Question

Signal strengths with a Boost seem low, any suggestions?


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I have recently added a Boost to my Sonos system in hopes of having less issues with connectivity. I am still not happy with my signal strengths, I have a very small house and can't seem to get good (green) signal to each wireless device.

-- My Boost is centrally located, on a wooden shelf, about six feet above the floor.

-- The Zone Player 3 (Living Room 2) is about 15 feet from the boost, on a wood coffee table, about three feet off the floor, no walls between them.

-- My Zone Player 3 (Office 2) is 7 feet away, on a wooden shelf, about five feet off the floor, with two sheetrock walls between them.

-- My Zone Player 5 (V-1 Kitchen) is 8 feet away, on a sheetrock plant shelf, about nine feet off the floor, with two sheetrock walls between them.

-- My Zone Player 5 (V-1 Bedroom) is 20 feet away, on a wooden shelf, about five feet off the floor, with one sheetrock wall between them.

I'm not using the radios in the Zone Player 80s as they are both using a wired Ethernet connection but for completeness, one is 3 feet below the Boost, on a lower wooden shelf while the second is 5 feet away, on a wood shelf, about 7 feet off the floor, with two sheetrock walls between them.

I can't get a Network Matrix chart to appear for my Boost but this one from my Living Room ZP-80 shows the information fairly well.



I'd really like an easier way to verify my system status and signal strengths than using the web interface with a link like this:

http://sonoszp80-1e:1400/support/review

Even having more information available (a key to colors and what the text means) on the grid shown under "Network Matrix" there would also be a good thing and save a a lot of searching for that information.

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14 replies

Hi. I don't think you have problems of signal strength but there is definitely something amiss with your network. Have you actually disabled the wireless on the wired units? I hope not.

Just FYI, the network matrix is the same whichever player you pick it up from. You cannot access it from a Boost. It isn't intended for widespread use - a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

What symptoms / problems are you actually experiencing?
Two units have their radios disabled.

There's a small amount of ambient noise around the Kitchen unit, but signal strengths are so good that I'd be surprised if there were any operational issues at all.
If the problem is streaming and not local music this suggests it is nothing to do with your LAN or specifically Sonosnet.

Disabling wireless on two units takes options away from Sonos. Generally better to let SonosNet work out the best paths to each speaker. Although it may not make a practical difference here.

There is absolutely no need for everything to be green. If you can identify and eliminate the cause of that interference then all well and good, but may be fine as it is.

There may be interference if a Sonos unit is placed too near a router or access point, but not each other, for all practical purposes..

What wireless channels are router, AP and Sonos on?
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John B, I wasn't sure the streaming - stopping issue was external, it appeared when I started using wireless to my first Play 5, but that may well have been a coincidence then.

I have the Sonos on Ch. 6, the closest AP to the Boost on Ch. 11 and the one a bit farther away from one of the Play 3s on Ch. 1. Not much more can be done there as I have devices on both my WiFi networks that only work on 2.4 GHz and I really want to keep the two APs on different subnets so I can isolate them using my router.

Looking at the local WiFi on an Android WiFi monitor, my APs on Ch. 1 and 11 show at about -40 to -50 dBm. The strongest signal on Ch. 6 along with the Sonos is at -70 dBm and a second AP there is showing at about -95.
The last tweak I did was to give the Boost a higher priority to become the Root Bridge, as the system kept selecting one of the very old ZPs.
Unnecessary actually. The ZPs are wired, and since you'd disabled their radios there's only one possible wireless topology, with the BOOST hosting active connections to the wireless nodes.

Do you have any information you could share on signal strengths, what is good and what may be problem levels? Any info on the noise floor numbers would be great too.

For signal strength be guided by the colour of the cells. Green is good, yellow satisfactory, orange borderline (but will quite probably work fine), red poor.

The colour of the left column gives an indication of ambient conditions. It's based on the noise floor and the active noise rejection -- OFDM ANI for newer devices, or OFDM Weak signal level for older ones. ANI goes from 0 (good) to 9. Weak signal level used to go from 5 (good) downwards, but recently larger values have started appearing for some reason. Also devices which have no obvious nearby interferer will often show 3 (orange).

