(Yesterday, all I knew about Sonos was that you could buy speakers from them at the Apple Retail Store, which substitutes for going to church for me)
Just two months ago, it was all so simple; Bose Lifestyle 35, Apple TV (4th gen), TiVo HD, a bunch of legacy stuff ("inherited" Denon DVD player, a VHS VCR with RCA video and R/L audio outputs, a rarely-connected Sony PS4 (I'd struggle with the HDMI inputs to the Base console when the grandkids came over and challenged me to video games I couldn't understand or when we'd watch one of our few BluRay movies). The Bose Remote controlled most of it (when we watched a DVD we had to use the Denon remote, which had so many buttons on it I just knew I didn't deserve it), and for some reason I couldn't figure out how to turn the TV off and on reliably from the Bose remote. As far as I knew, my only problem was that I'd run out of HDMI inputs.
Then, last year, we bought a (first generation) LG 65 inch 4K TV (LG 65HUH6150). Little did I know then: I hooked it up from cable/TiVo RF into the Bose Lifestyle console, then to HDMI out to one of the 3 HDMI inputs on the TV, not realizing the Lifestyle 35 doesn't preserve 4K video!)
Still, we thought we had a nice picture and nice audio. Then our TiVo got sick (power supply failure, it turns out). It began rebooting at more and more frequent intervals, forcing us to watch the little TiVo guy, Cary Grant, and accomplices wander through the increasingly boring cutesy TiVo "almost there…" setup video more and more often.
Others must have been taking the same DVR trip because TiVo sent us (unsolicited) an email offering to transfer our lifetime service package to a new TiVo (1 TB, 4K compatible Bolt). We jumped at the offer, then waited and waited for redemption while TiVo struggled to fulfill an avalanche of promotion-generated orders. We waited so long that the TiVo HD finally succumbed, and we were forced to buy another 500 GB Bolt with a promise from Best Buy that we could return it within 30 days. (We ended up keeping it for our bedroom TV).
While we waited, I discovered how I'd stupidly amputated my TV's ability to display 4K video at my Bose centerpiece. Meanwhile, we'd made more than a few pilgrimages to Best Buy and were seduced by just what we could get from our TV, so on impulse we disposed of our (antique but probably technically superb) Denon DVD player and sprang for an LG 4K Blu Ray DVD player.
It was then that I realized I'd have to use the TV as the centerpiece of our home theater system, relegating the Bose system to an audio out role. Suddenly we were limited to those 3 HDMI inputs and forced to juggle at least 5 remotes (two from LG alone!), and my wife rebelled. I managed to route the signals from the TiVo, LG 4K BluRay player, and Apple TV to the 3 HDMI inputs on the TV, with audio coming back to the Bose system by TosLink optical cable, and that's where we sit now. However, I learned that Bose has a new generation of Lifestyle systems, and (at least in their San Francisco showroom), the Lifestyle 650 system sounds delicious, AND it has 6 (six!) HDMI 2, HDCP 2.2 capable inputs! However, I've also discovered several "gotchas" as I've tried to leap forward two decades in my feeble understanding of home theater:
- It supports HD10 HDR video, but not Dolbyvision (Bose won't comment on whether this might be implemented in a firmware update)
- Although the remote can label a source as "VCR", the Bose console has no analog video inputs to make use of that label (I suspect there are precious few VHS VCRs blessed with digital outputs)
- The "source" designations on the remote are limited to a pre-defined set; for example, tthere's no way to label an input to the LifeStyle 650 as "Phono" (my wife, again, enlarging her collection of vinyl records that we've never played)
- It costs $4,000! $4,000!!!
- Even though Bose makes the wonderful QC35 noise canceling headphones, the Lifestyle console doesn't support "Bluetooth out"
Another pilgrmage to Best Buy, this time to the Magnolia Store-within-a-Store ( to talk to people who actually know something). I emerge, thinking I now know what I need: an audio system that consists of the Sonos Playbar, 4 Sonos Play:1s, and a Sonos Sub. Of course, they tell me I can't do this on my own; I'll need to pay them about $1500 to set up a (too difficult for me to configure, but "it just works" Steve Jobs, Jony Ives-ish lovely user interface) Savant remote.
At home, Googling leads me into a viper's nest of questions:
- Will my devices lose their 5.1 surround sound on their voyage from source to Sonos? (I'm confused about whether to blame the TV or Sonos for this).
- Will I be able (occasionally) to stream BlueTooth from my iPhone to the Sonos System? (I've paid Apple a LOT for all those Mahler Symphonies sitting in uncompressed format on my iPhone).
- Am I absolutely nuts to think that anyone can really make that Savant remote, with its huge majority of pejorative reviews, work? (Most of those reviews say that it's REALLY seductive, but then develops all kinds of problems actually fulfilling its promises). I'm not really anticipating knowledgeable input about that specific remote here, but perhaps some pointers towards single-remote peace in the home.
- Is there some other way to get a "single remote" experience (same question)
- What about HDR video? I think my current LG TV and 4K BluRay player support HD10, but for future-proofing, if I'm spending all this money I'd like to know that when I get my 4K HDR OLED TV that supports DolbyVision I'll be able to see and hear the benefits of that purchase
- How will I incorporate my legacy equipment (my wife again, wanting to watch those ancient VHS tapes, and me, wanting to plug in my 4K capable 2016 MacBook Pro, assuming I assemble the right "dongles" to do so). If someone chimes in with knowledge/guesses/wild speculation about whether Apple AirPlay might one day accomplish that I'd be grateful and not hold you to it
- Probably the same question: how will I get enough HDMI inputs? Do I need a receiver in here somewhere? Would the Sonos "Connect" have a role in this?
Much of my anxiety was generated by reading this:
At heart, I'm not a techie. I'm a Mac guy: first purchase 1984, and I discovered long-shafted Torx drivers and risked my life inside that little box soldering on the motherboard within mm of the back end of its CRT, "protected" only by a feeble grounding strap, to cram a $2000 5 MB (that's right, MEGA, not tera- or even gigabyte) hard drive into it, but that was 33 years ago. I can no longer absorb all the new acronyms: PCM, DTS, ATSC currently mean nothing to me. Here's the scary part of the above blog post for me:
As a Mac guy, I'm seduced by style over geeky substance (but the substance has to be there, too). That's why I've been through 3 Bose Systems that make some of my friends (the same guys who think living room furniture pieces are accessories to refrigerator-sized speakers and McIntosh tube amplifiers that could retire their home heating systems) go into fits of derision. I THINK that's why I'm attracted to Sonos. But I KNOW that I'll be deep in doodoo if my wife can't go from MSNBC to an ABBA vinyl record to streaming Lifehouse from her iPhone without calling me away from the same patient 3 times in 5 minutes.
Thanks so much for reading. I'm sure I can make my subsequent posts WAY shorter by establishing this foundation.