Public Beta - My Feedback

  • 16 October 2017
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After waiting for the announcement for Echo integration with Sonos for what seems like an eternity (I was really looking forward to it), I have to say I am somewhat underwhelmed by the current offering. For what it's worth, here's my feedback: -

A glorified Bluetooth speaker - is what it feels like. I could have done most of what I'm currently getting by putting a cable from my Echo Dot to my Sonos Connect Amp's line in. In fact I tried that some time ago but quickly disconnected it as the streaming TuneIn Radio via the Echo cuts out a lot more than the TuneIn Radio via Sonos, and I listen to radio probably 90% of the time.

Everything is through the Echo - as above, it seems you're not controlling Sonos through Alexa at all, you're simply outputting Alexa audio through Sonos. When that's TuneIn Radio, it cuts out just as bad as when using just the Echo. If I could hard-wire my Echo I would, but it's WiFi only, and it's 4 feet from a Google Wifi hard-wired WiFi point, so the network connection to it can't really be improved upon. My (hard-wired) Sonos very rarely drops out, but when I say "Alexa, Play BBC Radio One in the Kitchen" it starts, but drops out a lot. Which makes me think it's the Alexa source, not Sonos's own, that it's playing. This is (to me, at least) confirmed by the fact that you can't access local libraries, Spotify or Deezer. It's crippled by only being able to access (surprise, surprise) Amazon Music streaming service.

So...all it's really good for at the moment (IMHO) is start / stop, as long as the input is from the Sonos app in the first place, and volume control. And it's useful that the Sonos volume drops when Alexa hears "Alexa", so you're no longer shouting at the Echo over the Sonos volume.

I saw this at https://sonos.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/4343 :-

"Spotify users: We’ve heard from you and are working hard to bring you the ability to ask Alexa to play Spotify music on your Sonos speakers as quickly as we can."

Please add Deezer to that? And local libraries? What we have is next to useless to anyone not using Amazon Music.

I was expecting full control of Sonos over Alexa. What we currently have (and I know it's in Beta, which is why I tagged this as feedback) is a crippled, glorified Bluetooth speaker.

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My (hard-wired) Sonos very rarely drops out, but when I say "Alexa, Play BBC Radio One in the Kitchen" it starts, but drops out a lot. Which makes me think it's the Alexa source, not Sonos's own, that it's playing.

This has nothing to do with the Sonos Alexa integration; from all I have read and understood, once the play starts, Alexa has no role to play and the Sonos speaker works exactly as it would had you started music play the old fashioned way via the Sonos app.

Perhaps there is some interference happening between the two devices, but if so, that is a silly situation to be created by devices that are supposed to work together.

I suggest starting the radio again via Alexa and submitting a diagnostic as soon as it drops and quoting the diagnostic number here.

PS: How close to each other are the two devices at this time?
What we have is next to useless to anyone not using Amazon Music.

And while radio should work much better for you than what it does just now, once it does you are in a good place only because you listen to radio 90% of the time. Many of us don't and I suspect that the quoted is intentional by Amazon to boost subscriptions to Amazon Music. Otherwise, what is the business case in this integration for Amazon? I doubt that Sonos is paying license fees for Alexa to Amazon, so I for one can't see any. So much as I don't like it, I don't see a lot more coming to enlarge the Alexa for Sonos window in a hurry. I use Apple Music and Google Play half the time; and once I get my Echo, I plan to drop one and add Amazon Music. The rest of the time I use my NAS, and there I will live without voice control for starting playlists.
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My (hard-wired) Sonos very rarely drops out, but when I say "Alexa, Play BBC Radio One in the Kitchen" it starts, but drops out a lot. Which makes me think it's the Alexa source, not Sonos's own, that it's playing.

This has nothing to do with the Sonos Alexa integration; from all I have read and understood, once the play starts, Alexa has no role to play and the Sonos speaker works exactly as it would had you started music play the old fashioned way via the Sonos app.

