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Sonos Port review

Is the Sonos Port, a replacement to the outgoing Sonos Connect, a worthy successor? Tested at £399 / $449 / AU$599

Sonos Port review
(Image: © Sonos)

Our Verdict

The Port might be more powerful and future-proofed than the Connect it replaces, but it simply doesn't sound good enough

For

  • Clear, balanced and detailed
  • Analogue and digital connections
  • Class-leading app

Against

  • Poor organisation and timing
  • Little dynamic expression
  • Severe lack of punch

One of hi-fi’s greatest strengths is how rarely great-sounding components become redundant. Assuming it’s still in working order, even your first tape deck or turntable can still be fed new music from a healthy stream.

That’s why, rather than replacing your old system entirely, multi-room solutions such as Sonos are usually tasked with encompassing it within the eco-system, with peace-making modules such as the Sonos Port.

Conversely, the Sonos Port is replacing a soon-to-be redundant model in the form of the Connect. Its core abilities are largely the same – acting as a multi-room streaming module for your traditional hi-fi set-up, and allowing offline components such as turntables and CD players to be played throughout the house – but it has been brought up to date so that it is compatible with newer technologies and, inevitably, the company’s future plans.

Build

Sonos Port build

(Image credit: Sonos)

Place it side-by-side with a Connect box, and the Port boasts a sleeker, smaller black box ornamented only by a strip of light and highlighted Sonos logo on its crown.

Sonos Port tech specs

(Image credit: Sonos)

Ethernet ports 2x 10/100 Mbps

Wi-fi Yes

Apple AirPlay 2 Yes

Dimensions (hwd) 4.1 x 13.8 x 13.8cm

Weight 0.47kg

It’s not as robust as we’d usually expect from a streamer costing this much, but isn’t much different in that regard from its predecessor. Apart from plugging everything in and pressing the Join button, you won’t actually be touching it often anyway.

At the rear of this shallower chassis you will find ethernet ports, which we recommend you use for a more stable connection, alongside two pairs of stereo RCA terminals (one in, one out) and a coaxial digital output. 

There is no longer an optical digital out, but that shouldn’t trouble too many people. A 12V trigger is also useful for automatically waking your amp when a signal is sent through the port, reducing the number of remotes you have to locate.

The stereo RCA input is good for just about any component without internet access, given you have the right cables, but there is no phono stage built in, so you’ll need to buy a separate one if it isn’t built into your turntable.

Features

Sonos Port features

(Image credit: Sonos)

It’s worth noting that Sonos hasn’t made the Port with television in mind, so if you want to connect your TV without lag between picture and audio then you’re better off with the HDMI-toting Sonos Amp. That costs about half the price again but, as the name suggests, it’s an amplified, just-add-speakers unit.

Apple users will be able to make use of AirPlay 2, but almost all other streaming is done from inside the Sonos app, which is the best of its kind. You can link in all of your favourite streaming services and music held on remote devices. By drawing from multiple sources, you can create a queue without having to navigate a number of apps. As far as streaming apps go, this is pretty ideal, but Tidal and Spotify users also have the option to send music directly from those apps.

You can also fiddle with bass and treble here, as well as using Sonos’s Loudness feature but, assuming you have a well-balanced hi-fi system, we’d recommend ignoring those. Out of the box is actually the best the Sonos Port can be.

Sound

Sonos Port sound

(Image credit: Sonos)

There are a few positives to speak of – it is a fairly clean and lean presentation, for example, which you might not necessarily expect from a module such as this, at this price. The levels of detail are not Vermeer-esque, perhaps, but there is enough insight to divulge when we are listening to CD-quality files as opposed to a Spotify stream. 

Balance is good, too, which is why you can leave that EQ well alone. There is no effort made to falsify bass levels, or roll off treble to appease rougher partnering speakers or electronics, and the midrange is full enough to provide a smooth and easy listen.

Unfortunately, however, the Port’s presentation is about as disorganised as a teenager’s bedroom. Nobody seems to know where their part comes in and how loud it should be, a combination of missed steps conspiring to confuse even the most seemingly straightforward arrangements. If your streamer cannot keep in time a constant 4/4 kick, control will rapidly slip from its grasp the more parts get planted on top.

