When it comes to home audio there are countless different solutions, whether it be an off the shelf packages, custom built, wired, wireless, cheap, expensive, movable, fixed and much more.
You have to get a solution that works for you. I recently looked at my home audio and have settled with the SONOS system.
What has this got to do with smartphones and mobile technology?
- Well firstly you can control this system with your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet.
- It connects via wired or wireless networks.
- It is simply a pleasure to use and listen to and finally
- If you are into any form of technology, you will want to know all about it.
Before I start, a bit of a disclaimer. This is not a detailed review of the sound quality and the setup process. This is just a genuine everyday user feeling, opinion and review. If you want a technical review or details on the system, you need to look elsewhere. It looks at a surface level how well the system works and integrates within a digital lifestyle.
Let me start by giving you a bit of a background.
- I like my music but I am not a die hard audiophile. Good sound is important but I can sacrifice some quality for price and the logistics of an audio setup.
- I live in a very average 3 bedroom house and not a huge palace that would have an affect on acoustics.
- I have all my music stored on one computer and associated hard drives which has wireless connectivity.
- I move around the house and wanted a multi room solution.
- I wanted flexibility and the ability to easily control the audio without the need for multiple pieces of equipment and a dedicated cabinet for components.
- I had a budget…but wanted a system that was scalable and also transferable.
- It had to be intuitive for all to use.
O yes, I like to show off to friends sometimes…they think I spend too much time and money on needless technology, but they are all a little bit jealous and impressed at the way this system works…I am sure you know if you are reading this, too much and needless are not words that enter your mind when you like your gadgets.
With that out the way, I had seen SONOS systems before and kind of thought that was the system I wanted so took some time to look at alternative solutions from dedicated amps and speakers and felt that none would really give me the flexibility at the price I wanted to pay.
To date I had several sets of reasonable PC speakers including BOSE Companion 3’s which I would use or move when necessary.
The SONOS ticked the box in that it offers a premium sound and build quality without paying silly prices. It is scalable. so you can start with very few components and increase them over time. It is wireless or wired, whichever suits you but it gives flexibility and there is no need to be laying cables all over your home.
It connects to your home pc or any network drives with music on, it picks up radio stations and links to Spotify and more.
Reviews were predominantly complimentary of the system, those that. The most negative reviews that I read tended to be from those who wanted that superior sound and were willing to pay through the nose to get it or from those who could not see the advantage of the system.
In reality it is a very flexible system for the modern home.
Here is a quick demo of the system so you understand the concept (if you haven’t seen or heard about SONOS before).
So far I have begun with 3 components. A PLAY 5 in my lounge (the largest speaker) that accepts line in (the PLAY 3 does not) and a PLAY 3 in the master bedroom. I then have the bridge to connect the components to the wireless network.
The setup procedure is fairly simple and took me no more than about an hour from start to finish.
The sound quality is superb I am bowled over. Compression does take place over WiFi but the system automatically adjusts this based on your connections speeds and you can intervene and customise it further.Music sounds crisp and clear and there is no reduction in the quality when the volume is turned up to full power. Group the speakers together and it is even more immense especially if you have a party.
The sound is so good that I now do not use the speakers on my TV, everything from films, to general television sound uses the PLAY 5 and it’s line in capabilities.
You can group the speakers so they play the same music at the same time…there is absolutely no difference in the time the sound is played. So I can have the same music on in the lounge as in the master bedroom at the same time in perfect harmony.
In terms of controlling the system, the actually speakers have a mute and volume button and that is all so it has to be done from the computer software or through an Android or iOS device, or the extremely expensive dedicated SONOS controller.
In my case, my PC with all my music is upstairs so it is not practical to control the audio when I am in my lounge. This is where the software for the mobile devices comes in and the bit you are more interested in!
I generally always has my phone on me or in my lounge I have an Android tablet, that spends most of the time there so a controller is within easy access.
Despite the slightly slow start up time for launching the app, it is fantastic. I can control everything, from the volume, to the input, even when my music library updates on my PC, all from my phone.
This therefore gives me massive flexibility. You do have to be connected via WiFi to the network to control the devices and there is a simple pairing option for the first time use.
You do need your network drives with music on to be switched on to access the content, but you can even play music that you may have stored on your handset.
Got friends over, just connect their iPod, phone or laptop via 3.5mm audio cable to the PLAY 5 and you can listen to their music….and still control the volume from your controller.
They are so easy to set up that should you move home, or want to take your speakers to a friends for a party, within very little time you can be setup and listening to some music.
The following are a few screenshots from the Android app. You can see how extensive the software is. (Click to enlarge each image).
The versatile setup of this system allows you to easily grow, modify and adapt a system that works for you. Start small and increase over time, when you can afford to.
You may start with just one speaker, but within a few years you may have more in different rooms or even multiples in one room if it is a bigger room.
I have had my system for about 2 months and spent approx. £600 I do not regret it. I am considering another component to expand it further and if you like me want a versatile solution you could do a lot worse than opting or at least reading more into the SONOS system.
If you have, or have used a SONOS system, let us know your thoughts. What is your audio setup, do you control your system through your phone be it Android or iOS.