Perhaps there is some interference happening between the two devices, but if so, that is a silly situation to be created by devices that are supposed to work together.


I have to admit I was surprised by what I was experiencing. It made no sense to me for it to stream TuneIn radio to the Echo, only for it to be sent to Sonos, when it could be direct. But there's no doubt about it, in my tests there are noticeably far more dropouts when TuneIn playback is initiated by the Echo (similar to the amount of dropouts experienced if I play the radio through the Echo itself). Sonos is a clear winner in the quality of the streaming here.

I suggest starting the radio again via Alexa and submitting a diagnostic as soon as it drops and quoting the diagnostic number here.

PS: How close to each other are the two devices at this time?


I'll try that. Naturally, as soon as I started via the Echo for testing purposes, it hasn't dropped yet!

I have a hard-wired Google Wifi puck sitting on top of a hard-wired Sonos Connect Amp. They are both about 4 feet from the Echo Dot. There's another hard-wired Sonos Connect Amp and a hard-wired Sonos Boost in a cupboard about another 6 feet away from the Echo.

What we have is next to useless to anyone not using Amazon Music.

And while radio should work much better for you than what it does just now, once it does you are in a good place only because you listen to radio 90% of the time. Many of us don't and I suspect that the quoted is intentional by Amazon to boost subscriptions to Amazon Music. Otherwise, what is the business case in this integration for Amazon? I doubt that Sonos is paying license fees for Alexa to Amazon, so I for one can't see any. So much as I don't like it, I don't see a lot more coming to enlarge the Alexa for Sonos window in a hurry. I use Apple Music and Google Play half the time; and once I get my Echo, I plan to drop one and add Amazon Music. The rest of the time I use my NAS, and there I will live without voice control for starting playlists.


Yes, maybe I am one of the "lucky" ones in that (mostly radio) respect? Deezer's catalogue is, apparently, the largest though and I have a lot of history (playlists etc.) there so have no plans to jump to Amazon Music, and won't just for this. It does seem like Amazon got the better side of the deal in the Echo / Sonos link-up, though. Maybe the Google integration will be better (I plan on changing Echo for Google Home, I get a free one with my Pixel 2 so will test it out then).

Amazon didn't have to "cripple" it like this. The business case would be to sell more Echos to existing Sonos users, if the integration was better. And while it might not make a lot of money from the sale of Echos, it helps them in their quest for world domination (or, at least to be the #1 AI). Maybe (hopefully) Amazon only insisted on 6 months exclusivity, and we'll get more (better) integration soon - either with other services through Echo, or with Google Home integration... and posted just 9 hours ago: https://support.deezer.com/hc/en-gb/articles/115003803629-Deezer-on-Google-Home - Deezer on Google Home coming soon!
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Another bit of feedback....if I say "Alexa, set volume in Kitchen to 3", it turns my Philips Hue lights to (I think) 30%.

Yes, I have a Hue group called "Kitchen" and a Sonos Connect Amp also called "Kitchen" but most of the time that's not an issue. It's "smart" enough to know I don't want to turn the Sonos red, or play Radio One through the lights! But, "volume" is a problem. And, apparently, light does not have a "volume" (https://www.quora.com/Does-light-have-volume) so something is getting lost in translation!.

I know this is more of an Alexa problem than a Sonos one, but it is definitely an Alexa / Sonos problem!


I'll try that. Naturally, as soon as I started via the Echo for testing purposes, it hasn't dropped yet!

I have a hard-wired Google Wifi puck sitting on top of a hard-wired Sonos Connect Amp. They are both about 4 feet from the Echo Dot. There's another hard-wired Sonos Connect Amp and a hard-wired Sonos Boost in a cupboard about another 6 feet away from the Echo.


Amazon didn't have to "cripple" it like this. The business case would be to sell more Echos to existing Sonos users, if the integration was better. And while it might not make a lot of money from the sale of Echos, it helps them in their quest for world domination

Lol. The first bit is another version of Murphy's Law.

