Airplay 2 and Sonos: How well do they work together?


With the forthcoming deletion of the ability to play music on Sonos directly from iPhones/Pads, Airplay 2 is widely being seen as a solution. Before investing to bring in that ability via new Sonos hardware as opposed to the more straightforward route of adding a NAS, some questions perhaps need to be answered; questions that arise from not so good experiences with Airplay as it existed before Airplay 2 was released.
  1. Is music play via Airplay 2 to a target Sonos speaker as stable as it is via the "On this Phone" route it is seen to replace ?
  2. Is such music play to a group of speakers also just as stable?
  3. Is music play in both modes above as stable as it is via Sonos net?
  4. Can two phones on the same WiFi network simultaneously stream music each contains via Airplay 2 to unique Sonos speakers in two different rooms?
  5. Can the phones be used as such when music is being streamed from them? Either via the existing feature or via Airplay 2?
These are questions that come to my mind, perhaps there are more that need to be asked before spending money for Airplay 2.
Somehow I am not convinced that Airplay 2 performs as well with Sonos as Sonos net does, except maybe in simple one phone to one speaker set ups. But this is based on using Airplay back in 2011 before realising its limitations and moving to Sonos, with no experience of Airplay 2.

23 replies

1) Yes, it has been for me. Other than the one spot in my kitchen where my iOS device loses the wifi signal, no issues.
2) Yes.
3) Yes.
4) Yes, as much as I've tested it. Don't forget, unless it is really on the iOS device you're doubling the bandwidth use.
5) Never tested this.
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I agree with Bruce's answers; this mirrors my experience.

Q5: Yes, it is possible to make calls without interrupting the audio stream. I haven't tried receiving a call, but I'd expect it to work the same way.
Interesting; that suggests that Airplay has made huge strides in the Airplay 2 version. I suppose the only downside remaining is that of battery consumption of the source device, although this was the case for the "On this Phone" as source as well.
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My Airplay2 experience has been 'meh', suffering from dropouts in some instances. Caveat is that I only have one Airplay2 speaker, a Play:5 and it's in the garage, so it's further from the rest of the mesh than any other speakers in my setup. Make sure you purchase somewhere with a good return policy and test your Airplay usage scenarios thoroughly.
Make sure you purchase somewhere with a good return policy and test your Airplay usage scenarios thoroughly.
And if that isn't possible, it seems to make more sense to go the NAS route that is a well tested solution so long as one doesn't get the few models of NAS that don't make nice with Sonos.
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it seems to make more sense to go the NAS route that is a well tested solution
For sure! I've been using Sonos-with-a-NAS since 2011, implemented fixed IP-adresses since 2012 and never had any problems. In over 8 years! Am using Spotify to play those songs my music collection doesn't have. The Sonos software could benefit from some improvement, e.g. the playlist management sucks - but apart from that: a happy customer.
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Of course, AirPlay v1 also works with all Sonos players if you run AirConnect [1,2] and configure it correctly. (I'm currently happily listening to a Radio Paradise lossless stream on my iPad, sent in full lossless quality to one of my Sonos Connects.) Works perfectly, every time.

While there are definite benefits to AirPlay v2 and I like it a lot, AirPlay v1 has the advantage of being supported by a much wider range of Apple OS versions and devices.

[1] https://github.com/philippe44/AirConnect (open source project)
[2] https://github.com/pwt/docker-airconnect-arm (Docker image for Raspberry Pi devices)
I would be fascinated to speak to an engineer about it all. It's clear that AirPlay 2 is a step forward, it works substantially better (for me, at least) that AirPlay did....but I'll admit after about 2 weeks, I gave up on AirPlay.

But obviously there's some processing required at the receiving side of AirPlay 2, due to the way Sonos has implemented it on only newer devices, which would have faster CPUs and more memory on them.

The one thing that does annoy me currently about AirPlay 2 is that it only handles stereo, and not anything like Dolby Digital. So if I want to watch a movie, I'm better off starting it on my Apple TV, rather than running it on an iOS device and casting to the Apple TV. But then again, I save battery that way. I have to assume that Apple will rectify that in some future update. But really, for me, it's not that important.
Is there - other than HomePods I suppose - any other make that does what Sonos does/did via the " On this Phone" feature? By that I mean without using any version of Airplay? I suppose many would do this via Bluetooth and not need this in the first place.
I always thought that this feature when introduced was a neat addition that I never ended up using, but never a reason to buy Sonos; if I had that kind of use planned, there would have been many cheaper and equally good sounding bluetooth speakers to choose from. It is therefore strange to hear all the carping about having bought Sonos for just this feature, to be honest.
Not that I'm aware of....but haven't looked into it at all, either. Maybe someone who has had a BOSE system or a BlueSound system could comment.

I think the "carping", as you correctly call it, are people who are not happy with change. It's the way they've dealt with their music for X period of time, and having to change that process is an anathema to them. At one point, I was them, but I learned my way of pointing at the data on the HD on my Mac, and then subsequently moved it to an NAS, when I read about how easy it was to do all of that. And frankly, it is easy. None of this is a substantial change, just a minor change.

I am concerned that many people are getting the wrong message, though....that iOS will no longer be supported. Which, if you read the information provided by Sonos, is quite untrue. It's merely the "play from this device" which is being removed. I still plan on using my 3 iOS devices to control my Sonos....but on at least one of them, I can now remove the music library, and free up some space.

