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SONOS: Its products, its history-Bax Audio Video

SONOS: Its products, its history

Sonos has always sought a solution for affordable sound in the home. Breaking the Silent House was the advertising slogan from the very beginning. Over the years, several models of wireless speakers have appeared, ranging from small sizes for bedrooms to larger ones for living rooms and living areas.

SONXPLUS was among the first to offer the brand in Quebec, recognizing a long-awaited solution for the serious electronics enthusiast.

Sonos is one of the world's leading sound experience brands. As the inventor of multi-room wireless home audio, Sonos is also known for delivering an unparalleled sound experience, great aesthetics and design, ease of use, and a clear, user-friendly platform. Sonos is four visionary founders who have worked hard to succeed; but did you know that one of them went to university in MONTREAL and another worked for Apple? This is the exciting story of the rise of this modern legend.

It all started when a certain John Macfarlane, a computer engineer, sold his pioneering webmail software company (www.software.com) which he had founded in 1993. The sale went to Phone.com for $6.4 billion.

With so much money at his disposal, he and a partner from that first venture, Thomas Cullen, decided to team up with two other collaborators from the previous venture to come up with a revolutionary product based on their knowledge of computers and networks. Trung Mai and Craig Shelburne were thus an integral part of the original creative team.

The four founders have the following skills:

John Macfarlane : a computer engineer specialising in web-based networking.

Thomas Cullen: He became the vice president of sales and marketing. During his career, he has worked at Apple Computer, Software.com and Openwave Systems.

Trung mai: trained as an electrical and computer engineer and did part of his university studies in Montreal (1981-85) at McGill University.

Craig Shelburne: , a finance and legal specialist, set up the company's financial and legal functions. One of his tasks was to identify all the existing patents, but above all to patent every invention in the group, in order to ensure the company's continuity by providing watertight protection against copying by potential competitors.

So all the bases were covered! One guy trained in software, another in circuit and network design, a third looking after the grain (finance and rights protection) and finally a marketing expert. How to miss!

John was convinced that a system for distributing entertainment content from a single server on board an airliner would be something interesting, except that... the other three wanted nothing to do with the project!

After several months of brainstorming in the first office in Santa Barbara, California, the land of American genius, the joint decision would be to offer both the container and the content in mainstream music entertainment. They then drew up a first theoretical outline of what the network should look like in the household. 

 

First Research Office 2002

With such a fortune to support a research and development team, you'd think it would be a short walk... Think again! We had to invent everything, nothing that we master today existed.

In early 2003, the engineering brigade set to work in a large open space above a restaurant. The first concept consisted of a system of amplifiers and satellite speakers, all linked by a network that would be based on a bank of files hosted on hard disk. All controlled from a tablet-style remote control.


Diagram of the concept drawn by John Macfarlane

The first steps involved a wired network linking together several small amplifiers designed on site by John Macfarlane. Then came the Mesh network derived from military applications. The Mesh principle allows different sources to communicate with each other without the need for a router to do the "traffic". The advantage of this approach is that by allowing each device to receive the same information and be able to send it back to others, we get a stable network without interruption from outside interference. But remember, apart from the military, this did not exist and the concept was not for relaxing and listening to music! 

In September 2003, the prototypes were built, but they did not work. So the decision was made to test the devices under real conditions with team members and their families. One by one, they solved the problems, first the persistent ones, but then the intermittent "bugs" that remain the bane of any technician or engineer.

... By the summer of 2004, Sonos had finally solved the problems, prototypes were starting to work reliably, and the organisation was in the process of previewing the system to others in the industry. The persistence finally paid off...

After four years of research and sleepless nights trying to solve the problems of bringing a product to market that had no similar example, the young company decided to begin production in the fall of 2004 of an amp and speaker, the Zone Player 100 (predecessor of the Sonos Amp) and a wireless controller.

As an indication of what would one day be the Sonos trademark, i.e. perfection in detail, they had to destroy the first batch of product because the glue on the controller case wouldn't hold up...

