Paving the way for an Amazon powered Sonos?


In light of Sonos' current effort in integrating the Amazon Echo/Alexa system as a control device, I wonder if this announcement might add some opportunity in the future to have it integrated inside the speaker as well.

https://9to5mac.com/2017/04/13/amazon-alexa-growth-hardware-software-dev-kit/

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Just sharing....another news on this topic

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/28/sonos-looks-ready-to-launch-amazon-alexa-controlled-smart-speaker.html
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Having read the new Privacy Statement I am eagerly anticipating some Sonos product refreshes this fall. My money is on a design update of the PLAY:1 that incorporates a microphone array for voice control. You never know, there maybe another update in the works for the PLAY:3 as well.

To peak your interest, Amazon have a roadshow running through the fall showing off all that Alexa can do in the smart home. Sonos are a partner and according to the copy on the Amazon developer site "More Alexa-enabled products, smart home devices, and Alexa skills will be added and demonstrated over the course of the tour." Here's the link for more info:

https://developer.amazon.com/blogs/alexa/post/8e2af64c-e4f5-4358-bb27-a16a7d82cd8a/amazon-alexa-and-intel-hit-the-road-with-the-smart-life-roadshow.

I think it's going to be an interesting few months.
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Just sharing.....

http://variety.com/2017/digital/news/sonos-microphone-speaker-coming-1202532771/
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is multi room coming to amazon echo?
http://www.aftvnews.com/amazon-echo-whole-home-audio-testing-complete-and-ready-to-be-released/
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Slight correction: Alexa can do multi-room, in the sense that each device can play different music. What it can't do is play the same music on different devices.
Sorry, no. "You can own more than one Echo and have them in different rooms doing different things" does not make it a multi-room system. Multi-room can only mean grouped sync'd playback.

You can't even achieve this with Bluetooth to multiple Echo units. I've tried, the latency is unpredictable, even with a tool like Airfoil you're constantly adjusting the buffering & delay which is unacceptable UX for a home system.

Can't use HTTP streaming either, the Echo's onboard Tunein client doesn't accept custom URLs.

The best outcome for me would be if Amazon bought Sonos and integrated the Sonos player into every Echo.
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Slight correction: Alexa can do multi-room, in the sense that each device can play different music. What it can't do is play the same music on different devices.
Multi-room................................Sort of..........................................Yes
I agree there is no reason at the moment for Amazon to create a product that competes with Sonos because their real competition is Google Home, and Essential Home and next year Siri and Cortana. The goal is to get into as many households as possible to build the infrastructure that feeds the real revenue generator... using the tech to drive sales on Amazon.

For now the integrations with Sonos and Play-Fi should answer the challenge presented by Chromecast. On the other hand if the integrations do not work seamlessly enough with the non-music features or if for some other reason they perceive Google still has an advantage in music delivery that impacts their competitive edge I'm sure Amazon will not hesitate to up their game by building higher fidelity solutions (or buy out an existing multi-room music player company and add Alexa technology to it).

I also think the Dot went a long way towards taming the impact of Chromecast. The price point is good and you can connect it to a pair of AudioEngine or similar powered speakers for a significant improvement over the sound from an Echo. I also think if the Show sounds decent in addition to providing access to YouTube and providing a local display/control that there won't be any urgency for Amazon to go develop their own high fidelity products.

Did a quick comparison chart to get a feel for the overlap. They are different enough that I don't think Sonos looks at it as a directly competing product:


Interesting.

If the Echo reached sound quality levels of the 1 and could be stereo paired, which system would you buy, assuming what can reasonably be assumed for the Alexa integration?


I doubt that the Echo will ever really go for the sound quality or for pairing. I don't think they want to really compete with Sonos in sound quality for one thing. It feels like they just want to be good enough so it can stand along with having to buy something else. As for pairing, you then have to handle the microphone issue. Do you turn one of the mics off? Maybe have them work in pairs somehow?

Besides that, I think Amazon has plenty of competition already with Google, Apple, and Microsoft looking to take some of the market. I think they're best course of action is to make sure they at least keep pace with new voice control functionality. Personally, I want to see them put a mic and camera on a Fire TV, so that it does everything a Show does, accept using your TV for video and sound system for sound. Basically, Show...only bigger.

Interesting.

If the Echo reached sound quality levels of the 1 and could be stereo paired, which system would you buy, assuming what can reasonably be assumed for the Alexa integration?


For me it is no longer a question of "system" (a very 2016 concept) but rather one of use case.

