Question

Large commercial space, multiple SONOS Connect, Ethernet only?

  • 29 September 2017
  • 15 replies
  • 1779 views

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Hi there,

I run a recreational facility (20,000 ft) with two large gyms as well as a number of smaller rooms. We have a five Unifi access points throughout the building providing both guest and private wireless networks. In addition, to the Unifi access points, there are a four access points for an ISP provided public wireless network.

All of our instructors use Android tablets to take attendance and play music for their classes. I am looking to setup a number of Sonos Connect in order to make it easier for the instructors to play music in different areas without having to plug in an Aux cable and leave their tablets next to the speaker systems.

If I hard wire ALL of the Sonos connect will they turn off their built in wireless and use my wired network to communicate? I don't want to add any more WiFi devices if possible since we already have some issues with congestion due to the large number of access points and users (at peak times we have hundreds of users in the facility, many accessing the WiFi)

Thanks,

Kevin

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15 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +21
No, the WiFi doesn't turn off when you hardwire the units but they will communicate via the wired connection as that will be certain to be the lowest "cost".

As to disabling the wireless cards that can be done - Sonos don't support it so if you ever needed direct Sonos support you'd need to re-enable and also I won't post the method nor link to it here.
Userlevel 4
Badge +3
Sounds like you already have the facility to connect a line in, so have you considered Bluetooth links instead?

Android tablets with Bluetooth built-in are fairly cheap. For the cost of a single Connect you could equip 3-5 studios with a new tablet and a Hi-Fi Bluetooth receiver each (Philips AEA2000 @ £30). That's sound commercial reasoning.

We're all aware that Bluetooth isn't Hi-Fi grade, but unless the acoustics of each studio are spot on and the speakers being used are very good then is it really going to make a huge difference?

The other considerations are practical.

1) You already have an issue with Wi-Fi congestion. Bluetooth sidesteps that

2) Sonos is set up for multi-room playback. What's to stop an instructor accidentally grouping several rooms and replacing their music with his/her own by accident? Bluetooth provides a 1:1 link only, so no issue with that; control is contained within a workout room

3) How do you propose to prevent gym members doing exactly the same as in point 2 if your wireless network is open access?

4) The learning curve for a BT connection is much shorter than for the Sonos controller app. Many folk with smart phones and tablets are already familiar with the process of pairing a link. Also, they already know how to play music from a tablet; this is just a change of connection method rather than teaching them a whole new methodology for playback

5) Security: A Sonos Connect is a highly-desirable high value portable item. Unless you plan to have them locked away somehow then you've got to consider the possibility that one or two might go missing initially, and maybe more once word spreads that they're being used in all of your studios. Do you plan to buy a couple extra "just in case"? If not, would you plan on going back to having a tablet wired until the player is replace? How would that affect your new operating model?

Bluetooth links could bo missing too of course, but replacing a £30 isn't such a hit on that weeks bottom line, and you could afford to have a couple in reserve as at £30 each they're not eating up a huge amount of operating capital.


I love Sonos dearly. However, there are times when other products might offer a more practical solution. I appreciate that you've not shared all the detail and background that has lead up to your decision to ask about Sonos. There may be some very good reasons why you want that as a solution; and I can think of music licensing and controlling the music library as one. If that isn't a concern, or you can see a way of managing the music library through the tablet storage, then maybe putting wireless in for £30 per room if your tablets have Bluetooth is a pretty easy decision.

If this or any other posts have been helpful then show your appreciation by clicking on the thanks button. Its a great way to say Thank You. 🙂
The first point about WiFi congestion is moot. 98% of the bandwidth usage would be streaming via Ethernet, the controller is just a controller, all streaming is directly from the source to the Sonos player.
Kmo12345,

Lucid AV makes some points to consider, however, Bluetooth range is somewhat limited. While eliminating the (potentially) shorter Aux cable, the tablets would still effectively be tethered to their player and exposed to a "snatch and run" caper. The CONNECT's could be locked away out of sight. Depending on the layout of your sound system, the CONNECT's could be located in a central office.

The Ubiquiti access points are capable of managing a large number of clients, especially the new "HD" variety. Is it the Uniquiti access points that are bogging down or the ISP's access points?

In terms of WiFi band traffic, a wired SONOS unit continues to send beacons to other SONOS units over its wireless channel, but the music traffic is through the wire. Once a CONNECT is given a list of things to do (the Queue or an Internet based stream), the controller can be shut down and locked away.

