Computer as Sonos Audio Source

  • 19 September 2012
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527 replies

Marc Webb, Corporate White Knight!

We bow before your irate and condescending attitude!
We revere your undying loyalty to Sonos' opaque business model!
And we tremble in fear of your fervent defense of their questionable advertising message!

From one and all, thank you Sir Marc!

...and yet somewhat apropos.
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I've adjusted the wording in the title to reflect what the original poster is requesting - a way for Sonos to use a computer's audio a line-in source.
John M,

I see you posted this about a year ago. Is there any movement within Sonos to add this simple functionality, or is there some underlying business conflict of interests that would prevent it? If there is, I would respectfully request that Sonos at least let your customers know so we can figure out a solution.

I would also add that Sonos isn't cheap - so one would hope a simple function like this would be made available with a simple software updates, similar to what many in the industry do.
SONOS should just add a cast functionality like chromecast. In this way you would be able to cast from any app / PC site possible.

If they don't watch out they can get passed by quickly. What if google expands chromecast into more audio focussed???
I can already put a chromecast with a good DAC on any boxes I own. In a few months chromecast support will be integrated in almost any music/movie app and websites.

I love SONOS, but their software is really starting to get behind. 
SONOS should just add a cast functionality like chromecast. In this way you would be able to cast from any app / PC site possible.

If they don't watch out they can get passed by quickly. What if google expands chromecast into more audio focussed???
I can already put a chromecast with a good DAC on any boxes I own. In a few months chromecast support will be integrated in almost any music/movie app and websites.

I love SONOS, but their software is really starting to get behind. 

Exactly the point I was making. The audio quality is ok, but people buy Sonos for the ease of use. If they so choose to limit functionality, so be it. Bye bye Sonos, buy buy some other brand!
I have a 3 piece Sonos in the house, but as I consider what to get my daughter for her room, I think I'm just going to get her a AirPlay or Bluetooth speaker.  Because Sonos' closed system model (must use their software to play) is stupidity itself.

It used to work fine when everyone just plays MP3 from their own library.  But now there are a million streaming music apps, not to mention YouTube and what not, and each of the app has capabilities that Sonos does not and will never have.  SONOS WILL NEVER CATCH UP TO RDIO OR SPOTIFY FEATURES IN SOFTWARE, NOR SHOULD THEY.  They are a speaker system, plain and simple. Their job is to allow the most variety of software, regardless of what OS, what device, what brand or make, to play music on the speaker.  It's futile to control the access to the speakers.  It's actually counterproductive to their business to do so.

I propose to Sonos a 3 point plan to fix this:

1.  Partner with Rogue Software (maker of Amoeba and AirFlow, which streams to AirPlay speakers from Mac and PC) to create AirFlow-equivalent for streaming from any computer to Sonos

2.  Create and publish an API for how to stream music to Sonos, and make it widely available for all developers.  Sonos still has a good install base and software makers will take advantage of it and built it into their software based on demand.

3.  Build AirPlay capability (which, by the way, is available in open source form) into the bridges, therefore solving any problem with the iOS devices, a formidable part of the market.

I don't usually do this but I hate to see Sonos die from lack of product management. If you want to talk I'd be happy to provide some consultation on my personal time. I'm a co-founder at 8ninths.com and we consult for exactly this type of situation for some of the largest names in the industry.  
I need to agree. I love the sonos system, but they are really missing the boat here if they don't watch out. I need to use macronos now on my androids just to be able to stream from google music...
This is the best constructive proposal and advice for Sonos I have seen regarding this issue.  You are right, they are a speaker system plain and simple.  I just hope Sonos realizes the need of supporting this and their customer base before it's too late and my $500 Sonos system becomes obsolete.
Same here.
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This is a great and detailed post William, thanks for sharing.
Here's an interesting workaround that a Sonos tech provided me. There's a delay, which sucks, but it's better than nothing:

____________

Thank you for contacting Sonos Customer Care. We spoke yesterday about streaming the audio from your computer (Mac) to the Sonos system. There was no direct way of doing this through the Sonos software, but I went home last night and came across a solution. 

The software is called Nicecast by Rogue Amoeoba (http://www.rogueamoeba.com/nicecast/). It is a free download. To unlock the full version it is a bit pricey at $59. However, you can use it for up to 60 minutes at a time before noise is overlaid on the broadcast. In short, it allows you to broadcast audio from your computer and create a radio station. The way this works with Sonos is by adding the URL for the radio stream in Sonos. I personally tested this last night and it worked well.

