Although there are other multi-room wireless speaker systems on the market. Here at Smart Home and AV Guide the two systems we recommend are SONOS and Yamaha MusicCast. We have a short post explaining why we recommend these two systems here.
In this article we’ll talk you through the differences between MusicCast and SONOS, so you can decide which is best for you.
SONOS Speakers and Product Range
SONOS has a range of three stand-alone wireless speakers, which sound decent, for what they are. There is the PLAY 1, or SONOS ONE which are the smallest and cheapest options. The Ply 1 is a compact little unit which is great for getting music to parts of your house where the sound quality isn’t too important. Last year they released an improved version of the PLAY 1, called the SONOS ONE. This is a the same as the Play 1, but also has a microphone and compatibility with Amazon Alexa. The voice control system. It is also compatible with Apple Airplay and SONOS’s TruePlay calibration system. This means that the SONOS ONE should, in theory give better audio performance.
Then there is the Play 5, this produces impressive results. It is bigger and more expensive, but provides much better sound with more detail and clarity.
With all SONOS speakers it is possible to buy two of them and configure two work as a stereo pair. If you take two SONOS Play 5s and configure them in stereo, you will acquire a sound which can easily compete with a HiFi separates system of a similar price.
SONOS also do a couple of sound-bars, two amplifiers and a device called the Connect, which allows you to integrate a HiFi into your SONOS system.
Yamaha Speakers and Product Range
Yamaha makes a MusicCast speaker called the MusicCast 20 which easily competes with the SONOS Play 1 and s around the same price. It also has Bluetooth, which means anyone can connect their device to it and play music without even needing the app.
The MusicCast 50 is Yamaha’s answer to the Sonos Play 5.
There is the ISX-18, ISX-80 and ISX-803 Restio These are all similar in design with the 18 being the smallest and the 803 is the biggest. Their design resembles a flat square which can either stand or attach flat against the wall like a picture frame or a wall-clock. The ISX-803 is also available with a floor-stand. In the centre of the square shape there is digital clock display. The ISX series speakers are very nicely designed lifestyle products. Like most wireless speakers they may not provide the best performance in terms of sound quality, but they will go nicely on the wall and provide acceptable background music for that room.
MusicCast does have a couple of significant advantages. The first is that as well as wireless speakers, Yamaha makes a huge range of other audio products that has MusicCast built-in, including; Stereo HiFI Amplifiers, home cinema AV-Receivers, mini HIFI systems and sound-bars.
Yamaha has now also introduced a MusicCast turntable. This can be connected to your HiFi amplifier just as you would any other turntable, allowing the full range of MusicCast streaming capabilities. It will also play your favorite records and will even allow you to hear your records playing on another MusicCast speaker elsewhere in your house.
MusicCast is even built into some of Yamaha’s pianos, meaning that it is possible to stream live piano music throughout your home!
Use With Passive Speakers
If you want to use Hifi speakers or ceiling speakers with the SONOS system you can do so using the SONOS Connect Amp or the new SONOS AMP. With MusicCast, not only is there a direct equivalent to the Connect Amp, there is a complete range of HiFi amplifiers and a mini systems which will do the same thing. In fact, for less than three quarters of the price of a SONOS connect amp, Yamaha makes the N470. This is a mini system with a CD player, DAB radio and Bluetooth. The amplification is on a par with the Connect Amp, but with all of those extra features.
The Apps, Streaming Services and Connectivity.
Both the MusicCast app and the SONOS app are easy to use and intuitive.
Unless you are an Apple Airplay user, the SONOS system is very closed*. You can only control SONOS devices using their app, which is available for IOS or Android devices, or as a desktop version for both Macs and PCs. The SONOS app can be used to access music which is stored on your device, or stored on either the shared folder of a computer or on a NAS drive or media server. It can also access internet radio and the most popular streaming services such as Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify Etc.
*If you have an Apple device and either the SONOS Beam, ONE, Play: 5 or Playbase, you can connect to your SONOS system using AirPlay. This means that if you want to listen to something which is not built into the SONOS app, such as YouTube or an internet radio catch-up service, you can.*
The SONOS Connect and the Play5 have analogue inputs, which allow you to input the sound from other audio devices. The SONOS sound-bars also have optical inputs for you to connect your TV.
If you don’t have Apple AirPlay and want to play music from any source which is not included in the SONOS app, such as YouTube, or from your web browser, you’ll need to use another device to access that content and plug it into a SONOS device which has an input. If you have a HiFI with the SONOS connect attached, this will allow you to play music through your HiFi just as you can with the other SONOS speakers. It also has an input. This means that it is possible to play a record or CD on your HiFi and listen to it on other SONOS speakers elsewhere in your house.
SONOS only works via the app only and through WiFi or ethernet connection to your home network. There is no Bluetooth capability.
Most of the Yamaha MusicCast products have Bluetooth and Apple Airplay, as well as network connection and can work on their own without the app.
It is possible to connect your phone to a MusicCast speaker using a simple Bluetooth connection and instantly play anything which you can play on your phone through that speaker. You don’t need to use the app to play a CD or use the radio on any of their amplifiers or mini-systems.
As with SONOS, the MusicCast app allows access to the streaming services, access to music stored on your device or elsewhere on your home network, and allows for independent control of all your MusicCast products. You use the app to make the most of the streaming and multi-room audio functionality. The app is available for both IOS and Android devices.
MusicCast offers compatibility with Hi-Res audio files, where SONOS does not.
If you have a collection of MusicCast devices in your home you can play the music from any source on any device, to other connected devices. For example, if you have a CRXN470 mini system in one room which is playing a CD, you can listen to the CD on a WX010 speaker in another room. Interestingly, if you can connect to one MusicCast device using Bluetooth, then listen to the music on another MusicCast device on your home network.
SONOS has been the well-deserved market leader in wireless home audio for a long time, and for very good reason. Their ease of use, software, app, general compatibility and reliability is second to none. The MusicCast app is almost as intuitive and easy to use. However MusicCast has a much broader range of compatible products.
Essentially, we recommend SONOS and MusicCast equally. If you are going to use a Yamaha AV-Receiver for your home cinema it makes sense to use MusicCast. For ease of use and if you don’t need compatibility with Hi-Res audio files, it might be best to choose SONOS.