Request for a hardware remote control with physical buttons to control Sonos Speakers


Userlevel 1
Hi, I am posting this in the forum because I have the large hope that somebody from Sonos will read this and perhaps forward it to the development department or to a manager who has some influence in future sonos developments. I spent quite some time and put lots of energy into this topic, so I hope my message will somehow find its way to sonos management.

The reason for this post is that I really wish there would be a hardware RF remote control with physical buttons to control Sonos Speakers. It is so so very annoying to have to

1. Clean not only one but all of your finger/hands if they are dirty - for example when working in the kitchen
2. Pick up your mobile phone or tablet from the table
3. Unlock your phone (very annoying and cannot disable if using my mobile with an exchange account from work, which automatically enables locking)
4. Search for and then Open the Sonos App
5. Control the App with your fingers

every single time .. for such a simple task as changing the volume or skipping a song. Also when changing the volume at low volume levels I have to fiddle around a couple of times until I get the volume right...

I would very much prefer a small hardware RF remote control with a couple of hardware buttons to change the volume up or down and skip a song. Maybe also have 3 preset buttons which I could program with a playlist, so that this playlist starts when pressing that preset button. Similar as the bose soundtouch hardware preset buttons, these are really really great. I use the bose soundtouch now in the kitchen and wish I could replace it with a Sonos solution, because the Sonos-Spotify Integration works much better than Bose-Spotify.

I am looking for a easy, simple and quick way to change the volume and to skip a song. Only a solution as easy as a TV remote will be accepted by my girlfriend or my mother or my grandparents who do not want to fiddle around. They just want to listen to music and not play around with their mobile phones to be able to change the volume or skip a song. They don't like graphical user interfaces with screens, they like a piece of hardware with big accessable buttons and then they want to push one of those physical buttons to control the music. The problem with the graphical user interface is that you have to tap the screen really often and know exactly where to tap in order to get what you want, and also you have much too many options to choose from... (especially for eldery people and some women/men I know). It even gets complicated for me from time to time. You have to be concentrated when using the app. Sometimes when I come home exhausted from work I just want some relaxing music, and I don't want to search for it on the sonos app. I also don't want to choose from so many options. I just want to press a physical (preset) button and have (the predefined) relax music play. I think these are valid usability issues.

Also for example when I am in the bathroom in the tub I do not want to fiddle around with my mobile phone. I also don't walk around with my large smartphone on me when I'm home, but a small hardware remote control I would.

Ideally the RF hardware remote control would work indepentantly of the WLAN network, so that it works 100% reliable. Or because the Sonos speakers don't have an RF receiver - and therefore it has to work with WLAN then at least make I would make it work with the sonos boost, so that it works as realiably as possible.

Also I don't have to worry about battery issues on a hardware RF remote control for a couple of months... It is just there and it works, and I always have music when I want it. When I have time and patience I can search for interesting new songs and playlists but when I just want to listen to music I could have it by using the remote control. Also for example when giving yoga, dance or other workout classes it is somewhat embarrassing to "play" around your mobile phone, instead of just pressing a button on a remote control.


I am aware that there are alternatives, but none of them are as easy to use and as simple as a small hardware RF remote control with say 6 preset buttons.


These are the alternatives I have looked into so far:


Option 1: Use your volume buttons and lock screen on your mobile phone
======================================================================
-> In the very recently updated IOS Sonos App Update they added this feature which is really great (Android hat this already for a longer time)

BUT even though this really is a great new feature, here are the problems I have with it:

=> Problem 1: The Sonos App always needs to running in background
=> Problem 2: As soon as any other music app plays or pauses the hardware volume buttons don't work anymore AND the lock screen is not able to control the sonos app anymore, since I use my mobile for a lot of things it would be very very annoying to always be aware of the 2 points above, because only then the hardware volume buttons and the lock screen works

... I frequently close all of my background programs, just because I have dozens open and some of them drain my battery. I just want to be able to close all apps and not be careful not to close the sonos app. Also sometimes I have to restart my mobile phone because the battery got empty or because the mobile phone is having problems, then I would again have to remember to start the sonos app... And I also would have to be very careful not to open the podcast app, music app, youtube etc etc because then the sonos lock screen control are not working anymore....


