October 27, 2020

My Sonos Connect is Technically Not a Brick

5 min read
It’s Sunday afternoon, 4 p.m., and I’m exhausted. I haven’t been to the gym, haven’t...

It’s Sunday afternoon, 4 p.m., and I’m exhausted. I haven’t been to the gym, haven’t gone for a hike, haven’t even left my building. I’ve spent the past 4½ hours adding a component to my Sonos system.

I already resented having to do it in the first place. Sonos customers were informed in January that their older gear was going the way of the iPod. “Your system requires attention” messages were sent to customers Tuesday, alerting us to an end-of-software-update status for products bought from 2006-2009.

That set off a firestorm among loyal customers like me who bought Sonos gear thinking if the products ever had to be junked, it would be our idea, not theirs. The point of a Sonos system is that it’s multiroom, and you buy several speakers because they work together to play music throughout the home. You don’t expect to have to cart them off to recycling like last year’s PC because of insufficient memory or processing power, but that’s just what Sonos CEO Patrick Spence alerted customers to in a January blog post.

Sonos Connect

After loyalists publicly raged over phaseout of legacy products, Spence apologized to us, sort of. He assured customers of a path forward for legacy products, such as the Connect and Bridge products I own. When Sonos ends new software updates for legacy products, he said in January, “they will continue to work just as they do today.” Sonos wasn’t “bricking them” or forcing them into obsolescence, he said, “and we are not taking anything away.”

That wasn’t entirely true. When I tried playing music in my two zones after the transition, my legacy and nonlegacy gear no longer worked together. I saw the writing on the wall and seriously considered whether I wanted to continue down the Sonos path if products have a limited shelf life. Still, I like how the Sonos system works.

I’ve been a Sonos customer since the first system came out in 2005. I had been waiting for something like it for years: an affordable — though not inexpensive — multiroom audio system that didn’t require threading cable from room to room for whole-house music. I could play tunes all over, one person could play jazz in one room and someone else show tunes in another, and we could turn off music from across the house when it was time for bed. It was modular, too, so I bought in.

My first Sonos disappointment came in 2018 when the company said it was no longer supporting the elegant CR-100 remote with its LCD color interface, a touch wheel like that on the iPod and simple buttons for choosing what music would play in which rooms and at what volume. It’s true that the iPhone and apps came along, rendering such a device unnecessary, but I, and a lot of other Sonos customers, were upset at the sunsetting of an excellent, dedicated controller. “Losing our two CR100s will be the most devastating thing to happen to our household,” said one despondent user on a community forum post called Save the CR100. I’m sure he was speaking for many.

So, here I am again, two years later, saying goodbye to more obsolete Sonos gear. Because my Connect and Bridge weren’t compatible with the latest software, I could no longer play the same music in the living room and the bedroom, where I have a Sonos One speaker that hasn’t yet been put out to pasture.

I was pleasantly surprised when I perused the Sonos website to find the Port, a product that would bring Sonos multiroom audio capability and streaming stations to my integrated amplifier. That solved a problem I had at Easter when I couldn’t play the specific version of Jesus Christ Superstar I wanted on my living room stereo system because I had no way to get it from my iPhone to the amplifier: My legacy Connect, precursor to the Port, didn’t support AirPlay 2 — but the Port does.

That made the upgrade from the Connect to the Port appealing, and Sonos’ offer of a 30% discount on the trade-up to the pricey $449 Port went a long way toward smoothing sour feelings. The Port connects to a coaxial input on my amp and allows me to stream music from Spotify and other services to my stereo system. Since the latest Sonos S2 app — which started the whole brouhaha — supports hi-res audio, I’ll appreciate that with services like Qobuz, too.

But getting there had all the headaches of home networking hell. I had to reset my Sonos password. Then Sonos sent what it apparently thought was note of encouragement: “If you’re seeing this message, it means that the Sonos app is having trouble connecting to your Sonos products.” Thanks, Captain Obvi.

I got stuck in the Sonos app and had to reboot the iPhone I was using for setup. I learned iOS 14 introduces a new app permission that needs to be enabled for the Sonos app to connect to the system. I’m on version 13.7; it gives me something to look forward to.

Sonos does a decent job of guiding you through system setup, but it seems my situation never fits the issues spelled out in the Help section. It didn’t for instance, have an answer to “what to do when you remove the Connect and Bridge from your system.” Like London Bridge, it all came falling down when I removed my legacy gear from the old proprietary Sonos mesh network that sat atop my Wi-Fi network. Today’s Sonos speakers just operate over Wi-Fi.

I finally figured out I had to pretend like I was setting up a new Sonos system. Initial setup requires a hard-wired connection to the router. That meant crawling around behind the nightstand, yanking out the power cord, finding another outlet near the router, then plugging the speaker into the router for setup. Then retracing my steps — after dusting.

I learned then that Alexa doesn’t like change. She didn’t work after the network reset. I had to go back into software and set her up again. Still no Alexa. A Google search steered me to the microphone icon on top of the Sonos One. Easy enough. When I asked Alexa to play Miles Davis, she pulled a switcheroo. During re-setup, I selected Spotify as my default music service, but Alexa grabbed “Kind of Blue” from Amazon Music instead … and advertised it. Sneaky.

The Port is now connected and my system is working, but the software is a work in progress. I’m still getting a message on the app telling me to switch to Sonos S2 with three choices: “Open Sonos S2 app”, “More options” and “Learn more.” That sounds like a fun way to spend next Sunday afternoon.

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