Anyplace I would use a single Play1 or Play5gen1 such as the kitchen or a bedroom I expect will convert to a single Echo Show.

Any rooms that need to be regularly grouped together for entertaining I would expect to keep using pairs of Play1s and just add Dots to the rooms to provide control. Amazon would need to introduce some sort of multi-room functionality before that use case would change.

Areas that are grouped for convenience instead of entertainment such as Office, lab and workshop are really up in the air depending on what is delivered this year. I assume these would also use grouped Sonos players with Dots for voice integration but these areas likely will utilize the extended features of Alexa such as reminders, intercom, etc. so we have to see how these features work with the Sonos integration. These areas could also be grouped using a Dot feeding a multi-zone amp if that gives a better balance of music and Alexa features.

More critical listening areas will likely say at 2 Play1s + sub or a Connect Amp plus some speaker/sub combo. These areas can use a Dot or Echo for control but probably don't benefit as much from other Alexa features. Hopefully the integration will work well in these locations.

Outside it does not matter if those amps and speakers are fed from a Connect or a Dot but I'm not likely to change the current setup until there is a compelling reason to.

Did a quick comparison chart to get a feel for the overlap. They are different enough that I don't think Sonos looks at it as a directly competing product:


Interesting.

If the Echo reached sound quality levels of the 1 and could be stereo paired, which system would you buy, assuming what can reasonably be assumed for the Alexa integration?
Apologize for the formatting. Didn't post the way it looked in the editor.
It looks like the intersection of the two circles of aspirations will not be a small area, so it will be interesting to see how things play out.

Did a quick comparison chart to get a feel for the overlap. They are different enough that I don't think Sonos looks at it as a directly competing product:

.............................................Echo Show.............................Play1

Price.....................................$229.......................................$199
Sound..................................Stereo.....................................Mono
Spotify..................................Yes.........................................Yes
Pandora................................Yes.........................................Yes
Amazon Music......................Yes.........................................Yes
iHeartRadio...........................Yes.........................................Yes
Tunein...................................Yes........................................Yes
Audible..................................Yes........................................Coming Soon
YouTube................................Yes.........................................No
Other Music Svcs...................No...........................................Yes
Other Internet Svcs.................Yes.........................................No
Bluetooth.................................Yes.........................................No
App Controller .........................Yes........................................Yes
Hard Button Remote.................Optional................................No
Voice Control..............................Yes......................................Coming soon
Display.......................................Yes ......................................No
Local Controls.........................Full Touchscreen....................Vol/Transport buttons
Connected Home......................1000+ skills...........................6 endorsed partners
Multi-room................................No..........................................Yes
Personal Library.......................Yes must upload.....................Yes from LAN
Alarms.......................................Yes.........................................Yes
Sonos certainly doesn't want to do everything the Echo does.
Spence, I think, disagrees. I remember his stated aspiration in a interview that he wants to own the mic/speaker side of things in automated homes of the future, for music and more. Yes, that isn't all the Echo does with Show, but it is much more than just voice control for Sonos. It looks like the intersection of the two circles of aspirations will not be a small area, so it will be interesting to see how things play out.
PS: His quoted words on Sonos focus now:
"There's voice. There's streaming music and that's just exploding, you see that obviously in the U.S. with streaming revenue overtaking everything else and growing the industry again, which is awesome. And then the third thing is the push around the connected home. Meaning there's a lot more products around the home that will emit sound and we think they should be emitting sounds through Sonos."
Does that include the fridge giving you a shout or a call to buy milk on the way home? Perhaps!
As far as user experience is concerned, I think you have to consider the user. Last Christmas, I had to decide on whether to get my kids Play 1s for their rooms or the full size echo. I knew the Play 1 was better sound, but I opted for the echo since it was easier to control, had alexa features, and wasn't tied into my sonos stuff. I didn't see a scenario where I would need the kids rooms to be tied into the other sonos zones, nor did I want to train my kids on how to navigate sonos. One thing I've also noticed with the echo is that I get a log of music was played on what device. In other words, I can 'spy' on my kids in a way.

The point is that sonos isn't going to be the best solution for all cases. I could have done an echo dot play 1 combo, but there really wasn't much point to that.

