The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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July 29, 2013

Jeremiah Tucker: Sonos speakers able to play vinyl brilliantly

JOPLIN, Mo. — My idea of a perfect Saturday afternoon is playing records while drinking a couple beers. But until last week, I had a problem.

My turntable is heavy and stationary, connected to the phono input of an even heavier receiver, which is in turn connected to two Bose speakers by about 20 feet of heavy-gauge speaker wire.

This analog system is unmovable. Unless I'm in my living room, I either have to crank the volume or be content with far-away sound.

I like robust sound. I play vinyl. I own a decent pair of headphones. But I'm no audiophile. I'll play scratched records, and I prefer the ease of an MP3 to a lossless format like FLAC.

So I wasn't interested in rewiring my house with speakers in every room. What I wanted was to play vinyl records on my turntable and transmit the sound to wireless speakers. I wasn't sure if this was possible, but after some research, I discovered it was.

The solution: Sonos.

Sonos is a wireless hi-fi speaker system designed for streaming music from the Internet or playing your digital music collection. The backbone of the Sonos system is the Play:3, a speaker that is actually three integrated speakers, and the slightly bigger Play: 5.

Once they're set up, you can play your entire digital music collection, including streaming services such as Spotify, over one or all of the Sonos components at the same time using your smartphone or computer. The Sonos speakers sound phenomenal.

But what's even better, for my purposes, is this system is designed to work with vinyl, too.

I bought a Sonos Play:5 and the Sonos Connect. Using the Connect, I turned my existing stereo setup into a system I could control with my smartphone, like any other Sonos speaker. I used the analog inputs on the Connect to the "tape out" of my receiver. (If I had a multi-zone receiver, I would've used that output.)

Now, when I play vinyl -- or anything else through my receiver -- the sound is transmitted both to my existing speakers and digitally to the Play:5.

Conversely, whenever I play music from Spotify or my digital music collection with my smartphone using the Connect's outputs, I can play it over my old Bose speakers and the new Play:5. After playing with Sonos all weekend, I'm in love with it.

If I'm grilling outside or hanging out on my screened-in porch, I can easily move the Play: 5, plug it in, and listen to the vinyl playing in the other room. Then, if I don't feel like getting up to flip the record, I can play one of my Spotify playlists.

Or if I'm cleaning the kitchen and want to watch Netflix, I can connect my iPad directly to the Play:5 using a simple auxiliary cable. It's a pretty slick system.

Ideally, I would have Sonos speakers throughout the house, so I would never need to move the Play:5. And that's the plan for the future.

But Sonos isn't cheap. The Connect is $350 and the Play:5 is $399. I also purchased the $50 Sonos Bridge, which connects directly to the wi-fi router, instantly creating the wireless network that allows the individual Sonos components to communicate with each other. It will be a while before I can afford another piece.

If Sonos ever creates a component with a phono input for turntables, I'll probably sell the Connect and scrap my existing stereo system all together. I like the future of home stereo envisioned by Sonos -- it just needs to make room for my record collection.

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