Posts from Sonos

Bluetooth Update

About a month ago I posted about Bluetooth vs Airplay and mentioned in the post that I had purchased a Logitech Bluetooth Wireless Speaker Adapter for my home music system. I thought I'd give everyone an update about how that worked out.

Bottom line. It's fucking fantastic. I can do in my home what I do in my car. I've got a half dozen music apps on my phone (soundcloud, turntable, exfm, rdio, youtube, etc) and when I'm in my car, I can play music from any of them via bluetooth to the car audio system. It's the way we roll in our car, and not just me, but everyone in the family.

Now we can do the same in our home. I think my phone has officially become my turntable. I love it.

Here's what it looks like. It's the size of a hockey puck:

Logitech adapter
Here's what the backside looks like:

Logitech adapter back
I got some super high end RCA cables and went right into the line-in port on one of my Sonos zones. Now we can play music from our phones everywhere and anywhere in our house. It's a game changer.

Here are the negatives. First, I could only make it pair with one device. So I paired it with my phone. But I'd also like to pair it with the Gotham Gal's phone, and my children's phones. And also the Nexus 7 that sits in the family room. Apparently it is possible to pair with multiple devices but I couldn't figure it out.

Also, bluetooth has limited range so the phone has to be in the same room as the Logitech Adapter to play music. When you have Sonos zones all around the house and are used to controlling it on your phone all over the house, that is limiting too.

But I'll take those limitations for what this thing gives me which is a seamless experience from home to car and back. It's $70, so not cheap. And I had to wait a few weeks because it was back ordered. But if you want to give it a try, here's the link to Amazon.  I hope you like it as much as I do.


Feature Friday: Concierge

Eighty percent of all music listening happens in lean back mode where someone or something plays the music for you. That's a fact. I am not sure where I saw it, but I believe it to be true based on my own music listening experience.

That's why I haven't found iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, or any of the "on demand" experiences particularly inspiring. I've used all of them at one time or another and our family still logs a fair bit of time on Rdio and Rhapsody (which we've had for something like thirteen years now).

But there is something magical about logging into a music service and having music start playing that you love and you don't need to do anything to make it happen. It's also true that these lean back experiences are better for music discovery. That's the role that old fashioned radio has been playing in the music business for as long as I've been alive.

I have been using several rooms in Turntable (my favorite being Indie While You Work) for the past year for this purpose. And it has served it incredibly well.

But Turntable is not available on Sonos and the hack where I airplay into my Sonos from my laptop is just that, a hack that isnt' ideal. So I've been looking for a great lean back experience on the Sonos for a long time. And Pandora isn't that for me and has never been.

This spring I noticed that Songza was available on Sonos in the "Sonos Labs" area. We've had Songza on the Sonos in our homes for at least three months now and it has quickly become the most used music service on Sonos in our homes.

And the reason is a feature they call Concierge. Instead of asking you what artist you like as Pandora does, Songza notices what time of day it is and then asks you what you are doing. I am writing this post at 6:53am and Songza's Concierge looks like this on my Sonos (pardon the photography, I had a tough time with the glare off the screen of the iPad):

Songa 1

When I select "Working Out", I see this screen:

Songza 2

When I select "Eclectic Workout Mixes", I get this screen:

Songza 3

Then you select your playlist and the music starts playing.

All of these playlists have been constructed by real humans, so it's more like a real DJ on the radio playing music for you than an algorithm in the cloud somewhere. I prefer that as I mentioned in that link on Pandora.

I've turned all my kids onto Songza and they love it. And they've turned their friends onto it and their friends love it too. So I think Songza works for all ages and all types of music.

But don't listen to me. Give it a try. Songza is available on the web, on Android, on iOS, and on Sonos. It's awesome on Sonos so if you have one, I strongly encourage you to add Songza to it.


Bluetooth vs Airplay

I've written a fair bit about how we are using technologies like Bluetooth and Airplay in our homes and cars to connect our tablets and phones to our cars and home entertainment systems.

I've thought Airplay was the winning model because Apple is pushing it hard and integrating it into their product line across the board. Plus Airplay supports higher bandwidth applications like video and covers greater distances.

But an experience I had this week makes me take pause on that assumption. Our newest car has excellent bluetooth audio capabilities. Everyone's phones are paired to it and anytime anyone wants to take control of the car audio with their phone (iPhone or Android), they can play any audio app they want on their phone and the music plays in our car. This is true of most of the cars coming off the factory floors these days.

My son is particularly fond of taking control of the audio in the car and DJing. Yesterday he asked me why he couldn't do the same thing with our home entertainment system, which is built on Sonos. We have an airport express in the line-in on the Sonos and we can Airplay from iTunes. But that doesn't support Android phones and not all third party mobile apps support Airplay. Airplay is not ubiquitous in the way that Bluetooth is.

So I just bought this logitech bluetooth audio adapter and am going to swap out the airport express for this bluetooth adapter and see how my family reacts to that. I am betting that by replicating the experience they have in the car in our home, they will take control of our home music system with their phones in the same way they do in our car.

This shows the power of an open protocol like Bluetooth vs a proprietary protocol like Airplay. Airplay is a superior technology but it's lack of ubiquity may mean that it doesn't win the market in the end. We will see.


The $160 Lesson: Apps Beat Devices

We have Mac Minis connected to all the TVs in our home. I've been using a RF-based keyboard/mouse combo device for several years and not loving it. So one of my new years' resolutions was to find a better approach for our family. Last week, I went out and bought an Apple Wireless Keyboard (bluetooth) and a Gyration Air Mouse (RF). I figured I'd try to fix our main family room setup first and then roll out the solution to the rest of the house.

I had them shipped to my office and was taking them home on Friday. I showed the Gyration Air Mouse which is super cool looking to Andrew and he casually said "I like the Mobile Air Mouse app on the iPhone". I filed that away and went home with my hardware excited about what I had purchased.

I got the Apple Wireless Keyboard to pair with my mac mini and it works well. But like many bluetooth devices, I had some weird pairing issues on reboot and other times and it wasn't as reliable as it needs to be in our family room. And I completely failed on the Gyration Air Mouse. I could not get it to work on my Mac Mini or on my Mac laptop either (I tried that just to see if there was something awry with the Mac Mini). I am not sure if the Gyration Air Mouse issue is operator error (me) or something wrong with the one I bought. Who cares at the end of the day? I could not get it to work.

So in frustration, I pulled out the iPod touch we use as a Sonos and Boxee remote in our family room and downloaded the Mobile Air Mouse app from the iTunes store for $1.99. You have to download free "server software" for the device from the Mobile Air Mouse website as well.

Guess what? Andrew was right. It works very well. And you get a trackpad and a keyboard (iPhone style keyboard) all for $1.99.

The Apple keyboard was roughly $80 and the Gyration Air Mouse was about the same. $160 down the drain. The $2 solution was better.

Of course, for this to work you'll need to have a $200 iTouch handy. But honestly, I could have spent $200 on the iTouch and added $2 for the Air Mouse and it would not have been much more than what I spent on the keyboard and mouse.

Bottom line for me: apps beat devices. Lesson learned. Relatively cheaply.

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