One thing I keep wondering is, why does Amazon want to integrate with Sonos? Well, there is the basic idea that they want to be able to integrate with everything, thus the availability of skills and smart skills. I think there is something beyond that though. It's pretty clear that Amazon wants customers to buy multiple echos for their homes. Yet with current design, the echo's pretty much work independently and don't know where they are. That's going to be a growing problem for Amazon as they add more features that could take advantage of those device aspects. Just as example, having to specify the name of the light you want Alexa to turn on is rather annoying when 99% of the time the light is in the same room as your Echo (same would apply in a Sonos integration). Making a call through echo is great, but it sucks that I can switch to a different room in the middle of a call. Having a intercom feature is nice, but sucks that I can't specify which room I want to call. It's great that you get a visual with Echo Show, but what if I want to throw it to my tv (through Fire)?

..And this is something Sonos is rather good with and perhaps could help out Amazon with. Maybe they don't want to, and maybe the methodologies are too different, but it seems like there could be some synergies there. It's possible that Amazon may want to go for multiroom sound, but it doesn't feel like a good direction for them to head and best left to Sonos and others. Sonos certainly doesn't want to do everything the Echo does.
what the user experience difference is between Sonos plus Echo vs. native Echo only. With luck the combination will provide the best of both worlds.
With Echo Show in the frame, I don't see how the difference will be adequately bridged where user experience is concerned.
I don't think there is any doubt that a Play1 plus Echo Dot will sound better than an Echo Show. The real question is whether there is a difference in user experience and how that weighs against the difference in sound quality.

Because an Echo device is an all in one unit it is easy for it to pause any music that is playing when a competing activity is required like requesting to turn on a light or to answer an Echo intercom call. The music then resumes when the activity is completed creating a seamless experience for the user.

The question is, when you use an Echo dot to start music on your Play1, how will something like an incoming intercom call be handled? Will the Dot allow you to request to mute the Play1 before you accept the call? Or is the Dot tied up with the pending call and you have to scramble to mute the Play1 another way?

Also the Echo Show has a screen so it is allowed to play YouTube which might be a priority for some folks. I also see that Amazon has some Alexa enabled TV sets available for pre-order which will further promotes the depth of Alexa integration in many households.

The question is not really whether there is a difference in sound quality between Sonos and Echo but rather what the user experience difference is between Sonos plus Echo vs. native Echo only. With luck the combination will provide the best of both worlds. Hopefully serious user experience testing during the Beta will ensure that this is the case.
Apples and oranges.
As confirmed by this review:
"When it comes to music, the Sonos Play:1 is far ahead of the Amazon Echo in terms of clarity and volume. Its dedicated app is also a well-crafted piece of software focused on delivering that music, or radio to any Sonos device in the home. For audiophiles, the Sonos Play 1 is the better choice.

But, the Echo is a mad professor’s lab in miniature, digital form, and the smart home lover will appreciate all it can offer. Those who like their Siri or Cortana on a smartphone will also enjoy Alexa’s growing utility and experience, making this a natural choice. For those looking for pure home automation and integration, the Amazon Echo is a better solution

Unfortunately Echo doesn’t support Sonos, and since Sonos is basically a glorified speaker, they appeal to two different use cases. So if you want your music to sound good, and enjoy smart home technology you’ll probably end up buying both."

The question is: will this summary have to change in 2017 once Sonos releases the Alexa integration? I do not think so, when I see the Show feature set. In a couple of years? - hard to say.
Why would I want that? Sonos provides a high end sound system. Their app is also awesome. I just want to be able to say "Sonos play Nelly". I'm not looking for the system to be an assistant...Allison does a great job. The quality of sound between Sonos and echo, we both know are two different things. Apples and oranges.
I'm excited about the technology and would like to think my current system would be able to take advantage of it.
I guess that depends on which of the Echo/Echo Show features excite you, because Sonos will not be able to integrate all of them, as far as I can tell.
Happy that I found others talking about this. After spending thousands on the Sonos system, just a few months ago, my vote would be an add-on to the current system. I'm excited about the technology and would like to think my current system would be able to take advantage of it.
Something else to test for is service stability. Sonos, while being the leader on this count, still suffers issues as can be seen from even just this forum. If all the other things that Show offers will be as vulnerable to this factor, it will be a constraint on penetration. As it has done for the mic/software tech for voice control, has Amazon pulled off something similar on the stability/higher up time fronts? As long as the broadband pipe works well for net delivered content, Show needs to not suffer any glitches in the home. Having to occasionally reboot all network connected devices before you can order a pizza or call Uber or make a video call will not go down well.

