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My Sonos Mea Culpa

Several friends have tried to change my mind about selling Sonos over the years, but only recently was I finally convinced.

For years I have resisted selling or even integrating Sonos into clients’ homes. I have written about my concerns many times—poor margins, no official integration with control systems, and a consumer focus (at the expense to integrators).

Sonos integration is a huge turning point for the CI channel 

Several friends have tried to change my mind about selling Sonos over the years, but only recently was I finally convinced. While margins from selling Sonos haven’t improved, they really aren’t that different than other electronics (particularly AVRs), and paired with some good in-wall speakers and a couple of speaker wire runs, the profit numbers start looking a lot better. Integration is where the big win occurs. As we all know, last week Sonos announced official integration capability with Crestron, Control4, Lutron, Savant, and others. This is the straw that broke me and made me willing to take the plunge.

I have been beta-testing Crestron’s integration with Sonos over the past several months and have been really impressed. The two work together really well, and I can’t wait for CEDIA attendees to experience the native Sonos experience in the Crestron ecosystem next week in Dallas. I had been fumbling around with various media streaming products, including Crestron’s own NSP-1, and nothing had really worked well for me. I believe Sonos could be the solution I have been looking for, now that it works natively with Crestron touchpanels. The only big concern that I had was that I was bringing in a third-party product, which is heavily dependent on the network. Now, however, I have broken the “one neck to chock,” product offering that I have with Crestron; I have been assured by Crestron management that they will fully support all Sonos integrations.

I have heard that having multiple wired and wireless Sonos devices on the same project can cause significant STP issues with zones dropping and playback interrupted. I am trying to recreate this now in my home to make sure that I am prepared for the field experience of it happening. Anyone with great advice on this is welcome to post in the comments below; the only solution that my colleague Mark Feinberg of Home Theater Advisors has told me works reliably is to turn off the wireless card in any hardwired devices. Another solution for zone dropping, other than turning off Sonosnet, is to configure the STP properly, which you are working on and learning the proper settings.

My final concern of Sonos being too focused on the end-user and not our channel is still an issue. I have recently become a Sonos dealer and have put in my opening order. The opening order that they require for a home technology professional is ridiculous; we are required to buy at least one of every single item. I have no need for the Sonos Play series of all-in-one speakers, so I will likely end up giving them away as Christmas gifts to top clients. The current opening order requirement is clearly aimed at retailers, not home technology professionals. I could understand a required minimum dollar opening order, but making us buy Play5s, Play3s, PlayBars, and other stand-alone product is asinine.

So Sonos, I hope you hear me and make some kind of adjustment to better serve this channel. You have come a LONG way with control system integration, but you need to also look at your business practices and see how you can better service this channel. Consider everything from free shipping thresholds and return policies (seriously, free shipping and 45-day returns to end-users, but we can’t even edit an order once we hit submit?) to marketing directly to our customers when we put their email address in to set-up their system? How about taking a page out of Clare Control’s book and sharing some of the profit with the dealer who initially placed Sonos into the client’s home if they order anything in the future direct from Sonos? Finally, give us more troubleshooting tools (and take some of the load off of your front line tech support in doing so). Why is that we can’t see any of the diagnostic reports that are submitted through the Sonos app?

Sonos is on a good path to being an integrator’s friend, but there are just a few things, as mentioned above, that they need to revisit. Keep up the good work and keep going down the right path, and you will see your business with integrators continue to grow.