Ethics Whiplash As Sonos Tries Every Possible Wrong Way To Handle IoT Right

We’re trying to figure out whether Sonos was doing the right thing, and it’s getting to the point where we need pins, a corkboard, and string. Sonos had been increasing the functionality of its products and ran into a problem as they hit a technical wall. How would they keep the old speakers working with the new speakers? Their solution was completely bizarre to a lot of people.

First, none of the old speakers would receive updates anymore. Which is sad, but not unheard of. Next they mentioned that if you bought a new speaker and ran it on the same network as an old speaker, neither speaker would get updates. Which came off as a little hostile, punishing users for upgrading to newer products.

The final bit of weirdness was their solution for encouraging users to ditch their old products. They called it, “trading in for a 30% discount”, but it was something else entirely. If a user went into the system menu of an old device and selected to put it in “Recycle Mode” the discount would be activated on their account. Recycle Mode would then, within 30 days, brick the device. There was no way to cancel this, and once the device was bricked it wouldn’t come back. The user was then instructed to take the Sonos to a recycling center where it would be scrapped. Pictures soon began to surface of piles of bricked Sonos’s. There would be no chance to sell, repair, or otherwise keep alive what is still a fully functioning premium speaker system.

Why would a company do this to their customers and to themselves? Join me below for a guided tour of how the downsides of IoT ecosystem may have driven this choice.

What Magic Are They Selling Anyway?

The Sonos announcement leads off with a not-so-humble brag:

We’re extremely proud of the fact that we build products that last a long time, and that listeners continue to enjoy them. In fact, 92% of the products we’ve ever shipped are still in use today.

For those who’ve never used one, Sonos does make a pretty nice IoT speaker. The main draw of their platform being that the audio will sync perfectly between speakers even if they’re in different rooms. As you walk through your home there would be no discernible syncing issue between devices. Considering that Sonos users have wildly different technical abilities and network set-ups, it’s a pretty decent engineering feat. Even a small desynchronization would be the fast train to headache city for most users.

I’ve tried to build my own synchronized audio player between rooms before. It ended up as an extremely wasteful UDP streaming server but none-the-less did the job okay. Having gone through this experience gives me some clues as to why Sonos made the engineering choices they did. Using a Sonos for the first time is an interesting experience. It’s not exactly “just” a speaker. Usually you hook the audio input of a speaker to the output of another device and sound happens. Sonos, however, requires that you use their apps to play music from a service you’re subscribed to.

Sonos talks a lot about their proprietary mesh networking and other neat things they do, but my guess is that because Sonos knows which media is being played they can buffer a portion of the audio. The only thing Sonos would have to send is a packet that synchronizes the time and the speaker itself can adjust its position along the buffer.

This is somewhat confirmed when you really dig through their documentation. For example, if you choose to use the line-in on a Sonos to use as a speaker for a TV you can choose between two modes “Uncompressed” and “Compressed”. If you use an uncompressed signal you can operate at a 75ms delay, which enough of a video/audio desynchronization to be quite noticeable for most people. If you use the compressed mode the delay goes up to 2s, very noticeable.I believe this is hint that Sonos works by buffering at least 2 seconds of audio on every device.

Bricked Sonos Speakers.

To some extent this explains Sonos’s seemingly bizarre choices for their hardware retirement strategy. They even specifically mention that the old devices, “have been stretched to their technical limits”. It’s somewhat unreasonable to expect Sonos’s old hardware to be able to handle the buffering of a higher quality audio stream if it’s limited. There may also be more processor intensive ways to reduce that 75 ms delay. Note, for example, that Sonos’ latest products tend to favor digital audio inputs over analog, perhaps they have some control of the syncing to video through these prototocols. Maybe someone familiar with with HDMI ARC or ADAT could chime in. On top of that, their speakers have to start supporting Google Home and Amazon Alexa in order to remain competitive.

Hard Math Brought Hard Decisions

Sonos then has a difficult choice and in some way, according to that 92% number from before, backed themselves in the corner. Their speakers are premium and sold for a premium price. They delivered a lasting product. However, customer perception of a speaker is not the same as one for a laptop. Nobody expects their $3,000 apple laptop to work forever, but most people would expect a premium speaker set to work for a decade or more. Like desktop computers, an audio system can always be upgraded in parts. Yet the Sonos is an IOT device at its core and a complicated one. The realization that everyone, including Sonos, is having is that it follows an IoT lifecycle.

I’ve worked on mass produced IoT products before and can safely say that supporting legacy products can become a debilitating burden for a company, especially if hardware specs and customer expectations have moved on. For example, Sonos sells to a certain customer segment. This customer is probably very likely to buy a new Sonos speaker at full price. If all those customers unloaded their old speakers onto the market there’s a very good chance that for every customer that upgrades, Sonos would gain an extra customer on their support lines, especially if they have a fundamental incompatibility between new and old systems. It could get expensive fast. Sonos likely ran the numbers and decided that their policy was the right mix of rewarding customers for their loyalty while still being able to turn a profit.

