Sonos Trueplay: What is it? How can you use it?

A large chunk of Sonos’ charm has always been its ability to improve its speakers at the drop of a firmware update. We’ve seen it with sound improvements pumped to the original Playbar and Play:1 after their launch, and even more so with Trueplay, with which Sonos aims to make sure your system is calibrated to your listening environment.

First announced alongside the new Play:5 speaker in 2015 and now a staple of the Sonos app across the entire Sonos product range, it aims to help you get the most from your Sonos speaker and/or soundbar, no matter where you place it. Read on for everything you need to know.

What is Trueplay?

Sonos Trueplay will automatically calibrate your speaker and optimise it for its surroundings. Sonos says that too often it has found consumers with their speaker placed in less-than-ideal settings – tucked in a corner, placed on the floor or just put in a room that’s not great acoustically.

These are all scenarios that Sonos wants to help to improve with its Trueplay technology. Sonos says users shouldn’t have to have any knowledge of good speaker placement in order to get the most of their Sonos product – they should be able to put it wherever is convenient and still get great sound.

And this applies to individual Sonos speakers and Sonos home theatre setups, all of which can benefit from Trueplay tuning.

Which Sonos products are compatible?

Sonos p

(Image credit: Sonos)

Trueplay will work with all of Sonos’ smart speakers, from the new Era 300 and Era 100 to the Sonos One, One SL and Sonos Five, and even the older Play:1, Play:3, both generations of Play:5. It's also present in all soundbars (Arc, Beam, Beam Gen 2, Ray) as well as the older Playbar and Playbase. And since 2019, an updated version of it also works with Sonos's portable speakers, Move and Roam (but not the Roam SL).

Alongside your Sonos speaker(s), you’ll need an iOS device to do the measuring, like an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad running iOS7 and above.

For a long while since launch, you could only get Trueplay on iOS devices. There’s good reason for the Apple exclusivity. In order for Trueplay to work reliably, it’s important that the microphone in the measuring device is consistent, otherwise it could result in tuning discrepancies that Sonos can’t risk. It needs to be able to ensure an accurate result at all times. Sonos tested Apple devices and found their mics to be very consistent from device to device, but found significant differences between the microphones on Android devices, even between the same phone on different networks.

It said it's working on a solution, though – Sonos built two microphones (currently switched off and users will be informed before they're turned on) into the new Play:5 to help futureproof it for future iterations of Trueplay. When we first published this article in 2017, Sonos wasn't sure exactly how just yet, but said that one potential use is them being used as a reference point to help calibrate an Android microphone, though it'll continue to research other solutions too.

Fast forward to 2023, and Sonos has finally done it. Android users can finally get in on the Trueplay action, which relies on the microphones built into the two new Era speakers to do the tuning. Whether this will feature will be backwards compatible and extend to older models is yet to be confirmed.

How does Trueplay work?

Sonos says each speaker that is shipped is expertly tuned to deliver music as close as possible to how the artist intended. Trueplay is listening for any alterations to the sound, so it can correct it.

It does this by having your speaker emit a series of tones and sweeps across the frequency range, with the microphone on your iDevice recording the results. It isn’t mapping your room like calibrating an AV receiver might do, but instead listening to soundwaves and the way they behave and bounce around a room.

It listens to lots of cross-sections across the frequency range, taking an accurate map of the frequency shifts in the room and making any necessary changes in what Sonos says is a very precise way.

For example, if your speaker is in a room with a lot of glass, high frequencies won’t die away as quickly, while a speaker tucked in a corner might find its lower frequencies are amplified. Trueplay’s job is to balance this out.

With the portable speakers, Auto Trueplay tuning was introduced because, since these speakers will be placed on different surfaces and in different environments, its sound can't simply be tailored for one scenario. With Auto Trueplay, it's the Move or Roam speaker itself that carries out the measuring and self-calibration. It uses its microphones to measure the frequency response of its surroundings – similar to the way that Apple's HomePod 2 adjusts its sound to its environment.

We imagine it will be a similar case when it comes to new Android compatibility with the mics built into the Era speakers, but we're yet to test out how this works and how effective it is.

