Audio = ground zero
First instalment - Sonos.
Unfamiliar with Sonos yet you enjoy listening to music?
Shame on you.
They make speakers.
They also make smart speakers.
You know, “smart” as in sussing out the nature of your room to optimise the sonic emissions as well as supporting voice assistance, i.e. Amazon’s grand ole dame “Alexa” or alternatively iOS’ Siri for you Apple-philes.
Roaming around the globe a lot, I have had a large variety of sound systems over the last twelve years to suit my needs on the go.
Basic ones, knock-offs, mobile ones, stationary ones, cheap ones, upmarket ones.
It took me a while until I was introduced to Sonos, whose products definitely qualify as the latter.
I started off with the Sonos One and boy, was it a notch up in the speaker game. I somehow always questioned if getting upmarket speakers was worth it or really needed, but when you listen to your favourite tunes and you realize the depth of the production and nuances that so far have eluded you on regular speakers and earbuds, it can be quite an epiphany and mind-blowing experience.
It’s an experience that one gets used to far too easily, to the extent where you feel that something is severely lacking when you listen to music on other devices.
Both – the “upright” Sonos One and its horizontal equivalent for the TV, the Sonos Beam, are compact devices that seamlessly integrate into your living arrangements and with their simple design, “unboxy” approach, clear lines and rounded edges, do not stand out in the same way other soundsystems usually do. So far, so good for the aesthetics.
Touch-sensitive keys cater to basic functionality (think on/off, skipping tracks, muting the microphone, etc.), which is more than sufficient, given that the rest of the functionality is calibrated automatically upon set-up as both devices are enabled with a feature that literally sounds out and analyses your room’s characteristics to optimise sound specifically for your digs and environment.
A niggle I have is the fact that Sonos for some reason does not do Bluetooth, a feature I would appreciate to play back my own recordings and tunes from my own musical library, but exclusively works in tandem with network-based streaming services.
However, being borderline platform-agnostic and covering a range of more than 60 streaming services, wide territory is covered and it is unlikely that you will need to change your current arrangements.
Familiar with voice assistants?
I have to admit that it takes a bit of time to get used to them, at least it did for me, especially if you ask your lil’ helper to play songs and bands from non-English countries.
Once settled in, it is a neat feature that enables you to not only control your TV with the Sonos Beam but to also get all your vital info, get music going on the way from the bedroom to the bathroom via a few voice commands – commands that the carefully calibrated system can register even while you are blasting Slayer on 11.
Probably not, but a damn nice feature to have and the Sonos app on your phone helps to bring all your Sonos products together, that is if you have a network of Sonos products, and harness their power and feature with the touch of a button, no matter if you have speakers set up across different rooms or in your living room.
As far as sound quality is concerned, I have yet to experience products superior to the Beam and Sonos One as one is able to tell that it caters to what is being played, enhances it, and makes it, well, sound better.
No matter if you listen to grindcore, deep ass beats, have David Attenborough give a narrative to one of his documentaries or enjoy listening to the explosions of the latest blockbuster – it always sounds greatly defined, well balanced, dramatically better than on speakers I have previously used and manages to add another dimension to the sound with its agile, accurate dispersion features.
Summa summarum: An immersive sound experience that is worth the investment as once you have experienced it, it is hard to go back and “unhear” what you have been exposed to.