In a way Sonos is being punished for their own excellence. Yet we can’t say that their response, while logical from their point of view, would fail a laugh test anywhere outside of the Sonos office. Likely the best response would have been “we’re just not supporting your old stuff,” and in the end that seemed to the be option they went with when they backed out of their initial announcement.

[Main image source: Sonos Play:5 Old and New (Gen 1 vs Gen 2) by Nan Palmero CC-BY 2.0]

[Thumbnail image: Amp Android Electric Electricite by Daniel Absi via Pexels]

151 thoughts on “Ethics Whiplash As Sonos Tries Every Possible Wrong Way To Handle IoT Right

    1. For a lot of these IOT things, I get accused of being a luddite for not adopting them, but I tell ppl “I know far more than you about how they work, you are guaranteed to get screwed one way or another.” and they think I’m just being an old sourpuss.

      However, this whole IOT thing gives us silverback geeks flashbacks of the consumer PC boom of the late ’90s, the family and circle of friends, would ask what to buy and you’d name a couple of tolerable ones, and say but avoid X, Y or Z like the plague… but for some unknowable reason, maybe it was the free 10 hours of AOL or the free mousemat, they’d buy X, Y or Z anyway, then expect you to spend hundreds of hours on free support of the hopeless junk.

    2. I wouldn’t think that makes you a Luddite.
      I really like the Sonos products, but not the Sonos price tags, so much like you I saw the price and declined the opportunity.
      If I’m going to get on the whole home audio train it’ll be open source, or I’ll make it myself.

          1. I’m already on the N scale “audio train”!

            Intermountain EMD SD40-2 in DME paint, and an Atlas Alco S2 in custom Nekoosa Paper paint. ESU LokSound DCC decoders. Digital control and locomotive sound effects, all in a tiny little N scale locomotive. Really is something, the things they can pack inside an N scale loco now!

      1. Since you brought up Ikea, I’ll bring up the problem with Sonos: there’s no need to upgrade the *speakers* in the box (or the box, for that matter), just the electronics.

        So…why doesn’t Sonos just ship a new processor PCB? It’s much less wasteful than throwing out the speaker, box and power supply when all you needed to change was the electronics.

        1. They could have houses the smart half of the electronics seperate to the amplifier circuits, made it modular and replaceable. But they won’t. Because user upgrades or modifications are dirty words these days. And because they want to sell you the full package.

          1. Right like my trusty ’83 Mattel Aquarius with it’s “Whatever happens in the future fits here” expansion slot, I’m sure a CD-ROM and x86 CPU upgrade is coming along any day now… any day… soon.

        2. Dude, most people couldn’t unscrew the case without breaking something. Expecting the public to replace PCBs is ridiculous. The tech support calls would border on infinite. A plug-on module adds tons of expense, ties them into whatever standard they establish with the first one, and would again be a massive support pain. It would be a pain in the arse for shops who would have to stock these separate modules and explain to each customer how it works. Most of the customers would frown and walk off after the first couple of sentences.

          Upgrades aren’t something the public does. They throw stuff out and buy more. They prefer it and so do the manufacturers. Who ever shipped new PCBs for a consumer product!? The sort of person who’d replace a PCB is generally capable of making their own PCB. And probably wouldn’t buy shit like this in the first place.

          1. While I mostly agree with the spirit of what you’ve said, I would strongly argue the last two points: “The sort of person who’d replace a PCB is generally capable of making their own PCB. And probably wouldn’t buy shit like this in the first place.”

            My EE father who spent 35 years doing microprocessor design professionally for IBM can definitely replace a PCB (and taught me how before 5), but when I talk to him about PCB Fab, he gets lost quick. My ME brother is the same. In both their cases, they know a bunch of folks that could fab it, but couldn’t themselves. But they both would likely buy SONOS if they had any interest in audio.

          2. I think it could work 100%. But only good for the environment and the customer, not the company. The “interface” from add-in board to box would literally be 4 connectors. VCC, Ground, audio left, audio right. Everything else can be on the module. Then you sell the complete speaker and don’t talk about the modules until it’s time to swap them. Ask inside the app, lead the user to your website, ask them to pay, ship the new module in a nice box with some sort simple 2 step instructions and include the return shipping label, boom.
            A Dell XPS laptop has upgradable RAM, very nice. Doesn’t mean that average Joe has to figure out how to actually upgrade it, but it’s an option. Those Sonos users could buy a new system or replace their module, ideally without screws etc, just like plugging in a thumb drive.

    3. Yeah, exactly.

      For the price of two of those speakers plus some change I could get a nice pair of speakers and a pretty damn good AV-receiver for my living room. Which can pretty much do everything a sonos speaker will do plus all the jazz around video connectivity.

