We’re going to review the all-new Sonos Sub generation 3, one of three new products released in June 2020 alongside the Sonos Arc and Sonos 5. We’re going to be comparing the gen 2 with this new-gen 3, telling you what setups this is best with and answering questions such as which is best to add first, the Sub or surrounds for example. There are a lot of reviews out there for the Sonos Sub.
When California-based Sonos introduced a radical new way to experience music almost 20 years ago, no one knew at that time they would grow to become the standard in high-performance wireless speakers. Their simple line of products has appealed to music lovers who want to experience the world of streaming audio with ease of use and great sound. When Sonos entered the home theatre market with soundbars, they once again changed the way people thought about soundbars with their extraordinary sounding products that could also be part of your music system.
Sonos is one of those rare companies that test every single product that comes off their production line. Before a product makes it into production, it goes through a series of stress tests as well. This is a big reason Sonos products have the lowest failure rate.
Sonos first introduced a wireless subwoofer in 2012. Today’s brand new Sub is the third generation of this excellent addition for any Sonos system. The new Sonos sub is designed to augment the bass of any Sonos speakers or can even be used with your speakers if you are powering them with a Sonos Amp.
You’ll have a choice of a beautiful gloss black or gloss white finish. The Sub is roughly 15 inches high by 16 inches wide, and about 6 inches deep, and it weighs in at 36 pounds. This relatively thin cabinet design of the Sonos sub allows you to hide it in any application or have the option of laying it on its side if necessary.
I like the physical appearance of the Sub with its rounded corners and cutout in the centre for the dual bass drivers. Unlike most black box subwoofers, the Sonos sub looks much more finished and refined to our eyes.
It’s got these rub these rubber feet to keep it stable on your floor so it won’t be going anywhere. As with all Sonos products, the design is modern and fresh. They worked with interior designers to give the best and most timeless aesthetic possible from the Sub. as they understand it is quite a large piece of equipment, so they needed to design it in such a way so it wouldn’t put people off keeping it on show in their homes.
The Sub uses two oval, race track shaped drivers that face inward. This force cancelling design assures you the cabinet will never rattle even when you crank things up loudly. Sonos powers each subwoofer driver with an individual amplifier designed to bring out the best from the dual speakers’ design. The new version of the Sonos sub has much more internal memory and a faster processor that will allow Sonos to send out future performance enhancements through their updates.
Also, the Sub has been designed in a way that it doesn’t vibrate when you’re listening. The Sub will take over the lowest frequencies in your audio which enhances the mids and the highs on the speakers it’s paired with. also so the sound is much more detailed and rich. It can achieve a frequency response as low as 25 hertz, which is close to the lowest possible frequency a human ear can hear which is 20 hertz.
As it’s a smart subwoofer, the Sub also knows which Sonos products that it’s been paired with. and it will adjust its sound profile to give you the full Sonos experience. So it’s not just giving you the same bass with every speaker.
In terms of setup, you need to make sure you’re using the Sonos s2 app and that you’re pairing it with a speaker that’s also on s2. Unfortunately, this Sub isn’t compatible with any s1 speakers. So all you do is plug it into mains power, and then you tell the Sonos app which speaker you want to pair it to and the job is done. The benefit of a wi-fi based subwoofer is that it can be wirelessly customized and optimized using the Sonos app.
When you’ve completed setup, you can also adjust the volume of the Sub if you want it to be louder or quieter. But bear in mind if you’re pairing it with a Sonos soundbar you also have night mode if you need it which reduces the impact of the louder sounds, so your neighbours are kept happy.
One thing that is very important when blending a subwoofer to a system is getting the crossover point set correctly. That is the musical frequency where the bass transitions to the subwoofer and the mids and highs go to the main speakers. Done correctly, you can perfectly blend a subwoofer with your speakers. However, if you set the crossover too high or low, the results can sound pretty bad.
What is so cool about adding a Sonos sub to any existing Sonos system is that for most cases when the speakers are all Sonos. The app knows what you are matching up to the subwoofer, and the Sonos software knows the rough range for the crossover point.
