Sonos is not an affordable brand, and the company made this quite clear when it launched Ray, its cheapest soundbar, priced at €300, the same as other soundbars considered “performance” from other brands. Admittedly, its products are a bit smarter and do things a little differently, being more like smart audio systems than speakers you attach to a TV. The new Sub Mini proves once again that Sonos is not trying to create affordable products, but just wants to offer more options to customers in niches that were not yet covered.
Sub Mini fills a ‘gap’ in Sonos’ offering
The first products I had the opportunity to test from the Sonos range was a Beam soundbar, alongside a second generation Sonos Sub. The Sonos Sub cost more than the Beam at the time, and the third-generation one is still more expensive than the second-generation Beam, but until now it was the only option for adding a subwoofer to a company audio system. The biggest problem with the Sub, however, was that you could only use it at very low volume, as the Sub’s very high power is only suitable for large rooms.
In a normal apartment room, the Sonos Sub is too much, and the Sub Mini tries to do just that: address the needs of users who have audio systems in small to medium-sized rooms. As a result, the new subwoofer is smaller, has a different shape, but doesn’t change much on the inside. And the price has indeed dropped, but not by much. At 2,500 lei, the Sub Mini is still more expensive than the cheapest subwoofer in the company’s offering, the Ray, the one many expected to complement a complex audio system. But it seems to me that the Sub Mini is more likely to be made to be best integrated into a system with Beam, Sonos’s mid-range soundbar of similar price.
And just like that I tested the new Sub Mini. I put it alongside the second-generation Beam I was already using and quickly integrated them into a virtual “room” in the Sonos app. Incidentally, setup is very simple. All you have to do is plug in the Sub Mini, start the mobile app and hit the button to add a new speaker. The process is largely automated from here. You’ll need to tap your phone on the speaker to make the connection faster (a feature only available on the iPhone) and press next a few times. The subwoofer will then automatically connect to the Wi-Fi that the soundbar is connected to, and the two will then work together, regardless of the source they’re playing sound from.
The Sub Mini’s packaging is similar to what we’ve seen lately from Sonos, being made from recycled cardboard. It’s significantly larger than the speaker itself, but inside are large pieces of cardboard for protection during transport, and the woofer is wrapped in a soft cover to keep it from scratching. The only accessory supplied in the package is the power cable, the connection between the subwoofer and the soundbar is exclusively wireless. There is also the option of attaching the woofer to the local network via a cable, this being the only physical plug apart from the power socket. Both are positioned at the bottom. There’s also a button, the one with the infinity symbol, used for resetting the speaker or plugging it in, as appropriate.
iPhone users benefit from access to TruePlay
Unlike other similar audio systems on the market, Sonos doesn’t use Bluetooth to connect the two speakers together. There is a high-speed “invisible” 5 GHz Wi-Fi network that connects these devices together for the lowest possible latency. So the sound is completely in sync, despite the wireless connection, even if the sound is coming directly from the internet on both simultaneously or from an HDMI ARC source on a TV. As we’ve become accustomed to, Sonos ‘home’ systems don’t play music via Bluetooth, requiring either connection of your preferred streaming services directly to the system or playback from HDMI in the case of soundbars.
Once in place, the Sub Mini doesn’t need much configuration. Just plug it in for the first time and you can theoretically leave it alone forever. However, there’s not much you can forget about its existence, as setting it up is quite necessary. First of all, those who have iPhones should definitely tune their Sonos system via TruePlay technology. This capability measures through the phone the sound played by the speakers and tunes it to “sound” good in that room.
Then, depending on the source you’re playing, you’ll need to be on “phase” to set the subwoofer volume. This I can say is somewhat of a drawback of the Sonos system, as you’re almost constantly dependent on the mobile app. The woofer volume can be adjusted along with the overall soundbar volume from the TV remote, or directly from your phone using the volume buttons in apps like Spotify, which connects to the system via Spotify Connect, but individual bass settings are only available from the app.
