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What amp for Sonos multi-room system?

 

New member
Username: Karlitosmen

Post Number: 1
Registered: Mar-09
Hi,
I am thinking of Sonos multi-room system. Why? Unfortunately now I am all on mp3's and some FLAC's. My entire CD collection got stolen 5 years ago. Could not get back on track with CD's after... :-(
So, I want some music in bedroom and bathroom, and - in livingroom. Bathroom&bedroom is OK with something not that good (like Sonos ZonePlayer 120), but in livingroom I really want a good solution. I guess I need good amp for that.
I have read some rave reviews about Naim Nait 5i. Wouldn't it be something way too good for mp3's and Sonos? Of course, one day I will buy proper CD player and CD's collection, but currently my major concern is to get the best out of music on my HDD.
And - which speakers would suit the best if I like wast range of music - from Nina Simone to Amon Tobin (the punch is important, too. Like in Guts "And The Living Is Easy")?
Many thanks for the tips in advance. :-)
 

Gold Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 2332
Registered: Feb-07
I've done something similar before using multiple 2 channel amps. I simply ran a splitter from the pre-outs of my main receiver to the amp(s). When I want to listen to music in a certain room, I just switch that particular amp on. The drawback with simple system is that you don't have volume controls for each room.

I've never had music in my bathroom before, although I guess this isn't too far out. I have a friend who has a TV in his bathroom, strategically placed so that line of sight is perfect while sitting on the crapper. How much time would one have to spend in there to warrant that?

Anyway, I'm sure some guys will have better advice than mine.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 11896
Registered: Dec-04
For automatic amp power, I suggest the crapper clapper.
 

New member
Username: Karlitosmen

Post Number: 2
Registered: Mar-09
Right, got myself fooled.
As for bathroom - everyone of us is spending some time taking the shower, washing the teeth, shaving etc. For some it takes half an hour every day. And, guess what, sometimes one can take a bath too. So, for that last.fm suits just perfectly.
Apparently some use bathroom for sitting on clapper only. Hmmm.

Anyway, dear gold and platinum members, this seems like a very "welcoming" community. Very different from dpreview.com community, for example.
Bathroom was not the point at all - it was just mentioned to describe why Sonos Multi Room.
Cheers and keep on being nasty!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 11901
Registered: Dec-04
KG, If your source is compressed files, then I would look at something with a broad range of tone controls, like a +- 10 db range.
If the speakers are undecided as yet, this will offer more adjustment as well.

If you are working with what you have right now, then I would simply get something that works, and hold off on one centerpiece until a more complete system can be considered.
 

New member
Username: Karlitosmen

Post Number: 3
Registered: Mar-09
Nuck, thanks for the tip.
Can you name any amp that would have that 10db range (within 1000-1500 USD), please? Did you mean to have some sort of equalizer?

So I thought that Naim Nait 5i could be that very centerpiece (maybe foolish).

By the way, the more I read about Sonos, the more I think it is good for me. :-) And, if it's playback quality of ripped CD in loss less compression can match the quality to the original CD played on upper budget CD (not SACD) player (in 300-500 EUR range), that is excellent (http://www.stereophile.com/mediaservers/1006sonos/).
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3218
Registered: May-05
Sonos makes some very good stuff IMO. While not the highest fidelity, it sounds great for what it is. I really like the ZP120 for anything below critical listening.

With that being said, the Nait 5i is a bit overkill for it. If you're looking for very good sound from Sonos, get a quality DAC. More and more integrated amps are being sold with internal DACs. I have no idea where you're located and what is available for what price, so I can't really recomend much. But a DAC (either seperate or internal) with an unamplified Sonos (ZP80?) can sound very good. You probably won't want to go back to CD afterward.
 

New member
Username: Karlitosmen

Post Number: 4
Registered: Mar-09
Stu Pitt, excellent, thank you - this was just the answer that I was looking for!
Yes, it is a pitty that Naim Nait 5i does not have proper built in DA converter. I know there are some good stand alone DA converters out there and I am having difficulties finding where to seek for them. Apprantly DA converters are not from small niche manufacturers.

How do you think - to have Sonos+good DA converter+Nait 5i - would it make sense? Or better quality is achieved by having DA converter built in the amplifier?

I am located in Latvia, which is a small country in East-North Europe.
That or another way I guess I can buy most of good HiFi producers goods - it may cost more than, say, in London, but nevertheless, I want and need good music. So, I would appreciate any suggestions. :-)
 

New member
Username: Karlitosmen

Post Number: 5
Registered: Mar-09
Alright, after hours spent in forums, got myself to following:

1. Sonos truly is an excellent piece of engineering, offering simlicity of use whilst audio quality for loss less formats is on par with medium budget hi-fi CD players (if paired with DAC, even better than that). So, for start, I am buying Sonos Speaker Bundle 150 then.