There is a caveat depending on how you plan to use the software. I recall that you mentioned the software had to do with drum kits. I was not sure if you were looking for a real-time response from the speakers. For example, you want to play live and hear the audio on Sonos. There is a delay from the audio streaming to the URL and finally reaching the Sonos system. The software creates two stream which both work. Once is local and the other is an internet stream. I thought the local stream would have less of a delay, but I found that the internet stream was a little quicker. If you were planning on creating a drum sequence on the Mac and listening to the playback through Sonos, this will work.

I know it is not a perfect solution, but something you can try for up to an hour at a time. I am assuming you can stop the stream and restart it to reset the 60 min restriction of the trial. Below I have outlined the basic setup.

NICECAST
- Download the Nicecast.zip
- Take the Nicecast application and drop it in your Applications folder
- Run the Nicecast software
- Under Source, click the dropdown and choose System Audio
- Click Install to install Instant On (Click the Install button in the botton right-hand corner) - you may need to type your Mac password for this
- Click on the Start Broadcast button in the top half of the application (the State should go from Standby to On Air)
- Click on Share and highlight the Internet URL (Example: http://12.18.361.193:8002/listen.m3u)
- Click the Copy button to the right

SONOS
- Open the Sonos application on the Mac
- Click Manage>Add a Radio Station
- Press Command+V on your keyboard or Edit>Paste to enter the URL for the stream
- Name the Station Name as you wish (Example: Macbook Pro Stream)
- To find the stream go to Select a Music Source>Radio>My Radio Stations and you will find the stream you created
- Choose a room on the left and double-click or click the drop-down menu to select Play Now

The station should connect and start streaming. At this time, whatever you are playing on the Mac's System Audio should be playing in the room that you selected. As I mentioned, there is a delay. You can try creating two streams (one local and one Internet) and see which one has less of a delay. Now, this is just the first solution that I could think of and I know it may not be ideal. Please let me know what you think or if you run into any issues we can setup a time to talk and I can assist you with installation and setup. 

I will also continue to look for other solutions that may work better and are not as expensive. Have a great holiday and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Warm regards,

Sonos Customer Care

If you don't care about a delay of several seconds, use http://www.streamwhatyouhear.com to stream your (Windows) audio output. Then use the sonos controller to create a new radio station (use manage > add radio station) that points to that stream. Et voilà.

- Make sure you turn off your PC's audio (setting the control to mute or disconnecting speakers does the trick)
- Unfortunately SWYH creates a new port every time you do this again, which means that you will have to create a new radio station (or rather: edit the old one) every time
- BUT: it's free, it works for audio (not for movies due to delay) and it's not too much of a hassle to set up

In conjunction with VLC where you can time the delay between audio and pic this might even be a solution for DVD playing (or movie files on your computer).

If you're on Linux or if you're into scripting have a look at http://ffmpeg.org/ (uuh, techie stuff).

Have a good one!
Kaspar

PS: This thread bugs me mainly because I need to be close to a connect to play video sources. I do think too, that opening up the platform/API would lead to solutions automatically: Better Apps, different Apps, richer eco system. It's the old "enable instead of control" thing.
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Hi everyone,

Thank you to everyone who's shared your thoughts and ideas with us in this thread.  This is a fairly complicated request with a lot of different potential implementations, so it's great to see some of the solutions you've come up with.

We know that you're all keen for an update on whether or not this is under development.  We have nothing to share at this time but please know that when we have an update, you'll all be among the first to know.

Thank you for your continued support.
Hi John,

There is a similar thread with the same revolution happening here:

https://ask.sonos.com/sonos/topics/can_i_use_sonos_as_external_speakers_for_my_computer_can_i_use_th...

It would be nice if you could also post something on there. Like this post there are many useful ideas floating around on how this could be done.

