Comparing the Sonos S5 with the Bose Sounddock

by Volker Weber


The Sonos S5 and the Bose Sounddock are remarkably similar. Both cost the same, both follow the same design idea: a white body with a metal grille. And yet they are remarkably different.

The Sounddock is a simple iPod/iPhone dock. The iPhone barfs if you dock it but it works, an iPod just works without complaining. You place your device on the spin-out tray, select the music you want to play and off it goes. On the right side there are two volume buttons, the back has two sockets for power and line-in. Thus you can connect other devices that won't fit the iPod dock, a notebook for instance or a Sonos ZP90. That is exactly how I used my Apple Hi-Fi until I got the S5. You get a small remote that lets you control basic functions but you will have to retrieve your iPhone if you want to take a call or do anything else meaningfull with the device, at which point the music stops.

I like the Sounddock because it works so well and it sounds amazing. Until you hear the S5.


Side by side, the S5 wins hands down. It is way more powerful, defined and transparent. While it looks very similar, it works completely different. Your iPhone will serve as a remote controlling the S5, but it's not a music source. S5, like all other Sonos players, draws its music from multiple sources, one of them being the iTunes library on your computer, not your iPhone. It cannot directly talk to your iPhone, but needs to be connected to your network, usually your Internet access router. The iPhone connects to that router via Wi-Fi, the S5 needs a wire. If you can't run a wire from the router to the S5, Sonos sells you a simple access point called ZoneBridge which creates SonosNet that the S5 uses to connect.

The S5 has many more sources for your music, my favorite being the free service. Also, my master iTunes library is not on my computer but on a network attached storage. If you want to have a simple NAS, you can attach an external drive to many Internet routers, the Fritz!Box 7270 for instance.

The big difference when using those two devices is that the S5 plays music on itself, without requiring your iPhone. You just sit down, tell it what to play from your iPhone and then it plays what you want to hear. There are volume and mute buttons so you can turn the music down when you need to do quickly without fetching the iPhone. It works pretty much independently and you can continue to use the iPhone for other things. That is a much better setup, since you want the iPhone with you, and the speakers on the other side of the room.

Sounddock also has an advantage. It works independently from power and network. It has a rechargeable battery that works for up to ten hours. So you can drag the Sounddock out on the deck or a picnic and it will play whatever is on your iPhone. With the S5 you need A/C power. Without a network it can still play music from an iPod/iPhone by connecting to its line-in. But without a controller that can talk directly to the S5, you won't be able to tell it to.*

Connectivity is no problem for me throughout the house and garden since there are so many devices partaking in my SonosNet spread out. Since the S5 sounds better than the Bose, and since it works so well in my environment, I have no use for the Sounddock. On its own however, the Bose device is amazingly well designed and built. If all your music is on your iPod and you only need music in one room at a time, you will be very happy with the Sounddock.

*) Unless it defaults to line-in, if nothing connects. I can't test that since there is a SonosNet in the house.


Für meine kleine Wohnung habe ich mich für das Yamaha PDX 50 entschieden, dass optisch auch in die Reihe gepasst hätte (weiß und grau). Klare Kaufentscheidung: Der iPod wird in einen kleinen Sender gesteckt und kann 'rumgetragen werden, somit fällt das Dock weg und der Bedienkomfort ist super. Alle anderen Docks (auch das Bose) sind deshalb ausgeschieden, da ich es doch ziemlich unpraktisch finde, auf einem eingedockten iPod Musik auszuwählen. Yamaha sollte dir mal ein Testgerät zukommen lassen.

Klanglich bin ich auch vollkommen zufrieden, preislich ebenfalls. An Sonos kommt es natürlich nicht heran.

Tobias Berns, 2009-11-15

Sonos' decision to market the S5 as if it were an iPod dock is a bit misleading, imho. An iPod dock is a lot simplier to use and setup than the Sonos system, as it doesn't require an iTunes/SMB share on a dedicated server running.

Of course, once you have that dedicated server, the Sonos wins in every aspect. I love my Sonos system at home (have the old system with the "soviet ipod" controllers).

Hanno Zulla, 2009-11-15

as you now pointed me to this I am even more unsure now of what to do... a mac mini and and s5... or only sonos parts... everything is quite confusing...

thanks for that thought!

Teymur Madjderey (icedsoul photography), 2009-12-15

Thanks for the comparation. I had Sonos devices in my mind before, to enhance my multi media center. Lately I tested the bose Sounddock in a Store and was impressed. The S5 I'll test tomorrow, but after reading your post, I don't have doubts about that the S5 will be exactly what I want.

Sebastian Schwiebert, 2010-03-24

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