Tips Toward a Smarter Sonos
So you finally bought a Sonos. Or two. Or 10. The tech-savvy speaker system that creates its own network in your home has been around for more than a decade. Last fall, it dropped its pricing to a more mainstream level — $199 for the Sonos Play:1 — enticing more people to jump on the wireless sound bandwagon.
Like many technology products that now come with minimal instructions, Sonos prides itself on simplicity. While that may elicit cheers from the reading-averse, it leaves others wondering what else they can do with Sonos after it’s set up.
Here’s a quick guide to some Sonos tips and features that may be new to you:
Location, location, location
Sonos speakers are designed so you can set them up yourself. Because of this, they cost a lot less than getting a system professionally installed, but they might wind up placed in locations that aren’t acoustically ideal.
Sonos CEO John MacFarlane says the speakers are designed to sound good no matter where you put them. Encouraging as this advice may be, a Sonos acoustic engineer offered a few more specifics. First, consider creating more soft surfaces in your room, like replacing a hard-surface coffee table with a soft ottoman, filling your shelves with books, and covering hard floors with area rugs or carpeting. Hard surfaces can reflect sound away from you.
For more bass, position your Sonos speaker in a corner. To get a brighter sound, set it up in the middle of a wall.
Let’s get physical
Each Sonos speaker has just a few physical buttons — up and down volume controls, and Mute or Play/Pause, depending on the model you’re using. Sonos speakers are managed by a free Android or iOS remote-control app, which is handy when your phone or tablet are nearby. When they’re not, these physical buttons will do the trick. In addition to their obvious functions, double-tapping the Mute or Play/Pause button lets you skip to the next song in your queue. Holding the volume-down button will automatically mute music; tapping volume-up makes it audible again.
Sonos is working on a software update for its speakers that will let people connect them with one another without using the company’s $49 Bridge accessory, which was a hassle. The software is currently in a public beta (test) phase; you can sign up to get access to it on Sonos’s website. The company plans to automatically push this update to all of its speakers in the next few months.
The Bridge will still be recommended in homes where the Wi-Fi signal is too weak to carry throughout a house, or in large houses where Sonos devices aren’t in range of the Wi-Fi signal.
Two Sonos speakers of the same type (like two Play:1 models) can be set up to work in stereo. Do this in the Sonos Controller app by selecting the gear icon to open Settings, choose Room Settings, select your room (like “Kitchen”), choose Create Stereo Pair, and follow on-screen instructions. This won’t work for the PlayBar, Connect or Connect:amp.
Trouble in paradise
Not everyone has an easy time setting up Sonos. If you run into issues, call the company’s toll-free support line before you call your tech-savvy relative. The phone number is 1-800-680-2345.
Bring on the music
The Sonos Controller app connects with 26 music services, including Pandora, Spotify, Beats, Stitcher and Amazon Music. Using the app, you can plug in your account information for a service and access your tunes. Basic radio also works with Sonos, letting you tune in to hear channels like your local NPR station, traffic and weather, or a favorite music station (yes, people still listen to them).
ITunes music plays from any iOS device on the same network as your Sonos player. And it’s easy to set up Sonos-accessible music in a local library called “My Library,” which can live on any computer that uses your home’s Wi-Fi network.
On the downside, not all music services work in Sonos just like they do in their standalone apps. For example, certain Spotify features — like random play — won’t work, and Pandora can’t show you your music history to see what you played in the past. Amazon Music on Sonos doesn’t yet include Amazon Prime Music, the company’s new streaming music service for Prime members.
Sonos music controls don’t appear on your iPhone’s lock screen, forcing you to unlock the phone whenever you want to access tunes. You’ll have better luck on Android, where a widget offers music controls on the lock screen. But music won’t play directly from your phone’s music app or a service’s app — it must go through the Sonos app to work.
If you use it often, Sonos works seamlessly in the home, turning on and off where you want it to, and coordinating with new Sonos players as you add them. Kind of like the other tech products that don’t need a big booklet of instructions to work well.