      Add a third sonos in the form of money and I could make a fairly decent 5.1 system.

    4. Exactly. I’m not as much a luddite as just having more grounded priorities. Having my audio follow me from room to room with millisecond synchronization is just really, really low on my list of important things.

      1. My audio has been following me from room to room perfectly well since I outfitted my first home with a decent stereo system way back when I was 21 (several millennia ago, or so it seems). The audio follows me from room to room perfectly well, and my neighbors can even hear it with a slight delay if they leave their windows open. The only network my speakers are on are crossover networks.

      2. I solved this by using a hacked pogoplug running squeezelite, plugged into an rf transmitter / outdoor speaker kit i found used for $100. 6 speakers, and 100ft(ish) range. Syncing two or more squeezelites is doable, but a royal PITA because i was always having to resync/reconnect everytime i listen. But hey, the software was open sourced by logitech years ago, and the setup i have now has been rock solid for the last 2 years.

  1. Every bricked Sonos speaker is bricked because the owner, for whatever reason, decided to scrap the device and take a 30% discount on doubling down in the Sonus ecosystem.

    No updates doesn’t render the speakers non-functional, it simply freezes the feature set of the speaker.

    Every owner of older Sonus speakers could have chosen to sell them on eBay, Craigslist, whatever, but instead they took the discount.

    1. I suppose if the user is completely aware of what will happen when taking that 30% discount then they are complicit.

      But I do think the practice of using a software feature to brick the hardware is a poor way to deal with the situation. Does there need to a be forced end of life here? A lot of resources went into manufacturing thousands of these speakers and the longer they’re used the more value you get from that.

      If Gerrit’s analysis/hunch is correct, this is more of a customer support/IoT servers issue and I see that as a really big problem that needs to be openly discussed in the IoT industry. We should not be making connected things that become paperweights when a company decides it’s not longer economically viable to continue supporting the product. At that point, the devices should have an alternative that lets them continue to be useful after the company has moved on. That means companies that fold should release the server framework under an open source license or if that’s not possible, publish an API so that FOSS can rise up around the product if there’s interest. In this case it would mean pushing updates to allow older models to function without support (no longer internet connected but Bluetooth works; no customer support offered, something).

      1. The Sonos speakers (at least older ones AFAIK) are just Shoutcast endpoints with some protocol special sauce. It’s possible to stream to them without using the Sonos software. Here’s an example using node (ugh) but bridges Airplay to older Sonos devices: https://medium.com/@stephencwan/hacking-airplay-into-sonos-93a41a1fcfbb

        Sonos devices could have a useful life after losing official support, if only they were not bricked. Sonos wouldn’t even have to open up APIs or do open source, aside from perhaps a small amount of help to control volume and enter WiFi credentials, but that could be reverse engineered as well.

        The only reason Sonos bricks devices is to take them off the market and force new purchases.

        1. I’m using Sonos for almost 15 years and still have the old ones. Back then, the prices were still high compared to others, but acceptable.
          The main reason for me to buy this was because of the synchronised audio and easy extension of a wired ethernet. (Sonos can also function as a wireless bridge. 15 years ago, wireless was still expensive as well and ethernet bridging was not a common feature of access points.)

          I figured, within a few years, prices would fall, or alternatives would exist, and I could start thinking about extending my multi room audio system.
          Wrong…
          Prices went up for the same hardware and simultaniously their app became bloated. It is strange to have software that is required, but also almost useless at the same time.

          Basically Sonos is a UPnP / DLNA device… mostly. It is not 100% compliant as Sonos add some extra features, but the comon features are exactly the same and there was 3rd party software available.

          I never understood why I needed a Sonos account and be logged in on their systems in order to play music I had locally stored.
          I never understood why it was compatible with any SMB share, but only displayed Windows Media server UPnP. (It would play play perfectly from 3rd party UPnP servers, but only if you would spoof the identity.)
          3rd party control software would suddenly stop working after an update, requiring an update of the 3rd party software.

          With these software upgrades that would break 3rd party software, Sonos was trying to control how their products could be used, It became frustrating to update, if you didn’t follow the Sonos way.
          As there were no new or umproved features to gain with an upgrade, a large part of their userbase, simply refused to upgrade.

          As enough is enough, I started using alternative control points, such a Synology audio.
          I supports much of the audio features I need, (Local audio, internet streams, radio, etc…) without being tied to the Sonos app.

          From time to time I looked at secondhand listings in order to expand my Sonos system, but it seems in Europ there is not a lot used Sonos hardware.
          Until the “recycle”-action.
          And it was suddenly extremely cheap, so I already suspected something fishy.