Option 2: Use the controls on the Speaker
============================================
This works great yes, however, this has very big disadvantages:
-> you always have to go to the speaker to control it
-> you always have to have a speaker directly accessable, I have my speakers on the top of a shelf, so I have no access to the controls


Option 3: Logitech Harmony Remote
======================================================
I tried this solution but never got it to work properly. I had the feeling I was a free beta tester for Logitech. After quite some time trying, I was able to control the PLAY:1 but not my the paired PLAY:5 2nd gen. speakers. Also when I put the PLAY:1 in a group with the PLAY:5's it only controlled the PLAY:1.
Also when connected with the PLAY:1, during the day the PLAY:1 would sometimes start playing on its own, without my intervention. ?!
I really tried very hard to get this to work (I work in the IT Business) and I had a Logitech Support Engineer on the phone for about 2 hours and he also ran out of ideas to get this to work.


Option 4: Small 5 inch dedicated Android Tablet "Controller"
============================================================
This has the following advantages:
+ I don't have to search for my mobile phone, since this dedicated tablet is for controlling sonos only
+ I can deactivate the screen unlocking procedure
+ I can use the hardware volume buttons to adjust the volume, but here again are the same problems as in Option 1, but not so bad since this table would be dedicated to Sonos controlling only

Disadvantages
- If I want to skip a song, I still have to press a button and wait for the screen to wake up.. (I know its only half a second, but with a hardware remote control you do not have to wait at all)
- I still have to use my fingers on a screen with no haptic feedback (like on a hardware remote control). When touching the screen this has to happen in a very special way
I cannot just hit a button, but I have to tap the screen with my fingers. I cannot just use my big thumb on a small hardware remote control but I have use my index finger and quickly "tap" very precisely, being careful not to move the finger on the screen while tapping it.
This can be awfully difficult in the mornings or during the night ;-)
- I still have to manage the tablet with updates, maybe android errors and have to charge it frequently, maybe something does not work anymore when I install an update.... => all this would not happen with a hardware remote control


I am aware that one could use the Wake Up Screen App https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.wildroid.wake.up.screen&hl=en so that the Tablet turns itself on when being picked up and the Target Home Launcher https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bh.android.TargetHomeLauncher&hl=en in order to lock the sonos app to the lock screen. This indeed is a big advantage, but nevertheless the above mentioned disadvanges still apply (I still have to press a button to wake up the screen if the tablet is lying on the kitchen table and I don't want to pick up the whole tablet to just skip a song) The user experience on a small hardware remote button with instant access is just unmatched in my opinion.


Option 5: Senic Nuimo or Insteon / Lutron
=========================================
Preorder a nuimo from this startup: https://www.senic.com/ (the 2nd batch is not available yet)
This is an option I am looking into and will report on how it goes, however I have my doubts because it is a very new product. I guess I will just be another beta tester ...
One disadvantage is that the scenic connects to your phone via bluetooth, which means you always need to have your phone in bluetooth range with the scenic. What if I leave the house and my girlfriend wants to use the scenic...

There is another product which claims it can control sonos: http://www.insteon.com/sonos/
They have a wall keypad and also (!) a "Mini Remote" which you can take with you anywhere in your home (as long as wifi is in range)

This might be an (expensive?) home automation option and I might look into it. The technology is relatively new and I am not sure if it would work reliably. I don't want to be the beta tester for the product, only to find out that it is not without its bugs and problems. There are lots of user comments who state that this product does not (yet?) work properly. Also it is not connected with the sonos boost but with the normal wifi network, which has its limitations in terms of reliability and range ...
RF technology would be more reliable in my opinion



Option 6: Use a goold old sonos remote control, for example CR100/CR200
========================================================================
This is a possibility, but since sonos is not producing it anymore I guess its just a matter of time when it will not work or will not be supported anymore. Also it has to be recharged (put into its craddle regurarly), but other than that it would be an good solution. I however would prefer a quick and simple small and handy hardware RF remote control unit which I can have lying around whereever I want and which battery lasts for a couple of months or more.

Also one of the sonos speakers has to be hard-wired (wired-connection not wifi) for the CR100/CR200 to work.


