Multi-room Apple audio system shows why Sonos must release its iPhone remote app

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Lifehacker‘s Adam Pash walks you through setting up your iTunes for streaming to multiple rooms using the Airport Express, all controlled from an iPhone or iPod touch’s Remote.app. This is the very thing I was talking about when I said that Remote.app “pretty much negates the need for something like the Sonos music system for most households” — about which Sonos was none too happy until I explained to them that I used and liked a Sonos system in my home. Which is when they invited me to check out their latest Sonos receivers.

Which is where they told me they were working on an iPhone app in their labs, but weren’t sure if they were going to release it.

Sonos has great amplifiers, a MIMO wireless network that makes setup simple and keeps multi-room music completely in sync, and decent software that works great when paired to an all-you-can-eat music subscription like Rhapsody or Pandora. Their remote, however advanced it was when the system launched a few years ago, now is extremely behind the times: too large, missing a touch-based interface, and slow to load large indexes of metadata like song titles and artist names.

Fortunately, the Sonos remote is the least essential part of their system.

The iPhone and iPod touch are seeing healthy penetration in home automation circles, the same sort of segment that would buy the not-quite-luxury, not-quite-a-bargain Sonos system. Adding an official Sonos application to the iPhone should be a no brainer.

But they better do it soon. Many people only want to add one or two more locations in which to listen to music in their home. Many of those folks have home theater and other stereo systems around into which an Airport Express or AppleTV could be connected. For someone who already has all these things in place — and I really do believe that most of the people in Sonos’ market already have all this equipment at hand — the price will come down to buying a few Airport Expresses or a whole new proprietary Sonos system — with an arguably better user experience from the cheaper option.

Turn Your iPhone or iPod Touch Into a Multi-Room Wireless Music Remote [Lifehacker]

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12 Responses to Multi-room Apple audio system shows why Sonos must release its iPhone remote app

  1. John Brownlee says:

    I have an AirTunes set-up at the new place, and I couldn’t be happier (although keep in mind, I have an almost totally homogenized Apple set-up). There’s a slight delay (maybe a tenth of a second) between the closest speakers to my computer and the ones farthest away, but hardly enough to justify the Sonos’ system $1,000 premium. In fact, I don’t even notice it unless I’m stopping a song: you simply won’t play music in all rooms at once most of the time, and when you do, the sound of the closer speakers overwhelms the more distant output. Perhaps a sticking point for completely fanatic audiophiles, but for most of us, a better investment by far would be be better speakers: in my experience, the AirTunes system actually does deliver on Apple’s “just works” mantra.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hey Geekman, I get the same effect wearing a Walkman. Are you a single person in a big house, or do you happen to live with a bunch of people with similar music tastes.

  3. dan says:

    I want my iPhone to stream music from my laptop, so I can plug it into the basestation in my bedroom and to the stereo.

    I bet it’s against Apple’s TOS, though.

  4. Anonymous says:

    how much is it?

  5. jonathanpeterson says:

    On what planet is $750 for a single stereo component that competes with various $100+ boxes from other vendors considered “not-quite-luxury”?

    The Sonos is apparently quite nice, but it is the MOST expensive product in the segment.

  6. Brian Carnell says:

    “nd decent software that works great when paired to an all-you-can-eat music subscription like Rhapsody or Pandora. ”

    The Sonos remote has had a long-standing problem with very large music libraries (i.e., it just can’t handle them). OTOH, so does iTunes, but iTunes doesn’t cost >$1,000.

  7. GeekMan says:

    This is one of the rare occasions when I’ll show some Apple fanboyism. I LOVE AirTunes. I have an Airport express and an AppleTV (with the 2.0 software). It is amazing to walk through the house: computer room, kitchen, living room, and hear the same music throughout. The sync is perfect.

  8. Diva says:

    You can always try our third party iPhone remote app for Sonos called Zones in the iTunes App Store:

    http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=288899402&mt=8

    More info at:
    http://kupuk.com/zones

  9. cboulakia says:

    I had an airtunes system when the airport express first came out (five years ago?). It was awesome at the time, but the one thing missing was a remote I could use in every room. Oh – and the express bricked on me after about a year.

    I’ve tried a bunch of other systems, like the Logitech one, but they all were useless.

    When Remote came out for the ipod touch, I immediately bought a touch (which I thought was useless until then) and some expresses. It’s the best, cheapest multi-room system. It took a while to get going, but it works exactly how I want a multi room system to work – I can move my remote from room to room, adjust volume, change speakers, listen to playlists. I’m not an “apple fanboy” – I actually don’t like their smug “pretend user-friendliness” where I’ve been on the support line with them longer than with any other provider, but itunes is a great interface, and the Remote app is the killer app I’ve been waiting for.

  10. WeightedCompanionCube says:

    Don’t forget Roku! I have two Soundbridges in my place, and my iPhone (or any other wifi device) can pull up the remote control webpages on them.

    I hardly ever use it tho. Most of the time they are just parked on Radio Paradise or Last.fm.

  11. shuggy says:

    I dont really agree.
    I am an apple lover but-
    If you are an audiophile then nothing other than the £40000 NAIM wifi or the £5000 Linn hard drive distributor can come close to sonos in terms of soundstage. That is why so many of us rip in FLAC or AIFF so we can get high end hifi performance at mid end price.
    All the HiFi mags concur on this
    Further it is sublimely convenient. I just dont see how you can see the handset as clunky it is still a wonderful interface.
    However I do agree that I would never buy a second spare I cant justify it, But I would buy a functional sonos iphone application if priced at £40.
    I am an AVFORUMS nut and love Home cinema I have a yamaha amp, loewe telly Imac, Merc Convertible and I rate my Sonos as the singular best buy I have ever made.
    ps And I dont even work for them!!

  12. netster says:

    I have to agree, the Remote is the killer app, especially if you have been after home music automation for some time.

    I am not an apple user, never have been really, not for any particular reason, other that I have always had tons of software for the PC, so never bothered.

    Also, I was never going to get caught up in all the iPhone hype when it came out.

    I had been using mp3′s for years, used to use musicmatch as my music library software, then somehow gradually migrated to itunes by default.

    When I moved into my apartment some years ago, I did that frantic “ok,ok what wires do I need to put between which rooms, while I have the floorboards up, before I move in” (anyone who has been through this will know what I am talking about).

    The result is always the same.. you never quite manage to futureproof your config do you?

    Anyway, I had tried various products for a diy solution over time, like the create remote music library, which got the concept that with a music remote you need to be able to see what is playing on the remote itself, and the remote needs not to be line of site. However, it was slow, clunky, required propriatory server software.. basically worked poorly.

    I happened to pick up a second hand 2g iphone 3 weeks ago… stumbled across the Remote app,then apple airport all problems solved.

    I now run itunes with airport express, which compliments my wired audio set up brilliantly.

    I have tunes on my main pc in my study, also on my media pc in my living room which is also connected to my kitchen

    In my bedroom I have an amp connected to an airport, which has speakers in the bedroom and the ensuite.

    A long-winded explaination I know, but the upshot is I can now completely control the music in my living room, study, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom seemlessly from one excellent remote, which happens to be a phone too!

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