What is Sonos?

| Dave Hamilton's Blog

Recently I've had multiple people ask me to describe my home Sonos setup. Today I set about answering that question. However, in writing that post I realized that we had no post here describing exactly what Sonos is, as my only explanations of that have happened audibly on Mac Geek Gab (in episode 350 and unintentionally in 429). As such... here's that information in a more readable form.

What is Sonos?

In short, Sonos makes devices and software that let you easily create your own high-quality wireless music-listening system. You can enjoy Sonos with just one device, or you can grow it and have it in every room of your home. Sonos can play music from your iTunes library, your iPhone's library, or pretty much any streaming service online. You connect one Sonos unit to your wired ethernet connection, and then every other Sonos device you have (or later add) will connect wirelessly to Sonos's own wireless mesh. It's simple, easy, and you don't need to understand the networking complexities that are obviously required to make this work. They've taken care of all of that, and it's like magic.

Controlling Sonos is something everyone in the family is fully capable of doing very easily with the Sonos iOS app. You can do everything you need from the app, so much so that I often forget there's a Sonos app for my Mac, too.

Where Does the Sound Come From?

Sonos makes 3 sound-emitting devices (ok, well, 4 if you include the new PLAYBAR, but I haven't tested that because it's not out yet): the PLAY:3, the PLAY:5 and the SUB. The first two can be used on their own or in matched stereo pairs (more on that in a bit). The SUB can only be used in conjunction with an existing PLAY:3 or PLAY:5 (or PLAYBAR), because the SUB is just a subwoofer and needs other speakers to deliver all but the low frequency sounds.

Sonos PLAY:5

Where, Specifically, Can My Music Come From?

Sonos can point directly at your iTunes library on your Mac (or Windows machine) and even inherit playlists and all that from there. You can also point it at a folder (or folders) of music anywhere on your network (on a NAS drive, for example) and it will index all of that for you to use, too.

In addition to your local iTunes library/libraries, Sonos supports just about every streaming service I can think of. Spotify is the one we (currently) use most, but Pandora comes in a close second. Slacker, Mog, Wolfgang's Vault, Rdio, Last.fm, Rhapsody, Audible, Songza and many, many more are supported. 

You Say it's Easy to Setup and Use, but Is It?

The folks at Sonos truly get what their real purpose is: to easily deliver high-quality music anywhere in the home. This was never made more clear to me than the first time I met with them. They told me in no uncertain terms, "listen, Dave, you're a geek, and you understand how this stuff works, so while we're happy to hear from you we'll probably ignore your ideas. But if your family has any feature requests or issues with how the system works, please let us know ASAP." 

And they've achieved that mission, 100%.

RELATED: My Sonos Setup at Home

Comments

paikinho

Does this work with say a 7.1 sound system or beyond?

How could this be used in a home theater environment with a full surround system?

Dave Hamilton

@paikinho — Sonos is, for the most part, its own system. And (up until the introduction of the PLAYBAR) was a 2-channel system, built primarily for listening to music. And that was the “problem” I referred to in the follow-up article describing my setup. In our living rooms we essentially need two systems — one Sonos, one 5.1 (or 6.1 or 7.1) home theater. But with the PLAYBAR Sonos appears to be creating a dual-purpose system for the living room, allowing a setup for music *and* home theater surround. As that’s just been announced and we (or anyone else) haven’t tested it yet, I can’t speak to it first-hand, though given Sonos’s track record I’m bullish on the prospects.

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