Interview with John McFarlane, CEO

  • 24 October 2014
  • 47 replies
  • 6432 views

Userlevel 2
I found an interview with Sonos CEO John MacFarlane from earlier in the week, where he talks about the company, competition and how Sonos views the market. A 19 min video down the page:

https://gigaom.com/2014/10/22/lessons-from-the-ceo-of-sonos-on-how-to-build-a-billion-dollar-hardware-company/

47 replies

Userlevel 2
Badge +1
Thanks for sharing that.

He seems to come over as a nice guy.

An unemotional/unbiased view on some of the competition.

Interesting to hear that Sonos doesn't take a cut from the music service partnerships.... and I am looking forward to further innovations
Badge +4
More of a general talk, but insightful for some. Put of course, no clues in future products, although he did say that we're just starting.....

https://gigaom.com/2014/10/22/lessons-from-the-ceo-of-sonos-on-how-to-build-a-billion-dollar-hardware-company/?
Thanks. alx posted it last week 🙂
[Threads merged]
Userlevel 4
Badge +8
Interesting article on the history of Sonos here:
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-30/how-sonos-and-john-macfarlane-built-the-perfect-wireless-speaker-for-streaming-music?hootPostID=b4fd07bbe6ef39161733d8d5d13a07e4
Badge +1
Interesting article on the history of Sonos here:
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-10-30/how-sonos-and-john-macfarlane-built-the-perfect-wireless-speaker-for-streaming-music?hootPostID=b4fd07bbe6ef39161733d8d5d13a07e4



Interesting!

Thanks
Userlevel 2
Another interesting piece with Ryan Taylor on What Hi-Fi.

http://www.whathifi.com/news/sonos-updates-playbar-sound-quality-adds-multi-account-streaming-support

"We didn't miss the chance to ask Sonos about support for high-resolution music, and Taylor reiterated that it's on Sonos' radar - but there are no plans as of yet....we don't have a lot of consumers asking for it yet."

"The Playbar has 27 different tunings depending on your set-up, so this is specifically for all the music playback scenarios. We are a music company; we think of ourselves as music first, trying to build the ultimate music experience in the home."

So there you have it - the ultimate music experience in the home does not need hi-res? Methinks the marketing man tied himself in knots?

I am asking for hi-res. I've not logged in here for years because Sonos lo-fi direction has turned me off. It is not the aspirational brand it once was because there is nothing to aspire to. All hardware has been down and across market. Others have stolen a march. I will not buy another Sonos component until this changes. Just one voice but after all this time the article infuriated me and felt compelled to say it.
Thank God I was right about the previous misleading quote and Sonos, like Samsung, Bose, Denon, etc., are not falling for the snake oil of hires audio. Bravo Sonos!

So there you have it - the ultimate music experience in the home does not need hi-res? Methinks the marketing man tied himself in knots?

It doesn't need hires - and neither my earlier multi box large component rack based hi res capable system nor my current Sonos platform is the ultimate musical experience in the home.
Both provide me the same sound quality, but with Sonos I am listening to a lot more of my many CD/SACDs more often and internet music that was hitherto inaccessible.
Sonos in my view has taken my music enjoyment a considerable step forward from the pre Sonos days.
What the next step in the unending journey to ultimate will be, I don't know - but I don't think it involves hi res for heard sound quality reasons. That is a red herring to distract from lack of real progress in that direction over the last ten years or so.
Userlevel 2
That's fine guys - the ultimate experience in the home can include access to even more songs you didn't know you missed because it will still take 114 years to listen to them all 24/7 end to end.

Different people have different priorities I get that but offering even more ways to deliver the same 15m tunes and more reproduction hardware that is poorer quality than the last is not making progress towards the ultimate experience imho.

But hey we've found 27 ways to 'tune' the sound out of our long under telly plastic box - give me strength - is that really forward progress?
That's fine guys - the ultimate experience in the home can include access to even more songs you didn't know you missed because it will still take 114 years to listen to them all 24/7 end to end.

Different people have different priorities I get that but offering even more ways to deliver the same 15m tunes and more reproduction hardware that is poorer quality than the last is not making progress towards the ultimate experience imho.

But hey we've found 27 ways to 'tune' the sound out of our long under telly plastic box - give me strength - is that really forward progress?


That is only if you believe the junk science of hires audio. Most thinking people do not.
As far as 2 channel sound quality goes, there has been no progress anywhere on the amplification side in over twenty years, maybe thirty. On the digital side, once the recording industry got its act together on mastering for it, things haven't moved for over ten-fifteen years. On the speaker side there has been just evolutionary progress all this time - maybe a little more with active speakers that allow for better room customisation with DSP. But between similar speakers of now and those of a decade ago, there isn't a day and night difference.

What Sonos has done is add features, convenience and the advantages of reducing clutter, without taking away anything from sound quality where Connect/Connect Amp is concerned, while doing a fair job of this aspect with play units - a play 1 pair with Sub can hold its own against hifi separates systems even at price points a little higher. That is certainly useful progress, giving easier/simpler access to more music across the home, with little to no effect on sound quality. Which is why Sonos has seen the kind of annual sales growth it has.