Sounds like my issues with streaming stopping may not be my wireless signals unless a neighbor has some problem device that is spiking noise and causing the problem. I'll see if I can grab another screenshot the next time that happens.

The /proc/ath_rincon/phyerr logs would be of interest too. This is a history of physical layer errors for the last 20 mins. Each line represents the data as a histogram. Each column counts the number of instances where the errors in a 500ms sampling period falls into a certain range. Each line except the last totals to 121 (yes, I know there are 120 x 500ms intervals in a minute). The average figure is the mean of the error count across all samples. Figures in the 5000, 10000 and 10000+ columns would be significant, especially the last two.

But I tend to agree that the fault maybe isn't local wireless, if your local library streams okay. Is it lossless? Streaming services will always be susceptible to disruption on the wider internet. It's remotely conceivable that your router could be to blame. Which service is it?
Have you actually disabled the wireless on the wired units? I hope not.

JOOI, why?
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John B: On signal strength, I was concerned as the Network Matrix had two systems coded yellow and one orange, I couldn't find a key to the color meanings or a chart of acceptable signal strengths.

Yes, I have disabled the wireless on the two ZP-80s, both are quite close to a Play 3 and the Boost and I was concerned about interference, also the ZP-80 uses Sonos Net V-1 while the rest of my components are able to use V-2. Since both are hardwired I saw no problem with disabling the wireless.

Good to know the Boost isn't supposed to show the Network Matrix, the link is there on its page, it just didn't do anything and I wasn't sure if that was a problem or not.

I'm not a Sonos expert by any means, I've had my basic system, the ZP-80s and several CR-100s for quite a few years now and never had any issue with it. The ZPs have always been wired and I never really looked at the networking as they just worked. Since everything was happy I didn't feel like I needed to learn more than the Sonos basics to be happy.

I added a Play 5 V-1 and then a second one, then started to notice glitches in listening to streaming services but not my local music library. Not too bad so I just kept a controller handy to restart the stream if it stopped.

A couple years later I got a Play 3 as a gift and then several months later I picked up a second Play 3 for another location and I got a Boost at the same time to see if it made any difference. The problems remained about the same with the Boost so I decided to poke about and see if I could figure out what was going on.

I found the Network Matrix link and looked at it and did a bit more reading here and from search engine results. I saw several mentions of wireless conflicts if Sonos units were too close together or too close to other wireless devices. That led me to trying the ZP-80s without their wireless active. It did change the Network Matrix giving me the two green squares instead of yellow ones so I thought that was a good thing. I relocated one of my WiFi APs further away from the Boost and the ZP-80 and that seemed to make the signals look better too.

The last tweak I did was to give the Boost a higher priority to become the Root Bridge, as the system kept selecting one of the very old ZPs.

I didn't see any improvement in my streaming remote music and radio sources stopping from any of this so I posted the above to see if I was missing something or doing something wrong.

I don't have a lot of flexibility in equipment locations, the wireless components are all on bookshelves or tables with no good alternate locations in their rooms. The wired components are pretty much locked in too as the ZPs are both on home theater stands that really won't work elsewhere in their rooms. The Boost I can move to another room but it will then be closer to a Play 3 and and about three feet from second WiFi AP that has higher usage levels than the one it is four feet from now.

Any suggestions are welcome, either things I can do or documentation I can read to get a better understanding of the Sonos system.
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Ratty: Do you have any information you could share on signal strengths, what is good and what may be problem levels? Any info on the noise floor numbers would be great too.

Sounds like my issues with streaming stopping may not be my wireless signals unless a neighbor has some problem device that is spiking noise and causing the problem. I'll see if I can grab another screenshot the next time that happens.

Worst case I got a bit more range for taking one of the Play units out into the yard by buying the Boost. I've had fun tweaking things so far (I'm an old bored retiree and easily entertained) and as long as I haven't broken anything I consider it time well spent exercising my brain.