I’ve tested the Sub in a variety of setups using the Playbar, the new arc Dolby atmos soundbar with a pair of Sonos fives and many different speakers paired up to a Sonos amp. From music to movies, the Sub delivers excellent bass that is well defined and quite impactful.
Sonos claims the Sub can reach down to 25 hertz which is pretty impressive for its size. The bass is never boomy and always adds that bottom end that makes movies and music more fun. Also by taking the bass away from your main speakers, the mid-range opens up which we especially notice on the Sonos five and when using other stereo speakers with a Sonos Amp.
But the real magic happens with trueplay. This will play about a three minute series of test tones, and their software will figure out the perfect crossover point and adjust the volumes of each speaker. Trueplay even works if you are using your speakers with a Sonos amp and Sub. Should you wish to fine-tune the level of the Sub to your tastes? Simply open up the app, and you’ll have a volume level adjustment at your fingertips.
Sonos Sub Gen 3 Vs Gen 2
The Sonos Sub gen 3 is the third iteration of the Sonos subwoofer sold for the same price as the previous generation. It’s available in a colour choice of gloss black or white. It’s designed to be paired with any Sonos speaker of your choice except for the new Sonos Move, to unlock a new dimension of bass resulting in deeper immersion and a sound that you can feel.
First of all, there are very few changes in the design of gen 3 with gen 2. The changes are mainly aesthetic. They aren’t the most exciting changes we’ve ever seen. It’s got a new flat power cable so it shouldn’t curl around or tangle anymore, which was feedback given from the previous generations. They’ve also updated the join button to be more ergonomic, so it’s easier to press, and more in keeping with the newer products in their lineup.
What is perhaps more significant is that the internals has also been updated with a new quad-core CPU processor and the latest memory chip, which doesn’t mean an awful lot to the end-user at the moment. But it’s ready for what Sonos intend to do in the future whatever that may be.
There’s no sound quality upgrade, so the gen three will sound precisely the same as the gen 2. If you have the Sub gen two already and you’re wondering whether it’s worth the upgrade to the gen 3, I would say keep hold of your gen 2 for now at least until there’s something tangible that you can do with the gen three that you can’t do with the gen 2. Only time will tell.
How to place the Sonos Sub
Let’s talk about where to position the Sub in your room as again. This is a question that often comes up. The wireless communication and the acoustics of the Sonos sub have been designed in such a way that it has the benefit of being non-directional, which gives maximum flexibility as to where you position the Sub. That means it’s possible to stand it upright or lay it down flat with no compromises. If you want it entirely out of view, you can even put it under the sofa if you want to. Make sure you don’t put it in an enclosed cabinet as you won’t get the full effect though.
Suppose you live in a terraced house or an apartment. In that case, we’d always recommend situating the Sub along a wall that is not connected with a neighbour if possible to give the best chance of the base being contained within your room. or you can enable night mode as I’ve mentioned already.
You can choose anywhere in your room, and it won’t impact the performance.
Recommended Sonos speakers to be paired with the Sub
Let’s move on to our most recommended Sonos speakers to use the Sub with. First of all, a Sonos tv speaker such as a beam or Arc would be our number one choice to make up the final X.1 in a surround sound setup. The Sub is particularly useful for movies as there are so many different sound effects that you might hear. And these are all enhanced when you add a sub into the mix. Those explosions helicopter flyovers, speeding cars etc., all sound much more pronounced, which make a difference with how immersed you are in your movie. The challenge of soundbar manufacturers is to ensure that it looks aesthetic enough and slim enough to fit under your tv without encroaching into the bottom of the tv screen. Sonos have designed the arc soundbar using a 270-degree elliptical shape which squeezes the best possible performance from its woofers. But by having a separate subwoofer dedicated to the lower frequencies, this will take movie nights to the next level.
I would also recommend the Sub with a stereo pair of Sonos Ones or one SLs. If you’re using these as a dedicated music setup adding the Sub should make a dramatic difference to how your tracks will sound. Although for the regular listener, a pair of One would do the job on their own.
