Controller App issues

  • 16 October 2018
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I realise that there has been a fair bit of feedback on the controller app recently, especially since the 9.2 update but I just wanted to provide my own feedback and what I believe are shortcomings of the app.

Firstly, to explain my usage - I've had a couple of Sonos Ones for almost a year now and overall absolutely love them. I predominately listen to locally stored music (plus radio as an alarm in the mornings) but not streamed music. I work from home at a PC, so have music on all day every day and therefore mainly use the PC app during the week and the mobile app at weekends. I realise that the above probably makes me in the minority - not streaming music and not using the mobile app as much, but there you go.

I feel that the controller has quite a few shortcomings that I would like to share, with the hope that some of these could be addressed over time;

1 - I realise that the 65k song limit is more to do with the hardware than the software and if there are any changes to this in the future, I would need to upgrade the speakers, but just wanted to mention that this limit is a (small) issue for me. I have copied my music library and deleted quite a few artists etc... so that I have a secondary smaller library for Sonos to access. But that does seem to be counter productive and obviously I'd prefer not to have to have this, plus at some point I'll get back up to the 65k limit and have to delete some other stuff!

2 - Coming on to the controller app and whilst this doesn't solve the above issue it is related and would help in a way. When adding folders to the music library in the app, it does not seem to be possible to select multiple folders at the same time. If this were possible it would mean that a few folders could be deselected and therefore effectively ignored by the app. For example, I have a Music folder, within which I have a folder for each artist (I imagine most have similar) - when adding a folder to be searched in the app, I would naturally choose the Music folder, but this is going to go over the 65k limit and I'm not going to have any Van Halen in my library!! If we could go into the music folder, select all folders and then deselect ones we don't want (on the basis that there will be less to deselect than select) it would solve this issue. MediaMonkey has a tick box system, so if I want to add music to the library there I can just put a tick in a box next to the artist, or even go into the artist and tick an album folder. This would certainly solve my issue of having to have a secondary smaller library for Sonos.

3 - The tick box system would also solve another issue I have - I could be wrong on this, but if I update the library it would seem that it isn't actually "updating" the library but actually starting again. Presumably deleting the old database (is that what it has in the background?) and creating a new one. As a result, every "update" takes a while to complete (no great problem) but for some reason doesn't always work. Quite a few times I will update the library, it will show as indexing and then the indexing word has gone (I assume it has finished) but the library is completely empty (this is why I assume the database is deleted and a new one is created). I therefore have to update again and it will create a new library. Again, the tick box system would solve this as I could simply tick the artist I want to update and any new tracks/albums would be added. However, I presume without some big changes behind the scenes this wouldn't work as it would add that artist and delete everything else. Which again makes me believe that we are not actually updating the library when we click "Update Music Library Now".

4 - Another issue with the library is that it doesn't always index all of the songs that are on my drive. I do not believe that this is anything to do with the 65k limit, as I have dealt with that with the smaller separate music folder and before I did that, the songs that would not index were at the end of the alphabet. The songs that do not show in the library are random and not always the same songs - some were due to filenames i.e. Sonos was not liking some apostrophes in filenames (didn't like ` which is apparently an accent grave, but is fine with ' which is a proper apostrophe). So these were sorted, but others had to be deleted (from my music folder) and then added back in (with no changes) before Sonos would see them. Annoyingly, it is difficult to easily identify what songs are missing, as it is always the odd song and not a whole album - the main way I have identified them is by looking at my imported playlists, as these will show the song as, for example; 08 - Love Me Do rather than Love Me Do with The Beatles underneath. This tells me the song is on my playlist but hasn't been indexed (it won't play) - I can then go into that album (in the Sonos app) and see that 3 of the 14 songs in that album are missing. I'll then delete the album and re-add it to my music folder, "update" the library and it will show all songs - great. Unfortunately, some other song may then be missing - that was previously showing! Again the tick box system would potentially solve this.

5 - Quite often the playlist (imported) will not show any songs at all and shows a message "No selections are available" - I thought this was mainly on the larger playlists but even my Van Halen playlist, which has 50 songs, shows nothing. I can still play the playlist by right clicking and Play Now or Replace Queue etc... just can't go into the playlist and play from there. I can then save that queue as a Sonos playlist - but of course if I make changes to the original playlist (in MediaMonkey as I tend to) and then update the library, it won't update the Sonos playlist (I wouldn't expect it to, but I'd rather just use my imported playlists and not have to create new ones).

