Over the last 10 years, I liked music, but it was an inconvenience. I had to drape wires through holes we we knocked, drilled or cut in drywall, or have a stereo in every room. Or I had to play my music really, really loud or walk around with headphones on. In recent years, wireless networks and computers and digital files, have let me stream some music to a TV or radio in a really basic hacked together way. But I did not have the ability to play any song, in any room, at any time, with high fidelity, until I installed a Sonos system in my house. I’m talking about Beethoven in the den and Ramones in the kitchen, or every place playing the Beatles, controllable from anywhere, controlled from a smartphone. This week, Apple launched Airplay, which has great potential to fix this for video and audio. But it’s still just a system in its infancy, with not much in the way of hardware. Sonos is working for me today, and all the pieces work pretty much perfectly.
It’s really strange to describe Sonos: It’s basically a bunch of audio playing boxes that come in different forms. Some of the boxes are amped and can directly drive your speakers. Some are signal out only. And some are standalone boxes with speakers built in. The boxes store no music, but connect to your home networked computers or servers, or get streaming services like Last.fm and internet radio from the net. Setup is easy because all the boxes set up their own wireless mesh network pretty much automatically, without sapping any of your home network’s bandwidth. Everything is controlled by software on a computer, touchscreen remote or your iPhone/iPad, from anywhere in the house. It works and its flexible yet simple to use.
Sonos has been out and evolving over a few years. But now that I live in a pretty big place by myself I can really appreciate it’s ability to take a place that is too quiet and breathe more life into it.
This is what I wake up to: a track at top volume, playing in the bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to garden to office; Usually some upbeat wake me up anthem, like Walking On Sunshine, or We Are the Champions, or something. This is how I go to sleep, from shower to livingroom, to bed; Usually listening to someone strumming something gently and downbeat. This is how I throw BBQs, have friends over to smoke and listen to music til 4 in the morning, and the next day when writers come over to work. Whenever I am home, there is music playing.
Anyone can hack together an audio system in their house using the primitive ways. But when you fill the place you live in with music you love, synced up from room to room, loud, clear and ambient, the notes seem to soak into the wood and paint the walls, and tiles and tint the lights with mood. And somehow it becomes that you feel transported into your own music video. Powerful anthems to stoke your spirit before a night on the town, somber ballads to commiserate a loss, motown for intimate company, or classic picks from any given decade to time machine you and your home back to a time when you at least remembered things as more simple. Much like the experience of driving and listening at high speed and volume, I think music at home just sounds better when your ears are naked and your neighbours are slightly pissed off. And the biggest compliment I can pay Sonos is that it’s helped me listen to at least 10x more music than I did before, just because it’s so easy to get it delivered the way I want it delivered.