April 27, 2011 | by Andrew Kameka
Few things are as powerful, important, or enjoyable as music. Actually, Android may hold equal sway among this crowd, so let’s meet in the middle and take a look at a production that merges the two: the Sonos Music Controller for Android.
Sonos has spent the better part of the 2000′s releasing products to manage home audio systems. With its ZonePlayers, Sonos users can create a multi-room audio set-up that plays music from various sources throughout their home. The recently-introduced Sonos Music Controller for Android makes it possible to control all of those players – up to 32 on one Wi-Fi connection – on one device.
The good folks at Sonos sent Androinica.com a massive box with everything needed to run the audio entertainment system. Sonos relies on ZonePlayer speakers, which can be connected to your wireless router, or stream music through a Zonebridge add-on connected to your router (sold separately). Sonos offers three types of speaker systems, but I tested the S5 box that has 5 speakers and amplifiers working in concert. The sound quality is excellent and the system really takes advantage of the bass-heavy music that I often listen to while at home. And while I love my desktop speakers, they really can’t match what the Zoneplayers offer when blasting hip-hop, reggae, or dubstep music.
Sonos previously required a remote control device that retailed for $350, but the Android app is free. The beauty of Sonos Music Controller for Android is that it provides the same deep well of entertainment options that you can tap into at any moment. Sonos can import music from your computer, plug-in to an MP3 player using the line-in port, play plenty of radio stations, and link with several popular streaming services. And once you begin playing those songs, the controller has a built-in equalizer to boost or reduce Bass, Treble, and Left/Right balance.
Finding music to listen to shouldn’t be a problem if you choose not to stream from the desktop, line-in, or local radio. The Sonos controller can also manage your playback from the following streaming services:
- Wolfgang’s Vault.
Sonos does a great job of capturing the basic style of those services – from rating songs in Pandora to getting artist info from Last.fm – in a uniform fashion that doesn’t require leaving the Sonos player. I managed to access all of the same features in mobile apps, and I’d actually argue that this provides a better mobile option for Pandora than the official app. A free trial is available for the premium services offered with Sonos, so there really shouldn’t be a lack of options (unless you’re looking for Amazon Cloud or Slacker, which aren’t available yet).
I also love having access to my PC-stored music in various formats, but searching the music library may present a problem depending on how your library is tagged. Sonos failed to return any results in my artist search for “Willie Hutch,” despite having several songs by the soul legend stored on my computer and viewable when I browsed by genre or composer. There’s no option to simply search for “Willie Hutch” and return all songs related to him because Sonos limits users to searching within a parameter like Artist or Album.
The Sono Music Controller is thankfully much better in other aspects of locating and playing songs. The app can browse by shared folders, iTunes library, Artists, Albums, Composers, Genres, and Imported Playlists. The playback control is clutter-free, so users can do everything from customize their playlist queue and take complete control of their playback. You can even create a playlist and save it specifically for use on Sonos.
Tapping the Home button brings up the Zone Menu and switches between different Zone Players. Sonos can then control multiple systems that each play a different audio source, or group them all into a Party Mode that sync all Zoneplayers to the same song. This has so far proven to be my favorite feature because I often start playing music in my office but then have to relocate to the kitchen, living room, or bedroom to play music. Sonos allows me to rely on a particular Zoneplayer rather than crank my computer’s speakers to maximum volume or start over with Google TV.
The Sonos Music Controller for Android is an incredible app. Combine it with the right hardware and you’ll have an inspired audio experience. The only drawback to such a set-up is likely to be the price of that hardware. The most affordable ZonePlayer costs $349, so someone must be an audiophile looking to create a great music set-up in order to justify the purchase. Sonos offers a combination pack that includes two Sonos S5 (black or white) and a Zonebridge for $798. It’s definitely a pretty penny, but users prepared to pay the premium will take their home audio needs to a higher level than they are likely to have at the moment.