Move over Bose: The Benefits of Streaming Home Audio with Sonos
With the dawn of the iPod and the conversion of my legacy CD collection to digital, I have collected thousands and thousands of songs on in iTunes, created many playlists then tried to find ways to get that music from my iTunes into my home theater system or my home speakers to share it throughout my house. Up until now, I’ve never really had any great satisfaction. In the spirit of my home automation post, I want my music and streaming home audio experience to be as automated and seamless as possible.
Well, there’s a company called Sonos that has been working on solving that problem for us. They have come up with what is probably the best solution in the regular consumer market. Now, the Sonos solution is not cheap. The Sonos products are excellent quality audio hardware and networking products that pull it all together. Depending on the scope of your home audio project, you can spend as little as $400 to several thousand dollars. That being said, once you set up a system, you have a system that will work for you exactly the way you want, with the flexibility to play music and other audio from different sources, at different volumes throughout your home. It is also extendable at a pace you choose; you can start with one speaker and grow to as many as you need over time, according to your budget.
There are several different components of the Sonos music system that are available to you. The foundational component is a bridge; this bridge, which is the size of an Apple TV, is what is plugged into your router. You can often get the bridge packaged with your first speaker. Once you’ve plugged your bridge into your router, all of the other Sonos components connect wirelessly to your bridge, versus connecting directly to your Wi-Fi network. This avoids impacting your own network performance speed because each device connects to the other directly through wifi. As you add more components, your network is built out with greater range and reliability, all the time by-passing your primary wireless network supporting your other devices.
They also have two components called the Connect and the Connect Amp. These tools allow you to connect the Sonos System to your home theater system or to a set of speakers (if we’ve got just speaker settings by themselves). I personally don’t use these, as I abandoned my big amp and speakers several years ago. The main speaker components are the Play: 3, which are smaller speakers but the quality is excellent, great for small rooms; they also have the Play: 5, which is a bigger, deeper, and richer sound and is more suitable for larger rooms; and finally a subwoofer which is also available.
There’s really nothing to install, and rather than go in to a step by step guide, I’ve provided the link to the online material should you want to take a look before you purchase. It literally just stakes a few seconds to connect each device. When you connect each device, you name the devices so that you know exactly what they are and where they are. Then, you have the control to be able to address the music going to each of the devices. The longest part of the installation process is importing your music library into the Sonos music system; it doesn’t replicate it, but simply leverages the iTunes library file or music directories you may have on your computer.
Aside from your music library, which is now accessed independently of iTunes, it also gives you the ability to tune in to internet radio through a Radio app. This provides you with access to literally thousands of stations across the globe, in addition to your local radio stations, all streamed live. I’ll often tune in to BBC Radio One in the UK, even though I’m in Canada. Internet radio is not new, but the ability to play radio one in the bedroom while the kids are listening to their One Direction album in the basement is the differentiator. That’s right you can target which speaker plays what, you can even group certain speakers to play the same music or act as a true set of stereo speakers.
In addition to endless music now through your iTunes library or music you have on your computer, you also get access to streaming music and audio services (depending on which country you are in). You can listen to Rdio, as an example, in Canada, or if you want to relax and listen to an audiobook, services such as Audible can be accessed via your Sonos. Also worth checking out is the free service Songza, which has a massive collection of music playlists that are themed, based on season, day, mood etc.
Now, you’re probably thinking, do I have to control this all from my computer? Well, you can access it from your iOS or Android device as long as the device is connected to your home Wi-Fi network. In the latest release of the software, you can even stream music that’s on your device to the speaker. This could be handy if you have a friend over who has Sonos on his device and they are connected to your network. They can stream a song they want you to hear.
That’s the basis of how Sonos works. The quality of sound is excellent. It’s easy to use, and in my experience, is 100% reliable. You can also see the potential for other apps and functions to be introduced in the future to further enhance your audio experience.