Make sure that the facility is aware of their copyright licensing obligation.
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Hi everyone,

I really really appreciate all of the feedback. The primary reason I'm even considering Sonos over other more commercial systems is that the owner has Sonos in his house and swears by it. He also said the customer support is excellent and that the product is so easy to use that users won't have any problem figuring it out.

We currently are using a mix of Bluetooth enabled speakers and portable boomboxes. Having to pair multiple tablets with multiple Bluetooth devices is somewhat painful and Bluetooth audio has some annoying issues such as pausing causes the "audio stream" to stop so when you press play you lose the first 2 seconds of the song while the Bluetooth "audio stream" reconnects itself. For this reason most instructors end up using the Aux cables which do tend to break or go missing quite often.

With regards to Lucid's 2nd and 3rd point: the public WiFi is connected to its own separate modem and our guest WiFi is on a separate VLAN from our business network (wired and password protected WiFi). This was why I was thinking if we had the devices on our business ethernet than they would stop using Sonosnet and wouldn't be controllable by the public. Is this assumption incorrect? It might be a deal-breaker if anyone with the Sonos app could re-route audio or play their own using Sonosnet even if we are exclusively wired?

As for Lucid's 4th point: I was under the impression that if my tablets are on my private network, they can play any MP3 stored on them, to any room, with no pairing or connection. Surely this is easier than having to pair to Bluetooth? Maybe I need to get a demo from the owner but he swears it is the easiest system in the world to figure out.

Regarding security, I had not considered this but we have had dozens of Aux cables walk, it is a little bit harder to take speakers mounted to the wall or large boom boxes so I suspect we've been lucky. Never had a tablet stolen though but the instructors are pretty good with taking them. We could possibly lock the Sonos away but since the Line In feature might still be useful I'll probably end up putting them in locked boxes in each room with just the Aux cable coming out of a hole.

jgatie: not sure what you mean by "the controller" is just a controller. Again my impression was that each instructor will need MP3s on his or her own device in order to play. The traffic from the tablets to the Sonos would go over my WiFi and then through the Ethernet to the Sonos.

With regards to wireless network congestion, the 2.4 GHz band has only three different usable channels, with the nine access points all broadcasting multiple SSID there is a lot of beacon traffic already. In addition there are nearby businesses with their own commercial grade WiFi that are also in range. The more beacon broadcasts, the less time there is for actual data to flow and at some very busy times of day, we can see the Unifi APs in the central areas of the building are having to re-transmit lots of packets, presumably the ISP APs on the same channels are also doing the same. Adding a bunch of what seem to be effectively 2.4 Ghz AP with their own SSID doesn't seem like the best plan.

I think this addresses all of your questions, hopefully you have more constructive feedback for me. At the very least, I'm impressed enough with the support community that I'm considering getting a few for my own house.
Userlevel 6
Badge +13
You can't "push" music to the Sonos system, you may have to factor in a NAS drive to store all the music on to be pulled by Sonos. I bought a 3TB WD My Cloud for £85 so not a deal breaker..
Kmo12345,

A SONOS "controller" is simply a PC, Mac, or phone/pad application. Although it is possible to play music stored on a phone/pad on a SONOS system, this is not the best use of the technology. The true concept of SONOS is that the music is stored on a hard drive available to the network. Numerous Cloud services are also supported and it is possible to build playlists that are a mixture of local hard drive tracks and Cloud tracks. (Not all Cloud services support this) Unless you are playing music stored on a phone/pad (again, not the optimal use of this technology), once play is started the controllers are no longer needed, the controller's host device can be powered down and, if the players use wired network connections, there will be no music related wireless activity. If you are playing music stored on a phone/pad, they must use WiFi or Line-In.

With respect to network security, the controllers and players must be on the same subnet. You are correct, SonosNet is simply a private WiFi protocol. (and there are beacons) Guests are not an issue because they do not have access to devices on the local subnet.

Any controller can work with any combination of players. This can create some awkward situations if instructors can't remember to look before they play. Any Line-In is available for play in any combination of rooms.

For music stored on a local hard drive, you will not have any bits and pieces of missing music. Cloud services may have the sort of issues that you are experiencing with Bluetooth. (Depends on the service and the quality of your connection to the service)

Yes, the "local hard drive" could be on a network computer, but this computer must always be ON. In my opinion, it is better to use a NAS drive. As Keithmac notes, NAS drives are inexpensive.
Userlevel 4
Badge +3
Hi everyone,

I really really appreciate all of the feedback. The primary reason I'm even considering Sonos over other more commercial systems is that the owner has Sonos in his house and swears by it. He also said the customer support is excellent and that the product is so easy to use that users won't have any problem figuring it out.