Thank you for listening, we want to be your focus group and help to improve your great product!
I am still patiently looking forward to a software update to allow direct pc to Sonos streaming. Hopefully this is "in the works." Thanks.
I am still patiently waiting for an update that will allow direct PC to Sonos streaming..Please don't make me wait too long. Thanks.
I've adjusted the wording in the title to reflect what the original poster is requesting - a way for Sonos to use a computer's audio a line-in source.
I feel sonos has an obligation to give an official response whether they will add this capability and if so when.. before purchasing I browsed their promo print and Web material and didn't see anything in layman's language that it was not possible... And sales staff did not correct my understanding either.. certainly I will think twice before buying anything again from Sonos.
hmm yes I'm no technician but I just wanted to share some ideas/ :
I think more flexibility is needed, open source would definitely help - however if this is not an option, a dev kit or something which could be integrated would be very welcome (as example: join xmbc support in a way .. you would immediately have a lot of community support even for complex issues, or have an addin to vlc which can play virtually any content on many platforms).
My tests with the existing pc as stream to sonos is often resulting in relatively poor audio quality - I dont now if this is due to a compression, low rate or smth, I cannot set this up in many a program. So just looking at that, a video support in the app would be great. It could work in sync and integrate into the system if the app would respond just like an player itself (i guess there is some sort of timestamp sharing between the devices and an error correction or smth) - so nowing you would have a lag of 70ms you could precalculate that, and then correct with the timestamp from the master player broadcastet regularly (no clue if this works, just my "imagination"). It still not a direct input as many wish.. but it would be a step into the right direction..
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I have this feature you are asking for installed at home for some years already, it was made by Sondigo and it was called the Sirocco (aka Wireless Audio Bridge). It functions as an external sound card to your PC really, streaming your sound to the Sirocco box through wifi. The Sirocco in it's turn can be connected to any output device using a digital output socket. Perfect sound quality, easy to operate from the PC. The drawback however (of course there is one) is that Sondigo stopped making the Sirocco several years ago. The software needed as the driver for this external card only functions up to W95, so it gets rapidly out of function everywhere. There are alternatives but they all seem to either have far less quality (due to using bluetooth or radiowaves instead of wifi, or lacking digital output) or unbelievable price tags (the Sirocco costed an awesome 50 to 100 bucks). So when you talk about the Sonos business model, don't be fooled. This is no coincidence - the functionality we are looking for would give as so much more potential to reuse our existing sound systems that the sales of Play-3 and Play-5 would fall dramatically. I really hope that a new party in this business will start creating a Sirocco-like box again, because for that particular producer there is a large market to win.
Agreed
Me too would like to see the streaming of laptop/phone to Sonos, but I also see the difficulties. It could be hard to synchronize the picture with sound. When the movie starts, the picture will be shown earlier than the sound reaches the Sonos. Even a  little bit of lag would be really annoying and Sonos does not want people complaint about that as it would damage the good reputation of the system (is currently still no.1 wireless system). Well, this is my guess why they don't do it.....yet....
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Bump. Almost 200 likes... Would love to use my pc as streaming source. Mainly because my file explorer or even winamp is much more convenient as a music manager/player than the Sonos interface is.
I've been thinking about this problem some more and really think the best idea is a mix of what's been suggested here.  While it would be nice for Sonos to open up their system for third party developers, I think this is highly unlikely.  They seem to somewhat model their business like Apple in the fact that they want to control the supported hardware and focus more on quality and usability, which does have it's benefits if the company understands its customers.

To fit into the current business model, I think it would make the most sense for Sonos to develop some small USB or Firewire powered device that acts just like the Connect and that can either use a line input or the USB/Firewire itself as the audio input.  Basically it would act like a chromecast, but instead of receiving information from the existing wifi network, it would broadcast the information to the separate Sonos wifi network.  Then you would be able to simultaneously stream the audio from your computer, or really any portable device if you have access to a power outlet.

Basically think of it as a small portable Connect that can either plug directly into your device with no cables attached or plug into a power outlet and use a standard 3.5mm audio cable (or possibly even bluetooth, even though there is loss of audio quality and a limit to the range) to transfer audio from the device to the portable Connect.

Because of the size of the device, it would need to be relatively cheap compared to the Connect, say $20 - $50, simply because you wouldn't want to carry around a device that small that costs $350. If the technology to support this is just too expensive, although I have my doubts considering a chromecast is only $35, I would even support a simple $35 portable device that also requires a more expensive Connect like device on the network.
If SONOS doesn't watch out, others will come...

http://www.engadget.com/2014/02/06/beep/

This was perfectly what I wanted SONOS to do. Use the "Cast" functionality and let third party developers add this into their apps just like with the chromecast.

I love the hardware of my SONOS system, but I really hate the software side... Why do I need to go within the SONOS app and be limited by its functionality? Just let me use the Rdio, Google music, spotify,... apps and let me "cast" to Sonos. The Sonos app will never be able to catch up on all developments...

This isn't straight Computer as audio source, but you would be able to "cast" music from your computer to the SONOS system.
If SONOS doesn't watch out, others will come...

http://www.engadget.com/2014/02/06/beep/

This was perfectly what I wanted SONOS to do. Use the "Cast" functionality and let third party developers add this into their apps just like with the chromecast.

I love the hardware of my SONOS system, but I really hate the software side... Why do I need to go within the SONOS app and be limited by its functionality? Just let me use the Rdio, Google music, spotify,... apps and let me "cast" to Sonos. The Sonos app will never be able to catch up on all developments...

This isn't straight Computer as audio source, but you would be able to "cast" music from your computer to the SONOS system.

Great find!  This is almost exactly the type of thing we'd all like to hear Sonos announce or atleast let us know they are working on.  While the Beep almost accomplishes what we're asking for, I think Sonos can do even better since the system runs on it's own wireless network and is already designed to solve this use case even better.