If you’ve got a pair of fives and you’re wondering whether it’s worth adding a sub to it. Nine times out of ten is probably going to be a bit much, particularly as the fives are extremely capable on their own for bass. The only time that I would say it could be worth adding a sub to a pair of fives is if you have a huge room that you may use for parties because the Sub will help with the volume of the music when there’s a lot of background noise.
I also wouldn’t recommend adding a sub to a single speaker such as a One, One SL or Five on its own because the Sub is likely to be overpowering for that speaker. So your money would be much better spent adding a second speaker to create a stereo pair.
The final setup that I would highly recommend the use of a Sonos sub is if you’re installing ceiling speakers, maybe in your extension or renovation and you’re powering them with a Sonos amp. The Sub will pair wirelessly with the amp. Because ceiling speakers can never offer as much bass as a traditional audio setup, the Sub can compensate for that allowing you to benefit from the aesthetics of ceiling speakers without worrying about bass limitations.
Alternatively, if you’re not willing to spend quite as much on the Sonos sub in this case, the Sonos amp does have a subwoofer out anyway so you can use your active subwoofer. I’ll point out that as long as you’re using the Sonos amp, it doesn’t matter whether you’re using the Sonos ceiling speakers or maybe other brands such as kef, monitor audio, etc.
Is it necessary to buy the Sonos Sub?
Another question that we’re regularly asked is if you have a Sonos soundbar already such as the beam or the Arc, whether it’s worth first adding the Sub or a pair of surround speakers? This is always a tough question because a large part of it comes down to what you’re looking to get out of your setup. Straight off the bat though you can’t ignore the price difference between adding a sub and rear speakers.
Aside from price though it is essential to understand the differences in what you’d be getting listening experience-wise, so with the Sub the main thing that you’re adding is immersion and movie theatre feel. Your movies and music will have that extra dimension that adds the wow factor. With the surround speakers, this is geared more towards the tv, so if you want to be in the centre of the action and you want to hear sounds coming from behind you, this would be an excellent addition for you.
When playing music, they will certainly fill the room for you, but music generally doesn’t come with surround channels. If you have the Arc and you’re not sure whether to add the Sub or surrounds first my personal preference would probably be to add the Sub first because the Arc already has drivers responsible for throwing sound far and wide. And while this isn’t quite as good as having dedicated surround speakers it does go some of the ways. Whereas in the beam there are no sideways or upward-firing drivers so if I had a beam I’d probably lean more towards adding the surrounds. First, but this is, of course, personal preference.
The soundbars alone offer outstanding performance, and whether you decide to add rears a sub or both, you will get an enhanced listening experience. There’s no one set way to do it what works for me might not be what you’re after.
Pros and Cons
Let’s cover the positives and the negatives of the Sonos Sub gen 3. It is quite imposing and weighty, so you need to find space for it. In a small apartment, for example, it might not be suitable. Also if you have a move, the Sub is a no-go, unfortunately, as the Sonos app doesn’t let you pair it.
On the other hand, the positives speak for themselves; it’s an excellent upgrade for an existing setup by adding a new dimension of immersion. And it brings the cinema feel to your home. If you fancy treating yourself and you’re happy with your existing Sonos soundbar, but want to take it to the next level this is the product that you really should be looking at.
Most audiophiles would agree that a separate subwoofer is a must for any hi-fi or surround sound setup. But we do admit it is a high price to pay, so it depends on how serious you take your audio. I will point out that Sub is one of our highest rated products once people have them in their homes.
If you’re coming from a system with hi-fi separates consisting of multiple speakers and a dedicated subwoofer you may wish to consider adding the Sonos Sub to your system, so you’re not downgrading on base from your previous setup. Suppose you’re starting a new setup and you’re just not sure whether to add the Sub or whether it’s genuinely worth it. In that case, it may be better first to see how you go without it to start with. and then if you find you want to get more from your Sonos setup, it’s straightforward to add a later date if you wish to that full cinematic experience in your home.
For example, if you’re looking at the Arc, you might want to test how the bass sounds in your room without the Sub before pushing the button. Sonos is a wi-fi based system, so there’s no pressure to buy everything in one go.