Option 7: Wait for Sonos to bring voice control?
================================================
This too would be great, but will it understand my grandmothers voice? Will it understand my girlfriends deep foreign language dialect?
How loud will I need to say the commands. How reliably will it work. What about Data Privacy? I, nor my parents/family etc don't want any device listening all day long. No company can guarantee that it will never be hacked and misused for spying purposes...


I guess I'll just buy myself a CR100 for the time being and hope that sonos will care about their user's experiences with their sonos devices and release a hardware based RF remote control with physical buttons. I want a sonos not only in my home office but also in the living room where my girlfriend resides 🙂 and also in the home of my parents and grandparents 🙂

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89 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +21
Won't voice control render that unnecessary?
Never going to happen, Sonos have been burned once with hardware remotes, I doubt they'll bother doing that again.
Didn't the old hardware remotes sell OK?

IMO OP does a good job of outlining 7 different remote options for Sonos- but in doing so this kind of proves the point that what OP is asking for isn't needed as so many remote options exist.

Maybe I'm missing something, but Insteon seems to be exactly what OP is looking for. It gets good reviews, anyone here using it?
Userlevel 7
Badge +21
Well the OPs primary gripe seemed to be that they needed to wash their hands and fingers before activating Sonos - The implication is that if Sonos made a dedicated remote it wouldn't matter if it got filthy!
I sympathise with the OP to a large extent, I don't keep the phone tethered to myself all the time, and the problem starts with first finding the damn thing.

I have however placed all my units such that their on body buttons are easily accessible.
Userlevel 1
Thanks for your replies

In my opinion voice control would be a great option, but would it really work with everyone's dialect? Also what if I am located 6-7meters away from the microphone, would it still understand the voice command from myself? Would I have to train the voice of every person who wants to use give commands? ( a guest or a participant of a workshop I am giving...?) Would it work as reliable as if I had a remote control to push a button? I doubt it... Also I actually don't like the idea of an internet enabled device "recording" or listening to everything I say all day long....

Did Sonos have a bad experience with their selling their remotes? I read quite some posts where people buy old CR100 and CR200 because they also wish to have a hardware device to control Sonos. Of course there will be a lot of people who don't need or don't want a remote control, so why not just offer it separately? I read in the Sonos blog posts that they really care about user experience, and I think there might really be quite a bunch of people who would appreciate a small remote. Also a small RF remote with no display would not be to expensive to produce I think. (for example similar to the Apple Remote)

The reviews I have read regarding Insteon were not really overwhelming, but perhaps I'll give it a try anyway to get first hand experience.... Has anybody tried Insteon who could tell how well it performed?
Userlevel 7
Badge +17
I keep an otherwise un-used ipod touch on top of kitchen and bedroom play1s. They fit perfectly on top and are always there waiting for me with usb double wall sockets for charging.
Iam hoping voice will overcome all ops problems.
Speaking as a user of the Amazon Echo, which is considered one of the best implementations, I will try to answer:

but would it really work with everyone's dialect?

Echo/Alexa is English only at the moment. As for dialect, the Boston accent is notoriously finicky, and Alexa recognizes my Dorchester born, South Shore raised "Pahk the cah in the Hahvahd yahd" just fine.

what if I am located 6-7meters away from the microphone, would it still understand the voice command from myself?

Alexa even works though floors. If she can hear you, she will answer.

Would I have to train the voice of every person who wants to use give commands? ( a guest or a participant of a workshop I am giving...?)

No. She will understand right out of the box. There is voice training available, but in my experience it is not necessary. People come in off the street and she understands just fine.

Would it work as reliable as if I had a remote control to push a button? I doubt it...

In my experience, she's about 95% accurate on key words and devices- "What's the weather?", "What's the score of the Red Sox game?", "Turn off bedside lamp." and not so good on general questions "Where is the Washington Monument", "Who was Rosa Parks", etc.

Also I actually don't like the idea of an internet enabled device "recording" or listening to everything I say all day long....

Nothing really to be done about that. Pretty soon cameras and mics will be ubiquitous. At least Amazon pledges to not listen in and only wants to sell you stuff. I personally would be more worried about government cameras and mics than those of the company who only wants to know when to send me more dish soap. YMMV.
Option 4: Small 5 inch dedicated Android Tablet "Controller"
============================================================

. . .

