The Port replaces the longstanding Sonos Connect as the simplest way to bring Sonos streaming to any audio system.
Sonos defined the concept of wireless multiroom when it first arrived in 2004, and its third product (in 2006) was the ZonePlayer 80, a streamer which connected to existing hi-fi, as opposed to the ZonePlayer 100, which had amplification onboard so you just added speakers.
The ZP80 evolved into the Connect, which subsequently begat this Sonos Port, introduced at the end of 2019. The brief is the same — this is a little box of Sonos streaming and multiroom which can bring that whole app-controlled ecosystem to anything with an analogue or digital input, be that full-size hi-fi, wireless speaker, or even soundbar.
With this being another unit, like the Yamaha, which will be controlled entirely by app, you don’t seem to get much in physical terms for your $599 investment. It’s a 14cmsquare black box ornamented only by a little strip of light and highlighted Sonos logo on its crown. At the rear (below) are its outputs, available via stereo RCA analogue terminals plus here a digital output, though this is a coaxial digital input rather than the optical provided by its predecessor, a curious decision given optical inputs are increasingly more common than coaxial ones on soundbars and wireless speakers as well as on hi-fi amplifiers. A 12V trigger could be useful for automatically waking your amp when a signal is sent through the port, reducing the number of remotes you have to fumble with to get music playing.
Unlike the Yamaha unit opposite, the Sonos Port offers an input, good for just about any component except a phono-level turntable. This input can then play not only locally but through your home network to any other Sonos devices in the home.
The Port can connect to your network via Wi-fi vor Ethernet, and despite the unit’s dinkiness Sonos has continued its practice of very usefully including not just one Ethernet socket, but two. You can use the second one (or both if you use Wi-Fi to connect the Port) to network other gear, which can be very handy should your home not have Ethernet wall sockets where you need them.
Once the Port is networked, Apple users will be able to make use of AirPlay 2, but almost all other streaming is done from inside the Sonos app, which remains the most comprehensive of its kind. You can link in all of your favourite streaming services, and music held on remote devices. By drawing from multiple sources, you can create a queue without having to navigate a number of apps. Tidal and Spotify users also have the option to send music directly from those apps.
Sonically, however, we found the Port’s analogue output to be a step back in quality from the previous Connect. It offered a fairly clean and lean presentation, and you can also fiddle with bass and treble in the app, as well as using Sonos’s Loudness feature, but that didn’t help improve its lacklustre dynamic expression. Even the little Yamaha unit opposite sounded better, while the Bluesound Node 2i was clearly in a higher league. You could, however, bypass the Port’s analogue circuits by using the digital output straight into a coaxially-equipped amplifier.
Note also for network streaming that Sonos is not strictly DLNA compliant, so that networked NAS drives must support the SMB(v1)/CIFS protocol. But otherwise the Sonos app’s access to streaming services is second to none, and the Port brings all that smart stuff to an existing ‘dumb’ audio system.