2. Cambridge Audio Dacmagic (digital audio converter) will be connected with Sonos ZonePlayer 90. It has rave reviews too. So, that is decided too, as out of all DAC's in the market it is the very best for the buck, besides it looks good enough too.

3. Most probably Naim Nait 5i. Anyway, will check it out in real life paired with Sonos and Dacmagic (there is a store in Riga that has Naim Nait 5i to be tested, aslo Sonos is there and vast range of varios brands speakers too).

4. Speakers - not decided yet, not even a slight glimpse of idea... Crazy range of choice. Aaaaa.... Desperate for some help here... :-)

Anyway, I hope that CDs realy are so 20th century and loss less audio files really can or will deliver high-end sounds.

Stu, again, many thanks for the tip!
 

Gold Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 2344
Registered: Feb-07
Karlis, I'd be very interested to hear your impressions of the CA DACMagic when you get it. It's on my shortlist of new toys to buy.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3220
Registered: May-05
Karlis,

I haven't compared seperate DACs vs built in ones. Just like everything else in audio, no universal rule saying one is always better than the other. Listen to everything you can afford and determine which is best to your ears.

Some advantages of a built in DAC is that it should have a perfect synergy, eliminates cables extra cables, and is more convenient due to being a single box. On the down side, it isn't upgradable. What you get today is what you'll have as long as you own your amp unless you buy a new external one and lose an input.

I really like the Bryston integrateds with built in DACs and the Naim SuperNait. Prices are very different where you are due to duties and taxes. I believe Bryston may be almost double the cost in Europe as it is here, and Naim is a good deal cheaper.

I'm eagerly awaiting (actually hoping for) a Rega or Naim outboard DAC. When this happens or when I can afford a Bryston DAC, I'll go the discless route.

People debate and will continue to debate for a long time which is superior - CDs or digital memory music. There are very strong arguements for both sides. My opinion is as long as its done right, it doesn't matter. That goes for everything in this hobby.

The DACMagic and Nait 5i should pair up reasonably well. I haven't heard the DACMagic, but based on Cambridge's house sound I'd say it won't be too bad. I'd personally look for a higher end DAC though (unless the DACMagic is that good). There are a ton of DACs on the market, and quite truthfully I've heard very few. I don't have a solid recommendation for you, unfortunately.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jeffbucks

Post Number: 17
Registered: Oct-06
should a seperate dac be used for each seperate sonos unit in each room?
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jeffbucks

Post Number: 18
Registered: Oct-06
2nd question: sorry to change the subject but it kills me to know: should the computer be on using sonos?
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3223
Registered: May-05
1st question - That depends on the level of critical listening you'll be doing. If its just background music for while you're cooking, cleaning, exercising, etc, then it'll probably be a waste of money. If you'll be sitting down and listening to the performance rather than hearing music, then yes. Your best bet is to get a signle DAC that is the best you can afford for the system that has the highest critical listening priority first, then adding more down the road if you feel they're needed. I think the amplified units are very good for non-critical listening, but that's just me. Just add speakers. They're also very convenient and pretty cost effective in that context.

2nd question - The computer must be on to listen to the library. It may be off when listening to internet radio. You could get a NAS (networked attached device) and eliminate having the computer powered on. I don't know the ins and outs of that; my knowledge of that particular subject ends there.
 

New member
Username: Karlitosmen

Post Number: 6
Registered: Mar-09
Finder37 - my idea is to have NAS (I can not decide yet either Apple Time Capsule or Maxtor Central Axis - it depend if I am moving away from PC to MAC, will decide soon).
So, if you have NAS, it means the computer should not be swithed on. And - you can access your music from multiple computers, Sonos and other devices at the same time. Hence less consumed electricity, too.
Sonos has Zone Player 120 which has amplifier built in - for that you don't need separate DAC. If you want higher quality music, use Sonos Zone Player 90 + DAC + good integrated amplifier + pair of good speakers (for that you'd better off with audio files in any of Sonos supported Loss Less formats).
Uhhh, I can't wait until renovation of my house is finished and until I get my hands on Sonos... :-)
 

Bronze Member
Username: Jeffbucks

Post Number: 19
Registered: Oct-06
Another route which I read in TAS is the apple TV which holds all itunes in it's hard drive and will be syncd automatically each time the computer is turned on, the only downside is limited space(160gb) compared to Time capsule (1 tb)& no internet radio compared to sonos.
I guess the sonics will be better in apple tv since it's not streaming like sonos.