Disadvantages
- If I want to skip a song, I still have to press a button and wait for the screen to wake up.. (I know its only half a second, but with a hardware remote control you do not have to wait at all)

. . .


Android has a hidden feature that allows you to keep the screen on while charging. I use it on both my semi-dedicated to Sonos tablets. Google "Developers menu" for how to activate.
Userlevel 1
Thanks for the excellent feedback on Amazon Echo. Seems to work pretty well .... Now I have something to look forward to :-)
Good advice regarding keeping the screen always on while being charged with an Android device!
If you are tech-savvy you can try to work with a Raspberry Pi and a IR remote of your choice. Checkout my thread and my Github project at https://github.com/prebm/SonosRemote
For now it can control only one zone at the time, but multi-zone support is definitely a point on the ToDo-List.
Userlevel 6
Badge +11
voice control is stupid. if your music or tv is playing loud, voice control will not work and will possibly malfunction.
a dedicated hardware remote would make sonos perfect, like it used to be.
voice control is stupid. if your music or tv is playing loud, voice control will not work and will possibly malfunction.
a dedicated hardware remote would make sonos perfect, like it used to be.


Actually, Amazon's Echo accounts for music playing. As long as your voice is as loud or louder than the music, it will distinguish your voice over the background. Wouldn't be much use to manufacture a voice control speaker that plays music if this wasn't the case.
Userlevel 6
Badge +11
Exactly, but when my music is fairly loud or I'm watching a movie in surround sound, I would have to literally shout as loud as I can to control something. This is as stupid as it gets.
Exactly, but when my music is fairly loud or I'm watching a movie in surround sound, I would have to literally shout as loud as I can to control something. This is as stupid as it gets.

It's not like a traditional remote ceases working just because you have voice control. Declaring something "stupid" because of cherry picked situations in which it may not be optimal is not very objective. Nobody said voice control will be fully and wholly replacing a traditional remote. Though it surely brings into question the financial viability of manufacturing a seemingly redundant dedicated hardware remote, especially when the redundancy question has been effectively answered by the current market, even before voice control is implemented.
Userlevel 6
Badge +11
Well actually after reading through a few other threads, quite a few people seem to think voice control IS going to replace the remote.. I guess I am jumping the gun a bit, but I do feel that thought is stupid personally. I fully agree voice control can add to the value, although I still feel loud volume can produce false commands. I have Xbox 360 and One and neither of those voice systems work with a s**t for me, I have to disable them.

I've never been a fan of universal remotes, I have my bank of remotes on the table: Tv, receiver, media center, Xbox, ceiling fan.. The Sonos remote is missing though.
I believe that one of the Logitech Harmony remotes can control Sonos, no first hand experience, but vaguely remember reading it somewhere. May be wrong...
I believe that one of the Logitech Harmony remotes can control Sonos, no first hand experience, but vaguely remember reading it somewhere. May be wrong...

The Harmony Hub based remotes.
Well actually after reading through a few other threads, quite a few people seem to think voice control IS going to replace the remote.. I guess I am jumping the gun a bit, but I do feel that thought is stupid personally. I fully agree voice control can add to the value, although I still feel loud volume can produce false commands. I have Xbox 360 and One and neither of those voice systems work with a s**t for me, I have to disable them.

I've never been a fan of universal remotes, I have my bank of remotes on the table: Tv, receiver, media center, Xbox, ceiling fan.. The Sonos remote is missing though.


I believe voice control will replace many functions of a traditional remote. But it will never replace all functions. For example, I have voice control in my 2016 Jeep. I can dial the phone, select a radio station, play a playlist from my iPod, etc. 90% of what I do every day. But I still have to manually set radio presets, adjust balance and fader, setup the navigation, etc., which requires me to use the buttons and touchscreen.