This should show pretty quickly if the sound quality gap is really narrowing enough to consider a pure Echo music strategy (it might for the single speaker locations but I am skeptical that it will for the left/right + sub setup)

I agree. But I am not sure that sound quality gaps will narrow in 2017 as much as they may need to for those that are used to a higher sound quality for their music.
The more I think about this on seeing the new Show, the more it seems difficult for Sonos to compete with the Show in the market being made for all the diverse things that Show will do and do these in ever improving ways. Echo isn't just about voice controlled music; and those that will use it for more than just music are unlikely to be satisfied by what the Sonos integration will offer. On the other hand, if all that the integration will offer is just voice controlled Sonos play, I am not sure it is very earth shaking. I don't see much use for it, at any rate. I am also finding reviews by many Echo users noting that they are happy to sacrifice some sound quality for all the other things that Echo does; and this was before the Show. People will not buy Show because it offers voice controlled home audio, but for the total experience it offers. Or promises to. I am not sure the Sonos/Alexa integration will approach that breadth of experience.
There are many parallels here between Blackberry and Smartphones; I remember holding on to my BB for quite some time because it did emails really well, and much better than what phones did, and ease of email use was a personal priority; but many switched because they wanted all the other things that smart phones did. Now, my phone does emails as well as BB did. Spence must be suffering deja vu every day.

IMO, the reasons to not go just the Echo way - with no Sonos in the frame - will keep reducing if Amazon takes things a little more seriously on sound quality, moves a little quicker on grouped/stereo play, to the point that many may no longer care much about a Sonos integration that is always in catch up mode. Things may look very different in just a couple of years if that happens.


I don't think it will take a couple of years to see how things are going to shake out. I still believe 2017 will be the year that defines the landscape for quite awhile to come. I think a lot of people just getting into voice control and basic automation will make a selection of what ecosystem they are going to buy into largely based on what is actually delivered to the market between now and Black Friday. Once people commit to an ecosystem they tend to stick with it.

As far as music goes I plan to do some testing after the Sonos/Alexa integration is released to see how different configurations work in day-to-day use. I plan to set up four rooms as follows:

1- A single Play1 controlled by an Echo Dot.
2- An Echo Show
3 - A pair of PLay1s + a Sub controlled by an Echo Dot.
4 - An Echo Dot feeding a Receiver and set of speakers that I think are a reasonable match to the Play1+ a matching sub .

This should show pretty quickly if the sound quality gap is really narrowing enough to consider a pure Echo music strategy (it might for the single speaker locations but I am skeptical that it will for the left/right + sub setup)
It will also surface any usability quirks or special feature advantages/disadvantages of each scenario. I suspect there are more tradeoffs between the different approaches than is evident from what we know now so I am expecting the testing to produce some surprises.
On the service reliability here is how I see it: the entire concept of Echo and all it does in every sphere is predicated on a robust and reliable broadband service - in the absence of that, the entire concept collapses to the point of making it a useless purchase. But if it does not, then music play survives just as stably and as well as, for instance, calling Uber.

Simplicity. It is easier for most folks to set up a pair of Play1s plus a sub than it is to wire an Echo Dot to a receiver or pair of powered speakers plus a wired sub. Also some folks want to use streaming services that Amazon does not offer.

Also multi-room is important because it ensures the music playing everywhere is in sync. If you just started independent streams in each room they would all be out of sync with each other creating an unpleasant echo effect.

Also local playback is important because streaming services are not reliable day-to-day (just note how many posts there are about this service or that one being down or having some issue). Also none of them are currently profitable so you can't base any long-term strategy on an expectation that any given service will still be there next year.

To the above three points see below:
1. Noted, but if one was to be satisfied with the standalone Echo/Echo Show, it would be just as simple to set up as Sonos, I imagine.
2. I have a 5 zone system, but I never use the in sync multi room function in separate rooms. What does get used is a common NAS for different music needs of each room, but if one kept one's music in Amazon Cloud, each room could access that music independently too. What I would not get is the space filling capability from grouped zones that are in an open plan space, I agree. For that space, even an Echo pair would be too thin.
3. Having bought an Echo, is it unreasonable to assume continuance of Amazon to provide streaming and cloud storage? I would say no, it would not be unreasonable to expect this from a major like Amazon.

IMO, the reasons to not go just the Echo way - with no Sonos in the frame - will keep reducing if Amazon takes things a little more seriously on sound quality, moves a little quicker on grouped/stereo play, to the point that many may no longer care much about a Sonos integration that is always in catch up mode. Things may look very different in just a couple of years if that happens.

Appreciate the answers to my questions, Mike/Smilja.