Steve Dotto here. Thanks for joining me. Ever
since I got my very first iPod, I’ve been searching for the perfect home music system.
Over the years, I have collected thousands and thousands of songs on my iPod, created
playlists, and then tried to find ways to get that music from my iPod into my home theater
system or my home speakers to share it through my house. I always bump my head against a
series of limitations. The first was, while we had tools like Air
Play which are terrific tools where we can take our music and send it to an Air Play-enabled
device, with Air Play we’re only able to send our music to a single device. If I want
to listen to the same music in my bedroom and in the living room and in the kitchen,
I can’t do that. I have to take my device from room to room or come up with some other
system. Well, there’s a company called Sonos that
has been working on the exact same problem. They have come up with what, in my mind, is
probably the sleekest and best solution in this area. Now I will give you one caveat:
the Sonos system is not cheap. You’re buying good quality audio hardware and networking
gear that pulls it all together, around about $400 to $600 per component, depending on what
component you get. By the time you fit out the house, you’re going to drop anywhere between
$800 and S2000. But once you set up a system, you have a system that will work for you exactly
the way you want, at least if you are like me and want to be able to control what music
is played where. Let me show you the different components of
the Sonos music system. There aren’t that many pieces because each piece does double
duty. One basic piece is a bridge, this little bridge here. The bridge is what you plug into
your router. Once you’ve plugged your bridge into your router, all of the other Sonos components
connect wirelessly to your bridge. Actually, what happens is Sonos builds a mesh wifi network
on top of your own network so it doesn’t affect your own network performance speed but each
device connects to the other through a wifi technology. As you add more components, your
network is built out with greater range and in greater reliability.
Then they have two tools called the Connect and the Connect Amp. These tools allow us
to connect the Sonos System to our home theater system or to a set of speakers if we’ve
got just speaker settings by themselves. The main components that most people buy are these
two speaker systems: the Play:3, which are smaller speakers but the quality is excellent,
great for small rooms; they also have the Play:5, which has a bigger, deeper, and richer
sound and is more suitable for larger rooms; and finally, the big, big, big subwoofer which
is also available. Depending on how you want to configure this,
the Sonos System can replace your home theater system. You can use it in a variety of ways.
Now essentially what happens is we take and we build in increasing layers, each of these
different devices and connect them to the other device to create a mesh of all our different
speakers. The net result is we’re able then to take our music and determine exactly which
speaker we’re sending it to because we name and address each speaker differently so we
can create our own clusters. We can say we just want this music to play in our living
room and not in the bedroom, or just in the bedroom and not in the kitchen, or any combination.
It gives you that kind of control. Setting up the Sonos System is very straightforward.
It was an easy process for me. You install this Sonos Management console in your computer.
When you do that, you go in and add Sonos Components. This is such a simple process.
You plug the router in first and add the component—that’s the little dock thing that we see right here.
Once that’s connected, we add more components just by simply plugging them in, hitting the
buttons, and then it automatically connects. There’s really nothing to it. It just takes
a few seconds to connect each device. When you connect each device, you name the devices
logically so that you know exactly what they are. Then you have the control to be able
to address the music going to each of the devices.
The longest part of the installation process is importing your music library into the Sonos
music system. I had thousands of songs in iTunes. Once it’s in there, you can organize
it into your own playlists. You can determine all sorts of things just like any other system.
But here’s where the magic of Sonos starts to come. It’s all of the different bundled
pieces. Aside from my music library which I had imported and I can access as if I’m
in iTunes, it also gives us the ability to tune in to internet radio through this Radio
app. You can go and choose local stations in your area or radio stations from anywhere
in the world, I guess. Here are the local stations in Vancouver,
since I live in Vancouver. There’s the station my radio show is on, CIL-650. So if you have
to tune into one, that’s a good one to tune into. You can preprogram all of your different
stations. You can have them preset so that we wake up to a radio station in the morning.