          Those latest actions are the sole reason I’m now expanding my system with alternative hardware and software.
          A Raspberry Pi with a HiFiBerry can be used to build exactly the same, or you can even use the Ikea hardware that is completely compatible.
          Yes, it might not support all the features of Sonos, but on the other hand it also add more other featured.
          Even their own latest models are lower on the hardware specs for input/output capabilities, while more enhanced in the software (spying) capabilities.
          My goal was to obtain a multi-room audio system, while they changed it into a smart speaker system, which is not what I’d like to have.

          1. Node.js isn’t that bad by itself, just the widespread reliance on npm. I’ve seen projects that use over 1000 external dependencies. If I have to work on a node project I get the exact same feeling as those dreams where you’re in a public place and suddenly realize you forgot to wear pants.

          2. What macegr said.

            Also the callback hell, having to get mired in “promise” in order to do a thing followed by another, the misery of debugging JS. Blech.

            Anyway this post makes me that much more smug that I never let Sonos through the door. At the same time I’m weeping about all those great little speakers with amps that are now headed to the dump…oh I’m sorry “recycling”.

    2. >” it simply freezes the feature set of the speaker.”

      Which mean it’s going to be bricked later when the streaming services change their API even a little bit. Anything involving online media is a Red Queen’s Race. You have to keep running to stay still.

      1. I’m surprised nobody remembers better about that 2013 change that youtube did to their API and cut off millions of first gen “smart” bluray players, TVs, windows CE and mobile devices, and pre v 2.3 android devices off from youtube streaming, due to no update to those youtube apps. It was a month or so after Christmas also and a ton of those devices might have been bought as gits on sale or clearance.

        For all IOT servers/services, & anything requiring apps to function, I think the following applies; cheap/secure/long-lived :- pick any 2 out of 3.

        1. It was always taken as a given with the first gen “smart” appliances that apps like youtube or even web browsing was going to break sooner than later. It was already the case with smart TVs that they were obsolete straight off the store shelf and all their “apps” were a bunch of gimmicks meant to sell a cheap TV at a premium.

        2. I have a Vizio 21.5″ 1080p TV from 2007 that’s ‘sorta smart’. It uses Yahoo software. Some of the apps still function because whatever they need on the server side is still up and running. The VUDU app apparently still works, I don’t have an account. Hulu dropped support for older Vizio stuff in October 2018. Can’t figure out how to remove the Hulu app, says it’s an installed app but can’t even figure out how to get it out of the pop up app selection menu.

        3. My SAMSUNG WB150F is still quite nice despite being 8 years old, 14 mpix with 18x optical zoom and optical stabilization.
          It has Wifi and bunch of proprietary ‘apps’. Supports SkyDrive (dead), Picasa (dead), and bunch of websites you can access because of outdated crypto (Facebook, YouTube, Photobucket). Oh, did I mention it doesnt support WPA2 so cant even connect it to home wifi :))
          What it doesnt support is something totally basic and timeless like auto upload to FTP on connect. No API/documentation to write your own apps.

        1. It’s F-ing audio, how powerful of a processor do you need? Any SOC made in the last decade could handle any audio codec you throw at it given the right software. I’m sure an ESP8266 and for sure an ESP32 could handle just about any codec given the right software and an external i2c DAC. Hell there’s people bitbanging NTSC TV signals off these things.

  2. Idk, I feel they were very close to a solution on this one that would have appeased everyone including the hippies. It’s no doubt that it’s a great product with a lot of r+d backing it.
    I feel they should have started a second company specifically around their “recycle” program. Give users the 30% discount, temporarily brick the old product, ship it back to a rebadge center, resell as a “sorta Sonos” at something like 30% of their original price. Alot of businesses would have snatched them up and all of the software and services already are built for this, just fork and go.

        1. But the whole point is that they’re going to become useless. What possible motivation would Sonos have to act as an exchange for EOL hardware that they’re trying very hard to get away from?

          That said, Sonos gear tends to hold its value very well. If someone wants to sell their old kit to someone else, then that’s a very easy thing for them to do: Historically, the prices of used Sonos gear have been naturally pegged at almost a exactly dealer cost on eBay.

          1. It’s just EOL because they want more features and can’t support them on the old hardware. They could resell those with a different software more akin to Sonos software from 5 years ago, no smart assistant stuff, just music playback from Spotify, Google music etc. They probably know it’s cheaper to throw it out though, what a bummer. I’m so sad about all these electronics that would be fine but aren’t useful anymore because profits. The poor guys that had to mine the materials for that…

  3. Are the actual speakers themselves anything special? If they were half-decent, I wonder if a person could cobble together a decent sounding setup (sans-IoT garbage), and run it through a different receiver/amp. Rip the speakers out of their current cases and make some nice hardwood cases instead.

    1. They’re *okay* for a glorified bluetooth speaker, but definitely not worth all that. I imagine the only reason they’re even listenable is all the DSP going on behind the scenes anyway.

      1. Well, they would work just fine… I’ve had them apart, it’s a class D amp and a speaker at the end of the day. If you can get your own guts to fit in there… could be a nice little unit.

