Adding an amp to your system can be a great way to get music from non-streaming sources into your wireless speakers, and also to get streaming music out to non-wireless speakers. But in the amp game, it's hard to know what features you need and how two units like the Sonos Amp and the Yamaha WXA-50 compare.
While Sonos Amp offers 125 watts per channel out, the Yamaha WXA-50 only offers 55. Both units have wireless multi-room speaker solutions, but Sonos's is more professional, while Yamaha's offers more varied and less expensive devices.
Overall, other than speaker wattage driving your decision, the other differences around wireless device ecosystem, usability, and available ports can get a little complicated. But, armed with a few details, you can be confident you're making the right decision for your setup.
Making a call here is so hard. If you already have an extensive Sonos speaker system, then the Sonos Amp is better, no question. But if you are building a multi-room system from scratch...there is some serious potential for the WXA-50 to be a better choice for you.
Where the Sonos ecosystem is more professional and generally further along than Yamaha's multi-room speaker offering, the Yamaha family of speakers that can connect to that system is wider and deeper (Featuring not just speakers but soundbars, receivers, and then some). And the average price per speaker...there's no question that Yamaha's barrier of entry is lower here.
So, on paper, we have to give it to Sonos based on the much higher speaker output wattage. But past that, there is just more to the conversation, and plenty of uniqueness to both of these units to make the decision worth talking about.
Within the Sonos and Yamaha ecosystems respectively, both of these pieces of equipment have other variations too. You can look up our other articles comparing the Sonos Connect to the Sonos Port, and comparing the Yamaha WXA-50 to the Yamaha-WXC-50, for more information on the range of options here. There are also other ways of making a speaker wireless (our guide), but let's get back to comparing these two wireless amped options.
These two units have a lot of overlap, but there are plenty of little details too. When it comes to the networks and usability of the devices, their ports, and perhaps the most important spec: output wattage per channel, let's look at how they differ and why you should care.
The Sonos Amp (on Amazon) makes the extensive Sonos speaker system even more flexible, and it does so with style. Being a gen 2 product, it is generally more ready for "showtime" than the WXA-50, starting with the existing network and usability.
What can we say about the Sonos ecosystem that hasn't already been said? It's the gold standard of wireless audio management, pairing dead-simple-to-use hardware with everything-you-could-hope-for software. The Sonos system respects the user by being easy to use and unobtrusive, allowing you to seamlessly get any content onto your speakers without any fuss at the low low cost of, well, the Sonos hardware's top-shelf price.
The Sonos Amp expands this system further, allowing you to do two very interesting things. First, the aux-in and HDMI-in options (not to mention wireless Airplay 2 compatibility) allow you to get content into your Sonos system that might otherwise have no way in. For all the Sonos app's integration with Spotify, etc., there is just no way for hardware like a turntable to be "plugged in" to it other than to physically plug it in, which is where the Sonos Amp comes in.
Second, the Sonos Amp allows you to take your streaming music content and route it to speakers that aren't Sonos' branded hardware. This can be a huge bonus to audiophiles who know the exact set of speakers they want to use and why, or to people who just have other speakers laying around, sawing them from spending hundreds on individual Sonos speakers.
So, not only is the Sonos network great and easy to use, the Sonos Amp takes this network and adds value by expanding both the inputs and output options for your audio system.
When it comes to ports on the Sonos Amp, you've got RCA inputs for two channels, as well as an HDMI input and two ethernet jacks. Then for outputs, you have two RCA ports each for the left and right speaker outputs. The other creature-comfort in the ports category is the sub output jack, which allows you to send a signal to a powered sub as well.
The Sonos Amp is a second-generation product, and when compared to the first generation, the Sonos Connect Amp, there is a huge performance jump in channel wattage. From the Connect Amps 55 watts per channel, the Sonos Amp has been upgraded to a whopping 125 watts per channel. That's huge, making the amp much more powerful and ready to handle higher-end, quality speakers.
The Yamaha WXA-50 (on Amazon) is a compelling product in its own right. Yamaha has a robust pedigree for audio equipment, so it's great to see
The Yamaha WXA-50 does all the things that the Sonos Amp when it comes to expanding your audio system. It allows you to get music in through physical sources that aren't streaming, and allows you to route music out to speakers from streaming sources that otherwise might have no other way to get to them.
Where the WXA-50 expands on that theme and ends up with a little higher usability than even the Sonos Amp is in its connection options. It doesn't have HDMI in, but it does sport Optical in and Bluetooth. The Sonos Amp doesn't have Bluetooth, so that's a small bit of added flexibility. The WXA-50 also has a USB input option, which the Sonos Amp doesn't match. And to handle all these inputs, the WXA-50 even has a handy remote to switch between inputs without fiddling with the wires.
When it comes to the network, Yamaha has a competitor to the Sonos walled-garden called MusicCast. MusicCast is included on most Yamaha home speaker products at this point, and it enables you to connect all those devices up (including soundbars, receivers, etc.) and control a fancy multi-room system all from the Yamaha MusicCast app. Sound familiar? That's right, this is a direct move into Sonos' multi-room speaker system dominance.
The good news is that MusicCast works well, even if the implementation is a little less polished than Sonos. You'll have more options for devices to connect, and at an on average lower price-tag than achieving the same effect through a Sonos system.
Ports on the Yamaha WXA-50 include most of what you'll find on the Sonos One and then some. It lacks the HDMI in, and only has the one ethernet port, but it still has that network port option. Losing the ability to get audio from an HDMI in source might complicate using the device for some, but when it comes to audio-management everything you want is here: aux in, and powered left and right channels out, with a sub out for a powered subwoofer as well.
The WXA-50 also has an optical-in port, and a USB port on the back, as well as a remote-in, which offers just a little more flexibility. There is one more additional set of ports worth talking about here, though: the trigger in/out. The WXA-50 has a trigger input and output, which makes the unit vastly more flexible in a large speaker system setup, enabling it to control the downstream hardware in a more desirable way.
The wattage on the WXA-50, though, starts to look a little weak when compared to the Sonos Amp. Where the Sonos Amp pumps out 125w per channel, the WXA-50 only manages 55w. That's a huge downgrade...more than half...but it's not worth automatically recommending the Sonos option. The larger story here is that the previous generation of the Sonos Amp - the Connect Amp - only had 55w per channel too, so that's obviously not a bad number.
So how should you think about this? That big difference in channel wattage - that's something that you need to be aware of, but it's only something that should change your decision if the speakers you want to use with the amp have higher amperage requirements. If you're using a set of speakers like the Klipsch R-41M Bookshelf Speakers (on Amazon) which can go up to 100 amps per speaker at max output, then you'll need to factor that into your decision around which amp to use.