Len Klie

Sonos Supports All Major Voice Apps, And So Do I.

Sonos today previewed the Sonos One, a voice-controlled smart speaker that supports multiple voice services in addition to playing music, podcasts, audiobooks, and other content from more than 80 streaming services.

The first of the voice services to be supported is Amazon’s Alexa. Sonos users in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany can ask Alexa to control Sonos One out of the box, with full voice support for Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, and TuneIn.  With Sonos One, owners can use voice to control their entire Sonos home sound systems thanks to a free software update the company made available today.  All that’s needed is any Alexa-enabled device like an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot and the Sonos skill for Alexa. Play a song, skip forward and back through playlists, target one room or an existing group of rooms, and adjust volume – all using your voice. Sonos owners will be able to access all of the innovative natural language voice controls of Alexa and only available on Amazon Music.  Amazon Music customers can ask for music based on decade, genre, tempo, mood, or even lyrics if they can’t remember the name of a song.

In addition to support for music, Sonos One will allow owners to enjoy all the other great things people love about Alexa – they can hear the weather, set timers, listen to news and traffic reports, and even hear the latest sports scores.  And Sonos One with Amazon Alexa is always getting smarter through cloud updates.

Alexa voice control for Spotify on Sonos One will be coming soon. Voice transport controls like pause, skip, volume up and down, and even asking what’s playing will be available for all other music services Sonos supports.

And in 2018, Sonos will roll-out support for both Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Assistant. The AirPlay 2 integration will allow users to play any audio, including YouTube videos and Netflix movies, stored on their iOS devices, on Sonos speakers throughout the house.  Owners will also be able to ask any Siri-enabled device to control music on Sonos speakers.

With the Google Assistant and Sonos, customers will not have access to the personal assistant  to help them listen to music, ask questions, keep track of the latest news, dim the lights, or hear about what’s next on the to-do list.

“We live in a golden age of streaming entertainment,” said Sonos CEO Patrick Spence.  “But so much of this great content is being pushed through smart speakers that aren’t designed with sound quality in mind.  With our open approach to collaboration, agnostic approach to voice services, the strength of our many innovative partners, and a sound platform designed for the whole home, we’re helping people listen more and listen better.”

To aid in the speech processing, Sonos One Includes a six-microphone array and an adaptive noise suppression algorithm to focus on the right person and ensure the voice service understands everything clearly. Voice capture technology with echo cancelation allows the speaker to still hear the speaker over the music. The volume also intelligently lowers, or “ducks,” so users don’t have to shout over the music. The light on the speaker will be illuminated if the microphones are active.  The light is hardwired to the same circuit that powers the microphone array, so if the light is off, it means the microphone is off.

“There are many speakers out there that you can control with your voice, but most of them are just devices that make sounds, not systems designed for delivering great sound easily in any room of your home,” said Giles Martin, sound experience leader at Sonos, in a statement. “We essentially blended three separate ecosystems with the ability to start the music playing with voice, add songs to your playlist from the Sonos app, and play music in a different room from your Spotify app. It’s so simple to use but took quite a bit of work to create

“We’re excited to work with Sonos to bring the power of Alexa and far-field voice control to help customers find and enjoy incredible sounding music,” said Tom Taylor, senior vice president of Amazon Alexa, in a statement. “With the Sonos One, customers will be able to ask Alexa to help them with many things including playing their favorite albums, controlling smart home devices, getting the news, calling a ride, ordering dinner, and more, using just their voice. We can’t wait for customers to try this out!”

And I can’t wait to try it out, either.