Wednesday August 16, 2017
Will Sonos Disrupt the Home Audio Market?
THIS IS AN UPDATE TO A JANUARY 2016 BLOG POST ON SONOS
I just wanted to update you on my Sonos experience. It keeps getting better!
Using the App in more than one residence - I first installed Sonos in my Wilmington home. This summer I decided to use Sonos at the beach. Because Sonos is WiFi based, the app instantly recognizes when I am in a different home, and remembers the rooms names, speaker configuration and music sources I set up for that home. I had been concerned that there would be some confusion created by adding a second home, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Integrating the Sonos ecosystem with an existing hard-wired audio distribution system - My beach house was hard-wired for whole-house audio when I built it 12 years ago. I can tell you that the cost/functionality equation for whole house audio has been turned on its head by Sonos. Although I have music source selectors and volume controllers in most rooms, the old-fashioned concept of having to get up and walk over to a controller to change the music, or the volume, seems downright quaint once you get used to having the power of Sonos in your back pocket. I do have a significant investment in speakers that are mounted in my ceilings, and I did not want to walk away from that investment. The solution was to use the Sonos ConnectAmp products to create the Sonos ecosystem and leverage the existing speakers. In fact, I have not purchased a single Sonos speaker for the house, since I literally have in-ceiling speakers everywhere (including the garage). The only trick was to go to my existing audio closets and patch over two of the eight "rooms" that are part of my old system, turning them into two Sonos "rooms". I chose two as an arbitrary number - it means two people can be selecting different music to play in different areas of the house. I could add more if I wanted to. I still have to keep the legacy controllers set to the desired Sonos "room" for this system to work, but since I have been using Sonos exclusively that has not been a drawback at all.
Spotify - Spotify fans will be glad to know that you can now control your Sonos system from within the Spotify app - no need to go back and forth between apps.
XM Sirius - Most of us have an XM Sirius account for our cars. I use it to listen to my favorite music, but also to listen to CNBC in the morning or some of the news channels. A few weeks ago it struck me that I could use my Sirius account to listen to these information stations in the house. I was able to quickly add my Sirius account to the Sonos app, and add CNBC and the news channels to my Sonos Favorites list. Now I can move around the house freely and have the TV audio follow me. I often go up on my roof deck in the morning and, without even turning on a TV in the house, I can have CNBC playing out of my roof deck speakers with just a touch of a button on my phone.
Alexa Integration This has been promised for quite a while, but I have it on good authority that the Sonos skill for Alexa will be rolling out this fall. It is only a matter of time before I will be controlling the entire system with my voice.
Favorites - I failed to mention earlier that Sonos creates its own Favorites list, which can include music from any of your sources. For example, my Sonos Favorites list includes stations from Pandora, Spotify and Sirius, as well as playlists from my Amazon Music Unlimited account. In effect, the Sonos system becomes the shiny wrapper around all these messy music sources. Unless I'm actively looking for new music, 90% of the time I am listening to something on my Sonos Favorites list.
ORIGINAL POST - JANUARY 2017
I am in the process of a major renovation at my residence in Wilmington, DE and made the decision a while back to design my
distributed audio around the Sonos system. Music is a big part of my life and having music from multiple sources available
throughout the house is very important to me. I have used hardwired systems in the past which included user interfaces in most
rooms allowing users to drive music from multiple sources into multiple rooms. After installing Sonos in my newly renovated home,
I am convinced that their technology will be disruptive to the residential distributed audio market.
Content, Playback and Control - The Keys to Your New Music System
Sonos is, at it's core, simply audio distributed to speakers using your home's WIFI connection. Sonos sells various speakers as well as
devices that enable you to add your existing speakers to the Sonos network. The speakers sound fine although they would never be
considered "audiophile" quality. What makes this system amazing is the software. This is the most elegant music distribution
system I have found.
Content - Where do you get your music? Pandora? Spotify? iTunes? Custom play lists? Google Play Music? It really doesn't matter.
These music services and many more can be linked to your Sonos account. Once they are linked they appear as available sources on the Sonos
app on your phone or computer.
Playback - I am not aware of any limit on the number of speakers you can add to your system. Anywhere on your property where you can
receive a WIFI connection can be a Sonos "room". Speakers can be fixed or mobile, Sonos or any other manufacturer. There are several speaker options including a Playbar for your TV that can be easily grouped with a powerful sub-woofer and surround speakers.
Control - This is the real genius of the Sonos system. The easiest way to control the system is from your smartphone app. It is amazingly simple
and powerful. Want to change the music source on the basement speakers? Simply select those speakers from the drop down list and change the music
source. Want to lower the volume in the master bedroom? Switch the speaker selection to those speakers and use the volume slider or your phone's
volume control. Want to group the speakers from the living room and the patio to play the same music source? Simply press the Group button and
check the box next to each room you want to group. Once speakers are grouped the volume controller splits so you can modify volume in each room
independently or all grouped speakers collectively. Want to add a new speaker to the system? The app walks you through the process in a few short
steps that take about 2 minutes to complete.
Conclusion Everything I tried to do with Sonos was seamless, intuitive and well thought out. I highly recommend that you give it a look before
deciding on an audio distribution system. It's not cheap, but it is powerful and obsolescence proof.