Today Sonos announced the release of version 2.3 of their software, which adds support for Sirius Internet Radio. I was fortunate enough to participate in an early evaluation and NDA ends today; here are my thoughts on the latest software update. This is a win-win situation for both companies; the Sonos system becomes more attractive to Sirius customers and vice versa.
Review of the new Sirius Feature
First of all, I’d like to state that I’m not nor have I even been a subscriber to either XM or Sirius satellite radio. This is really my first long-term experience. I was never interested before because I didn’t want to install anything in my vehicles and I didn’t want to buy a single room home receiver and run the antenna to a nearby window. The Sonos software upgrade solves that last dilemma; there is no satellite radio antenna to mess with because all content is streamed over your broadband connection. This is similar to the Sirius streaming Internet radio feature available on a PC, but this it gives the simple multi-room listening experience for which Sonos is known.
I’ve listened to satellite radio in rental cars a few times and found the quality to be much better than FM radio. If I listened closely to music, I thought that I may be able to head some compression artifacts and definitely had problem with reception near underpasses. In my casual listening environment (a.k.a. my kitchen and living room — not my home theater), I noticed neither of these problems. The music sounded great and the connection was flawless.
It’s necessary to mention the Sirius content as a part of the review. If you’re familiar with Sirius, you’re probably know as much about the content as I do. To me, but big advantage is the talk channels (interviews, news, comedy, Howard Stern, etc.) In 2 hours, I found more interesting news, comedy, and interview content than I had in the past 2 years of using my Sonos. The music was the typical genres you’d expect. To be honest, I enjoy my Pandora stations more than anything I found on Sirius.
If you’re a Sirius subscriber or if you looking to add a bunch of great talk content to your home, the Sirius upgrade for Sonos can’t be beat. It’s by far the best way to add satellite radio to your home. The downside is the subscription cost. I’m not sure it’s worth the $12.95/month, but I have a few more weeks of my trial subscription to decide. For existing Sirius customers who already own a Sonos or are thinking about adding Sirius to their home, the Sonos/Sirius combination is as good as it gets. But if you’re focus is specific songs you can hear whenever you want, the Real Rhapsody subscription is probably a better fit. And and if you just want radio stations enjoy, Pandora is less expensive and customizes better to your individual tastes. The great news is that Sonos gives you all three options; pick which ever is best for you or you can just listen to your music collection and Internet radio and forgo the subscriptions costs all together — the choice is up to you.
Final Thoughts – Why I’m a Sonos Fan
To me, the most impressive aspect of Sonos is not the simplicity of setup, not the breadth of features, and the exceptional hardware and software design, but rather the fact that they try to implement features requested by customers. Case in point, Sirius Streaming Satellite Radio support was requested by a user in the Sonos forum some time ago. It’s taken a little while, but Sonos made the request reality. Each software update seems to add support for customer-requested features. Off the top of my head I can name multiple features that started off as customer requests: support for FLAC, WMA, WMA DRM formats, support for the Real Rhaposdy and Pandora music services, and an Alarm Clock feature (click here for software revision history.) Customers ask for it and Sonos delivers. How great is their feature support? My Sonos music system is the only major electronic device I own where I have performed zero modifications. No third party software, no hacks, no work-arounds, nothing. It’s that well designed.