#Note: Find full Sonos review list at the bottom.
Don't get either one of them. Get the Sonos Five - because the Play:5 is discontinued long ago!
- Also see: Sonos Play:5 vs Five
The Sonos Play:5 (a.k.a Zone Player S5) was introduced in 2009.
The Play:5 was Sonos’ first all-in-one unit. After several years and software upgrades Sonos decided to retire the Play:5 with the release of a new improved version dubbed the Play:5 (Gen2) introduced in 2015.
The previous model became known as the Play:5 (Gen1).
As of this writing the Play:5 (Gen1) is no longer available as a new product. However, the Play:5 (Gen2) can be found on-line via re-sellers, mostly as a used or refurbished product - although it's also discontinued by Sonos.
On rare occasions one might come across old inventory that a few select sellers may still have on hand as New-In-Box (NIB).
There are those that still have a Sonos Play 5 (Gen1) speaker (or speakers) and continue to enjoy them as their only Sonos product; or in conjunction with other Sonos units for whole home entertainment.
If one is contemplating the purchase of a Sonos Play 5 a question might be…“which to buy - Play 5 (Gen1) or Play 5 (Gen2)?”
This article is not intended to dictate that you purchase a Play 5 (Gen2) over a Play 5 (Gen1). It’s meant to provide you with information that will allow you to make an informed decision.
A word on sound quality
Let me tell you something right off the bat.
The sound quality performance you'll end up getting from a speaker will always depend on your room acoustics - particularly room dimensions and speaker positions.
The impact of the combination of these two is actually so strong that in most cases, it doesn't even make sense to utter a single word on sound quality without speaking of them.
This is also why it's not unusual to see completely different reviews of the same speaker.
In one case the speaker might be placed in a sweet spot inside the room and hence the user might be satisfied. In other cases the same speaker might be ill placed and hence user might even have returned it.
The point most people miss here is that it mostly isn't even about the engineering behind the speaker itself. It's about where you place the speaker inside which room.
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So, in order to solve this problem, I've partnered with an Acoustics and Audio Engineering PhD and created Soundton - a simple, 2D, browser accessible online speaker placement calculator.
With Soundton, now there's a way to figure the sound quality of most speakers before you buy them.
Read more about its working principles at soundton.com.
The end colormap provides you the locations with the best (green) and worst (red) acoustics.
ASAP Science also made a video on the loudest and quietest rooms in the world. A mind blowing example of the importance of acoustics (play time adjusted video below).
Other parameters such as the age/materials of the building, the furniture & carpets in place, etc can and will, of course, have an effect on room acoustics, too. But it's much less compared to other parameters mentioned above.
Also, while you're at it, blast my Hidden Electronic Gems list to test the speakers:
First let’s take a look at the chart below that outlines the differences between the 1st and 2nd Generation Play 5’s.
SONOS Play 5 GEN 1 VS GEN 2 Comparison Chart
Play 5 (Gen1)
Play 5 (Gen2)
Ethernet 10/100 **
3.5 mm Line-In
Create Stereo Pair
Group with other Sonos
Home Theater Surround Speaker Use
Apple AirPlay2 Support
Touch Sensitive Controls
Works with Sonos S2 Software
Headphone Jack 3.5 mm ***
May 2020 Legacy Status ****
What follows are comparison pictures of the Sonos Play 5 (Gen1) and Play 5 (Gen2). As I no longer own a Play 5 (Gen1) all pictures are Public Domain available on the web.
Internal Speaker Array
As you can see the Play 5 (Gen2) on the right has an impressive speaker array compared to that of the Play 5 (Gen1) on the left. Having owned a Play 5 (Gen1); IMO the Play 5 (Gen2) outperforms the Play 5 (Gen 1) in all aspects.
Two Play 5 (Gen2) can be used as surround speakers in a Sonos Home Theater (HT); whereas the Play 5 (Gen1) cannot. That is because the latter does not support the 5Ghz frequency required to receive the discrete audio for surround effects sent by a Sonos Playbar, Playbase, Beam or Amp.
Also check out the user guide of Play:5 Gen 1.
IMO the Play 5 (Gen2) makes a more impactful visual statement. Even the Sonos logo is perforated to allow maximum sonic performance.
Some may argue that the port on the back of the Play 5 (Gen1) made it easier to move between locations. In truth that’s a fair assessment. However, I haven’t missed it as my Play 5 (Gen2) are in stereo pair and not moved from room to room.
You will also notice the 3.5 mm headphone jack and second Ethernet port found on the Play 5 (Gen1) are missing from the Play 5 (Gen2).
Personally, I don’t need an extra Ethernet port to extend my network and therefore have not missed its omission on the Play 5 (Gen2). The 3.5 mm headphone jack was IMO redundant and is discussed in the footnotes.
The 3.5 mm line-in port (not circled) is present on the Play 5 (Gen1) and Play 5 (Gen2). It allows connection of an outboard audio source such as a turntable with pre-amp or another device capable of sending audio.
The Play 5 (Gen2) has an added button to the right of the 3.5 mm line-in port. It’s a connection button used during setup for enhanced ease. It is identified by the Infinity symbol ∞.
Although not a wired connection unlike the Play 5 (Gen2) the Play 5 (Gen1) does not support Apple Airplay 2.
Here you see the flexible orientation options of the Play 5 (Gen2) versus the single option for the Play 5 (Gen1).
In this picture (on the right) you see the advanced Touch Sensitive controls of the Play 5 (Gen2) versus the physical button controls of the Play 5 (Gen1) on the left. I think you’ll agree that the Play 5 (Gen2) with touch sensitive controls exudes a more refined, futuristic look with clean uninterrupted lines.
Both units have LED status lights that change colors (learn their meaning here in Sonos' own site).
- Play 5 (Gen1) controls are in vertical pattern: Pause/Play and Volume +/-
- Play 5 (Gen2) controls are in horizontal pattern: Volume (-) _Pause/Play_Volume (+)
I hope this article has provided you with useful information regarding the differences and similarities between the Sonos Play 5 (Gen1) and Play 5 (Gen2).
The Play 5 (Gen1) was an outstanding speaker upon its initial release in 2009. Great sound, wireless connectivity and a welcome addition to the Sonos ecosystem for whole home audio enjoyment.
In today’s world technology stands still for no one. The introduction of the Play 5 (Gen2) was inevitable.
Unlike many 2nd generation products from some manufacturers Sonos’ release of the Play 5 (Gen2) in 2015 was an improvement on the first (at least IMO).
However, with any speaker regardless of claimed specs and features only you can decide if one outperforms (or merely equals) another. For my money, the Sonos Play 5 (Gen2) surpassed its predecessor.
Enjoy and keep listening!
* Reserved for future enhancements yet to be announced
** Play 5 (Gen1) has two. One of which can be used to extent your home network
*** Removed from Play 5 (Gen2) as redundant; as one can use headphones paired to their device
**** As of May 2020 the Play 5 (Gen1) will not operate on Sonos S2 software and will no longer receive updates or further enhancements. Sonos Tech Support will still be available.
Click the link to read the official Sonos announcement regarding Sonos S2 product support and those products deemed as incompatible