Magazine article Gramophone

Multiroom Audio: Can Anyone Catch Sonos? Hi-Fi's Major Names Have Stopped Standing in Awe of the Sonos Success Story and Are Starting to Compete-But Are Their Efforts a Case of Too Little, Too Late?

Magazine article Gramophone

Multiroom Audio: Can Anyone Catch Sonos? Hi-Fi's Major Names Have Stopped Standing in Awe of the Sonos Success Story and Are Starting to Compete-But Are Their Efforts a Case of Too Little, Too Late?

Article excerpt

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The Sonos story is a remarkable one by any standards. Founded in 2002 by John McFarlane, whose previous business had been email server software in the early days of companies using such systems, it has grown very rapidly into a major force in the audio industry. Established in Santa Barbara, California, where it is still headquartered, it also has offices on the US East Coast, where its main technical centre is located, and in China, Malaysia and the Netherlands. It announced earlier this year that its 2013 revenues were nearly double those of the previous year, at $535m (around 315m [pounds sterling]).

Over the years the Sonos offering has changed, moving on from its original wireless ZonePlayer devices (one with an amplifier for 'just add speakers' audio, the other designed to connect to existing systems) to all-in-one wireless active speaker systems to deliver sound in any room, and all but replacing the original system controller with free apps for iOS and Android, able to drive a complete system. It has also taken on streaming services such as Spotify, adding this to its original idea of streaming a user's own collection plus internet radio, and streamlined the way buyers can start to set up its systems to the point where they're now a masterclass in simplicity and glitch-free installation. In fact, the company refers to 'Time to Music'--how long it takes to get a system up and running--and is insistent on keeping this down below 10 minutes. In fact, when new features are suggested for the system, they first have to pass the test of how many seconds they would add to the 'Time to Music'

What's more, Sonos speakers, from the basic Play:l up to the 'stereo in a box' Play: 5, can be used separately or in pairs --to give stereo in the case of the Play: 1 and Play: 3, or just bigger stereo with the Play:5--while the arrival of the Playbar allows users to combine the twin functions of improving the sound from a TV set and streaming music. Oh, and you can add a wireless subwoofer and a pair of the Play: 1 or Play: 3 speakers to the Playbar to create a complete 5.1-channel surround system, wirelessly.

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What hasn't changed is the basic premise of Sonos: music in every room of the home, distributed over a dedicated 'mesh' network, so your audio isn't sharing bandwidth with your internet browsing. Clearly the Sonos concept is working a treat, to the extent that it's almost the de facto standard for wireless multiroom audio systems worldwide. …

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