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New Sonos Speaker, Voice Activation, Third Party Integration But No 24-Bit Audio

Desperate to hold onto market share in the networked sound market Sonos has revealed a new “platform-agnostic” speaker that will be compatible with Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri, they have also opened the Sonos platform to external developers, missing at their New York launch overnight was any was any announcement of a move to being able to deliver 24-bit audio.

The US sound Company who took a pot shot at other sound Companies has also revealed a “works with Sonos” certification program for third party developers to integrate their hardware or software with the Sonos platform. What the Company is hoping for is that installers of home entertainment systems will integrate Sonos over the likes of the 24-bit Bluesound or the high res audio Heos system from Denon which installers are starting to move to.

Not helping Sonos was a move to sell direct with several installers who own retail shops choosing to recommend other systems over Sonos because of the direct sell move.

Sonos has Olutron, Wink, TunesMap, Wrensilva, Alarm.com, Crestron, and iPort all signed up several of these Companies do not operate in Australia.

While Sonos has supported several music services within its own controller apps, the company started integrating Spotify Connect late last year. It allows Spotify apps to connect directly to Sonos, and bypass the Sonos app altogether. Sonos is also expanding this integration to Pandora, Tidal, iHeart Radio, and Audible.

Sonos who in the past have ignored the Android platform, is adding AirPlay 2 support for Apple’s devices next year, allowing you to stream your content from an iPhone or iPad directly to Sonos speakers without any additional apps.

Priced at $299, the new Sonos One speaker will feature Alexa voice control for Spotify on the Sonos One “soon,” the company said, while pause, skip, volume up and down, and asking what’s playing will be available for all other music services supported by Sonos.

At IFA Harman showed three new 24-bit speakers all voice enabled.

ZD Net said that for Sonos, which began as an insular system that didn’t even use standard Wi-Fi protocols, the moves collectively represent an opening up necessitated not only by the market but by technical need. While Apple, for example, has imbued Siri with a broad knowledge of TV and movie knowledge for calling up different kinds of entertainment on Apple TV, Sonos hasn’t pursued its own natural intelligence. If you were to send Sonos a musical query that demanded some metadata finesse such as, “Play me some music from artists influenced by Ella Fitzgerald,” it would have to rely on the smarts of one of the services it supports. These are poised to increase beyond the 80 currently on the menu as the company will launch a platform that allows any service to get onto Sonos; the company will also launch a certification badge.

In addition to retrofitting its older speakers for the era of voice agents via a software update, Sonos has introduced Sonos One, its first speaker developed explicitly for this era. It is virtually a clone of the company’s current Play:1 speaker and will sell for the same price of $199. While the company intends to extend the One’s integrated microphone to its other speakers, the older Play:1 will remain in the portfolio for at least the next few months.

Google Assistant compatibility will come in 2018, enabling access to the virtual assistant’s own features and smart-home control.

 

“We live in a golden age of streaming entertainment,” said Sonos CEO Patrick Spence in a statement. “But so much of this great content is being pushed through smart speakers that aren’t designed with sound quality in mind.  With our open approach to collaboration, agnostic approach to voice services, the strength of our many innovative partners, and a sound platform designed for the whole home, we’re helping people listen more and listen better.”

The Sonos One can be used stand-alone or paired together for stereo sound. It can also be used with Sonos’ other speakers for multi-room sound. Hardware features include two Class D digital amplifiers, one tweeter, one mid-woofer, a six-mic array, voice-capture technology with echo cancelation, and adaptive noise suppression for clear speaker identification.

It will be offered in white or black matte finishes.

The company also announced that existing Sonos owners are now able to control their systems using Alexa via a free software update made available today.

An Alexa-enabled device like an Echo or Dot is required, as is the Sonos skill.

By the end of this year, users will be able to control Sonos speakers directly from more third-party music apps, including Pandora and Tidal. (Presently, Spotify is the only one with this feature.) Direct control from the Audible, iHeartRadio, and Kuke Music apps will come in early 2018.

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