      2. If a physical speaker is crap, there’s not much you can do electronically to make it not crap. Since most Sonos speakers sounded pretty decent, then yes the actual speakers and cabinet would be worth reusing.

        1. What usually goes on with these sort of speakers is equalization and phase delay to control the substandard speaker box resonances and frequency response. It’s basic stuff, but throwing your own stuff in there means you’ll have to tune it yourself – and it’s nearly impossible to get it sounding right just by ear. The second trick is the missing fundamental boost that tricks your brain into hearing lower frequencies than the speakers can actually produce (without distortion) while the bass frequencies are being filtered out.

  4. Where was the uproar for scrapping cars and getting discounts on that?

    Sure, there’s less ‘pollution’ from a working device, but please don’t try and tell me ‘most of a car is recycled’. What Sonos could of done was provide the ‘recycled units’ to schools or something useful, rather than just ‘killing them’ outright, and who knows, maybe they’ve got some agreement to pull the useful parts (i.e. speakers) and use them in some 3rd world country?

    Their biggest mistake was trying to sell this as a benefit rather than a solution to ‘what to do when I upgrade and can no longer use this device?’

    1. If you’re talking about Cash For Clunkers there was plenty of uproar from right-thinking Americans who objected to a government sponsored boondoggle to put *still more* money in the pockets of automakers instead of letting them fail.

      Why send the speakers to a 3 world country when you could just put them into the next generation of Sonos speakers? Saves on shipping.

  5. Up to this day, I still use the squeezeboxes I bought between 2005 and 2008. They still sync alltogether properly and the server is still maintained and enhanced by the community. Raspi based clients have been developped as well (not sure they sync as well as dedicated HW devices) but you can sometimes find “used” device online
    Even if logitech killed the product line sometime after buying it from Slim devices, at least, they did not dig the whole infrastructure and open sourced the LogitechMediaServer …

    1. One of my squeezeboxen died, I replaced it with a raspberry pi 4, it syncs perfectly with the rest of the network, remember it’s a decade newer than the old one, it runs newer wifi, it’s faster, and I got a really good sound “hat” for it. And I spent about 1/4th of what the original cost me back in the day (about $50)

  6. I’m interested in obtaining (buying) some “bricked” devices and seeing what we can do to (bypass any necessary “secure boot” hurdles in order to) develop and boot some open firmware for them.

    If there’s any shared interest in this, perhaps we can create a community project here on HackADay? I could probably lend a few cycles to help folks get bootstrapped with a toolchain and a minimal (Yocto-based) U-Boot / Linux build, but probably won’t have much time beyond that.

    1. From what I’ve read, there is no modification whatsoever in the device “when you brick it”. In fact, bricking is just writing “FALSE” in Sonos’s own online device table’s “Working” column. So, typically, the device will try to connect with Sonos’ server, but will get refused access (no more auth token will be generated, and the auth token are only valid for 30 days). The hardware is still 100% functional, yet, I guess, you can’t change the server’s hostname in the firmware (but you can probably provide a lying DNS). Unfortunately, Sonos does not publish its internal API, and I’m almost sure the communication is encrypted so even with a lying DNS, you won’t pass the 1st level of the API.

      1. People are generally getting these for the form factor and easy wireless sound. They don’t care what silicon is inside to get that done. Network, amplifiers, and processing aren’t expensive at a small size anymore. I would think just tat out the brains and fully replace them with a custome solution would be the easiest and accomplish the task at a low cost.

  7. I have a house full of Sonos Connects and so long as you have decent wifi coverage they just work. Every day, every time.

    And for me that’s worth it.

    The problem is in their upgrade program. Connects still get very good $ on eBay, so I can get much better than a 30% discount by simply selling the old devices which, as mentioned above, will become a support problem for them (though once they are setup they don’t really need support). They should consider offering a discount that equals or slightly exceeds the money you would recoup by selling it, and they should give you prepaid postage to send the old one back so they can pretend to recycle it.

    For now I have no reason to upgrade. After all, it’s just a box that plays music, not a lot of space for wizbang new features and since I have connects I can upgrade the amp and the speakers any time I want.

      1. Well, it looks like we are all going to get free speakers for the rest of our lives. If all the bricked Sonos ones end up out on the street and at recycling centres, I don’t think I’ll ever buy another one (actually, I never have. All my speakers are from junk piles)

  8. If Sonos had used just a little bit of foresight, they could have seen that they would outstrip the technical abilities of the control unit (the “smart” portion of the device) long before the speaker and amplifier fall apart. The solution to that is to either overbuild the control unit to push that horizon further out to match the life of the rest of the assembly or to make the control unit replaceable.

    Perfect hindsight aside, a clear delineation between Sonos Gen 1 and Sonos Gen 2 units and added functionality in their app that can warn and inform users that they’re trying to use incompatible units together would have done wonders. They could still accept the old units for a 30% discount and then resell them as refurbished for those that want to keep their older system intact or eschew the discount program altogether since those older speakers would then still be usable and saleable by the end users themselves.

