INITIAL IMPRESSIONS, UNBOXING, SETUP & CONFIGURATION:
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. I mean, I’ve heard a lot ‘about’ Sonos, and I know a little about Sonance, but I never expected what I heard. Moving on, the packaging was, to say the least, considerably larger than I had expected, and that was due (as I’d find out only after opening the multiple boxes (will explain in a bit)) to the fact that the Sonance speakers were quite a bit larger than I’d expected. Upon opening the primary packaging, you are greeted with four boxes inside the “big box”, namely the CONNECT:AMP in one box, the iPort xPRESS in another box, and each of the speakers (as well as their brackets, installation hardware, etc) inside two other boxes.
On one hand, I sorta-kinda understand the “idea” behind packaging everything this way – as this system is a Best Buy/Magnolia “exclusive”, they probably wanted each component remaining in its usual (ie. retail) packaging, thus allowing them to use as minimal styrofoam as possible (there are only three “pieces” of Styrofoam…one placed between the two speakers, “cradling” the amp & iPort xPRESS boxes, and two more inside the amp box. On the other hand, I would have preferred a more “environmentally-friendly” packaging. Seeing how Sonance used molded cardboard inside each of their speaker’s boxes, a similar approach could have been used for the entire packaging. Considering this is meant as a “bundle”, inside the primary packaging, everything could have been held in place by similar molded cardboard. Ok, enough complaining about the NON-environmentally friendly packaging…time for the “important” stuff.
The title of my review truly does say it all…this system sounds INCREDIBLE. I was, literally, amazed. I won’t be able to say much about the functionality of the CONNECT:AMP, as I am still just scratching the surface of its capabilities, but, from quickly perusing through the Sonos Connect app, I can easily see that its streaming capabilities are WAY beyond what I could have possibly imagined. As of right now, I’m only streaming via iHeart Radio. While I do have an incredibly large music collection (over 12,000+ songs, all at 256-320kbps), their only “network accessible” form is through the WB MyCloud connected to my router. I am in the process of replacing the MyCloud with a proper NAS, which will also increase capacity from 4TB, to 12TB (using four 4TB drives in a RAID5 configuration), which will be accessible from the CONNECT:AMP. Not that I have configured this…yet…but the CONNECT:AMP can also be used as the “brain” for multi-room, multiple-source audio, by adding additional Sonos speakers in other rooms, and (through the smartphone app) linking them to the CONNECT:AMP. It may be a little while before I start going this route, but…eventually…this is a strong possibility. For right now, I’ll just enjoy the single-source sound coming through the Sonance MAG06 speakers…and, speaking of those……….
As for the Sonance MAG06 speakers (essentially, the same as Sonance’s Mariner 66 speakers), they are extremely high quality, producing amazing sound. I realize these are waterproof, and intended to be installed outside, but, for now (meaning, until we move into a house with a backyard & patio), they are installed in the master bedroom, on the wall behind the bed’s headboard, high above each nightstand. While I considered installing them on the opposite wall, facing the bed, I figured, by reflecting the sound off the wall in front of the bed, as well as having some sound “spill over” to the side walls, I could enlarge the soundstage somewhat. It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing Christian music from K-Love, or classic rock from The Bone…either sounds fantastic.
There is one “down side” to the package…not that it’s an actual “down side”, but, for anyone without an iOS device, this is directed at you. The iPort xPRESS Audio Keypad included needs to be paired with the CONNECT:AMP, exactly as one might expect. Unfortunately, this is NOT done through the Sonos app, as one might expect. No…iPort requires you to use their own app in pairing to the CONNECT:AMP, and, even worse, they have decided to ONLY create an iOS version of the app. In a time where both Android AND iOS are extremely popular mobile OSes, and when companies, such as Sonos, are intelligent to realize this, and crate apps for BOTH mobile OSes, WHY is there ONLY an iOS version of the xPRESS app??? Sonos openly welcomes BOTYH mobile OSes, so one would think that, being a Sonos accessory, and NOT an Apple accessory, that there would be an app version for Android. As such, I was not able to test/review the xPRESS Audio Keyboard (and this WILL be reflected in my rating). It seems ludicrous to include a $100 accessory in a bundle, when said accessory can ONLY be used if you own a mobile Apple device.
Overall, the Sonos/Sonance Outdoor Streaming Music System is incredible (at least a 9 out of 10), and I would recommend it to anyone, ESPECIALLY if your looking to get high-quality music outdoors. Depending on the gauge wire you use to connect the speakers to the amp, you can place the speakers up to 650ft…YES, I said 650 feet…from the amp. The Sonos CONNECT:AMP is top notch, as are the Sonance speakers. Based on this, alone, I would have given this a 5-star rating. Unfortunately, there’s a rock in the heel of this bundle, and that’s in the form of the included iPort xPRESS keypad. While the Sonos amp can be controlled through iOS or Android apps, setup/configuration of the xPRESS keypad REQUIRES an iOS device. If you are a fan of Apple products, then great, as your getting an excellent system, and saving some money at the same time. However…and this is a BIG “however”, if you’re an Android user (this also applies to those who are still using older cell phones, and without tablets), then you end up with a completely useless accessory, PLUS you will have WASTED money, as you will have spent more on the bundle (based on the regular $1200 price) than you would have had you purchased the CONNECT:AMP & speakers separately (of course, anytime this bundle is on sale for anything less than $900, by all means, brag it QUICK, as it’s a steal-of-a-deal).
I would have GLADLY given this bundle a 5-star rating, had it not been for this one major “hiccup”. The truth is, if your going to include a wireless keypad accessory, make CERTAIN it can either be paired by using the product’s native app (in this case, Sonos Connect)…or, if requiring its own app, that said app is available on ALL major platforms. Since this is a Magnolia/Best Buy exclusive, one would think Best Buy would have been smart enough to understand this, ESPECIALLY when Android devices outnumber iOS devices by a considerable margin. The overall bundle is wonderful, but it’s marred by the inclusion of an iOS-only accessory, thus the reason for my “lowered” 4-star rating.
Disclaimer: This product was provided free, or at reduced cost, for the purpose of reviewing the product. Nevertheless, the above review, be it positive, negative, or anywhere in-between, is a 100% honest review, and the price paid played absolutely no part in my review.