Those Sonos speakers you own just got a big upgrade. The best part: You didn't have to spend a dime to enjoy it.
On Monday night in California, Sonos announced Trueplay, a free, major software update for its full line of wireless speakers. Trueplay allows users to tune their Sonos speakers to the acoustics of the rooms in which they sit, even if those acoustics are terrible. The effect is that the speakers sound as if a professional has optimized your setup, but you don't have to do any remodeling or buy special furniture to make it happen.
The problem Trueplay solves is pretty simple. Speakers are designed to create a "sweet spot" that's a certain distance and direction from the drivers; usually they are intended to sit at a particular height, on certain kinds of surfaces, with generous room left on all sides for air flow. Most people don't position their speakers to take advantage of these design considerations. Often we have to stick them in corners, next to heavy furniture, or in other spots that muddy the sound and create interference. Trueplay changes the output of the speaker to cancel out all these negative effects.
I was a little skeptical as to how well Trueplay would work when I popped into an Airbnb space that Sonos had rented in Midtown Manhattan to demo the system a few weeks ago. The results are outstanding.
With no Trueplay and a tiny Play:1 speaker (Sonos's coffee can-sized, entry-level unit) tucked behind a nightstand in a corner of the room, the Sonos representatives turned on Daft Punk, and it sounded as if I were outside a grimy nightclub around 3 a.m. With Trueplay on, though, it sounded as if we had kitted out the room with surround sound in about a minute. I went so far as to peek under the bed and check the closet to make sure I wasn't being tricked—or even Punk'd. (Ashton never showed up.)
Setting up Trueplay is easy. After you've completed the software update for the speakers, you open the app and a video guides you though the process. Basically, you wave your phone or tablet in the air as you walk around your room. The speakers emit tones to measure reverberation, using the microphone on your hand-held device. (In case you look a bit moronic, you should get this out of the way before entertaining.)
For starters, Trueplay works with Play:1, Play:3, and Play:5 speakers and will roll out across the rest of the Sonos lineup over time.
Along with this announcement, Sonos has also updated its flagship speaker, the Play:5. It has the same purpose as the original (to fill a room of any size with clear sound), but it's better than its predecessor in just about every way. The matte case has integrated touch controls on top, for swiping through your songs, pausing with a tap, or changing the (considerable) volume without needing to engage your phone. The speaker can sit horizontally or vertically, alone or in a stereo pair with a second unit, and the touch controls and sound adapt automatically as you move the speaker. All this comes with a higher price tag—$499, instead of $399. It seems worth it.
If you have already filled your home with Sonos speakers, you needn't run out to replace everything with new Play:5s. If, however, you've been on the fence about getting into Sonos, this could be a good excuse.
The real value, though, lies in Trueplay. How often does a company such as Sonos make a major breakthrough in how its products work and then give that breakthrough away to its customers? About as often as D'Angelo puts out a new record, so count your blessings.
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