Audiophiles are sometimes dismissive of mainstream manufacturers and applied sciences. Take Sonos, the largest identify in wi-fi audio. Whereas many acknowledge their audio system sound good, it’s normally accompanied by a qualifier like “for a wi-fi speaker,” or “once I’m listening to music within the background.”
It’s been my expertise that wi-fi audio system are sometimes aggressive with some costlier conventional hi-fi audio system, regardless of their comfort – so now I wish to put that to the check. Immediately’s topic is the $399 Sonos Transfer, the corporate’s first transportable, IP56-rated, Bluetooth-enabled speaker. My colleague Callum Sales space beforehand supplied his ideas on the speaker right here – it’s value studying his evaluate for a broader perspective. I’m simply right here to speak in regards to the information.
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Over the previous 12 months, I’ve taken a extra technical strategy to my audio critiques, capturing their efficiency by frequency response measurements that research present could be correlated extremely with person desire. I nonetheless really, , pay attention to the audio system earlier than taking the measurements, however capturing the information offers permits me to supply a extra goal perspective that’s much less coloured by ideas like “this can be a Bluetooth speaker, it’s not alleged to sound nice.”
As a result of, so far as I’m involved, it does sound nice. My impression was the Sonos Transfer sounded surprisingly balanced in my dwelling, even earlier than utilizing the speaker‘s “Auto TruePlay” function that may alter the speaker‘s sound routinely relying on the place it’s positioned. Let’s see the way it achieves this.
The Sonos Transfer is a troublesome speaker to measure as a result of its drivers are in an uncommon configuration. It has a reasonably typical 3.5-inch woofer, however its tweeter really fires downward right into a “waveguide” that then spreads the sound round a small slit that wraps across the majority of its circumference.
This has two theoretical advantages. One: it helps make sure that the speaker sound good irrespective of the place you’re standing. It outputs practically the identical sound 90 levels to its facet because it does proper in entrance. Two: for the reason that Sonos Transfer is designed to be super-durable, the skinny, sloping waveguide protects the tweeter by minimizing the probabilities that one thing will make contact with the delicate part.
With a view to seize the speaker‘s efficiency, I exploit a quasi-anechoic measurement approach that primarily filters out wall reflections from the information. I then repeat these measurements at a number of angles to indicate how the sound radiates across the speaker, as a result of what we hear isn’t just the primary sound that reaches our ears, however a mix of the direct sound with very first reflections from our partitions.
Lastly, it’s necessary to notice that research by researchers akin to Floyd Toole and Sean Olive have proven us that, opposite to common perception, most individuals like roughly the identical steadiness of frequencies of their audio system. The overwhelming majority of individuals want a sound that’s “flat.” In a typical room, what’s perceived as flat is definitely a slight downwards tilt from the underside of the frequency vary to the highest due to reinforcement of the bass and absorption of excessive frequencies.
Let’s see how the Sonos Transfer does. First, now we have the direct sound – the sound when the speaker is aimed instantly at you. Be aware that I’m not but together with the bass efficiency on this information.
Eesh. It appears we’re not off to a very good begin, however bear with me. Usually, we’d need the sound to be flat during for this measurement. We see large dips and peaks within the treble right here, doubtless attributable to the reflections inside the waveguide.
We see a barely cleaner efficiency if we seize a “listening window” common, which accounts for the truth that most individuals aren’t completely centered or nonetheless when listening to audio system. That is a mean of measurements inside a 30-degree horizontal and 10-degree vertical window. I’ve additionally added within the bass efficiency to this graph, which was captured utilizing a separate nearfield measurement approach. You may see the bass extends cleanly right down to 40Hz – a formidable end result. The highs nonetheless aren’t wanting nice although:
However keep in mind what I mentioned about listening to a mix of the direct and mirrored sound? As a result of the Transfer isn’t a speaker most individuals will sit instantly in entrance of and pay attention to love a hi-fi speaker, it appears the corporate prioritized a balanced, virtually omnidirectional radiation as an alternative of the direct sound. On this picture we see the 2 graphs above, in addition to how the Sonos Transfer measures out to 90 levels:
Although the treble nonetheless seems to be messy, notice the way it stays the same distribution even all the way in which out to 90 levels.
To make some sense of the messiness within the highs, we take a mean of a number of measurements within the vertical and horizontal planes, producing one thing referred to as an “Early Reflections” curve, proven in blue. This common primarily summarizes a very powerful sound to achieve our ears and extra carefully represents how we’d understand sound in a typical listening setting.
You may see the response tilts down pretty easily from the bass to the treble, which signifies that the speaker ought to primarily be perceived as pretty near “impartial” as long as you’re not listening from very shut. We’re not too delicate to slender peaks and dips, and this can be a higher end result than some correct hi-fi audio system. I think the curve could be even smoother if I’d taken measurements in tighter intervals. The info above additionally tells us that in a stereo setup, this speaker’s huge dispersion leads to an enormous soundstage; one thing I assumed in my very own stereo listening.
Lastly, like most sensible audio system, the Transfer makes use of digital sign processing to boost bass efficiency. The trade-off is that Sonos locations a quantity restrict on the bass to guard the drivers from going kerplunk. On this subsequent suite of measurements, the information is not quasi-anechoic, so it contains room reflections and the total bass extension, and subsequently seems to be wavier in its decrease half. We will see how the bass efficiency adjustments from 50 p.c quantity to 100 p.c.
The Sonos Transfer places out a exceptional quantity of bass for a small speaker as much as about 85 dB- which is louder than snug for most individuals within the first place. It extends right down to about 40Hz, which is greater than most correct bookshelf audio system. It won’t put out the loudest bass outdoor, the place there are fewer reflections to strengthen the sound, however 85 dB must be greater than loud sufficient for many indoor eventualities. When you move that stage, the bass is proscribed to 100Hz, which isn’t too unhealthy.
Crucially, the above graph additionally exhibits that in a typical room, the squiggles within the earlier quasi-anechoic information are of little relevance – the speaker primarily has a balanced distribution of frequencies(with the anticipated downward tilt) when you issue within the reflections of a typical room. (Be aware the notch round 50-80Hz is an artifact of my room, not the audio system).
The Sonos Transfer might not be the head of hi-fi, nevertheless it’s a speaker that appears to rigorously steadiness general sound high quality with its meant use as a Bluetooth speaker and its promise of significant sturdiness. It might “simply” be a Bluetooth speaker, nevertheless it’s clear some actual consideration went into its acoustic efficiency – as one would hope for $399. Sonos could make merchandise for on a regular basis shoppers, if the Transfer is something to go by, its audio chops are not any joke both.
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Printed January 23, 2020 — 00:38 UTC
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