That would be enough on its own, but perhaps worse is how uninterested the Port appears to be in whether you enjoy your music or not. Dynamic expression is poor and punch is so lacking you almost expect its corner to throw in the towel.

This is all the more frustrating because it represents a step back. The Port is cleaner and more detailed than its predecessor, but the Connect manages to tie music together and deliver it in a much more cohesive and engaging fashion.

Sonos Port sound

(Image credit: Sonos)

It’s those latter talents that are most important, and the fact Sonos is asking its customers to spend more on a worse performing product is a real disappointment.

Using an external DAC is helpful, so if you have a decent one built into your amplifier, we’d suggest using the Port’s digital output – though we’d hesitate to suggest adding to the already significant cost by incorporating an outboard DAC.

We try it with the Award-winning Chord Qutest (£1195), which predictably improves the performance but not to a miraculous extent. As a £1600 streamer, this pairing would still receive only three stars.

Verdict

If you are set on incorporating your hi-fi system in a Sonos multi-room set-up, we’d recommend spending a little more on the four-star Sonos Amp. While it isn’t perfect, it is more accomplished, whether or not you ever make use of its added features.

Otherwise, if it’s a multi-room streamer you’re after, and it doesn’t necessarily need to be Sonos, then components such as the Bluesound Node 2i are streaks ahead of the Port in terms of sound quality.

We wish the Port had been better, but if you’re determined to replace your outgoing Sonos Connect (although it's important to note that you don't absolutely have to do so), you’re going to have to save a bit more or make do with average-at-best audio quality.

SCORES

  • Sound 3
  • Features 5
  • Build 4

MORE:

Best music streamers 2020

Read our Bluesound Node 2i review

  • scene
    Sigh. Bit disappointing to read this review.

    I've got three Connects and have found them a great way to get streaming music & internet radio to my AV & HiFi systems. The new Ports sound like Sonos have gone "meh" - we need to provide an upgrade path for the existing users, but they're not our core market...

    I really think it's time to look at Bluesound or Audio Pro

    Actually: Can WHF do a head-to-head on Bluesound/Audio Pro/Sonos...
    Reply
  • jacobmorrison
    Wait, so the sound quality issues with the Port aren't primarily down to the DAC or analogue circuitry but with it's ability to handle ones and zeroes in the digital domain? Doesn't this turn all science and audiophile orthodoxy on its head? I shouldn't surprised I suppose, this from the magazine that can "see" differences in HDMI cables.

    I've upgraded a Connect to a Port just to take advantage of the trade in deal and looking ahead to future Sonos support for "high res" audio. Sound quality wise the two were very similar. The Port doesn't get hot, the analogue output is surprisingly good against the Musical Fidelity MX DAC I have connected to it, and via this DAC the sound quality is superb, teeming with detail with a wide sound stage. Of course the Sonos OS remains excellent.

    Ludicrous to recommend a Sonos Amp over the Port to integrate Sonos into an existing hifi. Presumably this is the new 4* reviewed Sonos Amp with the same digital circuitry as the Port, which contains an amplification stage that you wouldn't use as you'd be integrating with an existing setup, and you'd be paying £200 extra for?

    Sigh....
    Reply
  • scene
    jacobmorrison said:
    Wait, so the sound quality issues with the Port aren't primarily down to the DAC or analogue circuitry but with it's ability to handle ones and zeroes in the digital domain? Doesn't this turn all science and audiophile orthodoxy on its head? I shouldn't surprised I suppose, this from the magazine that can "see" differences in HDMI cables.

    I've upgraded a Connect to a Port just to take advantage of the trade in deal and looking ahead to future Sonos support for "high res" audio. Sound quality wise the two were very similar. The Port doesn't get hot, the analogue output is surprisingly good against the Musical Fidelity MX DAC I have connected to it, and via this DAC the sound quality is superb, teeming with detail with a wide sound stage. Of course the Sonos OS remains excellent.

    Ludicrous to recommend a Sonos Amp over the Port to integrate Sonos into an existing hifi. Presumably this is the new 4* reviewed Sonos Amp with the same digital circuitry as the Port, which contains an amplification stage that you wouldn't use as you'd be integrating with an existing setup, and you'd be paying £200 extra for?