How do you set up Trueplay?

Sonos Trueplay on Sonos Roam

(Image credit: Future)

Trueplay is part of the updated Sonos S2 app. Make sure you have the latest version of the Sonos app before you calibrate your speakers, and that the speaker/soundbar is connected to the wi-fi.

Trueplay is found in the Sound settings of the Sonos app, and any speaker that is yet to have been through the Trueplay process will be marked with a red dot (if it’s in a stereo pair, they will be tested as one). In all, it takes about three minutes the first time, due in part to the fact you have to watch the demo video in full, and then around a minute or so for each additional speaker.

Firstly, your environment will be tested to make sure it is quiet enough, and once you’ve got the all clear, the test tones will sound. During this time you’ll need to walk around your room, slowly moving your iOS device up and down through the air. You might look a bit daft, but it’s important to keep moving, with a slight concentration on any specific listening areas you might have in the room.

The app does a good job of prompting you if you’re doing things wrong though, and will tell you if you need to move around more, or move the device faster or slower.

As long as your environment manages to stay reasonably quiet during the 45-second process, Trueplay should be successful, though there has been some clever tech built into it to take account for normal household noises. For example, there’s an algorithm designed to specifically cancel out dog barking. Clever stuff.

You'll only have to perform the Trueplay procedure once per speaker, but if you reposition your speaker into a horizontal or vertical position, or move it to a different room, you should of course retune it for its new situation.

In Auto Trueplay tuning, the procedure is triggered whenever the Move or Roam is placed in a new location. It has had around 30 seconds to process its new surroundings, and Sonos says it continuously refines the sound when the speaker is stationary too.

In the new version for Android users, they can select the "Quick Tuning" option on the Sonos app when relying on the Era speakers' mics to calibrate. The traditional method is referred to as Advanced Tuning for iOS devices.

What differences will I hear?

If your speaker is in a good place, you might not hear any changes in sound whatsoever. During the beta process, Sonos said around 50% of speakers saw a change. In our testing over the years with every compatible Sonos product, we found it to be very effective, with the sonic differences obvious to our ears, depending on where the speaker is placed.

When listening to the mains-powered speakers in our dedicated listening room, it does little to the sound. But move the speaker to a less ideal location – a kitchen or a corner for example – and the difference is audible. It tightens up any boomy bass, adds clarity to the midrange and really cleans up the sound from top to bottom. We said "it opens the sound up" in the Sonos One review. With portable speakers, we move from our soundproofed test room to a noisy office environment and outdoors. The speaker’s real-world transformation is audible; when outside, there’s a definite sense of the Move’s sonic presentation opening up while retaining the clarity and balance of its indoor performance. 

After completing the calibration, Trueplay will let you know whether it’s made any tweaks or not, also letting you know whether they were big or minimal.

If you don’t like the changes, you have the option to switch off Trueplay (which also doubles as an easy way to do a quick A/B listen), with EQ settings still available after the process has finished should you wish to make further changes yourself.

What's the future for Trueplay?

Sonos Era 300 in black

(Image credit: Sonos)

Sonos called Trueplay more of a strategy than a feature, with its launch in 2015 billed as the first phase in a timeline it sees stretching 10 or 15 years.

It's safe to say it has become as familiar a Sonos feature as the wi-fi connection. Since launch, we've seen Trueplay included in pretty much every major Sonos speaker product. It's been updated for portable use, for Android users and even has the ability to fine-tune multi-speaker Sonos home cinema setups. 

And most of all, it's effective. We can only hope for more accurate, fine-tuned advancements for future products.


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Verity Burns

Verity is a freelance technology journalist and former Multimedia Editor at What Hi-Fi?. 

Having chalked up more than 15 years in the industry, she has covered the highs and lows across the breadth of consumer tech, sometimes travelling to the other side of the world to do so. With a specialism in audio and TV, however, it means she's managed to spend a lot of time watching films and listening to music in the name of "work".

You'll occasionally catch her on BBC Radio commenting on the latest tech news stories, and always find her in the living room, tweaking terrible TV settings at parties.

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