6 - I find the general functionality of the Sonos app to be quite lacking - I'm not talking about the recent controls that have been taken away and are only in the mobile app. This has been mentioned elsewhere and whilst I can see why some would want these and conversely can't see why the functionality should be removed from the desktop app, I haven't needed to use these bits, so don't miss them. What I find missing is more of the controls of the library - perhaps I am expecting too much and this is why the app is referred to as a controller and not a media player, but not being able to sort the songs/albums etc... in any way is very frustrating. The default for me when looking at an artist is for the albums to be sorted by year with first album at the top - I realise that everyone is different, which is why being able to sort by name, year, track, rating etc... is important. If I wanted to listen to an artist's albums starting at the first, it either has to be done manually or by creating a new queue and adding each album to it. Nowhere does it say the year the album came out, so I'd have to know which album was first - luckily I'm quite clever and know that Van Halen's Van Halen album was first and Van Halen II came second, but someone not familiar with their work might think Van Halen III came after that and I wouldn't wish that on anyone:P Selecting All (within an artist) doesn't help as it shows all tracks in alphabetical order, which unless you're trying to find a specific track I can't see anyone using, unless on shuffle. The controller does not seem to pick up on the year metadata or the ratings as neither are on the initial music library screen choices, nor within an artist etc... Overall, I feel much more functionality in this regard is needed and this is the same with the mobile app.

7 - On a more general note and certainly not a massive issue, but it would be nice to see the space being used better on the desktop app. There's a lot of unused space under rooms and music sources (maybe I just don't have many of either!) but I feel that the queue could be moved to the left and the now playing area expanded - I'm a fan of artwork. Maybe allowing the boxes to be moved or changes in sizes (not just side to side) would be good.

8 - I know there are other threads and much discussion about the recent change in look of the desktop controller - I'm not a fan and would certainly like to see some sort of skinning option, or just a choice of colours. I showed my 10-yr old the old and new apps side by side and asked him which one he thought was the latest and which one he preferred and he chose the older skin for both! And I have to agree with him.

9 - Lastly, and not really to do with the app, I'm going to mention the lack of hi-rez audio. Again, I know this has been covered many times in the past and I know there is the science that anything over CD quality can't be distinguished by the human ear (no idea if this is correct or not, but I know it has been mentioned in these forums). And I also know that there is the argument that over wi-fi a hi-rez file may clog up bandwidth and cause dropouts (I use ethernet, so don't see this as an issue). However, I've been updating some of my music recently and buying remastered versions of albums - mostly on CD so it's not an issue, but sometimes on hi-rez audio. Whilst it is possible to buy downloaded music at cd quality i.e. 16-bit, 44.1khz flacs, most, would seem to be either 320kbps mp3 from the likes of Amazon or hi-rez from the like of HD Tracks. The latter type of online shop will also sell cd quality flacs on some releases, but generally they are hi-rez only and are certainly pushing that option. That being the case, even if there is no difference (to the human ear), if it can only be bought in hi-rez shouldn't Sonos provide the option to play it? As it is at the moment, I have to convert the files to cd-quality to be able to play them (unless playing through MediaMonkey), which is a bit of a pain.

There is a secondary issue with this; I've recently updated the early Van Halen albums to the remastered versions - there were a few choices on the market but I'm led to believe that the 2015 24/192 downloads are the best, not necessarily because they are 24/192 but because the transfer used was from the remaster for the vinyl version, whilst a different remaster was used for the CD and even the 24/96 download. I honestly don't know if this is correct or if I would hear the difference anyway and I ultimately chose the CD quality downloads, partly due to the cost and partly because I would have to convert the hi-rez versions anyway (to play on Sonos), and they (16-bit, 44.1khz flacs) sound great - so much better than the original CDs I had from the 80's/90's. I believe they sound better more because they are remastered than because of the file format/bit rate etc... that they are in. But if the absolute best remastered version happens to only be available on vinyl or on 24/192 then, by not being able to play these hi-rez files, it may mean that we're not able to listen to the best version of an album, irrespective of the bit/sample rate.

Overall, going back to the controller, for my general day to day use, probably going back to MediaMonkey is best for me - I can sort how I like, make it look how I like and there is no 65k limit to songs. I can still play to the Sonos speakers, I just can't control each speaker (there might be a way, haven't looked into it). But this will just mean that come the weekend and using the mobile app, things won't quite be the same.

As mentioned at the beginning, for those streaming music, a lot of the above probably doesn't apply or is an issue, but for those of us that listen to local music (I know, it's apparently a small minority and we're probably old!) I think more should be done with the app.

Still love my speakers though!!

Thanks for listening.

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