But if it drops, in addition to sending a diagnostic, see if increasing these distances to 6-7 feet in both cases helps. By the way, if you have two hard wired Sonos units, why the Boost? It is necessary only for cases where no Sonos unit can be hard wired to the router.

As to the business aspect and "crippling", there are a lot of moving parts to this rapidly evolving story. For example, with the Sonos One now launched, the Sonos Alexa integration may not drive higher Echo sales. So we can only speculate from the sidelines.

I am a little surprised at your Google enthusiasm, I thought that they have dropped the ball for a while here compared to Amazon and Apple. Something I shall investigate because I would be quite happy to continue using Google Play music.
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I have a hard-wired Google Wifi puck sitting on top of a hard-wired Sonos Connect Amp. They are both about 4 feet from the Echo Dot. There's another hard-wired Sonos Connect Amp and a hard-wired Sonos Boost in a cupboard about another 6 feet away from the Echo.

But if it drops, in addition to sending a diagnostic, see if increasing these distances to 6-7 feet in both cases helps. By the way, if you have two hard wired Sonos units, why the Boost? It is necessary only for cases where no Sonos unit can be hard wired to the router.


The boost is a legacy purchase from before I re-wired the kitchen and added the network ports. I also have a Sonos Play 3 & a Sonos Play 1 that aren't hard-wired, and occasionally take one of them out into the garden, so the Boost helps for these (traditionally built flat in Edinburgh - very thick walls!).

Amazon didn't have to "cripple" it like this. The business case would be to sell more Echos to existing Sonos users, if the integration was better. And while it might not make a lot of money from the sale of Echos, it helps them in their quest for world domination

As to the business aspect and "crippling", there are a lot of moving parts to this rapidly evolving story. For example, with the Sonos One now launched, the Sonos Alexa integration may not drive higher Echo sales. So we can only speculate from the sidelines.


True, but there will surely be loads of Sonos customers with Play x equipment, who won't be in a rush to replace them all with the equivalent "smart" versions. That's a lot of Echos sold, if it worked well.

I am a little surprised at your Google enthusiasm, I thought that they have dropped the ball for a while here compared to Amazon and Apple. Something I shall investigate because I would be quite happy to continue using Google Play music.

Yes, maybe I am a little over enthusiastic. I'm a self confessed Google fanboy, though. WiFi is great, I've had every Nexus phone / tablet, Nest, and from what I've seen Home is almost as good as Echo but catching up, especially if you're already using a lot of Google products (software and hardware). I wouldn't rate Siri, though...my AI top 3 would (currently) be Alexa - Google - Siri, in that order. I have an iPad Pro but never use Siri, it's that bad.

True, but there will surely be loads of Sonos customers with Play x equipment, who won't be in a rush to replace them all with the equivalent "smart" versions. That's a lot of Echos sold, if it worked well.

I'm a self confessed Google fanboy, though.

It won't move Echos as much as just Dots that can't have a lot of profit in them, and I am told that there are also many third party Dot equivalents that are even cheaper that will also work.

While waiting for the India launch of Alexa announced for the end of this month, I was fooling around with my Android phone that has a rarely used by me OK Google thing on it. Admittedly it has just version 5 of Android, but I was underwhelmed. Music did start from the Google Play App on the phone, but after far too many seconds. And it did not seem to respond to any other commands when music started, like skip or volume changes. Overall, it just seemed clunky. I have a Chromecast Audio lying unused in a desk, and I thought I could put that into use into the line in jack of a Connect Amp, but I doubt that will work too well after seeing what happened; and I have no plans of changing my phone that serves me very well in every other way.
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[quote=Marc J]
My (hard-wired) Sonos very rarely drops out, but when I say "Alexa, Play BBC Radio One in the Kitchen" it starts, but drops out a lot. Which makes me think it's the Alexa source, not Sonos's own, that it's playing.

