AirPlay support - time to do it properly

  • 25 January 2017
  • 53 replies

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Sonos have had a form of AirPlay support for quite some time but frankly it has always been a disappointing kludge even if it got the job done. For those unaware the current and only solution involves buying an Apple AirPort Express WiFi basestation, you then connect the audio output from the AirPort Express to the audio input on a Sonos device. You would then AirPlay stream to the AirPort Express and it outputs to the Sonos.

This of course means spending more money for an AirPort Express or even several but also adds an extra device in the link with the possibility of additional overhead and small audio quality loss. In reality it was 'good enough'.

Unfortunately Apple have just discontinued both the AirPort Express and the AirPort Extreme. (The Extreme could not do this as it does not have an audio output.) No other device has ever offered this functionality. This means that going forwards it will effectively be impossible to use AirPlay audio streaming with Sonos. (I can see the secondhand prices of AirPort Express devices on eBay going up. 🙂 )

Therefore it is time for Sonos to solve this problem properly the way they should have done it in the first place which is to provide built-in support for AirPlay in their systems. Many AV Receivers e.g Denon, Yamaha, etc. have built-in AirPlay support as do other brands of wireless speakers e.g. Bowers & Wilkins. Whilst I believe most if not all of these are doing it by including a hardware chip with official AirPlay support the AirPlay protocol has been reverse engineered and open-sourced and implemented in many software programs purely as software. I believe the original need for the hardware approach was to include support for FairPlay protected music tracks but as iTunes music has not had such protection for many years and there are various legitimate approaches for upgrading your music to remove such FairPlay protection using a software only approach without FairPlay support is a realistic solution. (Obviously AirPlay Mirroring is never going to be possible with Sonos which is an audio only device so the fact you might need to stream FairPlay protected videos is not relevant.)

One could argue Sonos' previous short-sightedness is now coming back to bite them and if they had previously added this AirPlay chip when designing the new(er) Play 3, Play 5, etc. devices then most of their product line would already be compatible. (The older Sonos Connect devices might predate this.)

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53 replies

To be fair I will probably buy a pair to put on my deck if sonos launches a waterproof version. Otherwise not a good fit
pretty much. the sonos community seems to be populated with people that talk down to anyone that asks questions or wants more from the speakers. not impressed. The speakers look interesting but lower quality than a wired solution and more restricted than other options.

Not talking down, just being blunt. If apparent "lack of flexibility, inability to control music if my iOS device goes outside of wifi range, poor 5.1 support" is something you feel is not for you, then Sonos is not for you. That's just reality. Horses for courses, and no amount of mollycoddling or sales PR from the posters here is going to change that. Sonos appeals to a great many users, it was never meant to be all things to all people. And that's OK.
Couldn't agree more. I've setup multiple houses in the past and honestly had no idea that the limitations with sonos speakers existed with any wireless system. I started with a blank slate this morning, read up on the community board to see what issues users were having and was shocked with what I found. Everyone was nice to me but there were quite a few threads with Sonos users treating each other like dirt. Not very impressive.