Archive for January, 2018

Sonos

January 9th, 2018, 10:27pm by Mike

 

Any Sonos users out there? I’m up to 3 speakers now, and I’m really happy with both the sound quality and the overall experience. I got into it when I learned that Apple would be moving on from AirPlay, and that my ~8 year-old Pioneer AirPlay speakers would likely be obsolete.

Three parts to this write up — the hardware, the Sonos software, and the Amazon side (since Alexa support makes it really great). First the hardware — we have:

  • A Sonos One: This is their newest small bookshelf speaker, with Alexa built in. Lives on our kitchen counter, replaced our Echo Dot and Bluetooth speaker. Over the next year, it’s supposed to be updated with Google Assistant, as well as AirPlay 2 whenever Apple actually releases it. In other words, a Swiss Army knife with great sound. We’ve had a Dot in the kitchen for quite a while, and love it, mainly for setting timers while cooking. But now, we just say what we want to hear and it plays our music. More below…
  • A PLAY:1: this is the older version of the One, but without Alexa built in (and as such, can be found a little less expensively on sale every once in a while). I have the old Dot right next to it, by my bike in the basement. So while riding, I can say, “Alexa, play the album 101 by Depeche Mode in the basement.” Since the Sonos skill is on the Dot, the Dot can control even non-Alexa-powered Sonos devices.
  • A PLAYBASE: This one’s in our living room, and is under our TV (it’s like a sound bar, but literally a “base” for the TV rather than a thin bar). It has an optical connection to the TV, and is controlled by the TV remote. But it also acts as a Sonos speaker for music, and can be grouped together with the other units (or can play different stuff). We also have a Dot in the living room, so we can play music on it via voice as well. In theory we could get two more PLAY:1s and have a stereo pair as back channels, but I don’t think we’ll ever do this.

I can see us buying another speaker or two, it’s just nice to have music all over.

Next, the Sonos software. It’s overall pretty good, but not amazing. The main downside is that not everything works through Alexa, so you have to whip out a phone to do some things. My favorite features:

  • You can sign into all your music accounts (Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, Apple Music, your local music library, whatever), and then browse for a song, and it’ll search everywhere and just find it to play.
  • You can group speakers together, as above, on the fly, and add and take away speakers as music is playing. You can do this on Airplay, also, but it’s not seamless — the music stops for a second while the new network is being figured out.
  • Finally, I can turn down the TV from anywhere in the house — like if I’m in bed and the kids are blaring cartoons 🙂

And lastly, the Alexa support. I think it really makes Sonos worthwhile. The key here (for me) — I uploaded my music to Amazon Music — paid $25 a year to put up to 250,000 songs into the cloud (I use about 9,000). It felt like I shouldn’t need to do that, but I couldn’t figure out any other way to be able to talk to Alexa and have it play music on a server in my house over Sonos (note that I love subsonic, and use it to stream my music from my server to my phone for driving — I don’t store any music on the phone itself). So without paying for a subscription service (other than the Amazon music included with Prime), I have all my music, and a lot more stuff that’s free with Prime. Note that if you ever want to upload music to Amazon, they’re about to stop offering new signups (on the 15th — 6 days from now).

Also, the kids love to just yell at Alexa to play music that sucks, but I guess that’s my fault as a parent for not doing a better job giving them good musical taste (yet).


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