    1. That sounds like an interesting setup. Can you describe your hardware setup in a bit more detail? I’m curious how you connect your speakers to the RPi and what you run the Snapcast/MPD setup on.

      1. I’ll chime in sense I have put together a 12 node snapcast setup at my house.

        I run the snapcast server (snapserver) on an older intel desktop with ubuntu. It also does file server and MPD duty. It also runs a snapcast client (pointed to 127.0.0.1) However you can run the server and MPD on a rpi3B+ and lots of other embedded unix devices

        For the nodes I have a mix of RpiZeroW, rpi3 and 4’s. for audio I have settled on using HiFiBerry products, Mainly their DAC+ and AMP2 items. However any USB DAC/soundcard/amp with unix support should work. There is also countless brands of DAC/AMP hat/shields for the pi that will also work.

        I would not suggest using the built in audio jack to the PI’s as it is pretty poor sounding (its a horrible class D output) but can work for prof of concept.

        The DAC+ cards are used to drive rooms with existing stereo gear ( The AVR with surround on the TV, and a headphone amp in another room) These have normal RCA outputs (XLR is also an option)

        The AMP2’s are powered mainly by old laptop chargers (the 18V type) but some have 12V PSU’s. The AMP2’s than power the RPI’s 5V. The speakers connect directly to the AMP2 Via a terminal block and some 12gauge or less wire.

        I have a mix of newer speakers, JBL, KLH, stuff i’ve forgoten. Some speaker that are 30+ year old KLH’s that I’ve refurbished. A few meh sony/no name kinda stuff. Some custom built econwaves and i’m about to put a set of in the wall speakers in the bathroom. Speakers range from 4-8ohm. No issues.

        I used a decibel meter app to set the volumes all the same. And than went to room transitions and fiddled with audio delays so that way it sounds in sync at the crossovers. (This is because speakers are different distances from the doorways)

        Over all I love the setup! I plan on setting up some more audio streams that will output to snapserver. This will allow the wife and I to have different music in different rooms. Or be able to send pandora or other streaming audio to various nodes, not just MPD/local files.

        1. My setup is somewhat similar: x86 Atom-based server running MPD, mosquitto, zigbee2mqtt, node-red and some other stuff, RPi’s running Raspbian, OSMC, etc. with snapclient + some cheap USB DAC (Soundblaster Play) for now. And one C.H.I.P. board in the bathroom :) All clients are connected to some JBL speakers, Ikea Eneby (I will embed RPi in one soon probably).

          Oh, and last week I’ve connected Ikea’s Symfonisk volume knob to snapserver/mpd (via zigbee2mqtt, node-red) so now I have nice, minimalistic volume/pause/skip controller on my coffee table (great wife-acceptance-factor btw ;)

  9. Does not compute.
    Personally I would rather drill some holes through walls and floors than even consider some piece of electronics with non-standard protols.

    On the other side.
    The sonos stuff being “bricked” seems a groos exaggeration.
    For speakers, most of the value is in the power supply, amplifier and drivers themself, and in the housing.
    That some uC in the corner of a PCB does not work any more is a small nuisance for any decent hacker.
    Just put in an ESP32 or similar.

    But then again, I’m the sort of dinausaur that once bought a squeezebox, and returned it to the shop a day later because it was impossible to play my own music in my own house without creating some kind of internet account.

    1. “But then again, I’m the sort of dinausaur that once bought a squeezebox, and returned it to the shop a day later because it was impossible to play my own music in my own house without creating some kind of internet account.”

      And may dinosaurs (like us!) never go extinct!

    2. Yup, just ran 300m of speaker wire during renovation of my house.
      At least I know those will still be supported in 30 years and audio in the entire house is in perfect sync whatever the source.

      1. My mid nineties house has hundreds of meters of cable in the roof to speakers in every room and it still works nearly 30years later. And it doesn’t even need and internet connection

      2. Naturally, I assume you would have added extra conductor lengths to the minimum run lengths to even out all those multi-nanosecond delays that would otherwise occur across different rooms.

        That’s the price you pay when you are using copper wire and ordinary speakers instead of wifi systems like the Sonos system…. nanoseconds of excruciating delays all over the house.

        1. I hope this is a joke, the delay from the speed of sound pressure moving through a volume of air is going to be significantly more than the electrons going through even miles of cable. If your speakers are up loud enough that you can hear one of them from the other side of the house you are going to have the same excruciating sound delays with hardwired or ethernet or wifi speakers. The only way a smart speaker might solve that is by having a way to physically track where you are within your house and have your entire house acoustically mapped that it could properly offset the phase of the speakers so that the waves of sound pressure from different areas of the house hit you at the exact moment. And even then that would only work for a single person and probably make the audio sound even crappier for anyone else that might be in a different area of the house.