I find it hard to imagine where the next significant step to ultimate will come from where sound quality for music is concerned. It may be around the corner, though I doubt that, or it may be a decade or more away. The last one - digital audio - was more than a decade ago.
For those who want the ultimate concert hall reality there should be an "ambiance" track included that helps duplicate the audience experience, such as the cracker wrapper in the row behind, air conditioning noises (noisy air handlers are forced OFF during recording), and rude sounds from the restroom.
...there should be an "ambiance" track included that helps duplicate the audience experience....

Don't forget people coughing throughout the performance 😉
For those who want the ultimate concert hall reality there should be an "ambiance" track included that helps duplicate the audience experience, .
I don't know about the rude/distracting sounds, but it was in the seventies that quadrophonic sound was touted as the next big thing after stereo to capture ambient/rear reflections. It never took off.
Even with multi channel kit available today, very few audio only recordings use more than stereo sound via L/R channels.
This was a very good interview and thanks for posting this..

This guy is awesome and an inspiration.. but he said a few things which Sonos are now arguably falling behind.. I'm sorry to say this, but this guy said these things. They were right at the end of the interview. The conclusion. So they stick....

He said .. (17 min in) there is "more than that"..(hardware, network and software) there is "the partnership with the music services.."

Ok..right.. so how does he now rate the partnership with the biggest music service of them all (Spotify).. a 1 out of ten or a 10 out of 10?

Next straight after..

I can;t remember the exact words but it was something like "music is a wonderful thing, and if you can enable the experience of that: you have created something special. And what we bring into your home is a social setting... so you can easy connect up and play and experience music.."


So would he now say the Sonos experience is still "the easiest way to achieve this?".. or would he think that other companies like Spotify directly streaming to products like http://nocs.se/products/ns2-air-monitors-v2 might be actually achieving this in a simpler and easier fashion?

you see this guy and his company needs to act FAST to keep relevant..

Please don't take this as criticism. I still love the product: but those were his words ....Not mine 🙂
Userlevel 2
Badge +1
From my reading - Spotify Connect requires a specific hardware to enable it.
Although Spotify may be the largest streaming service, it certainly isn't the only one... and is probably not the overall majority service (ie larger than all of the other put together) used by Sonos owners today.
With this in mind, would potential Sonos owners want to pay a premium for speakers with the hardware included, to enable a service they would not use.
A better option would be for a third party (or even Spotify) device that had a line-out which could feed into the line-in of a Sonos component.

With this in mind, would potential Sonos owners want to pay a premium for speakers with the hardware included, to enable a service they would not use.
A better option would be for a third party (or even Spotify) device that had a line-out which could feed into the line-in of a Sonos component.

This isn't an issue that Sonos can't resolve overnight if they choose to - a commercial matter.
The state of these services and how things will settle down is undecided, and perhaps Sonos may be waiting to see how they do.
For the many of us that don't use Spotify, it isn't an issue.
If one follows the numbers, iTunes is the center of the universe and no one else should even attempt offer alternatives. Any smart business model should ride the iTunes tail, right? But, how many of these other business plans are on track to become a billion dollar music player company next year? Most of these companies would be over joyed to sell a few tens of millions of dollars of their product. Give SONOS some credit for doing good market research. SONOS takes the long view.
^ Sure.. I totally get that. I totally get what you are all saying about the "long view"..and that Spotify isn;t the "only service".. Sure. We all know that.. like that's stating the bleeding obvious..

The point is you can now do with a music streaming service alone, what Sonos was doing when it was first starting out.. (network streaming to zones) without a single piece of Sonos hardware, software or propriety "mesh"..

Way more conveniently now than within the sonos envirnoment..

Like WAY more conviently than the two things the Sonos CEO was saying was the "peak" of the Sonos experience:

1/ Music streaming service (tick) derrr..that's the Spotify business anyway and
2/ easier social usage and sharing of music..

And this can be set up in minutes and controlled via a portable device like and iphone/android..

Sonos is simply NOT required...

Dont you guys get this.. ??
Nah. I'm wasting my time. Forget it..

If you guys can't see the threats here..

🙂
Userlevel 1
Nah. I'm wasting my time. Forget it..

If you guys can't see the threats here..

:)


You still don't get that it doesn't matter what "we guys" can or can't see, we have no control over Sonos, we don't work for Sonos, we're just users, so yes, you are wasting your time repeatedly beating us round the head with your unique insight into the situation.
Userlevel 3
Badge +1
I suspect it is highly unlikely that Sonos is going to change its business model any time soon as a result of your bleatings, wappinghigh!
I suspect it is highly unlikely that Sonos is going to change its business model any time soon as a result of your bleatings, wappinghigh!
Nope.

I agree on that..

But isn't it a pity.

For you as well.

Because it would make it a far better product.

For people like me (who have as many Sonos Zones as you) 🙂
your unique insight into the situation.

😃. Only because the rolling on the floor icon is missing - laugh out loud moment of the day...

Reply