This has nothing to do with the Sonos Alexa integration; from all I have read and understood, once the play starts, Alexa has no role to play and the Sonos speaker works exactly as it would had you started music play the old fashioned way via the Sonos app.

Perhaps there is some interference happening between the two devices, but if so, that is a silly situation to be created by devices that are supposed to work together.


I have to admit I was surprised by what I was experiencing. It made no sense to me for it to stream TuneIn radio to the Echo, only for it to be sent to Sonos, when it could be direct. But there's no doubt about it, in my tests there are noticeably far more dropouts when TuneIn playback is initiated by the Echo (similar to the amount of dropouts experienced if I play the radio through the Echo itself). Sonos is a clear winner in the quality of the streaming here.

I suggest starting the radio again via Alexa and submitting a diagnostic as soon as it drops and quoting the diagnostic number here.

PS: How close to each other are the two devices at this time?




I have the exact same issue. I also assumed that Alexa was playing TuneIn it from its own source rather than direct from Sonos as it plays fine if i use the Sonos app. There are also frequent topics on TuneIn stability on other Amazon forums. My alexa is 12 feet from my Sonos.

I have the exact same issue. I also assumed that Alexa was playing TuneIn it from its own source rather than direct from Sonos as it plays fine if i use the Sonos app. There are also frequent topics on TuneIn stability on other Amazon forums. My alexa is 12 feet from my Sonos.

Then this is something that Sonos Staff that reads all posts needs to comment on: my understanding of how Alexa works is that there should no difference in either sound quality or stability regardless of how the radio is started; whether via an Alexa voice command or via the Sonos controller app using fingers. In both cases, Amazon is out of the loop once music play has begun till the time new voice commands are heard.

Over to Sonos.
If interested, here is why I think what I do, cut/pasted from Sonos announcements on how it works:

"Your Amazon Alexa devices are listening for you to say the wake word, “Alexa”. When they hear that word, the microphones record what you say and send the audio to the Amazon Alexa cloud to be translated.

That voice line turns into a string of text. The Amazon protocols determine if it’s meant for Amazon Alexa or for a Sonos player. If it’s for Sonos, that text is then sent directly, and securely, over to the Sonos cloud to be turned into a command using our own codes.

Finally, the Sonos intended command goes down to the system."

So, as I read and understand the quoted, there should be no difference once the music starts playing because in every case this is in response to commands sent to the speakers by the Sonos cloud.
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If interested, here is why I think what I do, cut/pasted from Sonos announcements on how it works:

"Your Amazon Alexa devices are listening for you to say the wake word, “Alexa”. When they hear that word, the microphones record what you say and send the audio to the Amazon Alexa cloud to be translated.

That voice line turns into a string of text. The Amazon protocols determine if it’s meant for Amazon Alexa or for a Sonos player. If it’s for Sonos, that text is then sent directly, and securely, over to the Sonos cloud to be turned into a command using our own codes.

Finally, the Sonos intended command goes down to the system."

So, as I read and understand the quoted, there should be no difference once the music starts playing because in every case this is in response to commands sent to the speakers by the Sonos cloud.


I read the same explanation, which is why I'm surprised that, in practice at least in my case and now Jacob's, the streaming quality of TuneIn Radio is far worse when initiated via Alexa....???

ETA: My testing continues, and in 2 hours listening to TuneIn initiated by Alexa, it hasn't dropped once yet! Maybe it has been fixed since I initially tried it (on the day of release).
As I read the quoted again, it strikes me that there is one difference in using a Dot with a better quality speaker either wired to it, or paired to it via bluetooth as opposed to a Dot + Play 1 set up using the Sonos Alexa integration. In the former case all the heard sound responses of Alexa will be through the better quality speaker attached to the Dot, but in the latter case responses to questions that have nothing to do with Sonos will be via the Dot speaker of limited range.

