Hands On: Sonance SonArray SR1 Outdoor Speaker System

Reviewer Joe Whitaker says Sonance SonArray outdoor-audio-in-a-box rivals his most expensive, customized outdoor speaker installations.

Joe Whitaker

I have installed, designed and listened to just about every residential outdoor audio system and right now Sonance’s SonArray SR1 System ($2,499 MSRP) is my new favorite … on so many counts. The speakers are easy to look at, simple to install, and pleasing to the ears.

In fact, SonArray may forever change the way I approach outdoor entertainment.

Complete Package

The Sonance kit will change the way most integrators think about “prepackaged” solutions. The package (itself well designed) contains everything needed for a good and proper outdoor audio installation:

  • Eight satellite speakers that look like landscape lights
  • One in-ground subwoofer
  • Outdoor-rated wire nuts (!)
  • Clear instructions that take the guesswork out of the installation

I was always good at the “guesswork,” but I sure appreciate that Sonance bundled a complete solution that, if wired to their specs, would deliver great dispersion while maintaining wattage and impedance numbers consistent with traditional outdoor audio systems.

Sonance pushed this no-guesswork concept further by incorporating the subwoofer crossover inside the subwoofer itself, eliminating the need for a separate amp for the sub.

An all-in-one outdoor solution in a single box is something that I had not yet seen, but had always desired.

SonArray Specs

  • S4SAT (8): 3.5-inch anodized aluminum cone and Santoprene surround
  • S8SUB (1):  8-inch dual voice coil, poly cone and Santoprene surround
  • Frequency response 40Hz-20kHz
  • Power Handling: 20 watts minimum – 100 watts system
  • SPL 85dB and 89dB SPL

MSRP: $2,499

Elegant Design, Easy Installation

Designing an outdoor audio system has never been this easy for me (even CE Pro’s Julie Jacobson could probably do it … probably).

From the SonArray instructions, we learn where to place the speakers and assign each to a left or right channel depending on the distance between them for the perfect whole-yard stereo experience.

My installation spanned 48 linear feet, with even coverage and no dead spots.

Still confused? Sonance offers a “dealer design service” that accepts landscape drawings and helps dealers create the ultimate outdoor audio experience.

Installation was a snap. The SonArray package even includes outdoor-rated wire nuts filled with outdoor-rated waterproofing silicone.

It doesn’t come with a shovel, however, nor an itty bitty landscaper to dig a hole for you. But if digging a small hole and getting your hands dirty is an obstacle, I would suggest perhaps a desk job for you.

Following the simple directions, I ran a single line of 14/4 outdoor-rated speaker wire, stopping at each speaker to connect them – simply stripping the wire, taking the left/right channel that was next in the alternating pattern, and wiring the speakers in parallel (below).

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This wiring scheme allows you to simply tie all the positives together and negatives together at their respective wire leads.

How’d they do that? Each of the satellites has an impedance of 30 Ohms. Connect four of them together in parallel and you have a 7.5 Ohm load.

All of this simplicity, however, means you can’t change the number of speakers in the array – no more, no less.

CE Pro Verdict

Pros
Amazing sound beyond typical wall-mount and rock style outdoor speakers

Can cover large outdoor area only using two channels, “one zone” of an amplifier or distribution system

Differs nicely from usual outdoor speakers’ appearance

Cons
May not apply to all outdoor applications in a retrofit due to the need to bury, post, trench wire

You can’t “go smaller” and only use six satellites while maintaining ohm load

Price may be out of the reach of the masses

Sonance notes you can drop in the subwoofer anywhere in the wiring series as it takes both the right and left channels. This is a great solution, as it does not interfere with the rest of the satellite speakers in the chain since the crossover happens in the sub’s circuitry and not in the wiring chain.

Sonance recommends the sub be placed near the center of the speaker pattern to evenly disperse the low end.

Here’s a thought: Tack the SonArray onto an existing whole-house audio system that has an unused audio zone. I tested the speakers using the Zone 2 of a Sony 5800es receiver with amazing results.

Sweet Music

My friends and family are rarely wowed by anything I install after a couple decades doing this.

My brother-in-law Chad (who reminds me how very helpful he was) gave me one of those looks that says, “This can’t be any good.”

But when we connected the SonArray system to the recommended Sonance 275 SE amplifier and cranked up the tunes, he was all like, “Whoa, this is good!”

My friends, too, were amazed not only at the coverage of the sound but also the striking clarity that you don’t usually get with outdoor speakers.

Furthermore, my neighbors could barely hear a peep of the loud music from their own yards, thanks to the directional placement of the speakers – all facing into the listening area as opposed to my original set-up that had the speakers mounted to my house facing outward.

As for my audio-snobbish self, I have attempted many times in the past to create an elegant “surround sound” solution for my property but could never achieve what Sonance gives you in a single box.

The voices and instruments are as clear as if I were listening to some high-quality speakers in the house. The lows are more of what I would expect from a 2.1 system running off of a surround receiver with a powered sub.

I still can’t believe this all came from a single run of 4-conductor wire.

Not to boast – OK, maybe a little—but I’ve installed some of the finest outdoor living systems Central Texas has ever seen (and heard).

I never thought an outdoor-audio-system-in-a-box could match my earlier feats, but Sonance has made me a believer.

With the right-sized yard in which an eight-speaker system makes sense, there is no reason not to consider SonArray.

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Sonance SonArray bundle provides everything dealers need for an outdoor audio installation—eight speakers and a subwoofer, even outdoor-rated wire nuts.

CORRECTION: The shorter Sonance SonArray review appearing in the June 2013 issue of CE Pro mistakenly refers to an in-series wiring scheme instead of the proper parallel wiring scheme. We apologize for the oversight.

About the Author

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Joe Whitaker:

With over 20 years of experience in home systems installation and design as well as being an award winning product designer, Joe Whitaker currently is principal of the integration firm thethoughtfulhome.com. He is a current member of the CEDIA board of directors first elected in 2013 and is a frequent contributor to CE Pro magazine.

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NewsSpeakers/Subwoofers

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Sonance