Sonos fears from an integrator

  • 28 December 2016
  • 10 replies

I am an integrator and have been in business for 11 years. I am trying to spec a system for a customer who currently has a 3.1 system with a Zone 2 on a Denon receiver. I am recommending upgrading to a 5.1.2 Atmos experience, they want the current zone 2 which is outdoors and also want to add the kitchen and dining into the mix. I have done this many times with Sonos Connect Amps and a Sonos Connect for the receiver, but the experience is awful on the control side and depending on the receiver we use, latency is a big problem on jobs like these for zones like the kitchen that are close by. (Note: I fully understand that advanced control systems can remedy the control issue but IMO you loose the elegance of the Sonos app which is the Sonos experience for Connect users, I may as well use a multi-zone network receiver.) 

The obvious solution is a Sonos receiver or a partner that licenses Sonos software for compatibility. The only Sony receiver that would be capable of delivering Atmos and eliminating the control issue is a $2600 unit and it still comes with a latency issue, something that should not exist when you are spending that much money. I was looking to see if anything was in the pipe from Sonos and came across an article where Sonos co-founder Tom Cullen said of A/V receivers "We think the notion of switching between physical sources will be seen as quaint. Instead of putting Sonos into receivers, we're going to make receivers unnecessary."

I love music, my customers love music. My goal is to deliver an amazing experience and Sonos does that on many levels, but not every level. It will not for example replace B&W, Kef, Klipsch, or many other speaker manufacturers who make wonderful speakers. Not to mention people who already own and want a true LCR instead of a sound bar, or 7.1, 9.1, Atmos etc. The idea that the receiver is antiquated is, to me, an incredible display of "in the bubble thinking", a bit arrogant, and dismisses a great number of use cases that Sonos just cant deliver on.

I have a couple of goals in writing this post. I want to hear from Sonos, just to make sure I have a clear picture on the future they are projecting. I disagree with Tom Cullen's prediction when he says "We don't believe receivers are long for this world" and I want to know if Sonos still stands by this as the article I read was from 2011. If this is the Sonos way of thinking, I will have to start looking really hard at Hoes and MusicCast as alternatives, which bums me out because I really do love Sonos. Full disclosure, I intend to circulate this post to my customers and industry friends. I want to have the best solution today and moving forward for my customer and my fear is that Sonos is the company that wont be long going forward.

Jimmy Powers
Tech Junkies

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10 replies

The idea that the receiver is antiquated is, to me, an incredible display of "in the bubble thinking", a bit arrogant, and dismisses a great number of use cases that Sonos just cant deliver on.

Agreed, but Sonos aren't in the business of being all things to all people... If you have specific requirements (e.g. many sources requiring many inputs, 'hi-fi' quality, high sound levels, etc) then Sonos will not fit the bill - but they do at least provide the capability of integrating with kit that does. As far as I'm aware, Sonos never targeted themselves to integrators, so we shouldn't be surprised that they haven't come out with specific kit. They target the more quality conscious mass market that's interested in ease of use and reasonable sound quality - not specialist installations. The requirement for these must be incredibly small compared to their main market.

moving forward for my customer and my fear is that Sonos is the company that wont be long going forward.

Don't agree - in their chosen market, they seem to be doing very well indeed... If you mean regarding your specific case, then you may indeedl be better off looking elsewhere.
By the way...

I want to hear from Sonos, just to make sure I have a clear picture on the future they are projecting.

.... good luck with that 🙂
Since first coming on this board 8 or so years ago, every once in a while there is a post from an "integrator" making thinly veiled demands that Sonos dance like a monkey to their tune. Usually full of name dropping, feigned insider info, gross over-estimates of their impact on the market, and passive-aggressive threats to try out another system; these posts amused me then, and they amuse me even more now. Why? Well because since that time, Sonos has gone from being sold in boutique audio shops like Tweeter, to Best Buy Magnolia, and finally to Target, Amazon, and the freaking Apple Store. And yet, these instal . . . errm . . . integrators still fail to realize that Sonos isn't here to cater to your business, they are here to steal your business.

And good luck with Hoes (typo or Freudian slip??) and MusicCast. By my count, Denon is on their second total refurb of the Heos line, and this is Kenwood's third entry into the market, the first two being massive failures. But hey, nothing like reliability problems to drive $100/hr service calls and the upselling of ever more expensive network gear.

