How to set up a Sonos multi-room system
BBC Music Magazine's audio expert guides you through how to set up a Sonos system in your home, and the different types of speakers you can incorporate into your system – on all budgets
When Sonos launched its first speaker in 2011, I remember the tutting from hi-fi enthusiasts. But today, Sonos dominates the wireless audio market, selling over 20 million units to date. With 15 products available – including speakers, soundbars, subwoofers, amplifiers and wi-fi boosters – they’re impossible to ignore whether you’re looking for a single speaker, surround sound system or multi-room set up.
What is a Sonos system?
But what is Sonos? Put simply, it’s a speaker system that lets you play music wirelessly throughout your home. The speakers can deliver a spot of Bach from over 80 sources including Spotify, Deezer and Apple Music, as well as directly from your digital library, CD player or turntable. And because it uses your home Wi-Fi to create a mesh network, its strong, reliable signal won’t, unlike Bluetooth, halt the music if you move out of range.
You can also connect up to 32 Sonos products – enough for the largest house. The controller app (iOS and Android) acts as a remote control, so you can play Shostakovich in the study, stream Brahms in the bedroom or have a Proms party using multiple speakers. With the Beam (£369), Playbase (£699) or Playbar (£699) you can also boost the sound of your TV as well as enjoy music.
- Sonos Beam: buy from John Lewis, Argos, Sonos, Currys or Amazon
- Sonos Playbase: buy from Currys, John Lewis or Amazon
- Sonos Playbar: buy from Amazon, Sonos or Currys
The best Sonos products for your system
Sonos Play:5 £449
The boldest of the range, this powerful speaker boasts deep bass, good detail and will fill even the largest room with enjoyable sound thanks to the three 10-inch woofers and three angled tweeters.
Sonos Move £399
Multi-room finally makes its way to the garden with the first battery powered speaker from Sonos that has 10- hour battery life and Bluetooth streaming for when you move beyond your home’s Wi-Fi.
Sonos Amp £599
This impressive 125W class-D digital amplifier has inputs of your turntable, TV or CD player and can either stream music to other Sonos speakers placed around the house or power a pair of wired speakers.
How to set up a Sonos system in your home
Creating a Sonos network is blissfully simple thanks to the smartphone app that does the work for you. Press the sync button, enter your Wi-Fi password and that’s it. You can then add your favourite streaming service, assign a room to the speaker.
How to add additional speakers to the Sonos system
if you want to link up another speaker, just press ‘add a new speaker’ in the app and push the sync button on the speaker itself. Spotify Connect and Apple Airplay 2 users can stream direct to the speakers without having to open the app, while you can also ask for songs if you use a voice service like Siri or Amazon Alexa.
The Sonos One (£199), or cheaper One SL (£179) without voice control, is one of the best compact speakers I’ve used and is ideal for kitchens, bedrooms or offices. It can be paired for stereo or used as part of a surround system. The Play:5 (£449), meanwhile, is the most powerful speaker option and is great for a living room, while the Sonos Amp (£599) or the new Sonos Port (£399) lets you turn your existing hi-fi components into multi-room streamers.
- Sonos One: buy from Currys, Sonos, John Lewis or Amazon
- Sonos One SL: buy from Amazon, Currys, John Lewis, Sonos or Richer Sounds
- Sonos Play:5: buy from Crampton & Moore, John Lewis, Currys, Argos or Amazon
- Sonos Amp: buy from Sonos, Sevenoaks, Create Automation, Hills Radio, Richer Sounds or Amazon
- Sonos Port: buy from Hughes Audio, Sonos, Smart Home Sounds or Amazon
Cheaper alternatives to Sonos speakers
If budget is an issue, though, you can now buy two speakers from Ikea – the Symfonisk lamp (£150) or the Symfonisk bookshelf (£99) – that will work seamlessly, even if the sound quality isn’t quite up to the Play:5’s standards.
Chris Haslam is a freelance consumer technology journalist, specialising in tech, audio, lifestyle, health and interiors. He is the monthly audio columnist for BBC Music Magazine, rounding up the best audio equipment on the market for classical music lovers. He is also a contributing editor for Wired UK.