Sonos on Mac OSX and Android

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play 3 in the corner

Two weeks ago we splurged and bought a sound system for our kitchen by Sonos. We were craving being able to listen to music in the kitchen without having to crank it up in the living room, especially when R is taking a nap. The setup we have now is a Play 3, plus the Bridge and Connect, which is hooked up to our Mac (“Sgathaich”) for line-in and Yamaha receiver for line-out.

First thoughts: fantastic sound and aesthetics, though really the salesman had us sold when he said “no wires.” Also the Play 3 sounds great for being so little. He tried to sell us a Play 5, which actually has its own small bass driver, but the Play 3 is more than sufficient for our 100 squared-feet kitchen. And, having the controller on our phones is quite neat. And and, now that we have invested in the Bridge and Connect backbone, we can have an infinite number of up to 22 zones, each of which can play its own tunes or get rolled into the perfect synchrony of Par-tay Mode.

Second looks: holy CRAP is the player clunky. I get that it does some pretty magical things in the back end to make Party Mode a reality, amongst other things. I get that. But things like… it takes five (5! 5!!!) clicks to start playing my favourite radio station, which I guess is slightly better than the six clicks it takes to just browse to it in the all-station list (whee). Also I REALLY wish I can turn off the UI effects. The slick blue and black UI with pretty fadey transitions were fun for the first 100 times. Now I just want it to BITCH GET WITH IT PLEASE. But those are just minor complaints compared to these two huge dissatisfactions.

Music Library Tomfoolery

The controller had immense problems importing our music library. We don’t have that much — at just over 150Gb, I’d say we’re amateurs. First, I had to make my ~/Music and all its subdirectories writeable, which was a bit goofy on a Mac. I couldn’t just chmod -R a+rw ~/Music, I had to do it through the clunky UI (“Get Info” on folder, click on tiny padlock icon and punch in admin password, then click on the tiny gears icon menu (I thought gears meant “options”, not “additional functions on underlying filesystem”) and select “Apply to enclosed items”).

And then, I had to add music in batches. I had to move all the music out, add the empty Music directory in Sonos, move ~8 subdirectories back at a time, updating the Sonos Music Index in between moves.

And why does it need write permissions to my music? Universal read access I get, because I can see it doing some voodoo magic turning, essentially, my harddrive into a music server. But write access? I can’t even edit any of the tags within the Sonos controller. I have to do it through other apps, which for us is unfortunately iTunes. (There’s supposed to be a Sonos user somewhere that I can grant access to without resorting to a+rw, but I can’t find it on my passwd list. Shrug.)

Not enough bandwidth, somehow

Playing tunes that are ripped at slightly higher bitrates (>192) often fail, let alone lossless formats. Sometimes web radio fails. more often than not, youtube audio fails. We can usually get it working with one zone, but we got this so that we could have a par-tay, so this kind of sucks. Sometimes grouping the zones in different steps while talking softly and offering ice cream will get it working too. It’s finicky and we’re not really sure why. I’m playing with the wireless channel it talks on and seeing if it makes a difference, but the default was supposed to work.

Definitely makes me wary the next time the salesman says “it’s so easy, you don’t have to be a computer person to do it.”

2 comments

  1. Nicolb

    Interesting. I’ve been thinking of trading-up to something I can control with my phone (in other words, being super lazy & not losing remotes all over the place).

    On the other hand, I hate it when people say “it’s so easy, you don’t have to be a computer person to do it.” Such a ridiculous claim.

  2. Lo

    If you just need one zone, you can just use a play3 or play5 with the bridge. You can always get the “connect”/connect+amp later when you want to expand!