  10. This IOT nonsense makes me appreciate my 40 year old Minimus 7 (Radio Shack units)
    that still “just work”.
    That said, Where are all the bricking lemmings dumping the “obsolete” sonos stuff?
    I would be sort of interested in finding a set ( has to be dirt cheap) and just rewire them as passive units or if the woofer is a 4″, try fitting it into a couple of the Minimus 7 cabinets.

  11. Saying “92% of the products we’ve ever shipped are still in use today” might be bragging, but isn’t that a noteworthy point to brag about? Haven’t they sold like 25 million products?

    If you compare that to the lifecycle of gimmicky Bluetooth speakers sold in the same period, which probably have a 25% still-in-use percentage at best, I think it’s absolutely something to brag about.

  12. Much like global thermonuclear war, the way to do IoT right is not to do it at all. A connected device whose server end is not under your full control or whose firmware you cannot build fully from source code is a liability full stop.

  13. As a test for home audio speakers, I set up a Raspberry Pi with a HiFiBerry audio amplifier to connect directly to the speakers I installed. I’m also using their HiFiBerryOS, which so far has been great to stream Spotify to. Ended up being $100 vs. $600 for a comparible Sonos setup.

    Curious what others are using. My goal for home audio is to put speakers wherever I want them and have the audio input not be tied to anything proprietary. Sonos seems like a great technical fit, but it’s damned expensive and with issues like bricking old devices it certainly doesn’t seem worth the money.

    1. I’m considering something similar. If it wasn’t for the facts that 1) I want to have something, probably Pi based, that replicates Sonos Connect line-in functionality, 2) I want to play music from my NAS, but it may not be powerful enough to run Logitech Media Server (or something similar) it could be easy :-)

  14. If you make the effort to neatly run a bunch of wires, you can save yourself a lot of trouble down the line. To pay such prices for mediocre speakers with builtin expiration dates… *smh*

  15. I have the Sonos speaker that they did with IKEA. I’m happy with it considering the price difference. I am curious if they have an agreement with IKEA regarding updates and support though.

  16. I’m going to point out a few things about the bricking/discount program:

    1. It does nothing to users who have old systems and want to continue to use them.

    2. It does not prevent users from buying new speakers to expand their current system of old speakers.

    3. It allows someone who wants to upgrade to new speakers to be rewarded for sticking with the brand.

    Sure, to those of us who are more inclined to hack and upcycle stuff until it completely falls apart, it seems stupid to ever intentionally brick perfectly good hardware. But the only time that happens is when you are getting rid of it anyway, so why is that such a problem? It’s kind of sneaky on sonos part, but I understand given the products value on the used market.

    As pointed out by the author and others, Sonos built an IoT product but built it to last far longer than IoT life cycles. That so many of the devices are still being used and Sonos is having to address this at all is impressive performance.

    Having said that you won’t see me rushing to buy that stuff anytime soon.

    1. It prevents re-using the device by people who buy it 2nd hand. Reuse is better than recycling.
      Throwing away stuff just because it’s old, is what causes our collective and rather huge e-waste problem.

      Deliberately destroying big numbers of things that would otherwise be perfectly usable (even though you may not be able to connect to the internet, a cable or bluetooth connection should still work) is just wrong.

      If you buy a car, you can trade in your old car to get a discount on your new one. More often than not, the old one gets either resold directly, or exported to a country with a need for cheap, worn but usable cars.

  17. Your life will be simpler, you will be happier, and you will have more money in your pocket if you follow a simple rule. DON’T SPEND ANY MONEY OR RELY UPON ANY DEVICE THAT YOU KNOW CAN BE REMOTELY BRICKED OR THAT RELIES UPON SOME EXTERNAL SYSTEM OUT OF YOUR CONTROL. I don’t have any (although I could afford them) and I don’t feel technology-deprived in any way. With PC’s and larger US companies (Apple, Microsoft) I figure that if either company started doing that heads would shortly be on pikes.

    For more than 100 years, devices to amplify and convert electrical impulses into sound waves have existed without these concerns. I have “heard” (so to speak) of no recent changes to the laws of physics. These speakers described here seem to have added incredibly complexity and expense in return for a dubious benefit while solving a nearly non-existent problem for most people.

    1. Sadly this only seems to be possible with things invented before 2005 or so, when SASS wasn’t just an expected part of life. Hardware and software gets better constantly, but the business side gets worse.

      PCs had the IBM PC that everyone was trying to clone, and that expectation remained, giving people a lot of control of their PCs(Aside from secure boot crap). These days nobody in the US wants to clone anything, it’s all about propietary hardware that’s just a thin client for a service.

      I have some IoT sensors here that use a hub which doesn’t have any idea what it’s transmitting. It all goes back to their servers over SSL, and there’s no pairing step or anything for the hub itself. I suspect your neighbor’s hub would pick your things stuff up just as well.