As to integrating (there's that word again) Sonos with a modern A/V receiver? Two things you should look at; Connect, and Harmony Hub remotes. Done deal, at least until Echo integration comes out.
Heos gen1 and gen2 units are compatible with each other. Gen2 added more ram, hires, bluetooth among other things according to Cnet. But dont let accuracy get in the way of your scorn and hyperbole.
@jgatie Sonos is sold in the CI distribution channel and I started selling it when they sold the Zone Player (Connect) and their own controllers. I was introduced to Sonos through a high-end audio distribution house and starting installing them around the time you started chuckling at the posts of other professionals. My Sonos sales have been entirely multi-zone audio and Connect, not the wireless speaker line. I am not here to make demands of Sonos or over inflate my position. I am a very small company who's business wont make a dent in their bottom line.  

This post is about my frustration and 2 big problems integrating Sonos with a room that requires a receiver. (funny you don't like the word integrate, maybe you don't understand the difference between installing a Sonos system and integrating it with other home technologies and systems, it's not about self-aggrandizing). I think Sonos is a great company, makes a great product and I have sold a ton of it. Your Harmony remote solution does not address the multi-app control or the latency issues my customers experience. Over the years, I have brushed those issues to the side because Sonos IMO still delivered a great multi-zone music experience, a one of a kind really.

That is beginning to change. MusicCast for example has a beautiful app, their hardware line is huge, but their music service offerings are super thin. I haven't tested Heos. I have been in the CI channel for 15 years. I have no loyalty to any brand, only experiences and quality. I was deeply bothered by the article I read because I know the receiver will not go away. I also know that what sets Sonos apart from the competition is software, and that's not a huge hurdle for competitors to overcome, its just time. I also just wanted to vent a little so thanks for the help on that. 

"Sonos isn't here to cater to your business, they are here to steal your business." This may be the bottom line, would love to hear a Sonos rep touch on this point?
A Sonos rep is never going to comment on that point. Matter of fact, they don't comment on anything except to say they will pass your ideas up the chain. However, one would be foolish not to recognize that the market Sonos is aiming at is not the custom integrators/boutique audio shops it was when they started. In fact, I hesitate to say the custom market was ever their desired market. Still, Target and the Apple store are much farther from the custom market than Tweeter or even Magnolia. It's not even debatable. The Playbar is not for customization, it is for easy setup and "good enough for the masses" Home Theater.

Look, I was a little harsh. I've probably been jaundiced by the utter arrogance and cluelessness of custom integrators before you. However, the point still stands. Sonos is not aiming at your business. They are aiming at the folks who can't afford your work, but still want multi-room audio and pretty good home theater. This was the case when they brought out the first ZP100 to replace custom home-run installations, and it has only gotten more the case with the addition of the Play units. Sure they will take your business if you wish to charge someone to integrate something that the average homeowner should be able to install themselves, but they are not going to cater to that market by developing the highly specialized, low sales volume integrations you are looking for. That is not their sweet spot. Their sweet spot is multi-room speakers that are relatively low priced, sound really good, and don't require a custom installer/integrator to get working.
 The idea that the receiver is antiquated is, to me, an incredible display of "in the bubble thinking", a bit arrogant, and dismisses a great number of use cases that Sonos just cant deliver on.

Giving Tom Cullen the benefit of the doubt I'm going to assume his point was that having a devices to do source switching amongst different physical components is what is going away. His assumption is that in the future all music sources will be data streaming from internal or external libraries. Of course the line input on Sonos products shows even he doesn't believe things have got to that point just yet.
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Great question and discussion guys. I deleted a few posts that weren't on point though.

As others have said, we can't really share any new specifics here, this isn't the time or place as people would say. However, the best idea for what our future plans are comes from a more recent press release here.

I personally would say that we're working to make Sonos a key part of the smart home. Sonos is becoming less app dependent and heading toward a bright future with some great integration options as well.

I think you'll be impressed with what you see in the future, and just as happy with Sonos as you were the day you picked it up. Though I hope you're even happier than that.

There's always a lot being worked on here in the office and we can't share any specifics about the projects, but it's all exciting work.

Just to speak specifically about the quote you mentioned, I believe it's from this article, which was largely about how we get the sources of audio and where they come from. We see a future with a lot less wires and boxes. Most audio is streamed these days and having six sources wired up to a receiver to act as an audio distributor is becoming unnecessary in a lot of situations. Most source switching can be handled entirely by software, as upstatemike brought up. If you could cut down an installation to basically just putting in the speakers and handing them a controller wouldn't you want to do it? We're not there yet as an industry, but it's a bright future to strive for.

Now, at the time of that article we were working on the PLAYBAR (though it wasn't confirmed in there) and it really speaks to our desire to simplify and streamline the excessive amount of devices and technologies that complicated that whole home theater experience. The TV gets all of your sources. It sends the audio to your PLAYBAR. The PLAYBAR distributes it to your surrounds and SUB.