COMMENT: Why Sonos Is Yesterdays Sound Technology
Is Sonos set to be another Nokia or Blackberry?, a brand who dominated a category and then died because their competition worked out how to deliver a better quality product.
If all you want is a 16bit sound system then Sonos is up there with the players competing in the mid level network sound market. But it is not 24bit and their technology does not deliver superior sound similar to what their competitors are deliving simply because the network behind Sonos was not designed to be futureproof.
Buying a Sonos sound system today is akin to buying a standard HD TV when you have the choice of a Full HD TV or even an Ultra High Definition TV, according to experts in the specialist audio channel, these were the retailers who helped Sonos get off the ground back in 2004 when John McFarlane used CES in 2005 to show what was then called The Digital Sound System, I was at that show and what John MacFarlane showed me back then was really the prototype for what is Sonos today, an aging sound system that is unable to keep pace with market trends.
McFarlane who gave one of his first press conferences in Australia in a bar in Kings Cross because marketing money was tight, expanded upon the prototype and product design, adding mesh networking with AES encryption to allow the speakers to play music simultaneously in multiple rooms.
Between 2011 and 2014, the company released numerous speakers and added more services.
Then the Company released that they had a problem, their early technology which could not be expanded to handle 24bit., so what did they do in 2015, they rebranded the look and feel of Sonos to tart up the brand.
In Australia they took over distribution and hired in House PR people who have resorted to threatening media Companies who don’t tow the Sonos party line.
Right now, the US sound brand is getting desperate, they have not only started direct selling, in an effort to avoid having to pay retailers an additional margin, they have also resorted to cutting a deal with cheap furniture maker IKEA in an effort to generate additional revenue as new players enter the market that deliver superior sound than the US sound Company.
The specialist audio channel who were the first to recognise the unique value that the Sonos networked audio system delivered are being dumped or in some cases they are dumping Sonos as they move on to the next generation sound system and Sonos moves to direct selling.
In some cases, the very retailers, who helped Sonos to get off the ground, are now being told by a new generation of Sonos management, who came on board when Sonos created a local subsidiary that supply is being stopped because “We are not selling enough volume” said one rejected retailer.
Some are still selling run out stock of Sonos components.
The problem for Sonos is their mesh network that will only deliver 16-bit audio Vs 24 and in some cases 32-bit audio output.
Even smartphone brands such as Apple, Samsung, HTC and Apple are now delivering superior sound than Sonos with all these brands now capable of outputting High Res (24-bit audio) to a pair of headphones or a connected system.
The problem in buying a Sonos system is that while it looks good the output must be converted to a digital format from the analogue wave forms it was recorded in.
Sonos and CD’s can only play 16-bit audio. When your Sonos player plays this content back, it will convert the digital file format back to an analogue signal which means that you have lost a lot of the original recording from the DAC (Digital to Analogue Convertor) of your Sonos player.
Devices from the likes of Yamaha, Bluesound & Denon Heos for example have 24 bit digital to analogue converters in them.
So, the analogue signal fed to your speakers will be much closer to the original analogue recording from the recording studio or concert.
Think of it as SD (Standard Definition) Vs HD (High Definition) TV.
As in once you have watched in HD, you will not go back to SD. It’s the same when you hear a track in 16-bit Vs 24 bit, you will notice sounds and clarity in 24 bit that you never heard in 16-bit audio.
Recently we published an exclusive story about Webber Shandwick being “dumped” in favour of a new PR Company. Within hours of the story appearing on ChannelNews Phillipa Thomas the inhouse PR manager was on the phone demanding that we pull the story down.
She admitted that there was “nothing wrong with the story”.
“We don’t like the headline, Webber Shandwick people are our friends” she bleated. It turned out the decision to dump Webber Shandwick had been taken out her hands because of a global PR realignment.
When we told her that the story was not coming down she resorted to personal threats about myself and my family.
When asked how desperate Sonos had become she then resorted to additional threats.
Recently there was speculation that Sonos is looking to float before the market totally tanks on them.
Digital Music News in the USA said ‘Charging full-sped ahead, Sonos has beefed up its retail presence. It opened stores in New York, Shangai, and London. Next week, the company will open a store in Berlin. Yet, as Variety notes, the competition (Apple, Amazon, Google) offer speakers “with superior sound.”
Current CEO Patrick Spence had previously spoken on the subject of preparing for an IPO. He told Variety,
“We are considering whether an IPO would be the next best thing. We are in a strong place, growing, profitable.”
Of course, Spence didn’t share internal or external sales figures to back up his overly-optimistic statement. He previously worked at Blackberry as its Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Global Sales & Regional Marketing. You can see how well that company has done.
Having been in this business for over 35 years the action of their locally PR executive is normally associated with a Company who are becoming desperate to protect an aging brand that is having one last fling, before new competitors such as Marshall, Denon, Heos and Bluesound along with brands such as Audio Pro start stripping share away with superior technology.
Recent shootouts have seen consumers pick products from both Apple and Google ahead off the new overpriced Sonos One.