For years I teetered on the Sonos edge. Clients asked for it by name and my colleagues raved about how easy it was to use and install. I knew the product’s reliability was great and the breadth of music services was (and is) incredible, but I was reluctant to start selling it and actually complained about the brand quite vocally. Then, at CEDIA 2016, Crestron announced that it was an endorsed partner with Sonos. I was sold. As you all may well know, I bleed blue and drank the “Kool-Aid” long ago. So now that Crestron had blessed Sonos, I was all in.
Everyone was right about the brand. The product is rock solid, and I got more flexibility out of the line than I had expected, with the ability to add a portable speaker here and there for bathrooms or other tertiary rooms where clients didn’t want to invest in wiring and installing architectural speakers, or for a seldom-used TV for which we could sell a reliable, quality sound bar that doubled as a music speaker. Sonos has a fantastic brand, and they continue to build consumer awareness. I swear I saw the Sonos “You’re Better Than This” campaign on every bus shelter in NYC for weeks.
While the Crestron integration got me on board with Sonos, I am very hopeful that the API will become deeper and more integration-friendly in the near future. The biggest issue (as I’m sure everyone reading this has heard) has been the limitation to only Sonos Favorites from within a control system interface. One of our major selling points to a client is the consolidation of remotes throughout the home and the elimination of app bloat. The experience we sell is elegant, intuitive, and easy to use. However, when integrating with Sonos, these clients have to jump into a secondary app to change or add to their music selections that are available to the control system. That just made life complicated for them.
I have had several clients complain about the confusion of having to use Sonos to create favorites or to start a music stream and then jump to the Crestron app to play the music, group rooms, or adjust volume. This is particularly true for clients who are active in changing songs and playlists. The set-it-and-forget-it Pandora user isn’t that affected, but the client who is often changing the music or creating on-the-fly playlists is constantly jumping apps. In several cases, we have had to pull out the Sonos players and replace it with Autonomic media servers, at our expense, to make things right.
People love lists, so here are the areas that I hope Sonos will address during their current training tour and most definitely by CEDIA:
1. Deeper API with ability to access, search and make playlists directly in the control system.
2. Ability to randomize a playlist. I was actually very surprised when I realized I couldn’t do this. I thought I had found a great solution to have a client make a playlist in Apple Music or Spotify (apps they are using anyway outside of the home), called “Crestron Playlist” that would then populate into the Sonos Favorites and then into the control system so it could be recalled from a simple button press on a keypad or command on the touchpanel. Then they could edit the playlist in their music app of choice and have that populate through to the keypad button. The problem is the playlist can’t be set to random, so they always get the same songs in the same order, which is really annoying.
3. Better management of an “active” Sonos player for use in an audio matrix. It doesn’t always seem to work well when a Sonos player is shared among zones as there may be in inactive player, but it isn’t selected for the new stream, instead a player in use is selected. Sonos recommends a player per zone, but that is a waste of money, rack space, power outlets, and Ethernet ports. In a 16-zone system, it seems like complete overkill to have 16 Connects where there are only five members of the family.
4. Multi-zone, rack-mountable player. Right now, if we want four streaming sources, we have to install four Sonos Connects, along with power cords and network connections. I would love to see a four-zone player with one power cord, one network connection, and four separate streams of audio output.
Sonos makes a GREAT product and I want to keep using it and supporting them. They created the wireless music category and have the most flexible and reliable product lineup and the deepest streaming services offering. Some deeper API integrations and a product line extension here and there would make them unstoppable in our channel.