Sonos is set to get cheaper for first-time buyers with a new update that lets the system connect to your existing Wi-Fi network, rather than having to use a Bridge. With the old system, Sonos created a proprietary mesh network, interfacing with your home network via the Bridge or a single player connected via an Ethernet cable. With the new system, which has just come out of extensive beta testing, Sonos can just hook into your existing Wi-Fi network.
In fact, the new method uses a combination of standard Wi-Fi and the Sonos network. So, play a song on one player and it will use a Wi-Fi connection to stream the song; add in a second player and the Sonos mesh network is used to synchronise the audio.
The aim of the new system wasn't just to enable Wi-Fi, but to ensure that the entire system was as rock-solid and as reliable as before.
The company has also made it easy to configure Wi-Fi setup. Nick Millington, head of product development at Sonos says that setup is all through the apps and all you have to do is 'push a button on the player and enter a password for your home wireless network, there's no need to switch to a browser or PC'.
While using Wi-Fi will make the system easier and cheaper for first-time buyers, there are some limitations to it. First, it only supports 2.4GHz networks. Although some of the players support 5GHz networking, this is reserved for low-latency use as part of a home cinema system.
Next, every player has to be within range of your Wi-Fi network. This shouldn't be a problem in most houses, but if it is, you'll either need to extend your home network or use a Sonos Bridge. Finally, if you use a Playbar in 3.1 or 5.1 home cinema system, with a SUB and Play:1, Play:3 or Play:5 players, you still need the wired connection.
Fortunately, switching between modes is simple. As soon as you introduce a Bridge to your Wi-Fi Sonos system (or use an Ethernet cable to connect a player to your home network), the system switches to the full Sonos mode; remove the Bridge or unplug the cable and the system switches back to Wi-Fi mode.
Existing users with a Bridge or wired player shouldn't switch to the Wi-Fi mode, as they already have the optimum setup. For people struggling to get the coverage they need from the Bridge, Sonos is also introducing the Sonos Boost, which provides 'enterprise-grade wireless'. This is due to come out in the next few months, although most homes will not need it.