Geeks and Sonos, The Windows v. Mac Problem All Over Again

It’s interesting how misunderstood Sonos is by us geeks. I say “us” because I was firmly in this “Sonos doesn’t make sense to me” camp right up until the day I wasn’t. Kind of like how some computer geeks used to be (and some still are) about the Mac. “It’s too easy.” “It looks cheap but costs too much.” “It doesn’t have a zillion settings that make me feel comfortable knowing I’m getting full geek value out of it.”

It seems we geeks truly have trouble grokking just how easy and profound Sonos is. I did. Again, like the Windows/Mac thing I think it’s because we geeks become very comfortable rolling our own solutions. We take pride in them. Lots of moving parts, any one of which can malfunction, but that’s OK: we assembled it ourselves and we know how to make it all work. Heck, I take enjoyment out of every aspect of that: creating it, using it, and troubleshooting it. It’s truly a hobby for me.

And if it’s just us geeks, then that’s perhaps OK. I had one of those solutions so that I could bounce my music to any room (ok, well, 2 rooms) in the house. And when I wanted it to work, by golly it worked. But no one else in the house wanted to use it. They could … they’re all really smart and fairly technically savvy. But they didn’t want to.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to, either. Especially as I began rolling that solution to even more rooms. It always seemed to require a computer to be on to make it work right. And the right software running. And always something to tweak.

Right about that time one of our Mac Geek Gab listeners bugged me again about Sonos. So I went down and met with them and … the rest is history. I’m a full-on Sonos kool-aid drinker now, and not only am I happier for it, but my family is happier. We finally listen to music again. Sonos makes it easy to make music social. The playlist is stored ON the Sonos system… not only does that mean it can easily be bounced to any room with the tap of a button on any device (iOS, Android, Mac, Windows) in our house, but it also means that ANY of those devices can add to or modify the playlist as it’s playing.

Because of Sonos, listening to music has again become that thing that a family — our family — can do together. For me that hasn’t existed since the invention of the iPod.

I’ll leave you all with one last thing that impressed me about Sonos when I first met with them several years ago. One of their VPs said to me, “listen… you’re a geek… both a music geek and a computer geek. We understand that you grok how this stuff works. And we love that. But we don’t want your feature requests. However… if your family has any feature requests, please pass them along to me immediately.”

Seemed like a very Apple way to handle things. 😉 I’m still amazed no one else is out there truly competing with them.

 (thanks to my friend, Kirk McElhearn, for inspiring this post, which I originally posted as a comment on his, “Sonos: I Just Don’t Get It” blog post)

3 Responses to “Geeks and Sonos, The Windows v. Mac Problem All Over Again”

  1. Vic Says:

    Oh Dave, come on! I am still resisting. Not only am I proud of my Sonos-like-Airport Express based network, it’s a kind of hobby like you say. Some build network with miniature trains running, I spend countless hours fighting drop outs. I can’t see myself giving up on my adored speakers – for a vulgar Sonos box. Oh wait … No more drop outs … I’m sold. I’m ordering a box. Just one, just to see. Keep you posted. Vic

  2. @scoates Says:

    Yes, very Apple-like in many respects. Audio quality is never going to satisfy the very high-end audiophiles, but is plenty good enough for most of us. The prices are high-end but just affordable (for me as a one-Sonos-per-room-per-year kind of buyer). Aspirational – I can dream about having a Playbar, Sub & rears for my TV, but probably won’t be able to afford that for years. Design – nice to look at and to touch. It just works – highly reliable, but there will always be a few people who, through unfortunate environmental conditions or plain incompetence, can’t get it to work reliably.
    Also, just to respond to the other comment here, Sonos integrates nicely with Airplay – just plug an Airport Express into a Play:5, and you can stream your Airplay content to any Sonos device. You do tend to notice the horrible two second delay you get with Airplay buffering compared to the instant-start Sonos.
    One last tip, I use rsync to clone my itunes music library to a NAS drive – this allows me to manage my music in iTunes and have it visible to Sonos, even when the Mac is switched off; though I do have to wait overnight for the changes to propagate through the nightly rsync and Sonos library update.

  3. Vic Says:

    Right after this comment I flipped out and kinda changed my mind. And until then did not make the move. Until yesterday when I got the all new streaming setup delivered from … Apple!
    Wow MacMini works like a champ streaming through Time Capsule to the Airport Expresses and the Apple TV around the house. Geee, I love networking!
    Adios, Sonos!

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