Your help and comments are appreciated.
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ratty, On the Root Bridge tweak, I couldn't find much on what the ZP-80's Root Bridge status actually had it doing, but I thought that if the Root Bridge functions did need access to the wireless network it made more sense to force it to a device that had both wired and wireless access directly rather than having it have to communicate with the wireless by sending data to the Boost. The ZP-80 is also ancient and I thought using a newer generation device couldn't hurt. Probably not important given that both are using a good quality but dumb gigabit Ethernet switch.

Thanks for the tips on the OFDM ANI and OFDM Weak Signal and Noise Floor numbers, I'll do a web search to dig out some more details on that. I'd love to have everything showing green but from what I'm hearing the yellow is no problem and the orange is unlikely to be an issue. I'm tempted to get out a ladder and try moving the orange coded - Kitchen - Play 5 around a bit to see if I can make a difference there, not a lot of flexibility there but I can move it to the other end of the shelf or try rotating it a bit if nothing else.

The /proc/ath_rincon/phyerr log info sounds like it may provide the answer to my issues, with 20 minutes to grab captures I should be able to see something there if it exists. I'll grab copies of them a bit later today when I'm streaming something and save them so I can compare them while things are working and when I am seeing a problem.

My local music library is on a dedicated Western Digital Live network drive, it is mostly ripped CDs in FLAC format with a few albums downloaded from the net and down-converted from higher quality FLAC to a bit rate and bit count that Sonos supports.

My net connection is a 50 Mbps cable modem service from Cox Cable, my router is pfSense running on a Netgate SG-2440 platform. The connection is usually pretty solid according to the pfSense gateway monitoring, RTT: 6.9 ms, RTTsd: 1.2 ms and 0.0% packet loss. I'll make sure to capture logs there too the next time I have a stoppage issue.
On the root bridge, you might find https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanning_Tree_Protocol informative. Also this Cisco tutorial: http://www.cisco.com/image/gif/paws/10556/spanning_tree1.swf

It's the central 'root' of the spanning tree of unique connections between nodes. It needn't have any wireless capability at all.

ANI level can be forced up by any spread-spectrum interferer, such as Bluetooth or proprietary 2.4GHz wireless mice and headphones. It's actually an indication that the wireless card is doing its job.
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ratty, So the Root Bridge is just for setting up the Sonos connections and isn't a central point for distributing data, that makes some of the other things I've read make more sense.

The orange, Kitchen Play 5 is the closest Sonos device to a neighbor's house, possibly he is up to something that isn't showing on my Android WiFi monitor. Hopefully the logs you pointed out will provide more information if it is something he is doing. His microwave oven is fairly close to us and is about 15 years old, I think I'll have him call me the next time he is using it to zap something and grab logs then. He doesn't have anything else using 2.4 GHz but his AP and a laptop that are on Ch. 1 and showing at -50 dBm when I check them near the Play 5.
The root bridge is the central point of a multiply bridged network, and the whole point of STP is to ensure that there is only one path between any two nodes (i.e. there are no loops). In the case of SonosNet each node can establish wireless links ('tunnels') with any others in range. STP blocks unnecessary tunnels, resulting in a tree of active ones. Distribution of audio data occurs along the branches of the tree; it doesn't have to originate from the root.

Microwave ovens can be dreadful. These aren't spread-spectrum, they emit wideband noise across the entire 2.4GHz band. If an oven has a failing seal it can significantly affect Sonos.
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ratty, I have now gotten a few logs to look at and as you suspected I have errors in the 5000 column, none in the 10000 though.



I'll put the system in party mode, playing something from my local music library (at low volume to minimize spousal aggravation) and let it run for a while then collect a full set of logs and see what they look like later today.

I finished the Cisco Flash tutorial and found it quite helpful, the Wiki I'm saving for later, I think I'll be needing to take notes on that.
A handful of counts in the 5000s column? Generally neither here nor there, especially with your good signal strengths. What would be interesting it is any spike which correlated with audio problems.