I'm dreaming about an apple tv+naim dac in my main system and two sonos ZP120 on the other rooms!
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3224
Registered: May-05
The Apple TV will do internet radio. You have to put the stations in a play list (or something like that). Streaming has little if anything to do with sound quality. It eliminates drop outs though. The limited space is an issue, but it'll also stream if/when it needs to. Think of it as a large iPod that'll stream music when its memory is filled.

Both the Sonos and Apple TV can be controlled by an iPod Touch/iPhone. This eliminates a need for a TV screen for the Apple TV and the $400 remote for the Sonos controller.

I was looking into going this route a while back. I'll probably go with the Apple TV due to not having to run the computer, and the on screen display. If I'm going to have a TV in the stereo room, why not use the TV interface. Some have complained about it. I personally like it. If you haven't done so already, check it out in the Apple Store. Also, it can be controlled by a universal remote instead of the gum pack sized one, thereby not having to add yet another one into the mix.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Irvington, New York USA

Post Number: 3225
Registered: May-05
Just to add - some how, some way, the Sony PS3 and XBox 360 can stream music and movies. No idea how its done. They can also output a digital signal. I don't see a digital out on my 360, but I believe there's an upgraded output cable that has a digital out on it.
 

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 3633
Registered: Sep-04
The Sonos system is very effective and remarkably bug-free. The ZP120s can be used to power speakers in the other rooms. The ZP90 can be used as a source unit, either digital or analogue (in fact it's got a volume control which makes it a preamp stage as well so you could just use it with a power amp). For best results you can use the ZP90's digital output into a quality DAC and amplifier (and speakers).

The source of the files can be either a computer or a NAS drive. NAS drives have become really quite cheap and clever. in particular many have the ability to run more than one drive at a time and mirror the data automatically so if you have a drive failure you won't have to rip all your music all over again. Just restore the backup drive. Some NAS drives also offer Torent servers and the like and are controlled by a web interface. They're usually quieter than a computer but the cheaper models can become noisy relatively quickly. The idea is that the NAS drive uses lower power than the computer and can be left on all the time in some quiet corner in the hall. Some have an auto-sleep mode when not in use I believe.

On the quality front, if you're using MP3 or any lossy compressed codec, there's little point to spending extra money on naim amps or anything like that, no matter what bitrate. Save yourself the money and buy the standard ZP120 instead. If your source is lossless (e.g. FLAC, WAV), then it's worth pursuing higher quality if you wish.
 

New member
Username: Sam_ash

Post Number: 1
Registered: Sep-09
Hi Frank, I find that quite interesting. You mentioned the fact that you can connect the ZP90 into a power amp and still be able to control the volume. It would be nice if the power amp is able to automatically switch-on when it senses input from the ZP90 and goes into standby mode if there is no input signal detected for like 10 minutes. That way one would not have to switch on and off the power amp using a separate remote control. I need to put a ZP90 in the living room and another in the dining room. Both need to be 2 channel oriented. I am looking for power amps that are petite (small) and discrete as I'd want to hide them away in a cupboard or something like that. Do you think that would work and any suggestions which power amps I could use ?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 13360
Registered: Dec-04
This is what class D amps are made for.
Depending on your power requirement, a chip amp might do it as well.

Given the length of the speaker runs, a class D amp might do best. Small, light, efficient and running cool. Dozens to choose from.
 

New member
Username: Sam_ash

Post Number: 2
Registered: Sep-09
Thanks Nuck, for example in the living room I may have 2 x 200W KEF floor-standers (iQ or XQ range). These will be connected to a power amp that will be fed by a ZP90. The length of speaker runs will not be all that much because each of the 2 rooms (Living Room and Dining Room) will have its own power amp. Please give me some references or brand names (web sites) for suitable Class D Amps.
 

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 3806
Registered: Sep-04
Speakers don't do watts. They do decibels of sound. They consume watts. How many watts they consume to make the decibels happen depends on their sensitivity (e.g. 87db/w/m is average). Power handling is one thing. Producig sound is another.

Small quality amplifier - as Nuck said, the class D amps are great for this application. They run cool and don't need much (if any) ventilation. Flying Mole and nuforce are the brands that immediately come to mind. The ZP90 doesn't have a trigger output to tell a power amp to switch off so Class D is nice from another aspect. When there's no signal going through it, the class D amps consume almost no power. If you wanted an amp that switches itself off when no signal is present you'll need to find one that specifically does that. This is an unusual request so you will restrict your choices appreciably.
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