Never heard of Sonoro? Neither had we, until a cursory browse on its website enlightened us.
Turns out it’s a German audio company that produces a snazzy ‘lifestyle’ range: four products, all radios but varying in features and, curiously, each designed for a specific room in the house.
In Sonoro’s own words, the ‘room-sensitive’ products have ‘functionality customized for specific living environments’. Its water-resistant GoLondon tuner is aimed at the bathroom and kitchen, while the compact SonoroRADIO is for the bedroom. And so on.
Of course, they won’t self-combust upon crossing the threshold into another room – in fact, you can put them anywhere you like.
Features and connectivity
The SonoroSTEREO is the flagship, made for living rooms but just as suited for a kitchen worktop or (large-ish) bedside table. Combining its siblings’ specs and bringing in a few tricks of its own, it makes for a tempting all-in-one system. A one-stop solution for music playback, if you like.
Let us break it down for you: there’s an FM and DAB/DAB+ radio, a slot-loading CD player, and a host of connections around the back: a pair of RCA plugs and single 3.5mm for hook ups to laptops and portable devices, and a USB socket that supports MP3 and WMA playback (from a key or drive up to 32GB) and can, according to Sonoro, charge any smartphone.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Needless to say audiophiles who have their hearts set on high-res audio should look elsewhere. And network features such as DLNA and internet radio have been left off the list. What you can do is stream songs offline via aptX Bluetooth.
It would be an injustice to miss off its miscellaneous features, which include time and date setting, comprehensive alarm functions and sleep timers.
Then there’s our favourite: ‘relax sounds’ – an assortment of tranquil sounds from birds to whales, wind chimes to crackling fire. Soothing, indeed.
Roughly the size of a shoebox, the Sonoro is a block of beauty. It will almost certainly incite a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from visitors.
Its solid wood housing is dressed to impress in a stylish glossy lacquer (available in your choice of red, black and white), which meets a smart, clean frontage.
The brushed silver front panel features a quadrant of soft-click buttons, a responsive dial and an easily readable (and dimmable) display, all of which make the system a real pleasure to use. The rather plush remote is in keeping with the unit too, both aesthetically and practically.
Either side are two mesh grilles, each hiding an 8cm driver. A down-firing 10cm subwoofer underneath the unit also plays its part to bring low frequency grunt.
Before getting stuck in, try experimenting with the STEREO’s self-explanatory sound modes: ‘treble’ offers a bright listen, the overpowering top end a little uncomfortable, while ‘bass’ is a bit boomy, and ‘voice’ sounds harsh and forward.
Default mode ‘stereo’ produces the most tonally balanced, clearest sound, but those who prefer more low- or high-end presence can fiddle with treble and bass levels accordingly.
We pair our LG G3 smartphone over Bluetooth and let the STEREO try to make a positive impression. The first thing that hits us about the sound is how big and open it is – this is an audio performance we’d associate with a much larger machine. You can tell it’s been designed with a view to filling large rooms.
We are pleasantly surprised – we don’t often hear such a mature, multi-talented sound from a product of this sort.
Tonally balanced and intricately detailed, its presentation is very listenable, the unit delivering a good sense of space and weight. Hit play on Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Snow (Hey Oh) and the dense production never sounds jumbled or unclear.
Fed a heavy track like this, the STEREO can feel a little strained at high volumes, but it does well to stay clear and balanced.
There are clear hints of dynamic aptitude as the drumming builds to the chorus, and admirable rhythmic drive and energy when it finally arrives. The forceful drumbeat is taut and string-plucking rendered with pace and enthusiasm.
It’s a fun, musical box – athletic and agile and with a sense of life that makes it near impossible to sit still when playing a lively track (we tried).
While the clear, insightful midrange and deep, agile bass throw up very few complaints, the same can’t be said for the treble. In need of more refinement, it stings as cymbals pierce the soundstage, failing to die down even after a weekend’s run-in.
And as much as we like the STEREO’s forward, go-getting stance, we’d welcome more subtlety and variation to its delivery for it to earn the full five-stars. Even mellow music, such as Sufjan Stevens’, feels a little ambushed.
But there’s good news for CD advocates. Slot in Drake’s Nothing Was The Same – the mechanism barely whirrs as it loads – and the presentation is analogous in character to that played wirelessly from the LG, but (as you’d hope) cleaner, clearer and more cohesive. It certainly ties the various strands of music together more convincingly.
The album’s arresting beats pound through the system with punch and potency, the upbeat rhythms agile and explicit.
£500 isn’t a big ask for a classy system that can play music pretty well from a host of devices.
It might not do enough to rule the roost in this sector, but for those who don’t have the room, or the budget, to build a decent system of hi-fi separates, the SonoroSTEREO is a very attractive alternative.