September 02, 2010

Review: Spotify, Sonos Partner for Wireless Music Nirvana

With Spotify making seemingly infinite music available on every device on demand, as well as sharing my friend's playlists, through Facebook-connected social profiles, it's a rare time that I even open my old standby music library, iTunes, except when I need to plug in my iPad and sync up. I take Spotify with me in the car when I play music via Android on my HTC Evo. I have Spotify on my laptop, and yes, on the iPad. Until a few weeks ago, just about the only missing place I couldn't get Spotify was through the three Sonos S5 systems I have in my home. That the two services would eventually come together was a near certainty, as one has the most promising on demand music library in the world, and the other has the best setup for playing music sourced from the Web.

Three Sonos S5 Players, Linked, Featuring Spotify
(Screenshots from iPhone app on iPad)

A few weeks ago, before today's more official announcement, I got access to new firmware that updated all my Sonos S5 systems, bringing Spotify support, complete with playlist integration, and search. This combination means, if I want, I can group together these systems, from the family room to the living room, and my upstairs office, have all of them playing the same music, and I can pull practically any music out of thin air.

Pulling ABBA from Spotify on Sonos

Search for a track on Spotify, or an artist or an album, and hit "Play Now" or "Add it to the Queue" and the music in the cloud becomes the music in your home - wherever you have speakers, be they small, on your phone or computer, or larger, now embedded in Sonos.

Searching Depeche Mode on Spotify Via Sonos

Demoing Spotify and Sonos connectivity wirelessly on the iPad is almost like magic - with a futuristic feel whereby I can, with a few taps, summon any song from any era and have it filling my house with music. A swipe to the right, and my entire home rises in volume, all players at once, turning an otherwise domestic venue into an understated dance club, with the sound echoing from room to room.

Playing Spotify Playlists and Searching Underworld On Sonos

After the quick firmware update to my Sonos machines, all linked together by a Sonos SoundBridge attached to my wireless network, Spotify was added as a service to each device, adding on to previous support for Internet radio, terrestrial radio, localized stations, satellite radio through Sirius XM and also I didn't have to update every single application, but every Sonos app, from the iPad to my desktop, could see Spotify supported.

As existing Sonos owners know, one of the more futuristic bits about owning one of the company's S5 players is the complete lack of physical media. The devices feature simple up/down volume buttons and a mute button atop the unit, looking more like a speaker than central music hub. There's no spot for CDs, no radio dial, no vestigal digital clock, and clearly no cassette deck. Just pure music and attention to serious aural detail. Bringing Spotify to this physical media free wonderland just makes sense.

Searching for New Tracks on Spotify And Adding to My Queue

For those, like me, who own multiple Sonos devices, you can also set different players to feature different songs at the same time, should that strike your fancy. You can play rock and roll upstairs and lounge music downstairs. Similarly, you can tap into Spotify to point that music library toward different devices. One source, but two musical streams at the same time.

Spotify only acknowledged the partnership with Sonos a few hours ago, and for most people in the US, waiting for Spotify to launch officially in this country is still a dream, but for those of us who have gotten early access, thanks to generosity from the company's head of special projects, Shakil Khan, whom I interviewed at LeWeb 2009, we're already living the digital dream. It works, and the combination of the two offerings is amazing. It's no wonder I'm not buying music from iTunes at all.

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