September 8, 2018

Do Sonos Speakers Need Amplifiers?

People often ask whether they need to buy an amplifier to work the Sonos speakers in their home. The short and sweet answer is no. Every item in the Sonos catalog, apart from the amps themselves, are completely self-powered. All you have to do is plug them in, configure them, and they’ll deliver quality sound performance all by themselves.

The Sonos amps do exist for a good reason, and they can be a worthwhile component in your larger Sonos ecosystem if you decide to make an investment in them. Here’s what you need to know about how you Sonos speakers and amplifiers can work in tandem with one another, and whether or not investing in an amplifier is worth your time.

How Do Sonos Speakers Work?

Sonos speakers are active speakers. What this fundamentally means is that they include miniaturized amplifiers built right into them. That allows them to provide the high-quality sound that you want in a stereo system or home theater without having to rely on any outside device. This is especially important for the sort of AV model that Sonos is looking to build. Since their goal is to create portable speakers that work anywhere and eliminate the need for nests of cables and wires, demanding that they connect to an amp would fundamentally defeat the point.

Every model in the Sonos catalog dating back to the early Connect speakers and moving forward to their modern day soundbars, sound bases, and smart speakers are fully capable of functioning on their own. That means that they can all function apart from one another or in tandem in a larger network solely through the use of the Sonos amp. That’s not to say a Sonos system can’t benefit from the inclusion of an amplifier, but we’ll get to that below.

What Do Sonos Amps Do Then?

Given that Sonos has built their reputation off self-powered and powerful speakers that stand and work perfectly well on their own, it’s a little ironic that the first product Sonos produced was an amplifier. The ZP100 amplifier was rolled out in 2005 to much acclaim. It would later be branded again as the Connect:Amp. When you understand exactly what Sonos is trying to do with their technology, it makes a lot of sense. The Connect:Amp allowed users to retrofit their existing speaker systems with smart speaker technology. To the earlier developers of Sonos, this must have seemed a practical necessity, but their line of speakers and components designed for use with TVs have dramatically outsold the Connect:Amp. As a result, the Connect:Amp went for years without any major updates, and it wasn’t until recently that they decided to add a new amplifier into their catalog in the form of the Sonos Amp. These amps allow you to take traditional speakers, provide them with amplification purposes and allow them to stream music directly using hard drives or servers connected to your system and integrate existing streaming platforms into your network without any additional devices or configurations.

What Advantages Can Sonos Amplifiers Bring to My Traditional Stereo System?

The short answer is that the Sonos Amp (and earlier models of amplifiers) can turn practically any speaker in your home into smart speakers. And the ability for multiple amps to operate on the same network means that you can link multiple amps to different traditional speakers and create a truly complex and impressive audio system. That could mean unifying the sound in your home theater and your outdoor speakers to the same system without having to replace a thing.

What Advantages Can Sonos Amplifiers Bring to My Mixed Use Stereo System?

While Sonos speakers don’t need any amplifiers to work, that means that your unified sound system has to function with only Sonos products. This can create obvious problems if you already own expensive traditional speakers, but it also limits how you can build out your system. While Sonos provides a wide variety of smart speakers, they aren’t enough to cover the entire range of your needs. Sonos brand amps work particularly well when you’re looking to create a unified ecosystem that pulls together an extensive selection of different speaker types. Traditional wired speakers hooked up to the amp allow you to get the sort of specialty sounds you’re looking for, while more versatile and maneuverable Sonos powered speakers can fill in the gaps in a pinch.

What’s the Best Amplifier For My Audio Ecosystem?

If you’re looking to integrate traditional speakers into your Sonos system, you have three options, though one of them isn’t technically an amplifier. The Sonos Connect:Amp will work in a pinch if you just want a tool that will give existing speakers smart speaker functionality or make them an ongoing part of an existing Sonos system. The Sonos Connect:Amp can connect up to four speakers at the same time. If you’re looking for something a little more powerful, you may want to consider investing in the new Sonos Amp. While it’s designed primarily for use by custom installers, it should be available to consumers in early 2019. Despite being twice as powerful, it also comes with a number of bells and whistles that the old Connect:Amp didn’t. Primary among these is the inclusion of AirPlay 2 and Alexa support, so you can control your wired speakers with voice commands. If the past few releases from Sonos have been any indication, this looks to be a standard feature of their new products from here on out, so it may be sensible to get in on the ground floor. Finally, if you already have your own receivers, you don’t need to get a separate amp to connect your wired speakers to your Sonos system. The standard Sonos Connect can work in a pinch if you already have receivers in place. It’s less expensive, and it essentially connects your existing amps to the Sonos ecosystem so you can take advantage of the existing streaming functionality that you wouldn’t get with a traditional amplifier. Unfortunately, none of the products in the Connect line offer native virtual assistant functionality.

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