4 Things We Learned From the Latest Sonos Announcements
The audio brand is embracing affordability, color and voice control. And Lorde.
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Earlier this week Sonos premiered several new products and updates at an event space in Manhattan; we were able to check out the demo in person (and grab an eco-friendly speaker bag designed by Lorde).
What we saw: A new take on a soundbar, an embrace of color, a collaboration with Lorde and, interestingly, what initially seemed like an unnecessary new voice assistant. Besides offering better hands-free controls (from what we gathered at the demo), the real focus of “Hey Sonos” might be geared toward converting listeners who abhor the tech behind voice control. “The number one concern we’ve heard from our customers revolves around privacy,” one Sonos rep told us. “A lot of Sonos voice-enabled products, our customers disable that feature.” As you’ll see below, Sonos is making an attempt to have voice control become front-and-center while maintaining a literal and figurative hands-off approach.
A few other takeaways from the event:
Sonos Ray Is Your New Starter Soundbar
While I’m a fan of the Sonos Beam, the $400+ price point is still a lot for people who want to improve their home theater audio experience. Enter the Ray, a more compact option that embraces minimalism (there’s no separate remote) and forward-thinking design — literally, as all of the acoustic elements of the speaker face forward, a purposeful decision with the idea that you’ll be placing this on a TV stand. But it still features Trueplay, the software that finetunes your soundbar to the room’s environment, and it can connect to your larger Sonos architecture. And at $279, it’ll work just fine for your movie-watching experience or as your living room speaker; during the demo, the speaker did a good job highlighting dialogue, while music was punchy and full of detail. Available June 7.
“Hey Sonos” Is a Purposely Limited Voice Assistant
First, don’t worry about replacing Alexa, Google Assistant or whatever AI voice helper you’re currently using. “Hey Sonos” is basically hands-free voice control that promises better privacy — everything is processed locally — and focused entirely on your audio experience. In our quick demo, it appeared to work faster than going through a third-party app, and we were able to make quick adjustments to volume and other controls without having to say “Hey Sonos” every single time after the initial prompt. Bonus: It’ll work on any Sonos device that already has voice capabilities. It launches on June 1. One drawback: Spotify is not among the initial streaming services that’ll work with these voice controls. One plus: Sonos is voiced by Giancarlo Esposito, who you might know from Breaking Bad and The Mandalorian.
Roam Finally Introduces Color to Sonos
It’s been a black-and-white world for Sonos, but the Roam portable speaker — read our review here — is now available in pleasant shades of sunset, olive and wave. Here’s hoping this newfound love of color extends to other products. Available starting now.
Lorde Is Now Part of the Sonos System
Or should we say part of SOLARSYSTYM, the name of the musician’s new curated channel on the Sonos Radio platform (our review of that audio platform, which is pretty tied into the Sonos speaker system, can be found here). We didn’t get much of a chance to listen to the new channel, but Sonos — which is leaning heavily into artist-curated stations — describes it as “a candid and unvarnished look at Lorde’s musical journey as she recalls the moments and artists that inspired her, starting in her teenage years and early career, to the present day … spanning from 70s disco to hip hop.” It’s available now.
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