Sonos updates Playbar sound quality, adds multi-account streaming support

The new Sonos 5.2 system update is available to download today as a public beta on Android devices and through the Sonos Desktop Controller for Mac and PC. It's due out officially later this year, at which point it will become available on iOS devices, too.

The most interesting aspect of the Sonos update for us is the claimed improvement to the Playbar sound quality, specifically on the music performance.

Sonos says the update aims to improve the Playbar's "soundstage (using stereo imaging), along with updates to the EQ and volume balance", claiming that "even the slightest nuances in the music are positioned more clearly" for a more immersive sound.

MORE: Sonos Playbar review

Ryan Taylor, senior product marketing at Sonos, told What Hi-Fi?: "When we design products, we intend them to stay in homes for a long time - 10 years plus. So we don't take our teams off the product once we launch something, it's a continual R&D process.

"We launched Play:1 last year and learned a lot about getting additional sound out of smaller drivers, and we can apply that learning directly against existing products. We've made a lot of small, fine tuning adjustments to the way we use the software in the product [Playbar] to deliver a more realistic soundstage and a more natural EQ."

And this update is all about the music performance, so won't affect the sound when you're watching movies or TV.

"The Playbar has 27 different tunings depending on your set-up, so this is specifically for all the music playback scenarios. We are a music company; we think of ourselves as music first, trying to build the ultimate music experience in the home."

"Because we build and design the drivers in house, there are unique things we can do with the software. We know to the millimetre how the driver works, so we can optimise that. We're trying to better match the custom DSP to the custom driver, and trying to fine tune those changes."

"This won't be the last time you see things like this from us. Our goal is to enhance that product in your home over time."

MORE: Sonos System review

Multi-account support

Also new in the 5.2 update is support for multiple accounts within your chosen music streaming services. So, if your household has more than one Spotify account, for example, you can now easily switch between accounts within Sonos.

This means everyone who uses the Sonos system can now quickly access their saved playlists, favourite internet radio stations, liked tracks and more. You can also quickly add your own account to a friend's system and vice versa.

Taylor said: "Typically, streaming in the home is led by a single individual in the home that has an account, but really that's right on the cusp of changing. We've seen a lot of folks launch family plans for streaming services, so adding multiple account support is an obvious move for Sonos. The trick is making sure it works for shared devices as well as personal devices."

Another new feature focuses on Sonos Universal Search, which now incorporates music stored directly on your Android or iOS device in to search results. Android users will also benefit from the ability to play, pause and skip tracks from the lock screen.

MORE: Sonos Play:1 review

High-res audio

We didn't miss the chance to ask Sonos about support for high-resolution music, and Taylor reiterated that it's on Sonos' radar - but there are no plans as of yet.

Taylor: "Sonos doesn't support 24-bit audio today. We've supported FLAC since 2006, and that's made its way in to streaming services such as Tidal and Qobuz, but the reality is there isn't a lot of content in 24-bit right now and we don't have a lot of consumers asking for it yet.

"We obviously have our eye on it and if it's something that becomes more meaningful we will focus on it but it's not our top priority right now."

Talking of Tidal, any news of a launch date on Sonos? "Tidal is the same company as WiMP, which we do support in other countries," said Taylor. "But in terms of Tidal on Sonos, we don't have a date for that."

The Sonos 5.2 update is available in public beta from today on Android, Mac and PC, with more details available on the Sonos website. Look out for our review of the updated Sonos Playbar coming soon.

MORE: Sonos wireless speakers - everything you need to know

Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is the Content Director for What Hi-Fi? and Future’s Product Testing, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for almost 20 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).