There are settings you have anyway on the soundbar from the bass and treble app, but the subwoofer also has its own individual settings that allow you to increase or decrease the bass power to values between -15 and +15. By default it’s on 0, and already the woofer’s effect is immediately noticeable, but for those who want to feel the cinema-like audio effects at home, this will go between 5 and 10. Already at 6-7 intensity you should have problems with neighbours if the volume of the whole audio system is also somewhere around a quarter of full capacity. At +15, i.e. maximum, the effect is more pronounced than in some cinemas.
The bass sound on the Sub Mini is powerful and can be felt right from the first moment
I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting such a powerful sound from such a compact speaker, but I should have already known that from previous experiences with Sonos. And it’s not just the power that’s impressive, it’s the bass quality. I don’t have professional equipment at hand to measure the frequencies of this woofer, but it’s clear that Sonos has worked hard to “tune” the sound perfectly, and the cylindrical design with an empty space from side to side serves a definite purpose.
The woofer includes two speakers that face inward, their simultaneous vibrations canceling out any extra vibration. Thus, the effect we’ve encountered in the past with other audio systems that make their own enclosures or furniture in the house vibrate is completely absent with the Sub Mini, regardless of volume. You just hear and feel the bass, but you won’t hear any other unwanted sounds.
Even more impressive, however, is that you immediately notice the difference in sound once you connect the woofer to the soundbar you’ve used in the past without a woofer. The Beam 2 model already delivers a pretty powerful bass for a soundbar, and you’d think that would be enough. In fact, it’s enough for most users. But once you hear how the soundbar sounds alongside a woofer, whether it’s the Sub Mini or the big Sub, you realise it’s pretty clear that the two have been specifically designed to work together.
Having only a few days to do this review, I didn’t have time to watch a full-length movie, but I did play a few clips I already knew from HBO Max and Netflix movies and a few trailers for upcoming movies on YouTube, listened to music, and tried out a few video games while I had the PlayStation 5 handy. I have to admit I was very impressed with the difference in sound with and without the Sub, and the impact of the boosted bass in all situations.
Sonos needs to offer better sound adjustment options
But that’s where my frustration about controlling the bass in an easier manner comes from. For each individual movie, music style, or game, it’s necessary to adjust the woofer volume, and constantly changing the settings in the mobile app isn’t exactly practical.
I have two free ideas for Sonos to significantly improve the user experience in the future. First, for the app, the ability to set multiple profiles for each individual “room”. One for movies, one for music and one for games, for example. And each to be able to automatically set the system volume, bass, treble and woofer volume, so you can quickly make the transition at the touch of a button.
The second idea is related to the release of an optional remote control, offering both general volume knobs and separate bass and treble knobs, or even dedicated woofer-only knobs. And the remote could memorize sound profiles for quick access, and perhaps include a button for changing the room being controlled. Frankly, I’m surprised something like this doesn’t already exist in the Sonos ecosystem.
Even with these limitations however, I can say that I am impressed with the Sub Mini and that it is one of the few products that have convinced me in a very short time that I need it. I was using the soundbar without a woofer with no problems until now, but the sound is clearly elevated to another level with the Sub Mini. I’ve already started making plans for a Sonos surround system, but the investment will be a longer term one. At 2,500 lei, this woofer can’t be considered an impulse buy, and the rear channel satellites which can be Sonos One, Sonos One SL or even the Symfonisk “bookshelf” speakers from IKEA, each add at least 100 euros per piece to the cost.
Sonos audio systems are expensive, but the price can certainly be justified for what they offer in terms of sound quality and ease of setup, as well as whole-house synchronization. What’s more, the beauty of these systems is that they can be “built up” over time, with the ability to add a new device from time to time to complete the final experience. The Sub Mini thus gets my unreserved recommendation for all Sonos soundbar or speaker users. I just warn you to be careful with the volume, because the neighbours will certainly not appreciate your new purchase.