CES 2011: Sonos Wants to Give You Access to All the World’s Music

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You make high-end, expensive audio components for household use and the world falls apart financially–what do you do? If you are a company like Sonos the answer is clear–you stay true to your mission and continue to make the best possible devices for in home music streaming.

Clearly this approach worked. In the last year the company’s business doubled. Yes, the world is still in financial turmoil the company with relatively high-priced audio components was able to double their business. Clearly people like what they’re offering.

I have long been an admirer of Sonos audio components. The high-end audio company has, for the past six years, built a loyal following of individuals who want the ability to stream music throughout their homes. And while there is an increasing variety of choice in this regard as more and more companies offer the ability to stream music, Sonos continues to build its market share.

I’ve been eager to meet with the company and was glad to finally have a chance to sit down with them in their suite at CES. I quickly learned the mission since it was founded six years ago remains the same– their goal is to fill homes with music in a seamless manner that sounds great.


That’s exactly what they’ve done. Initial offerings from the company were small square boxes that either had built-in amplifiers or simply connected to pre-existing amplifiers. The initial connection needs to be made directly to a wireless router but after that the company’s technology takes over and creates its own wireless system within the house. That, however, means that if the first speaker system isn’t in the same location as the router the interested customer needs to also buy a $100 bridge to get the system up and running.


As they put it, “That’s the tax that some have to pay to use our system”. Apparently very few mind this tax since, a shockingly large percentage of individuals who purchase something from the company, make a second purchase a short time later. Translation–people who start using the company’s audio system love it.


Not long ago the company launched their S5 all in one speaker. This had high-quality speakers combined with streaming technology. This allows you to place the speaker in any room and, so long as another device or a bridge is connected to your router you get high quality music anywhere you want. The new speaker has been a hit and business has exploded.


One of the things that made the system more accessible to people now than it was just a few years ago was, surprisingly, the release of the iPhone. Sonos sells a music controller that can allow you full access to your entire music collection as well as a wide array of streaming media from any room in the house. That controller has a price of $399. That’s not insignificant by any stretch of the imagination.


Almost the same functionality is now available through the company’s iPhone and iPad apps. The price of the app? Free. In other words, people wanting to make the move into using the company’s music system in their home suddenly had the opportunity to save $400. Now, bearing in mind that the iPhone app is a bit slower than a dedicated controller there are people who begin using the iPhone app and then purchase one of the controllers but… you don’t have to.

And if I wasn’t impressed enough with the company’s offerings, the fact that the group highlighted on their stock iPad app images is Kaiser Chiefs. Good tunes and good taste… 🙂


Finally the company recently made a big move and introduced a version of the S5 in black. This might sound like a small thing but for a company that had only made components in one color the addition of a new color is no small change. As for which color of the S5 is selling better- white or black- it turns out… It is about even.

Sonos’ goal is “to give everyone access to all the music on the planet”. From what I saw at CES they are well on the way… And doing it with style.

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.