We currently are using a mix of Bluetooth enabled speakers and portable boomboxes. Having to pair multiple tablets with multiple Bluetooth devices is somewhat painful and Bluetooth audio has some annoying issues such as pausing causes the "audio stream" to stop so when you press play you lose the first 2 seconds of the song while the Bluetooth "audio stream" reconnects itself. For this reason most instructors end up using the Aux cables which do tend to break or go missing quite often.

With regards to Lucid's 2nd and 3rd point: the public WiFi is connected to its own separate modem and our guest WiFi is on a separate VLAN from our business network (wired and password protected WiFi). This was why I was thinking if we had the devices on our business ethernet than they would stop using Sonosnet and wouldn't be controllable by the public. Is this assumption incorrect? It might be a deal-breaker if anyone with the Sonos app could re-route audio or play their own using Sonosnet even if we are exclusively wired?

As for Lucid's 4th point: I was under the impression that if my tablets are on my private network, they can play any MP3 stored on them, to any room, with no pairing or connection. Surely this is easier than having to pair to Bluetooth? Maybe I need to get a demo from the owner but he swears it is the easiest system in the world to figure out.

Regarding security, I had not considered this but we have had dozens of Aux cables walk, it is a little bit harder to take speakers mounted to the wall or large boom boxes so I suspect we've been lucky. Never had a tablet stolen though but the instructors are pretty good with taking them. We could possibly lock the Sonos away but since the Line In feature might still be useful I'll probably end up putting them in locked boxes in each room with just the Aux cable coming out of a hole.

jgatie: not sure what you mean by "the controller" is just a controller. Again my impression was that each instructor will need MP3s on his or her own device in order to play. The traffic from the tablets to the Sonos would go over my WiFi and then through the Ethernet to the Sonos.

With regards to wireless network congestion, the 2.4 GHz band has only three different usable channels, with the nine access points all broadcasting multiple SSID there is a lot of beacon traffic already. In addition there are nearby businesses with their own commercial grade WiFi that are also in range. The more beacon broadcasts, the less time there is for actual data to flow and at some very busy times of day, we can see the Unifi APs in the central areas of the building are having to re-transmit lots of packets, presumably the ISP APs on the same channels are also doing the same. Adding a bunch of what seem to be effectively 2.4 Ghz AP with their own SSID doesn't seem like the best plan.

I think this addresses all of your questions, hopefully you have more constructive feedback for me. At the very least, I'm impressed enough with the support community that I'm considering getting a few for my own house.


Lot's of new pertinent background information in the post above. Had that been available in the OP then my advice would have taken a different direction.

I still wouldn't take it for granted that "user will figure it out for themselves". It's one thing to mess around with a system in your own home, but quite another to stand in front of a spinning class or aerobics group "trying to figure it out".

Make sure you set aside some time for training and give the instructors time to practise. When it comes to running live with the system they need to be very confident that not only can they operate it when everything is working as it should, but also be able to resolve any teething troubles without stopping a class or interrupting a session.

If it was me planning this roll-out, I'd do it in phases. Say you have 12 studios, do 2 first and get the users comfortable running those. Then do 4 and use the instructors from 1 & 2 as mentors. Then roll out the final 6, again using mentoring. Dealing with the queries from two studios on top of your normal workload will be easier than dealing with 12 all at once. Remember too, you and your support staff will also be going through a learning curve, so you need time to get comfortable with the system too.

Your Wi-Fi structure solves the public access issue. You'll have to trust that the instructors know not to try to control another studio's audio, but that's where training and "being grown up" about operating the system comes in to play. It's possible to give the zone players unique names, so there shouldn't be any real excuse for getting it wrong. My guess is you'll still get a bit of pranking, but you'll just have to manage that.

As for adding to wireless traffic, where the Sonos player are connected by Ethernet, they still set up a dedicated and isolated SonosNet wireless network, but all the player traffic goes via Ethernet..This means these are not additional 2.4GHz APs. There is still some activity via SonosNet, but this is simply pings to maintain connections between the players so that if Ethernet drops for some reason then the players know of all the alternative connection routes.

Your tablets will run the controller apps. The controllers will connect to your in-house wireless network and from there control the Sonos player by IP.

For music I'd go with a central NAS drive too as suggested by buzz and Keithmac . That will give you some control over what's played in the studios. The instructors can make and maintain their own play lists.
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Hi again,

Thanks for the additional information, I already have an on-premises file server where copies of all of the music content already lives so I don't think I'll need a NAS. Would this server need to run a Sonos application in order for the "controllers" to be able to see the files on it or can the application find them itself?

