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Sonos Adds Alexa, But Remains Stuck In The Past On Sound Quality

Sonos plans to future-proof its speaker range with Alexa integration later this year, but the company has decided that most consumers are satisfied with decades-old CD-quality audio.

Speaking to Twice, Sonos GM and MD for Americas-Pacific Brad Duea claimed that existing CD-quality streaming supported by Tidal and Deezer “is what most consumers are interested in” despite a wide range of products that currently support high-res 24-bit audio.

Manufacturers including Samsung, Denon, LG, Bluesound, HTC and Sony have embraced 24-bit in everything from soundbars to smartphones. Samsung even announced a 32-bit wireless speaker at this year’s CES.

Meanwhile, Sonos believes that acceptable sound quality was set by the compact disc format that was first commercially released almost 35 years ago.

According to Sony, 24-bit high-res audio offers a bitrate nearly seven times that of CDs, and nearly 29 times higher than the bitrate of typical MP3 files and streaming services like Spotify Premium and Google Play Music.

Rather than providing consumers with some of the highest quality sound available by improving its standards to 24-bit, Sonos will instead focus on marketing to people who currently listen to music using Bluetooth.

“Bluetooth is not a good listening experience” Duea told Twice, adding that Wi-Fi powered devices like smart speakers and multi-room speaker systems offer “the greatest growth opportunity compared with Bluetooth.”

As part of this view, Sonos will release a firmware upgrade later this year that will allow Amazon’s range of smart speakers to stream subscription music services over Wi-Fi to Sonos speakers.

Sonos is also planning to launch its own speakers with Alexa built-in, but no further details have been announced. The company said it is currently working on compatibility with Google Home, Siri and Cortana.

However, offering the latest smart speaker technology alongside outdated sound quality leaves the market wide open for a manufacturer like Denon that is willing to offer the best of both worlds.

All of Denon’s HEOS devices will feature support for Alexa voice control by the end of March.

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