I've never quite understood the allure of playing from an iOS device, unless it was plugged in to power. I'm way too OCD about battery levels 🙂

For sure! I've been using Sonos-with-a-NAS since 2011, implemented fixed IP-adresses since 2012 and never had any problems. In over 8 years! Am using Spotify to play those songs my music collection doesn't have. The Sonos software could benefit from some improvement, e.g. the playlist management sucks - but apart from that: a happy customer.

I am much in the same boat; except for the use of Apple Music/Google Play Music, which sees a lot more use than the NAS these days since I have stopped buying downloads, let alone CDs.
For those that come here and want to explore the NAS approach: if your router has a USB port, the simplest NAS would be a large enough flash memory stick that is plugged into the USB port. Else, a NAS like a WD My Cloud is good enough for the job.
Where an investment in a NAS is being considered for just this purpose, remember that in the future it is more and more likely that you will use streaming services; so unless you have a large collection of music hard to obtain there, or poor internet service, it does not make sense to spend a lot of money on the NAS.
I'm way too OCD about battery levels :)
Ditto! Even with the great battery life available these days. I am also OCD about losing storage space on my phone, so the only music it contains is select offline content from streaming services as a back up if my dedicated for this purpose but otherwise obsolete phone fails when I am in the car or away from home.
My understanding is that not all routers allowed you to use the USB port in that fashion, but I'll admit I've never tried it on mine. Happy with the WD MyCloud device, since I use it for other data as well, not just a music repository.

I've still not taken the plunge on a streaming service. I have the free access options on Apple, due to my matching subscription, and Amazon has most of the CDs I've purchased from them available, but 99.99% of the time, I'm streaming locally.
Kumar, you and I are very similar 🙂
Kumar, you and I are very similar :)
Great minds and all that...

The USB stick approach is worth trying out with any stick lying around before buying a big enough one. Back in the day when my music was on a WD Passport HDD, my Sonos music played via that plugged into the USB port of the 2011 Apple Time Capsule, that is still going strong. Worked fine, except for multi room use, where there was latency; I suspect the TC does not have enough processor grunt for that. All worked and still works fine after I switched to the WD My Cloud NAS.
Yea, maybe tomorrow. It would be cool to at least know if it works on my router.
Air Play on Sonos is very disappointing. It has limitations on how many players can be grouped before it stops playing all together. Sonos is suppose to group up to 30 players... well that only works if you are playing the raidio. Try exceeding about 8 players on airplay and your music stops. I invested a great deal in Sonos only to have this huge letdown. I really hope Sonos steps up and fixes this issue.
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Air Play on Sonos is very disappointing. It has limitations on how many players can be grouped before it stops playing all together. Sonos is suppose to group up to 30 players... well that only works if you are playing the raidio. Try exceeding about 8 players on airplay and your music stops. I invested a great deal in Sonos only to have this huge letdown. I really hope Sonos steps up and fixes this issue.

Can you clarify if this is a Sonos issue or airplay issue? Are you grouping your speakers in airplay or are you sending the audio to 1 speaker with airplay, then using the the Sonos app to group the speakers?

If you're sending airplay streams from your phone to 8 speakers...am surprised you even managed to get to 8. That would certainly be a limitation of your phone's capabilities and the airplay protocol. If you're having trouble grouping in the Sonos app, then that would likely be a network related issue, and would likely occur from other sources besides airplay.
I’m using my iPad. Sending to a Sonos One and grouping rooms. I do not experience any issues when playing the radio on close to 30 players... no air play involved here as Sonos app won’t play the raidio over airplay at all.
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@Badg, there isn't a set limitation on the number of players you can group and play to using Airplay2, beyond the normal 32 max devices in a Sonos household. If you have trouble playing music with larger groups, it's most likely network trouble or environment issues that our support team can help you work with.

The more players trying to stream the same audio, the more they all go to the group coordinator for data. Which means the harder strain on the wireless network and that devices connection. Radio streams can be the least bandwidth intensive, and therefore more forgiving of connection issues. AirPlay 2 can be a much higher quality stream, and because more systems are involved, timing issues caused by dropped packets could cause issues, which means a strong network is best for large groups.

I'd recommend that you submit a diagnostic after having trouble playing to a larger group, and then give our support team a contact.
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My Airplay2 experience has been 'meh', suffering from dropouts in some instances. Caveat is that I only have one Airplay2 speaker, a Play:5 and it's in the garage, so it's further from the rest of the mesh than any other speakers in my setup. Make sure you purchase somewhere with a good return policy and test your Airplay usage scenarios thoroughly.

It's your network.
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Air Play on Sonos is very disappointing. It has limitations on how many players can be grouped before it stops playing all together. Sonos is suppose to group up to 30 players... well that only works if you are playing the raidio. Try exceeding about 8 players on airplay and your music stops. I invested a great deal in Sonos only to have this huge letdown. I really hope Sonos steps up and fixes this issue.

It's your network too.
As I've said in multiple threads, I've been using AirPlay 2 since it was released for Sonos. I've had exactly 4 issues with it, and in each case, rebooting the iOS device involved has resolved the issue. I've never had to touch the Sonos "receiving speaker" at all.

Other than that, it's rock solid. I use it almost daily to listen to baseball games. And occasionally podcasts. And rarely (but not never) music.

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