi-room speakers.
I realise there are already separate threads on Sonos and Samsung speakers, but I’m specifically looking for the thoughts and experiences of people who have recently compared these platforms (and other platforms too, Bose maybe), to compile a succinct summary to help chose between them.
I’m in the UK, I have a SmartThings Hub v2, several Echo Dots, iPhones, iPads, and primarily use Spotify for music streaming. I’ll also soon have a Samsung 2016 TV (probably the UE65KS8000). I’m primarily interested in the following use cases:
Custom voice (text-to-speech) alerts to a particular room, triggered from SmartThings.
Send a particular audio source to a particular room, controlled from SmartThings.
Turn speakers on/off and set volume in a particular room, controlled from SmartThings.
Ask Amazon Alexa to play music from Spotify (or other streaming service) to a particular room.
Seamless multi-room audio.
Seamless home-theatre 5.1 integration with the TV.
Seamless control from a smartphone app.
What works well and what doesn’t at the moment? Are there any other use cases you feel are important and may sway people from one platform over another? All comments greatly appreciated.
I’ll aim to update this post with a summary of the conclusions (as and when a consensus becomes clear).
I’m on board with the custom voice, alexa stuff, and multi-room audio, but the 5.1 integration…I’m trying to picture how that would even work.
I have some automations that turn on a harmony virtual switch that powers up my receivers and then I have Dot’s connected, so each room with a receiver is pretty easy to get rocking with the automation and a verbal command. I did try TTS with an android device to tell Alexa what to do but that didn’t work real well.
Once you get into wanting multiple sources sent to specific rooms, you will be getting into EXPENSIVE home audio gear, Control4, a mess of horrors TBH.
I don’t have Sonos or Google Home so can’t speak to those, but I’m sure they are capable of at least half your list, but maybe not all at once in a given configuration.
Edit: I’ve auditioned Sonos speakers at Best Buy (best environment right?) but can’t imagine using them in a “real” theater setup, they don’t sound THAT good, so going 5.1 with them seems like a waste of money unless you have severe space limitations preventing a proper receiver. If you get a CS level receiver (the Installer versions) then you can use serial interfaces or even Ethernet (better than most consumer grade, think Onkyo and Pioneer apps) and use Event Ghost to command the devices to do anything you want with only a bit of programming, tie that all to VS’s in ST and you get it pretty powerful. I used to do this with a mix of Harmony, EG, my Onkyo, and the REST endpoint for ST, but it was such a kludge, it was easier to do the Dot’s and Harmony VS’. I can’t TTS to them though which still sucks. Or whole house audio.
So with that you check off options 1,2(maybe),3,5(with other Sonos’),6,7.
That’s not bad. But I’m not sure on 2 having no real experience. As for 4…you could do a VS that runs a CoRE piston doing a selection of actions on the Sonos devices I suppose. It’s a bit hackish, but would probably get you want you want. I assume Sonos integration allows you to specify a source in that regard?
Have you dug into the Samsung speakers integration features? I’d bone up on the manuals for all the options you’ve looked at and just do a spreadsheet with x’s on what they can/can’t do. I think the quality of the devices should come in second to your other requirements as I bet finding one that does all will be all but impossible.
These sound great, my friend has this setup, BUT they are WAY overpriced for the quality/features. You only get a single SPDIF/optical connection (on the Playbar) for audio input, which means you are limited to legacy Dolby/DTS (audio format in most DVDs) not the newer Dolby HD/Atmos or DTS HD/X (common in Blu-ray and upcoming 4K/UHD Blu-ray).
Having just a single SPDIF/optical connection in this Sonos 5.1 setup will limit your setup significantly in terms of how you can connect multiple A/V Sources such as Cable/Sat/OTT STB or BD players. You’ll have to connect all your sources via HDMI to the TV then output sound via SPDIF/optical to Sonos 5.1. However, not all TVs will pass 5.1 Dolby/DTS streams from HDMI to SPDIF/optical output only PCM stereo, so you should double check to make sure the TV you get can pass 5.1 streams correctly from HDMI to SPDIF/optical output.
Another option could be to add an HDMI AVR/Amp/Switch in between your HDMI Sources and Sonos 5.1 if your TV doesn’t support the 5.1 audio pass-thru.
I have few Sonos for music/TTS and I love them but I wouldn’t get Sonos for HT use, much better options out there at this price range.
Yeah, I’ll aim to put together a table in the top post with “Officially Supported”/ “Community Supported” / “Not possible yet” against each use case.
Also, yes, I’m not an audiophile, so the assumption here is that Sonos, Samsung, or Bose would all be of sufficiently good audio quality for me. Would still like to hear people’s opinion on sound quality though.
Thanks jpark, some excellent points. And you’re right, Sonos is offensively expensive, hence why I am keen to look at alternatives.
Dolby Atmos support is definitely worth looking into. However, I don’t actually own any DVDs or Blu-Rays (hence no players), all my media comes from Netflix, Spotify, or good old-fashioned terrestrial broadcast. I will have to check what sound encoding is used by the likes of Netflix.
In those use cases you should be fine with Sonos 5.1 and the single SPDIF/optical since most TVs will output 5.1 Dolby/DTS via SPDIF/optical for its own built-in Smart TV apps such as Netflix.
My Samsung TVs (2013-2015) all output 5.1 Dolby Digital over SPDIF/optical with the built-in Netflix app for Netflix content that has 5.1 audio tracks.
In terms of sound quality, I own the Sonos 1s and 5s and tried some of the Bose (at an Airbnb stay) and they both sound great. Boses has a little bit more bass relative to size and having the preset buttons on the speaker for your music streaming playlist/stations is really nice. The control app on Bose is pretty bad compared to Sonos as of Q1/2016.
I currently have dots all over the house, and Sonos. The missus very much likes being able to ask Alexa for all manner of music, but wishes it would play with the quality/ubiquity of the Sonos (agree with previous audio quality comments, it’s not HT level, but it’s pretty solid for the size it is). Amazon has hinted a few times at adding multi-room functionality (presumably to compete with Google Home), but nothing official has been said one way or the other. I have Sonos set to trigger pandora stations/Google music files for various events in ST using Notify with Sonos, and it works fairly well, but not to the degree of flexibility you’re asking for.
Just a heads up what’s coming down the pike… come on 2017
There are also custom script options to get Sonos integrated into Alexa/ST today, but they’re not for the technologically faint of heart.