Every once in a while, a new technology or product comes along to push the envelope of the consumer electronics industry. One such company is changing the game for audio systems right now. That company is Sonos.
Not long ago, it was quite impressive to have a music system playing music throughout the various rooms of a home or business. Don’t get me wrong, it still is, but that was a time when sources of music were relatively limited. The most common options have been AM/FM radio and CD players. Of course, there are some drawbacks. AM/FM tuners require a good antenna to get decent radio reception, while CD players either require attention in changing discs or a catalog of CD listings for the larger CD changers that are capable of holding more than 5 discs. The other significant issue, is control. Most systems use some kind of keypad interface, in order to switch music sources and control those sources. Unfortunately, they were often limited to changing radio stations or selecting presets and offered play, pause, stop, track skip and disc skip for CDs. With the CD players, it was uncommon to see which disc and track was playing. Once in a while, systems were made with the ability to display the radio station tuned to at that moment, but that was the extent of getting feedback and being able to navigate. Then everything changed.
Apple introduced the iPod in 2001 and set the path to what would ultimately change audio and video content. Although the popular MP3 digital music format existed for over a decade prior to the iPod, Apple single-handedly brought the revolution into the spotlight and put a portable music library into the hands of millions in just a few years. Electronics manufacturers took notice and began to make devices which would allow their music systems to play music stored on an iPod. What was actually more important than the source of the music was the ability to navigate the music library on an iPod. This was a very significant concept. Once Apple had taken the iPod and digital audio content to the mainstream, many companies began to create their own digitally-delivered offerings. Companies such as SiriusXM, Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Slacker Radio and TuneIn established themselves as noteworthy contenders. They each offer their own method of delivering music content, which can be personalized to your preferences, over the internet and on demand. Then things changed again.
In 2002, Sonos was established as a company, whose mission it is to deliver music to people in the Digital Age. They have created one of the most feature-rich and wildly popular music systems available to date. Sonos is a breed like no other. There are a couple of key points, which set Sonos apart from everything else. The most important part is control. Sonos has moved from a dedicated controller to an app, which works with products that many people already own, in order to control their system – iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Windows and Mac devices. With a single controller, you can control every source in every room. You simply select a room to play music in (if you have units set up for different rooms), then select what you’d like to play, whether you select from one of the many available music services or your own music library, you’ll always have something to enjoy. All along the way, you’ll be able to see what your options are and navigate them with the greatest of ease. Not many systems offer this degree of control and functionality. Also, each Sonos player acts as an independent source. Here’s what that means. If you have multiple players – one for the kitchen, one for the family room and one for the patio, you have the ability to listen to something different in each area or combine any number of areas and listen to the same thing. It’s extremely flexible.
The way it works is relatively simple. One Sonos device is connected via wire to your local computer network, usually a router, and uses your internet connection to retrieve music from various online services. It can also play music from your song library on your computer or network hard drive. Sonos then creates its own separate wireless network (SONOSNet), making it possible for all Sonos components to communicate without any additional wired network connections. Here’s an example of how this is useful. If you have a Sonos player with speakers built in, you may want to bring it outside with you to enjoy music on your patio. Chances are that you do not have a wired network connection outside, so the wireless SONOSNet allows that device to communicate with the Sonos device which is physically connected to your network. All you need on your patio is a power outlet. Don’t worry – this sounds more complicated than it is. Sonos is incredibly simply to use and does not require a lot of technical know-how.
Sonos is the only system, with a very reasonable price tag, to offer the level of flexibility and ease of use that it does, without the need for an expensive third-party control system to operate it.
The number of services Sonos offers is constantly growing too. Here is a listing of the services being offered at the moment:
- TuneIn – a free service – allows you to listen to thousands of radio stations broadcasting from North American, as well as many countries from around the world.
- SiriusXM – a subscription-based service – the online version of the highly popular satellite radio service, featuring over 130 channels of music, news, talk radio, sports and more.
- Pandora – a free service (premium subscription is available) – creates personalized radio stations for you, based on your musical tastes.
- Spotify – a subscription-based service – offers on-demand access to a library of over 15 million songs in high quality sound.
- Rhapsody – a subscription-based service – an on-demand music library, featuring over 100 music channels.
- Slacker Radio – a free service (premium subscription is available) – over 400 stations, broken down by genre and sub-genre – music, talk, sports and more.
- Songza – a free “music concierge” service – matches music with your mood, activity or favorite genre. Songza also has exclusive playlists created by popular artists.
- 7 Digital – an online store for high quality music, which is stored in an online “digital locker” for you.
- 8 Tracks – a free service – DJs create playlists based on your tastes, allowing you to experience music you may not have heard before.
- MOG – a subscription-based service – offers a combination of music-on-demand, radio stations and personalized radio stations.
- Last.FM – a subsctiption-based service – allows you create stations based on your personal tastes in music.
- Aupeo! – a free service (premium subscription is available) – allows you to create personalized music stations based on your favorite genres or mood.
- I Heart Radio – a free service – delivering over 750 radio stations you can choose by genre, city, radio personality, format or featured stations.
- Wolfgang’s Vault – a subscription-based service – allows you to search over 3,500 concerts or more than 40,000 songs from live concerts over the past 50 years.
- Stitcher – a free service – featuring over 5000 podcasts, radio shows and stations for you to choose from.
- DAR.fm – a free service – allows you to search available radio stations and record the programs you want, so you can listen later at your convenience.
If you enjoy music, Sonos truly has something for everyone. They offer one of the most exciting products today!