If you think about it, the reason why Chromecast and the Beep need embedded cast functionality for each app is because it needs to be able to utilize your current wifi network and needs to act like a receiver.    As a reciever it needs to know about the type of information it's going to receive, so developers must write code that is compatible for this interface.  This is also essentially how the bridge on the Sonos system works.  Instead of taking data from your wireless router, to your laptop, to the Sonos bridge, then to the speakers, it simply takes data from your router to the bridge via ethernet cable and then to the speakers for a low latency uninterrupted transfer.

Since the data sent to the bridge needs to understand what it's receiving, Sonos or external developers must write the code to take that data, say from Spotify, to data that is compatible to the Sonos network.  Opening up the code base would make it easy for third party developers to write the code for the bridge to support other apps, and while this wouldn't cost the customer anything it does open the system up to possible problems (imagine netgear opening up their system for third party developers).

Luckily the Sonos system is already designed to essentially support what we're asking for - Instant audio playback from any portable device.  Sonos creates it's own wifi network dedicated just for its own audio streams.  We are also asking for a portable transmitter that would transmit on the Sonos network, atleast to a Sonos Connect on the network, so that all the information transferred is compatible and doesn't require any additional development or third party code on the bridge.  Much like an audio interface used in music studios, which are USB or firewire, all audio data is sent between the computer and the interface and an internal sound card processes the data into audio or computer data.

With a portable Sonos transmitter, you wouldn't even need apps or developers to do anything.  Basically all audio that generally goes through the device's sound card would get routed to the Sonos transmitter, where it would quickly encode that to wifi data packets, which would either directly go to your Sonos speakers or a Sonos Connect.  Much like an audio interface, all audio from the device would be routed to the Sonos system with near zero latency.  It's essentially a USB sound card (http://us.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-x-fi-go-pro) that instead of decoding the data to standard audio needs to use a wifi card to transmit the data to the Sonos network.  I'm sure some computer engineer could easily rig this up and it would be pretty easy, cheap, and small if they just knew how to communicate to the Sonos wifi.  Sonos could also come out with their own mobile devices (tablet or smartphone) or partner with other companies to build this hardware directly into devices, but I think the external device is the better solution for now.

I totally understand why Sonos didn't make an audio transmitter the standard to begin with even though they probably could have.  If you think about it, would you want to make every customer carry around a small adapter whenever they wanted to stream something from their mobile device?  Would you want to buy an adapter for each device you wanted to use on your system?  Of course not.  However, as this thread demonstrates, there are many customers who want to be able to have this option and don't mind paying a little extra for it or mind having to use a small portable device so they can easily play all the sounds from their mobile device with near zero latenacy.

It is somewhat misleading to advertise a very expensive speaker system that is very mobile and wireless but can't easily play all the audio from your mobile device,  or even have an option to purchase something potable that lets you do this.  I think this is why many of us are upset and knowing that this problem isn't being addressed is even more disappointing considering the amount of money it takes to invest in the Sonos system.
If SONOS doesn't watch out, others will come...

http://www.engadget.com/2014/02/06/beep/

This was perfectly what I wanted SONOS to do. Use the "Cast" functionality and let third party developers add this into their apps just like with the chromecast.

I love the hardware of my SONOS system, but I really hate the software side... Why do I need to go within the SONOS app and be limited by its functionality? Just let me use the Rdio, Google music, spotify,... apps and let me "cast" to Sonos. The Sonos app will never be able to catch up on all developments...

This isn't straight Computer as audio source, but you would be able to "cast" music from your computer to the SONOS system.

I basically agree, but only if the stick is really small. ( like https://www.distrelec.ch/ishop/ImagesProduct/stibo/t_sandisk-sdcz33-032g-b35.jpg). Otherwise its really unconfortable to work with.
For Desktops I don't need such a stick. There is the connect with is perfectly fine. The only thing that really bothers me there that it only has analog input - digital age of music? not really like that :s.
For Laptops: If the stick is really so small, then ok. Otherwise I don't want as "permanent" solution to walk around with something bigger - this would always lead to plug in plug out and the stick laying around somewhere.
For Tablets: I don't know, the stick would'nt work here. But at least for android I wonder: There's the option "allow to connect direct to the sonos network" --> would this allow streaming directly to it, too?
Just another info: Some others, upfront jongo sovle it by adding bluetooth to each speaker:
http://www.amazon.com/Pure-Jongo-Wireless-Speaker-Bluetooth/dp/B00D3ZMTVC
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this idea is spot on, after all, the primary goal of a speaker is to reproduce the sound coming from a source.. right?