I must admit, I was quite confused as to what Sonos is trying to accomplish with this new product. Yes, it has more power than the Connect Amp and I know it’s aimed at custom installers (I am one), but what else does it offer and is there a wow factor for homeowners? I did an A-B comparison of the new Amp and the old Connect Amp to see if I could hear the differences. Let’s see if the new Amp is worth the $100 premium over the old Connect Amp.
125 watts @ 8 ohms
HDMI ARC & Optical (Optical with adaptor)
2.52 x 8.54 x 8.54 in.
Total harmonic distortion:
Setup is easy, like any Sonos product; unbox it, connect all the wires, then open the Sonos app and follow the instructions. The unit is designed to work right out of the box with banana connectors, you just slide them into the slots. If you have bare wire or spades there are optional binding post adapters. I would have preferred however to just have five-way binding posts and not deal with extra parts.
I created a simple setup for the test using a pair of Bowers and Wilkins AM-1 outdoor speakers. I played both amps at full volume with the same playlist. I honestly couldn’t hear much difference in sound or even volume level. I will say the Amp sounds more effortless than the Connect Amp, but that’s about it. Distortion seemed lower as well, but again, the difference was small. Although there is only a $100 price gap, I feel this represents just a minor revision of the Connect Amp, not an upgrade or serious improvement in sound and volume. The Amp is more squarely aimed at the custom integration market with its rack mount and cooler running temperature, but that’s where the differences end.
Great question. For most homeowners, the Amp is not really worth the extra cost over the Connect Amp. I don’t recommend running out to replace all your Connect Amps with the new Amps. For people that need multiple zones of audio in a rack mounted setup though, the Amp is definitely the way to go. I don’t understand the need for HDMI ARC in a two-channel configuration since you’d give up the dialog speaker. I would miss that. Another interesting reason to use the Amp is it can handle two speakers per channel, for a total of four speakers driven. It can also drive speakers down to four ohms. Both of those features are more useful to a custom integrator and most homeowners won’t have to drive four speakers or drive a 4-ohm load. For custom integrators, the Amp is a good successor to the Connect Amp and as an integrator myself, I welcome the new Amp to Sonos’s lineup for large whole house audio projects.
I think the odd part of the new Amp is the fact that it has ARC with only two channels, so there is no center channel. If the amp had three channels it could be a very useful unit with ARC+Alexa. You could pair it with a set of Play:1s to act as amps for the surround speakers. I just don’t like listening to TV and movies in stereo, the center channel is key for dialog reproduction and the 5.1 configuration is tried-and-true for even basic home theaters. The Amp can also turn a 5.1 signal into a 4.1 signal, creating a phantom center. This is an interesting concept, but I would rather have my Playbar in three-channel and two Play:1s as surrounds for a five-channel setup any day. Also, the power increase is nice, but I don’t think it’s enough. I’d really have liked to see something more like 200 watts of power to really let me crank it up loud.
I expect you’re now thinking, “But I don’t need that much power to drive in-ceiling speakers,” and that’s true, the Connect Amp does the job just fine with 125 watts. But Sonos is showing off the Amp as an amp to drive your front speakers in your main setup. 125 watts just doesn’t cut it for larger tower speakers and some bookshelf speakers. I also was disappointed that the amp can’t really play louder than a connect amp. The sound difference to me is only minor and most listeners would never know the difference between a Connect Amp and an Amp in the average system.
I would say this is in a step in the right direction for Sonos to meet the growing custom integration market, but I feel it’s a bit too little to late here. It finally hits the points installers have been asking for but doesn’t really break any new ground into what could have been an awesome and exciting product. Had we have seen more power, three channels, Alexa, and perhaps a phono stage, that would have been cool. The ability to add a turntable as a source into any Sonos system without a phono pre-amp would be awesome. Sure, it’s new and slightly better, but other Sonos products have really been pushing the boundaries of new and exciting, like the new Sonos Beam. As a custom integrator it leaves me feeling like I finally got what I asked for years ago, but as a homeowner the new Sonos Amp leaves me feeling just feeling “meh”.