    Sigh....
    So the Port is an OK piece of kit in your opinion - better than the mediocre review WHF have given it?
    Reply
  • jacobmorrison
    scene said:
    So the Port is an OK piece of kit in your opinion - better than the mediocre review WHF have given it?

    Yes it's good. If you already have sonos in your house and want what this device offers, ignore this review (which is the first time in many, many years reading this magazine I've ever been prompted to say this).
    Reply
  • Darwinia
    jacobmorrison said:
    Wait, so the sound quality issues with the Port aren't primarily down to the DAC or analogue circuitry but with it's ability to handle ones and zeroes in the digital domain? Doesn't this turn all science and audiophile orthodoxy on its head? I shouldn't surprised I suppose, this from the magazine that can "see" differences in HDMI cables.
    I've upgraded a Connect to a Port just to take advantage of the trade in deal and looking ahead to future Sonos support for "high res" audio. Sound quality wise the two were very similar. The Port doesn't get hot, the analogue output is surprisingly good against the Musical Fidelity MX DAC I have connected to it, and via this DAC the sound quality is superb, teeming with detail with a wide sound stage. Of course the Sonos OS remains excellent.
    Ludicrous to recommend a Sonos Amp over the Port to integrate Sonos into an existing hifi. Presumably this is the new 4* reviewed Sonos Amp with the same digital circuitry as the Port, which contains an amplification stage that you wouldn't use as you'd be integrating with an existing setup, and you'd be paying £200 extra for?
    Sigh....

    You really need to read this review again instead of mischaracterizing it to defend something you have paid for.
    For one they did not say what you claim they said about the Amp.
    The Connected very poor and dated sound quality so saying the Port is as good isn't saying much.
    $450 for the Port is also an idiotic price for what it is.
    Reply
  • jacobmorrison
    Darwinia said:
    You really need to read this review again instead of mischaracterizing it to defend something you have paid for.
    For one they did not say what you claim they said about the Amp.
    The Connected very poor and dated sound quality so saying the Port is as good isn't saying much.
    $450 for the Port is also an idiotic price for what it is.

    "If you are set on incorporating your hi-fi system in a Sonos multi-room set-up, we’d recommend spending a little more on the four-star Sonos Amp. While it isn’t perfect, it is more accomplished, whether or not you ever make use of its added features. "

    How have I mischaracterized this quotation? If you want to add to your Sonos network and keep your current hifi they have recommended spending an extra £200 for what is the same device with an amplication stage that you wouldn't use.
    Reply
  • jacobmorrison
    Also, given that the Sonos Amp has no digital output or tape output that could connect to an existing hi-fi system, it cannot be connected to an existing hifi system without replacing your current amplifier. WhatHiFi should make this clear.
    Reply
  • scene
    jacobmorrison said:
    "If you are set on incorporating your hi-fi system in a Sonos multi-room set-up, we’d recommend spending a little more on the four-star Sonos Amp. While it isn’t perfect, it is more accomplished, whether or not you ever make use of its added features. "

    How have I mischaracterized this quotation? If you want to add to your Sonos network and keep your current hifi they have recommended spending an extra £200 for what is the same device with an amplication stage that you wouldn't use.
    Agree - what's the point of buying an Amp to plug into an amp?

    Are WHF saying that the Amp's line out / digital out is better than the one on the Port?
    I'd be surprised if the two didn't have nigh on identical electronics apart from the amplification stage...

    And has jm said "given that the Sonos Amp has no digital output or tape output that could connect to an existing hi-fi system" it would be a complete chocolate tea pot for plugging in to my existing amp.

    If the Port will support Hi-Res sound with the S2 update, it's got to be better than the Connect - I can plug the hi-res digital output into my Marantz (say) and use its excellent DAC...
    Reply
  • Bialykot
    Oh blimey. Digits aren’t digits anymore. Perhaps it would ‘sound better’ with $10k cables attached (but only if they’re advertised in WHF).
    Reply
  • BenLaw
    I’ve always thought ‘timing’ is one of the more nebulous and ambiguous words used by whathifi reviews. Even when I’ve tried to get my head round it, I’ve never understood it to mean that a 4/4 beat is ‘out of time’, as this review suggests. How would that even be technically possible?
    Reply