Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sonos upgrade is shockingly good

Sonos pushed out version 2.7 of its controller software last night, and I had a few minutes to play around with it before heading into work this morning. It’s awe-inspiringly good.

What is Sonos? I wrote about my purchase of the Sonos last summer, here’s my summary:

For those that don’t know what it is, the Sonos is a multi-room music system. They are tiny-ish boxes that are either powered (so that you can plug speakers directly into them) or unpowered (so you plug them into a stereo), and they communicate with each other and the wireless controller via ethernet and/or wifi. In addition to sharing your entire MP3 collection throughout the house, Sonos integrates with Rhapsody and Pandora, in addition to a slew of Internet radio stations (browsable by region as well as by genre). In short, more music than you could ever listen to is available at the touch of a button. The sound quality is spectacular, and the setup was surprisingly easy. (Like Fred, I highly recommend the Sonos/Rhapsody combo: the ability to access a library of 3m songs instantaneously and send it to any room in your house is breathtaking the first time you do it.)

We’ve now enjoyed our Sonos for almost 18 months, and it now sits right alongside our TiVo as the family’s most loved pieces of technology. Here’s what’s new in this upgrade:

  • iPhone/iTouch controller: the additional remotes for the Sonos are pricey ($399 if memory serves); now an iPhone app gives you a free additional remote to control the Sonos from anywhere in the house. That’s pretty astounding – Sonos just made their system more usable and cannibalized one of their (presumably high-margin) accessories. Talk about being customer-focused!

  • Radio directory: The Sonos directory of radio stations worldwide was already pretty great… our favorite radio station, hands down, is MVY Radio out of Martha’s Vineyard. (Friends will recognize the blue lobster, which is one of my laptop stickers.) But the enhanced support for streaming radio stations is incredible: tell it your location and they instantly aggregate all available stations. Prefer those stations from the town where you grew up? Change your location, and there they are. More than 15,000 radio stations are indexed and easily searchable. Unlike over-the-air brodcast radio which often has pops, static or interference, radio streams are crystal-clear. (My only complaint with most commercial radio streamed online: the annoying rights issues with commercial actors whose unions didn’t grant streaming broadcast rights, resulting in pockets of dead air or muzak playing while the commercial airs but cannot stream.)

  • Pandora, Last.fm are both free: looking for new music? Get started with either last.fm or Pandora (or log into your existing accounts) and you’re on your way.

  • Rhapsody: Streams are upgraded from 128k WMA to 192k MP3. We continue to subscribe to Rhapsody for on-demand access to millions of songs, though I have a feeling we’ll be playing with last.fm more now that it’s integrated.

Sonos upgraded its hardware a few months ago, and while still priced right under $1000, for anyone who listens to hours of audio at home I think you’ll find this a gadget that will thoroughly enhance your audio experience.

One final note re: Sonos. I’ve had a few interactions with their team by e-mail, and I’m really impressed at how dedicated they are to not only improving the product, but at how committed they are to ensuring customers genuinely love the product. Dave is right – Sonos (the company and the product) is universally loved – and for good reason.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Greatness and pettiness

Been thinking about this speech a lot in the last couple days. Jeff Bridges from The Contender:

Yes, I’m a sap. And a hopeless optimist. But I’d like to think that as a country we can avoid falling into the abyss of demonization and hate, and instead find greatness in our leaders.