Correct? Not that it matters a lot, but useful to know perhaps.
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As I read the quoted again, it strikes me that there is one difference in using a Dot with a better quality speaker either wired to it, or paired to it via bluetooth as opposed to a Dot + Play 1 set up using the Sonos Alexa integration. In the former case all the heard sound responses of Alexa will be through the better quality speaker attached to the Dot, but in the latter case responses to questions that have nothing to do with Sonos will be via the Dot speaker of limited range.

Correct? Not that it matters a lot, but useful to know perhaps.


You are correct. And I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Some may like it, others not. Maybe it should be configurable (i.e. option - "Play Alexa responses via Sonos?")?

It is good that the Sonos volume dips when you say "Alexa", but it doesn't seem to be room aware - all the Sonos speakers get their volume lowered, when it should really only the speaker in the same room as the Echo that heard the "Alexa"....
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Thanks for the feedback, and great discussion everyone! There shouldn't be a performance difference between audio started via Sonos vs Alexa. But in any case, there shouldn't be any audio dropouts anyway.

My guess, having looked at no diagnostics from your systems, is that the audio started via Sonos is picking a different radio stream for the same station than the one your Alexa is picking. That would be two different streams from the same station, one might be higher quality, and therefore more susceptible to a poor wireless environment, or another local issue.

I'd love to take a closer look though. Can you submit a diagnostic from your Sonos system and reply back with your confirmation number when you're playing from Alexa and get an error? Also, please send a diagnostic when playing the same station, started from a Sonos app. I'll let you know what we're seeing.
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My guess, having looked at no diagnostics from your systems, is that the audio started via Sonos is picking a different radio stream for the same station than the one your Alexa is picking. That would be two different streams from the same station, one might be higher quality, and therefore more susceptible to a poor wireless environment, or another local issue.

[url=https://sonos.custhelp.com/app/answers/.


Good shout Ryan! Alexa is picking up "BBC Radio 1 - Cardiff" and Sonos just "BBC Radio 1". Is there a way to make Alexa pick up the latter?

Cheers
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There shouldn't be a performance difference between audio started via Sonos vs Alexa. But in any case, there shouldn't be any audio dropouts anyway.

My guess, having looked at no diagnostics from your systems, is that the audio started via Sonos is picking a different radio stream for the same station than the one your Alexa is picking. That would be two different streams from the same station, one might be higher quality, and therefore more susceptible to a poor wireless environment, or another local issue.


Thanks for the response Ryan. Sod's law... my Sonos has been playing TuneIn Radio, initiated via Alexa, all day now without a single drop! But I'll be sure to keep trying and submit working and non-working diagnostics when it drops.

Good shout Ryan! Alexa is picking up "BBC Radio 1 - Cardiff" and Sonos just "BBC Radio 1". Is there a way to make Alexa pick up the latter?

The common sense approach would be for Sonos to first see if there's a match in your favourite stations, and widen the search only when it isn't found there. So you could favourite "BBC Radio 1", and it would play that rather than Cardiff....
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I don't have a trick for you for picking the right one through Alexa, other than just testing out a number of utterances and seeing which one they grab. Try "Radio One" or "BBC One" and see if those pull up something else.
I don't have a trick for you for picking the right one through Alexa
Interesting and points out this issue to me: I have assigned the 320 kbps stream to the Radio Paradise address I used for the URL of that music service's 320 kbps stream to force the selection of that stream over the many speeds offered by RP, each with its own URL. So via the controller, I will get only the 320 one, always. When Radio Paradise is initiated via voice control though, that ability to choose the specific stream will be missing and any of the ones offered, including the lower kbps, therefore lower sound quality streams may also get picked?
And on further reflection, this looks to me a bigger than Tune In/Radio issue but one affecting streaming services as well. I don't know about Amazon but both Apple and Google music service offer many versions of the same song, and some are remastered versions to deliver better sound quality. While selecting today, I can select the one I think will sound better compared to the others for the same music content. That can't be done via Alexa, so there is no control then over which of the many different versions will then start playing.

