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Low-end Sonos wireless music player runs Linux

Oct 18, 2013  |  Rick Lehrbaum
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Sonos has added a new low-end model to its family of wireless streaming music players. The $200 compact, moisture-resistant Play:1 provides two high-quality speakers and implements a wireless mesh network that supports both independent and synchronized music playing in multiple rooms of a home or business environment.

Besides being the least expensive Sony streaming media player, the Play:1 is also the smallest model, at 6.4 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches. As shown below, the device contains just two speakers. The tweeter delivers “crisp and accurate high frequency response,” while a mid-woofer adds “faithful reproduction of mid-range frequencies crucial for accurate playback of vocals and instruments, as well as delivery of deep, rich bass,” says Sonos.



Sonos Play:1 — whole and exploded
(click images to enlarge)

 

Sonos is well known for its broad family of high quality devices capable of playing music streamed from a variety of Internet and local sources wirelessly — and synchronously — to locations throughout the home. The line currently includes four full-spectrum players with built-in amps and speakers (Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, and HDTV Playbar), a pair of “zone players” for driving speakers directly or via an amp, a wireless sub-woofer, and accessories including a network bridge and a wireless remote.



Sonos family portrait
(click image to enlarge)

 

All Sonos devices contain embedded processors running Linux, and communicate with one another over SonosNet 2.0, a secure AES encrypted, peer-to-peer wireless mesh network. Although Sonos designs its gear for use on its SonosNet mesh network, Sonos players (such as the Play:1) that have Ethernet inputs can function independently when connected to a router or home LAN via direct Ethernet connection. One lesser known feature of SonosNet, is that Android tablet and smartphone users can use SonosNet for Internet access by enabling the “Connect to SonosNet” option in the Advanced Settings section of the Sonos app on their Android device.



SonosNet distributes sound synchronously to multiple rooms
(click image to enlarge)

 

The Sonos devices’ embedded firmware offers a variety of media-streaming services, in the form of selectable apps that are accessed either though an optional dedicated Sonos wireless remote or via free Sonos remote control apps on Android or iOS smartphones or tablets. Web-based streaming audio services currently supported by the Sonos players include Pandora, TuneIn, Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Hype Machine, and more all the time (see complete list farther below). Sonos devices are also able to stream content from appropriately formatted files on their LAN, including from PCs, Macs, and NAS devices.

Two same-model Sonos players can be configured as a stereo pair, and an available pair of players can also be designated as rear speakers for surround-sound purposes. Additionally, the optional Sonos “Sub” can add sub-woofer capabilities to a room’s setup. The Playbar, introduced earlier this year, provides a once-piece solution for beefing up an HDTV’s audio.

Incidentally, for those who sing in the shower, Sonos says its Play:1 is “humidity resistant” and suitable for placement in a bathroom with a running shower — but it’s not not waterproof, so don’t drop it in the tub! Also, Linux fans will be glad to know that the Play:1 runs a customized embedded Linux OS, currently based on the 2.6.35 kernel.


Play:1 details
(click to enlarge)

Features and specifications listed by Sonos for the Play:1 include:

  • Amplifiers — 2x Class-D digital amps
  • Speakers — 1x tweeter, 1x mid-woofer
  • Audio formats supported — compressed MP3; iTunes Plus; WMA (including purchased Windows Media downloads); AAC (MPEG4); AAC+; Ogg Vorbis; Audible (format 4); Apple Lossless; Flac (lossless); uncompressed WAV and AIFF
  • Audio sample rates — native support for 44.1kHz; additional support for 48kHz, 32kHz, 24kHz, 22kHz, 16kHz, 11kHz, and 8kHz
  • Music services currently available — 7Digital, 8Tracks, Amazon Cloud Player, AUPEO!, Dar.fm, Deezer, Hearts of Space, iHeartRadio, JB Hi-Fi NOW, JUKE, Last.fm, MOG, Murfie, Napster, Pandora, Qobuz, Rdio, Rhapsody, SiriusXM Internet Radio, Simfy, Slacker Radio, Songl, Songza, Spotify, Stitcher SmartRadio, TuneIn, Wolfgang’s Vault, WiMP, and downloads from any service offering DRM-free tracks (service availability varies by region)
  • Operating systems (for stored files) — Windows XP SP3 and higher; Macintosh OS X 10.6 and higher; NAS (network-attached storage) devices supporting CIFS
  • Internet streaming support — MP3, WMA
  • Album art support — JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF
  • Playlist support — iTunes, WinAmp, Windows Media Player, and MusicMatch (.m3u, .pls, .wpl)
  • Wireless — SonosNet 2.0, a secure AES encrypted, peer-to-peer wireless mesh
  • LAN — 1x 10/100Mbps Ethernet port
  • Power — AC 120/240V, 50-60 Hz (auto-switchable)
  • Dimensions — 6.4 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches
  • Operating system — Linux 2.6.35

The Sonos Play:1 wireless music player is currently available for $199 from Sonos’s web store. Between now and the end of the year the Play:1 is available in a “holiday special” bundle that includes a free Sonos Bridge (normally $50). For more information, visit the Sonos website.
 

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