Glad to hear that WiFi isn't used for anything if Ethernet is connected and the boxes are playing content off of a file server. If it's just commands being sent I'm not really worried about the bandwidth. Presumably this also means no one with a WiFi enabled device would be successful if they tried to connect to the SonosNet to do something stupid or malicious.

With regards to a staged roll-out, I think this is a great idea. I will probably start with two Sonos Connect, one for each of the large gym spaces where streaming audio is most frequently used. The boxes can be kept with the other audio equipment away from public access. If using the tablets works well then we will look at Sonos Connect or Connect Amp in the smaller studio spaces.

Thanks for all the help, I'll let you guys know when it's (hopefully) up and running.
Userlevel 4
Badge +3
You're welcome.

The beauty of Sonos is exactly that it doesn't need to run any server special software.

Sonos works with any NAS drive that supports the SMB(v1) / CIFS file sharing protocol. As long as your server does that then you should be able to set up access to the shared folder.

Re:Wi-Fi. As long as the customer-side guest Wi-Fi is segregated from the business-side access (including control of the Sonos system) then none of your patrons should be able to accidentally stumble in to the Sonos system even if they have the controller app on their phone.

Sonosnet is how the boxes talk to each other, not how Wi-Fi enabled controller devices talk to the system

Good luck with the project. Don't forget to come back and tell us how you got on.

Best regards
Lucid
I have Wifi congestion too. Sonos will tell you what I'm about to say is unsupported, but it has worked beautifully for me and has completely solved my issues with audio drops and grouping issues.

If you plug your sonos into Ethernet they will use Ethernet and also create sonosnet mesh. Sonos speakers will talk to each other over ethernet when possible. If there are speakers that you aren't able to hard wire they will connect to Sonosnet unless you go into the speakers hidden webserver and turn off wifi.

its located at http://:1400/wifictrl

If you turn off Sonosnet on every speaker that is hard wired any remaining wifi speakers will connect to the network you setup in the sonos app and not attempt to create a sonosnet.
This is what you're looking for: https://bsteiner.info/articles/disabling-sonos-wifi
Userlevel 2
Badge +5
You can't "push" music to the Sonos system, you may have to factor in a NAS drive to store all the music on to be pulled by Sonos. I bought a 3TB WD My Cloud for £85 so not a deal breaker..

?

Don't get that. You can play music directly from an iPad or an android phone directly from an app to the speaker of your choice without any NAS and without using the Sonos controller?
Your phone, in that case, is acting as an NAS, i.e. an external IP address that the data is being pulled from.
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Hi all,

Just wanted to update you on this project. We have the Sonos system up and running and for the most part it has been working very well. For anyone else looking to do this, here is how we've set this up.

We are using Rolls DB24 Stereo Direct Interface to convert the unbalanced line level output from the Sonos Connect to balanced XLR which can run long distances to large powered speakers mounted high up on the wall (On-Stage brackets anchored to concrete).

In our smaller studios we ended up going with a single Play3 wall mounted with a Vebos 15 degree mount. The volume is adequate for a ballet class but I think we'd need to have two of them or a Play5 for a more high energy class.

We are still planning on running electrical and Ethernet to the ceiling above the wall mounted Play3 as right now we need to use an extension cord for power. We have noticed some signal dropping on the Play3 which is still on WiFi and is furthest from the access points. I suspect this issue will disappear when it is hardwired.

Most of our lesson plans have assigned music which is stored on a Windows file server. With the exception of one morning when it all disappeared until I removed and re-added, we have not had any issues accessing it. Occasionally the app is unresponsive but the Play3 has a physical Play/Pause button which is accessible so the instructors can pause using that. In the large gym areas we have mounted the Sonos Connect up high so the physical buttons are not accessible. Using another tablet or putting your finger across the TRS plug on the aux cable does the trick.

We discovered the second method accidentally when people who were wondering how the sound was playing went and grabbed the Aux cable. The conductance of their fingers is enough to cause the Sonos to auto-switch to the Aux input (of their finger) which is a rather short lived audio source. I still like this feature though since during open gym times the users can play their own music but we can easily override them if needed.

We are still thinking about trying to implement a site-wide PA using the system but it might be more trouble than it's worth. The access points we have are also available with an attached PA system (Unifi AP AC EDU) but in either case we won't have complete coverage (some areas with no Sonos and others with no APs)

Thanks again for all your help.