Finally, new Sonos devices were on their way to the first buyers on January 27, 2005! 


First commercial offer 

The rest is exciting and can be summarised as follows:

The iPhone was launched in 2007, replacing the Sonos controller with a mobile device. In 2008 the recession hit the US hard and the business slowdown was such that the founders had to pay out of their own pockets to keep the company and its employees going. Persevering through the turmoil allowed the release of a speaker with its own integrated amplifier, the Play 5, in November 2009, which was an instant success.

Now in 2021, Sonos is the world leader in connected audio equipment with an insurmountable lead over the competition. True to its initial decision to offer both content and container, Sonos gives you access to a variety of streaming devices such as Spotify, Deezer HI-FI, and more. What's more, this year Sonos became its own affordable content provider: "Sonos Radio HD" costs only $7.99 per month.

Let's talk about supply in 2021.

Sonos currently offers three main product families: Home stereo speakers, portable speakers for the outdoors, and the Dolby Atmos home theatre solution.

HOUSEHOLD SOUND SYSTEM.

ONE SL

Launched in 2013 as the PLAY 1, this small, second-generation standalone speaker offers rich sound with bass that is frankly remarkable for the size. Add a second one and you get stereophonic musicality. It can be complemented with a Sonos SUB subwoofer, or used as a pair to complete the Sonos 5.1 Cinema sound.

It incorporates Apple AirPlay 2, which enables Siri voice control. In addition, it is moisture resistant, has Soft Touch buttons and a stain-resistant finish.

ONE

For a few dollars more, the full version of the ONE adds voice control capability to the SL. The Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa is designed to let you play music, check the news, set alarms, get answers to your questions, and more!

FIVE

FIVE is the brand's high-fidelity system. 6 speakers powered by 6 class-D amplifiers guarantee low distortion. The included TruePlay software analyses your room and configures the acoustics for the best possible technical performance. A quad-core processor and 512 MB of memory ensure maximum efficiency without interruption or hesitation. And let's not forget the continuous software updates. What is surprising about this product is the sound power, the depth of the bass without the need for a SUB and the clarity of the treble. It has a standard input for connecting various sources such as a TV or turntable.

AMP

The Sonos AMP is the original, modern version. If you want to get rid of a traditional sound system, but still retain the richness of your columns, this product is for you. However, its most common use remains the integration of ceiling speakers. The AMP has 250 watts of power to allow you to add sound to your rooms in a more discreet way. It also has a standard input for connecting different sources such as a TV or your turntable. I invite you to meet with a qualified consultant to discuss your projects, the possibilities being numerous...

PORT

The PORT is the easy way to upgrade your old sound system! Connect it to an audio input on the back of your traditional amplifier and voilà! Now you can control your music sources on the web from your tablet or mobile device, giving your stereo system a new look.

WIRELESS OUTDOOR LAPTOPS

Long neglected, Sonos now offers Bluetooth solutions, it was worth the wait!

MOVE

The MOVE is an intermediate speaker between the compact ONE and the powerful FIVE. It incorporates voice control like the ONE and the TruePlay auto-tuning of the FIVE.

It is battery operated with a battery life of 11 hours and is weatherproof. What's more, you can use it anywhere, as it works with both WI-FI and Bluetooth. Of course, it has Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri built-in. To charge it, you just have to put it on its standard charging base, nothing could be easier!

ROAM

The ROAM fits in your hand and incorporates the same technologies as the MOVE. The sound, although less powerful, remains typically Sonos with a perfect balance between bass and treble. To charge it, simply place it on the optional inductive charging base without a contactor (a SONOS novelty!).

CINEMA SOLUTION

Completely renewed in 2021, the Sonos range of cinema products is very much of its time.

Both models of the 2021 soundbar incorporate the Dolby Atmos standard. 

ARC

A successful sound bar requires several speakers, each with its own dedicated task to drive the ambient movement. Featuring eleven high-performance drivers for crisp highs, dynamic mids and surprising lows, the slim Arc profile can be wall-mounted or placed discreetly on a cabinet.