The one way around this is where a playlist is built with specific versions selected for inclusion in the playlist; presumably using voice to start that playlist will lead to only the specific versions selected to then play and not the other versions of that song in the library of the streaming service. Correct?
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I don't have a trick for you for picking the right one through Alexa, other than just testing out a number of utterances and seeing which one they grab. Try "Radio One" or "BBC One" and see if those pull up something else.

Thanks Ryan! I'll have a go at that tomorrow
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I just tried to switch from a Deezer playlist to TuneIn Radio via Alexa and it failed miserably, as in completely failed to play anything, which it has done a few times in the past. This time I kept the Sonos app open on my phone to see if there was any indication there.

So, when I said "Alexa, play BBC Radio Two in Kitchen", the currently playing on the App did change to "88.6 BBC Radio 2" for a while with a "connecting..." message, but it gave back and went back to my playlist (paused).

I tried again, "Alexa, play BBC Radio Two in Kitchen", this time the app had "89.1 BBC Radio 2" and "connecting..." but again failed to connect and went back to my playlist (paused).

I then went into the Sonos app on my phone and clicked on "BBC Radio 2" (no numbers) in TuneIn stations and it connected and played immediately.

So, somehow the stream selection is not great when via Alexa. In the past it has dropped out a lot, but for now it's failing to connect at all...

ETA: This is more of an Alexa problem but most of the time Alexa would completely ignore the "in Kitchen" part of my request and play through the Dot's own speaker. Seemed a bit hit and miss...between this and the stream failing to connect I really wanted to throw something out the window!
I just tried to switch from a Deezer playlist to TuneIn Radio via Alexa and it failed miserably, as in completely failed to play anything, which it has done a few times in the past. This time I kept the Sonos app open on my phone to see if there was any indication there.

So, when I said "Alexa, play BBC Radio Two in Kitchen", the currently playing on the App did change to "88.6 BBC Radio 2" for a while with a "connecting..." message, but it gave back and went back to my playlist (paused).

I tried again, "Alexa, play BBC Radio Two in Kitchen", this time the app had "89.1 BBC Radio 2" and "connecting..." but again failed to connect and went back to my playlist (paused).

I then went into the Sonos app on my phone and clicked on "BBC Radio 2" (no numbers) in TuneIn stations and it connected and played immediately.

So, somehow the stream selection is not great when via Alexa. In the past it has dropped out a lot, but for now it's failing to connect at all...

ETA: This is more of an Alexa problem but most of the time Alexa would completely ignore the "in Kitchen" part of my request and play through the Dot's own speaker. Seemed a bit hit and miss...between this and the stream failing to connect I really wanted to throw something out the window!


Since you are participating in a beta, when something like this happens, you should submit a diagnostic and list the reference number here, in addition to the report of the incident. That will help greatly in the fixing of this problem.
@ Marc - a thread triggered by your experience: https://en.community.sonos.com/amazon-alexa-and-sonos-229102/limitations-of-voice-in-general-6792217/index1.html#post16155594
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Since you are participating in a beta, when something like this happens, you should submit a diagnostic and list the reference number here, in addition to the report of the incident. That will help greatly in the fixing of this problem.

OK - my confirmation number for 5 mins ago is 7967914 - BBC Radio 2 initiated by "Alexa, play BBC Radio 2 on Kitchen". Took a long time to connect, Sonos app says "88.6 BBC Radio 2 Edinburgh" (I'm in Edinburgh), and the stream quality is terrible.

I think I see how this is going to pan out....Amazon will say they're doing everything right. Sonos will say they are too. And then TuneIn will blame something out of their control. End result being, as I'm not an Amazon Music customer, voice control is almost useless to me (only start / stop / volume control).
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And 7967935 is the diagnostic for everything being as it should. "BBC Radio 2" started from the Sonos app, with no dropouts.