And by all accounts, voice control on Echo is leagues ahead of the Xbox.
Alexa can set radio stations, in a way, by voice. Ask her to play an artist on Pandora. If you haven't set a station based on that artist previously, she will ask for confirmation to set up a new one for you. Pretty nifty.
Userlevel 1
I too think that voice control could be a valuable addition (in such a way that I just tell it to play song or playlist XYZ without having to touch the app), but the only a real remote could really work in all possible situations always perfectly. Of course it would never be able to do everything the app can do, but the basics would always work fine. Also wouldn't a small and simple hardware remote control unit without a screen (similar to the Apple TV remote) be the cheapest solution of all possible input methods? If so then why not produce the remote first and then concentrate on all the "nice 2 haves" .... like voice control etc
The fact is, very few people are going to spring for a dedicated remote when the alternative is a free app. Sure there will be a few that find it absolutely necessary, but those few are not enough to generate the economy of scale needed to fund the design, manufacture, and support. Most will do like I do and keep a cheap Android tablet charging on a nightstand or end table. Is Sonos really going to be able to beat that option when Amazon sells Fire tablets for under $50?
Sonos stopped making controller hardware for commercial reasons some years ago. I can't see how these may have changed since then, so I can't see the product being reintroduced. With the stated Sonos focus to be on voice, the reasons for not having such a product are even stronger than when it was pulled.
Userlevel 1
I understand the point you are making and I think these arguments are absolutely valid for the CR100/CR200, but what about for a dedicated simple and small remote without touch screen and say 6-10 buttons. I doubt that a Apple-like Remote would cost more that $5-10 to produce. Wouldn't R&D investments be quite minimal as well since these are all standard HW components? The big question indeed is, how many would customers would wish for or appreciate such a remote?

I believe that Sonos stands for very high-quality Hardware and for a great user experience, at least thats the impression I get when reading their blog/website etc. And I guess that is also why the customers buy Sonos products, at least it was so in my case. So if we assume that user experience and quality is one of the main reasons why sonos sells their products, then I would think that having a quick and easy way to interact with their system would be in their upmost interest. I can find it hard to imagine that elderly would not appreciate a remote. Most women and lots of men I know prefer techology based products which have buttons to press over touch screens when it comes to simple tasks such as switching on a light, turning on the TV or their music system.

Isn't it the case that Sonos products are not the cheapest on the market and so people who buy sonos products have a high expectations and might feel frustrated and disappointed when they always have to use a touch screen to interact with the system? I think that Sonos cares deeply about their customers and about the feelings that their customers have with their products, so having at least a very small and cheap remote seems very reasonable to me, especially in this price category.

Perhaps Sonos started focusing on voice control because it was a new and very interesting feature which would attract many new customers. Then again, since they haven't demonstrated this in the past, I don't think Sonos is so very profit-driven. They want to get a product right, before they release it, how else could one explain the long life cycles (which I am glad about). They build excellent products which last a long time and have great engineers doing great work, so it is hard for me to understand this...

The only logical reason I can think of, why there is no one at Sonos designing a small and simple remote control, is that most resources are in the voice control, and that they think that the overall user experience impact over all existing and new customers is much much higher with voice control than with a small and cheap remote. Even though I don't like to admit it, I think this is true.What a shame...

I don't work in R&D and I'm no Hardware engineer but let me try to make a guess:
Lets say the investments (manpower, hardware, etc) necessary for designing a small remote (standard hardware) would be 5% of that of the voice control (which is very new and difficult to finalize), wouldn't it at least have a very positive impact to say 20% of all customers, and these 20% care very deeply and strongly about a hardware based way to remote control the system. Wouldn't this be worth it?

And lets say that voice control would have a very postive impact on say 70-80% of all customers, and that most of then would welcome it, but not feel very strongly about it (I actually don't know anybody who is really thrilled about siri, cortana, etc., they try it for a couple of days and after the first excitement is over, nobody uses it on a daily basis) of course a small number of people would think this is really great and a killer feature if it works, but my question is are most people going to use a command like (sonos play xzy or pause music) more often than they would use a remote? Wouldn't they just give up, after experiencing that it won't always work, for example when the system misunderstand the voice, or when it is too loud, or when they spoke to quitely...)

Even if sonos is trying very hard to make a really really great user experience and that voice control really works almost every time, do you think people would prefer voice control over a hardware remote control?

What do you think?
Userlevel 6
Badge +11
Here is an upcoming product that may prove promising..

https://www.senic.com

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