Ty Pendlebury/Proinertech

Earlier than Sonos grew to become often known as a speaker firm with gadgets such because the One and the Beam, it produced a line of add-ins for present techniques and audio system. The $500 Join:Amp debuted in 2009, and virtually a decade later it is lastly getting an refresh.

The brand new $600 Sonos Amp sports activities plenty of upgrades that ought to attraction to each the customized integrator and the house consumer. This compact two-channel amplifier can energy no matter audio system you hook it as much as, integrating them with Sonos’ whole-home system. 

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Sonos updates Amp with HDMI, extra energy

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Like different Sonos gear, it may be managed by your cellphone to play audio from just about any music supply you need, together with Spotify, Pandora and Apple’s iTunes, both by itself or as a part of a multiroom Sonos system. Though it lacks an onboard microphone, it’ll even be controllable by way of Alexa voice instructions for those who personal an Alexa-capable gadget like a Sonos One ($199 at Amazon.com) or Beam, or an Amazon Echo ($85 at Amazon.com) speaker. When Sonos launches help for Google Assistant, the Amp will work with these gadgets too.

Different options embrace:

125 watts per channel — twice the facility of the unique mannequin.A brand new HDMI enter, or optical enter with the non-compulsory adapterAirPlay 2 help for Apple devicesStereo RCA line inSubwoofer outputCan be used as a part of a four.1-channel encompass setup, with two Sonos Amps and a phantom heart

One of many predominant issues with the unique Join:Amp was that it did not actually synchronize with audio from a TV. The brand new HDMI enter guarantees simple AV sync when linked to a tv, and audio from the TV can move to the amp by way of Audio Return Channel (ARC) — just like the Sonos Beam ($399 at Amazon.com). That additionally means you may hearken to TV audio elsewhere in the home on one other Sonos speaker.

Design-wise, the Amp is actually a shortened, black dice at eight.54 inches sq. and a couple of.52 inches excessive. It consists of inside warmth sinks so it may be stacked with different amps, although the corporate suggests energetic cooling in skilled purposes.

Ty Pendlebury/Proinertech

The entrance of the unit is minimalist, with a play/pause button and an space you may swipe for skipping tracks in addition to quantity up/down. The again of the Amp has a pair of proprietary thumb-screw speaker terminals however these may be eliminated fully to disclose regular banana plug inputs. There’s additionally an Ethernet port in case you do not wish to depend on Wi-Fi.

The Amp would not embrace the digital-to-analog converter discovered on most of its form, as an alternative utilizing a Qualcomm DDFA amplifier, which retains the sign digital till the final potential second. The analog enter nonetheless options an analog-to-digital converter although, and the sign — say of a document participant — may be streamed to different Sonos items within the dwelling.

I’ve seen loads of compact amps primarily based on Class D know-how, however some — such because the Artistic X-Fi X7 — are lower than “critical” audio parts. With its energy improve, hopefully the Sonos Amp can lastly compete and even higher the likes of the Marantz NR sequence or the Elac Ingredient.

The Amp may also be run along side a wi-fi Sonos Sub or with a pair of smaller Sonos audio system, such because the Play:1s, as rears.

Sonos’ demo setup with the Amp powering B&W tower audio system.

Ty Pendlebury/Proinertech

I heard the Sonos Amp linked to a pair of Bowers & Wilkins 702 S2 audio system at an occasion in Boston final week, in the identical room as I first heard the Sonos Playbase ($699 at Amazon.com). Whereas the demo wasn’t as attention-grabbing because the Playbase, the Amp nonetheless demonstrated the way it might function as a straight two-channel amp or be break up to function as a part of a four.1 setup. I sit up for testing the amp within the Proinertech workplace, however possibly a pair of the extra reasonably priced Bowers & Wilkins 606 would make a greater match.

With the entire enhancements, at $600 the Amp is $100 dearer than the earlier model. It will likely be obtainable from December on the Sonos web site and to customized installers within the US, and can go into worldwide distribution in February 2019. It’s going to price £600 within the UK and AU$1,00zero in Australia.

Whereas we’re on the subject of upgrading getting old parts, one factor I am nonetheless holding out for is an replace on the corporate’s oldest product, the ZP100 (now Join). A $350 Wi-Fi dongle was a giant deal when it was launched, however even the brand new Works With Sonos program — a Sonos Join working in tandem with an Onkyo receiver — can not help the gadget compete in a world the place the $35 Chromecast Audio ($35 at Walmart) exists. Here is hoping.

Finest audio system for 2018: Hand-picked by Proinertech.

Sonos Playbase evaluate: Sonos hits a house run with this under-TV speaker system.

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