There is no longer enough time in my life to enjoy music while not doing anything else. Yes, I still do listen to music, but that’s when I’m on the treadmill or driving somewhere, never as an activity in itself. And that’s one thing I would like to change at some point, especially since it’s one of the most pleasurable things for me. A product like the Sonos Five might be just what’s needed to bring me back on track, quite literally.
The Sonos Five is a high-fidelity Wi-Fi stereo speaker. It is larger than most Bluetooth speakers and can be paired with other Sonos devices in the house. Interestingly, the orientation of the Five can be made vertical in case you want to pair it with another of the same. I have not seen many speakers that work well in multiple orientations. The Sonos does a good job of this, also because it has the ability to fine-tune its output based on where the speaker is placed.
The Sonos Five has a touch panel on top for you to skip songs and adjust the volume. There is also a small LED light there for you to know if the Wi-Fi is connected fine. In the rear, there is a line-in option in case you want to go wired, maybe from a legacy turntable unit at home. Otherwise, the Five is as simple as any audio product can get.
Like other Sonos products, the Five is also a Wi-Fi speaker and does not work on Bluetooth. This is meant for those who want a perfect listening experience, not one that is interrupted by message alerts and frequent calls. So one uses the Sonos app to set up the speaker to the home Wi-Fi and add services like Amazon Music and Spotify to stream your music. The Sonos Five is Apple AirPlay-enabled so you can stream directly onto the speaker.
However, just remember that your phone and the Sonos Five need to be on the same network for everything to work smoothly. I had an issue with this because my home has multiple Wi-Fi networks and the phone kept switching to others, which meant the speaker would disappear from the app.
Once your Sonos is connected is when the magic literally begins. One experience that is etched in my memory is hearing Jagjit Singh’s Hey Raam for the first time on the banks on Beas in Kullu town one late night two decades ago. Hearing this soul-stirring bhajan was an equally ethereal experience on the Sonos Five. Jagjit Singh’s angelic voice filled my room as the chorus warped the walls with just the right amount of bass. You can quickly adjust bass and treble with the app, though there is no equalizer here for more tweaking. I chose to tone down the bass and sharpen the treble to make Singh’s vocal stand out.
Soon I was listening to Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma’s Santoor recitals to celebrate one of the most loved musicians of our times. Even with an instrument like the Santoor that has sharp notes, the Five ensure the music fills the room. Remember this was with just one speaker perched on my dining room. This is as close as you can get to a full-blown music system with just one unit. The three woofers on the Five ensure the bass is unparalleled for a speaker of this size, but without shaking up everything in the room.
As is my habit while reviewing speakers, I also played the Hi-Fi version of Hotel California, streaming from Spotify. Let me tell you, that was a special 7 minutes. The signature thumping before the prelude, the guitar that ushers in the song, the crowd going crazy at the realization which song is coming up next… it’s as if I was transported to an Eagles concert. It was early morning and even though I was not at full volume, I was worried my late rising neighbors might be at my door soon. But did I bother… it was my favorite song playing in its full unfettered glory
At Rs 59,999, the Sonos Five is not a replacement for a Bluetooth speaker. It is what you would buy instead of a full-blown music system in 2022. But this is clearly an investment meant for those who appreciate music at its finest and will go the extra mile to play audio just the way they want without any limitations. If you consider yourself in that bucket, just go ahead and bring the Five home.