Audiophiles are a passionate bunch, especially when it comes to their personal stereo setups. Many hang onto their gear for decades. We do a lot of repair work on audio systems and for good reason. If something sounds good to you, why would you want to give it up?
Unless you bought your amp or speakers in the last couple years, chances are they’re a little dumb. They sound great, but they’re not connected to Wi-Fi, they’re not Bluetooth-enabled, and they’ most certainly are not Pandora-ready. Up until a few years ago, they were perfectly fine for all your musical needs – playing back your CDs, vinyl, and tapes (and we know there’s still a lot of cassette-lovers out there). But in this connected world where you literally have millions of songs at your fingertips anytime you want them, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that?
It’s time for your trusty audio system to get smart. After all, you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater and get something like a Sonos Play:5 wireless speaker. You just want to introduce Old Faithful to Spotify. After all, an amp is a terrible thing to waste.
Luckily, you’ve got options.
Sonos has become a household name for wireless audio, with a versatile line of wireless speakers for every need. But they realize that sometimes, you just don’t want to let go of a good thing. That’s why they introduced the Connect – a wireless streamer that connects to any existing stereo system as a source. There’s RCA analog outputs onboard, as well as coax and optical digital outputs for home theater receivers.
Like any Sonos speaker, you can control all your music from the Sonos app on your phone or tablet. It works with all the major streaming services like Pandora and TuneIn Radio, and you can also play music from your mobile device, PCs, Macs and network storage devices. It even sports an analog input, allowing you to take an existing source from your stereo setup and broadcast it to other Sonos devices in the home. If you’ve been wanting to spin some vinyl from the den while you’re preparing dinner in the kitchen, the Sonos Connect has you covered.
But what if you just have a favorite pair of speakers without an amplifier? Sonos has you covered there too. The Sonos Connect Amp takes all the smarts of the Connect and adds a powerful Class-D digital amplifier that’s beefy enough to power speakers large and small with 55 watts per channel. The Connect Amp, obviously, trades the analog outputs for speaker connections but retains the analog input feature. Pair it with a subwoofer – either by its sub output or adding a Sonos Sub – and it automatically sends the low frequencies to the sub and leaves the high frequencies in the speakers.
There’s other great features packed into Sonos, like the wake-up alarm and music scheduling functions, but let’s not forget Sonos’ greatest feature – multi-room audio. With the Connect and Connect Amp, you can add on Sonos speakers (or even additional Connect products) in other rooms and fill your whole house with music. Play the same song in every room while you’re cleaning house, or play different tracks in different rooms with ease. Once you have multi-room audio, you’ll wonder why you’ve gone this long without it.
While Sonos has been around for a while and made a name for itself in the streaming audio world, there’s a new player in town. But DTS Play-Fi isn’t a product by a specific manufacturer – it’s an open platform that does a lot of what Sonos does, that’s available to various manufacturers who integrate it into their products. You get the app-controlled, streaming audio magic with your choice of make and model.
Probably the favorite product line utilizing Play-Fi is Paradigm’s Premium Wireless Series, which includes the PW Amp. This device, a direct competitor to the Sonos Connect Amp, is similar in a lot of ways. It too features an analog input and subwoofer output. You can control your favorite music right from the DTS Play-Fi app and stream most of the same services like Pandora.
The PW Amp has some differences that may make audiophiles sit up and take notice. For one, the PW Amp is more powerful, with 100 watts per channel RMS. Paradigm’s PW Amp also features Anthem Room Correction, with an included calibration microphone, that helps you tune your speakers for optimal performance. That alone is a huge selling point for Paradigm because you’re getting the same ARC algorithms they use in their pricier products. Once you go through the calibration, you will very likely hear the difference. Sonos’ similar TruePlay feature is presently limited to their Play speaker line.
But again, the biggest difference between this and the Sonos amp is the open ecosystem of Play-Fi. If you choose to add wireless speakers to other rooms of your home, you have your pick from several brands and models. Even the prestigious McIntosh brand is getting into the wireless Play-Fi game with their own streamer and wireless speakers sometime this year. You can get that whole home audio freedom with your pick of products – even add additional PW Amps if you want to really have your say over speakers in every room.
One note about “high-resolution” audio – neither Sonos and Play-Fi play back true high-resolution audio, but Play-Fi allows you to play back high-resolution audio files, albeit transcoded to CD quality. It has to do with wireless transmission reliability. If you’re looking for true high-res audio playback, we carry dedicated players from Sony that integrate into your home audio system.