One of the original names behind multi-room audio is changing the way its technology works, cutting out the mesh network hub if you don’t need it, and that’s good news for consumers.
If you’ve been itching to try multi-room audio, but have been thrown off by the requirement of buying a $75 mesh-network Bridge to start yourself off, well, you can now throw those fears away.
From this week, owners of the Sonos system won’t have to rely on a mesh network if they don’t want to, with the speakers now able to be connected straight to the router using WiFi or wired Ethernet.
According to Sonos, this update applies to all Sonos speakers, including the Play:1, which sits at the bottom end of the range and is the entry level for new customers keen for a dash of sound, but not exposure to the entire range, which includes a mid-level speaker (Play:3), high-end model (Play:5), the Playbar sound bar, and a subwoofer conveniently named the Sub.
Previously the Hub was required for the Play:1 and Play:3 speakers, and recommended if you had more than one speaker in the system and wanted to play music around your home.
But with this update, it’s not even required for that.
“Following our largest beta test to date over the last several months, we’ve studied the performance across all kinds of home environments around the world to ensure the new WiFi-enabled setup meets,” said a post on the Sonos blog.
Essentially, if you have solid WiFi coverage throughout your home, up to 32 speakers should be able to talk to each other without needing a cable, communicating instead with your router.
To make this more solid, you can, of course, plug some of the speakers into the router, which Sonos says will make a mesh network, or alternatively, you can plug them into your Bridge if you have one, which will continue to run a separate mesh network on top of your regular one.
And if you use your Sonos speakers with a Playbar to make a 3.1 or 5.1 system, you’ll still need to connect them either to the Bridge or via a wired router as that’s a little faster for communication than WiFi alone.
But if that’s not enough and you have a particularly large home with quite a few Sonos speakers where regular WiFi using the Bridge just isn’t cutting it, you may want to consider a new model of Bridge that’s coming up with enterprise level WiFi.
Called the “Boost,” it’s a new model that improves the original hub with better wireless technology and three antennas, as well as some special sauce that will apparently reject interference and increase performance. Right now, the Sonos Boost is an in-development item, with a release later this year, and one which will likely come at double the cost of the $75 Bridge.
But that’s likely not here until October at the earliest, so if you’re at all concerned about the strength of your Sonos network, we’d stick with the Bridge until the Boost arrives to replace it.