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Sonos System Expands Channels and Software

Nov 3, 2008 12:00 PM, By Rebecca Day

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“We’re doing quite well with the CEDIA channel,” says Sonos president and COO Phil Abram, who was in New York last week to discuss the latest upgrades to the Sonos platform. It’s no secret why Sonos is getting more looks from custom installers these days. The multiroom audio system, which operates over a meshed network combining 802.11 b/g radios and proprietary Sonos software, is easy enough for a tech-savvy consumer to install, and that makes it a fast in/fast out proposition for custom installers targeting the retrofit channel.

The sell is a compelling one for the digital music fan as the number of music options continues to grow. The latest upgrade adds and 15,000 Internet radio stations to the Sonos menu. In addition, Pandora, already part of the Sonos stable, has moved to a free business model, giving installers an impressive list of sources to sell—all from a modest wireless hardware array. is free in the basic form (three listens before you have to pay) and carries a $3 per month subscription for the more advanced version that promises unlimited listening of full-length tracks. The social network allows you to share music with friends and match you with other users who share your musical tastes. The site keeps a library of music you’ve selected (and can read tag information from your portable music player to better learn your tastes) and makes recommendations based on the music you typically listen to. It offers consumers a compelling way to discover new music and also provides quick access to iTunes, Amazon, and other sites where you can purchase music for playback on a portable.

Similarly, Pandora enables users to create “stations” around an artist and sophisticated software. Pandora relies less on user recommendations and more on musical attributes such as lyrics, rhythm, melody, harmony to find other music that fits your tastes. Users can create an unlimited number of channels and, as with, can select channels from the Sonos interface. A subscription gets users a no-ad model and the ability to rate and skip songs. The Sonos system connects to the Pandora website without the need for the PC.

The no-fee Internet Radio portion of the new Sonos software enables users to search for conventional radio stations by country or genre and provides access to some 15,000 broadcast stations worldwide. Users can store favorites for easy recall from the Internet Radio menu.

The latest music additions join existing services including the subscription-based Rhapsody, Napster, and Sirius, and customers can download files from the usual suspects: iTunes, Wal-Mart, eMusic and Zune Marketplace. Of course, users can still access their non-DRM music files stored on a PC hard drive in any room with a Sonos controller.

Also new to software version 2.7 is support for Sonos via iPhone or iPod Touch. Sonos sells its own $399 handheld controller and offers PC control via its desktop software. The free iPhone control app gives users an additional way to control the Sonos system from any room.

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