You have those options. As you go through it, you see the radio stations are broken
into themes and all sorts of other areas as you’d expect.
The real magic for us and the real revelation for me came when I looked more into the music
features within Sonos. These are all the different services that they’ve licensed with plug-ins
to work with within Sonos. If you listen to audio books using Audible, you can sign into
your Audible account and access it directly through Sonos. You can stream that audio directly
to Sonos. It’s the same case with all of these other surfaces, including the very popular
Slacker Radio and Wolfgang’s Vault, which you need to check out if you haven’t yet.
It’s a collection of recordings from, I think, the Fillmore in San Francisco where
they recorded bands all through the ‘70s and early ‘80s. They recorded all of these
live concerts of wonderful musicians coming through and playing there. They were never
recorded and published as records but instead these archives are being cleaned up and released.
It’s pretty much free, an awesome thing especially if you’re a big fan of the ‘70s
music scene. The one system service that I signed up for
though is this one called Songza. In Canada, we haven’t had really good streaming music
services that are really free. We’ve got pretty good services but we haven’t had
access to, for instance, Pandora in Canada because of licensing issues. When Songza was
released and they had all of the licensing in Canada, it was a bit of a revolution for
a lot of us here in Canada to find a really good streaming service.
Here’s the benefit: With thousands of songs in my iPod, for example, it takes me forever
to build my playlist and I find that increasingly a task. With Songza, they’ve got all of
the playlists already created and they design them around how you live. So for Friday afternoon,
which is when I’m recording this piece right now, this is the concierge service for Friday
afternoon. You can go through and choose any of these different themes to play and stream
through. Since we’ve discovered Songza, we haven’t played of our own music anymore
because the music that’s coming through in the playlist and the playlists are so well
defined that we just choose to use the Songza playlist. That’s the way it’s gone for
us. Christmas is coming so you choose some holiday music. Even within the holiday, you’ve
got all these different subthemes of great playlists that stream through.
As I said, we haven’t found the need to play our own playlists. We also haven’t
bought a song since. We’ve just been using this service. I’m sure we will. Over time,
we will start to buy music again and all those sorts of things but we’re just really enjoying
these playlists. Not only do they have a theme around the time of day and the time of year,
but there are also things like workout music, there’s nature sounds for when you’re
going to fall asleep, and all those sort of things if you choose to use them. You can
access all of these right from this control panel here.
Then over here on the left side, we see our speakers laid out. I’ve only got two speakers
set up right now. They’re bedroom and living room speakers. You can choose to group them
into groups or play them as individuals. If you click on Group, you see we can pull them
together. In this case here, I’m listening to CBC-FM, the same music is going to be playing
in both of those, so we create that group. Now it’s a group of the two.
That’s the basis of how Sonos works. The quality of sound is excellent. The reliability,
it seems to always work. Every time you add a new component, the network gets that much
stronger so you can build that out. If you want speakers in the garage and you’ve got
three or four speakers in the house, you probably have enough network juice to get it out to
the garage. Of course, there is also an app available
that allows you to run it on your iPhone, your Android device, and your iPad. I’ve
got it set up here on my iPad. Let me just show you the app on my iPad. Here’s the
cool thing about it. When I go to bed at night, I love to listen to a little bit of music
but I like the music to turn off before I go to sleep. So I go into my Songza here in
my iPad and I choose Recent, because you can see all the recent playlists that we ever
listened: Solo Piano, The Sphere of Monk, The World of Chet Baker, these are some great
playlists. When I choose to fall asleep with music, I’m
going to get it playing. In the Playing area, we see exactly who’s playing and the music
will start streaming through. I’ve got one of the speakers here in the room so you might
hear it a little bit in the background as it fires up. This is the magic: Down at the
bottom, I click on Sleep Timer, I say turn it off in two hours after I’m fast asleep,
then the music itself turns down as well. I get to fall asleep to nice restful music
and I think I’m sleeping a little better as a result.
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