Very important in this day and age, this model is very aesthetically pleasing, definitely one of the most beautiful bars on the market...

Once again, no expense has been spared in incorporating 11 Class D amplifiers, one per speaker. The woofers are elliptical in shape for adequate performance in a smaller space. The True Play system 'listens' to the room's reverberation and adjusts the equalisation in real time. Of course, you can adjust the bass and treble presence. Google Assistant and Alexa voice commands respond well to the far-field microphone array, which uses advanced beamforming and multi-channel echo cancellation to make them easy to activate regardless of the frames being heard.

Full feature list :

  • Improved speech to clarify dialogue.
  • LED status indicator adjusts to ambient light to avoid distraction.
  • Soft touch control.
  • HDMI ARC/eARC port to connect to your TV.
  • Optical Audio connects to the optical audio output of an older TV set.
  • Works with AirPlay 2 on Apple iOS 11.4 devices and above.
  • Infrared (IR) receiver Syncs with your TV remote control for easy control
  • Large memory capacity: 1GB SDRAM and 4GB volatile buffer.

BEAM

The new second generation Beam offers a compromise. Experience panoramic sound and crystal clear dialogue for shows, movies and games. And when the TV is off, play music and more from all your favourite services. Controlling it is as easy as ever with the Sonos app, voice control and Apple AirPlay 2.

While the output is less with its five speakers versus 11 for the more popular 'ARC', it is more compact and therefore easily moved around to be used as a stand-alone audio source similar to a ONE.

The new features of this second generation 2021 BEAM :

  • Dolby Atmos
  • Perforated design in ARC style.
  • 40% faster processor for 3D Atmos sound.
  • Improved dialogue enhancement function.
  • True Play automatic calibration.

SUB SONOS

Already a3rd generation for 2021! The Sonos SUB is very well known, ask anyone you know who has one, they will tell you how clean the bass sounds are, with no artefacts or breath noise. The "box" simply does not reason!

The secret is two force-cancelling drivers in the centre of the SUB that eliminate vibrations and ill-defined rumble so you get powerful bass without any distortion. Remember, a subwoofer isn't just for movies; when listening to music, the benefit is real...

The control application makes your life easy.

What distinguishes Sonos products from others is the significant developmental advance in their control software. Believe me, they are not all equal, far from it!

Setting up a new Sonos system is a breeze, just plug in your new speakers, install the app on your mobile device, tablet PC or IOS system and in 4 easy steps you're set up!

In addition, some models allow you to calibrate the sound using the microphone of your tablets or mobiles.

The choice of music sources is without doubt the most complete on the market with dozens of suppliers offering millions of pieces of music!

Tips for a hassle-free installation

Although the Sonos system can be set up via your home WI-FI router, I recommend purchasing the Boost module for greater stability in playback and response to your commands. Often, our customers complain about crashes due to the overload of their WI-FI router. The installation of a Boost is sure to resolve this situation. As a bonus, you will benefit from a longer range, often to an outdoor patio.

Our team's listening selections

Although there is a plethora of content providers, 3 stand out as follows:

Deezer HI-FI (formerly Elite): The paid solution, but one that offers you unparalleled sound quality. Deezer broadcasts FLAC content which gives a performance equal to CD. You search for your song or your group and that's it. A real Jukebox!

Spotify: this service is similar to Deezer, but the music is broadcast in 320 kbs MP3. Note that the free version allows for 6 track changes at the user's discretion, which is impossible on most platforms in the free version.

Tidal: A service similar to Deezer, it offers music in lossless format, i.e. FLAC files. This service is not free.

It's a far cry from all-in-one sets with bulky wires or even traditional systems with massive speakers. Sonos has long understood that consumers want solid performance, but with a minimalist footprint. Both Sonos soundbars are definitely more compact than their competitors, but they deliver just as much or more if you include their web-based music playback capabilities. Sounding the whole house when the walls are already closed (the situation of all but the builders) is finally affordable for everyone. Many people build their systems within a year or two, adding one room at a time. Flexibility is what Sonos is all about!

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