My 24 Hours With Sonos Voice Control

10/9/2017 12:06:00 PM

Like many of you, I eagerly awaited this week’s Sonos media event launching the Sonos One and integration with Amazon Alexa. While the Sonos One looks like a great DIY product, I was mainly interested in stress testing the Alexa integration. I listen to music all day long, so this promised to be a fun mission! I’d previously created a “Alexa meets Control4” skill turning on Sonos in the kitchen, but it’s long since broken, and I haven’t tried to fix it.

My children consistently bypass the whole-home audio system in our kitchen where you have to (gasp!) open an app or press a Control4 6 Button Keypad to hear music. It’s all about voice control for my kids, wife, and mother-in-law. While they squawk at Alexa, they like her much better than the other options available and seem perfectly happy listening to terrible audio. The Sonos announcement meant I wouldn’t have to listen to a tinny rendition of Ayo and Teo’s Rolex ever again. From now on, it’s going to be Hi-Fi teeny-bopper music in our house. If it’s going to be terrible, at least be terrible on great speakers (only an integrator would say something like that…)

Clearly motivated, I went searching for instructions detailing how to configure Sonos to work with Alexa. I found none. Don’t worry, I included some at the end of the blog. Stick around.

To begin, the Sonos app on my iPad prompted me to update in the app store. I went to the Apple app store and was informed I already had the most recent version. Back to the app. Same message. Round and round we went. Finally I decided to uninstall the app and reinstall it. That did the trick. I then joined the public beta program from within the Sonos app and headed over to the Alexa app, assuming that a Sonos skill was now available. Bingo!

The skill prompted me to log in with my Sonos credentials after scanning the local network. Most early Sonos systems don’t have logins associated with them, so you may find yourself creating new accounts for clients frequently in the coming months. Once I logged in, it asked me to pick the Sonos system I wanted to control (I have multiple Sonos systems, so I picked our Design Center’s system). The Alexa app prompted me to scan for devices and discovered all of my Sonos gear. Pretty standard stuff.

After the Alexa app scan completed, I assumed I could ask Alexa to “Turn on Radio Paradise in Henry’s Office.” It worked the first time. Pretty impressive. I then asked her to take the volume to level 3. No problem. After that I began to ask for different music content without specifying my office at the end. Alexa doesn’t quite get the concept of an audio endpoint the way one might specify it in Control4’s Composer software. Pink Floyd starting playing from the Echo Dot in my office, competing with Radio Paradise. I’m guessing more contextual awareness is coming soon.

To save you the frustration of setting all this up blind, here’s an article Brad Camp (our director of Livewire for Business) found and circulated to our team. Amazon is supporting these music services out of the gate: Amazon Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio, and SiriusXM. No big surprises here, but it will be better when more paid streaming services are supported like Apple Music (don’t hold your breath) and Spotify.

Will Amazon open up its world to competition the way Apple’s done with Amazon Prime Video on the Apple TV? Sonos supports all streaming services, but this isn’t a Sonos voice front end. The plot thickens. Hopefully we’ll see a spirit of agnosticism sweep the market as Sonos touts their compatibility with multiple voice assistants. The biggest thanks we can give is being saved from lousy audio. Listening to the audio output from an Echo compared to a proper speaker system is pretty dramatic, and while it’s not perfect, we can all cross it off as one of our 99 problems.

What do you think of the new Sonos/Alexa integration?

Stay frosty and see you in the field.

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