      The actual functionality is probably about as life changing as $100 of consumer tech usually gets, never having to worry if you shut the doors correctly. But it’s concerning that the service might not exist in a few years.

  18. Sonos is probably the most annoying speaker system I’ve used. The one i’m forced to use frequently must have the app control it, must know the location of your phone using location services, must be connected to a specific wifi network, doesn’t have any physical buttons to turn it off or change volume. must have a spotify account to play anything but ad filled radio. all this just so I can turn down the volume or change radio station. ridiculous

    1. How frustrating, but as long as it’s safe to be around, that’s the main thing, don’t forget to get a spark coil and probe it frequently for high voltage insulation faults.

    2. Weird. Mine has volume controls, works with a bunch of different streaming services, plays music directly over SMB, doesn’t care about location, and can play local media from my phone or from my PC.

      I do have to be on the same LAN, but meh: Why wouldn’t I be? FFS, the devices even create their own meshed 802.11 network that I can use with my other wireless things — in fact, I think that they were the first player in the consumer mesh game…by over a decade.

      Perhaps you aren’t holding it right.

  19. I had recently purchased a pair of Sonos 1 speakers and it was coming up to the last few days that I would be able to return them or keep them.
    I didn’t want to deal with the potential headaches of having useless hardware or hardware that I couldn’t mix and match with newer products. So, I returned the speakers.
    Sonos lost me as a customer.

  20. I’m disappointed that Sonos recently bought out Chirp.io and shut down the developer resources before I got to try it out, but I guess I’m glad I didn’t invest any time into something proprietary.

  21. Hey Hackaday, you’ve got the second photo captioned wrong. The photo caption says “Bricked Sonos Speakers”, but it shows the newer Play:5, several Play:1, the Sonos Sub, and the Sonos Playbar, none of which are eligible “trade-in for 30% discount”.
    Nobody is deactivating those models. Maybe use a different photo?

  22. I just want a simple, cheap, NAS I can put on my network, fill it with videos, and have it accessible by my 50″ 4K Samsung Smart TV to play them. Can that be as simple as playing them off a drive connected to the TV’s USB port?

    It would be nice to be able to play videos from anything else connected to the network, but no a requirement.

    Something that plugs into the TV’s USB *and* has a WiFi and/or Ethernet link for remotely copying content to it would work. Then when new content is available, copy to the storage device over the network. The TV just sees it as a big hard USB hard drive. No more sneakernetting a drive back and forth. No more having to have a USB extension cable running out from the very inconveniently placed port on the back of the TV.

  23. Hmm my archaic setup with wired speakers that require no internet, power (other than pushed electrons from the amp), and zero firmware seem pretty cool again lol. Sonos should also protect terrorists and pedos like Pear computers, then they would have some competition.

  24. Lost my shop to a fire 8 years ago..
    Had a vintage Kenmore receiver with built-in amp and (pre suck) Fischer stacks…no problem hearing it down the block let alone another room..

    1. Marantz had an ad back in the ’70’s of one of their receivers that survived not only a fire, but was in the water soaked debris for months, and then tossed off the top of a dump truck, and still worked when the owner replaced the line cord!

  25. I have an older Samsung “Smart TV”. It got a lot better over time. At first video was just a picture in picture thing when booting up with a lot of bloatware apps around it. Update after update they removed the apps one by one, and finally they put the whole app chooser into an overlay that Is only shown when pressing two buttons on the remote.
    It definitely got better over time from my point of view, as it lost most of it’s bloatware :)

  26. I have a Klipsch multimedia speaker set that needed some upgrading and reworking. Had a reputable shop do the work and for approximately $150 I have my set rejuvenated and working fine again after 18 years of service. I’m the king Luddite I’m guessing. No way these can be obsoleted and although they may not function like the Sonos speakers, no forced obsolecense. Anyone who is okay with what Sonos is doing is a complete pawn. They’ve got you right where they want you and no way around it. When they can brick your device to get you to buy something else, you’ve totally been had.

      1. People really need to just stop accepting the idea that hardware needs to be upgraded every few years.

        An IoT product with an open local API will be usable even if the company goes down. It doesn’t need security patches and updates unless they really screwed up, because it’s not exposed to random JavaScript exploits, nor is it communicating over the internet to anything except the manufacturers site.

        The move from thinking about technology as a product to thinking of it as an ongoing consumable has been terrible. Agile development has problems. Android apps constantly changing their icons is a problem. Updates are great, to deliver new features, but things shouldn’t stop working when they stop being maintained.

  27. A “long while back” (2008) – there was sonos $$$, dlna (which was crap back then), Apple air play ( I think it had another name) and an opensource company called slim devices and it worked great! But then Logitech bought it and shuffled everything around. The software is still there and still open ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logitech_Media_Server ) – and they do as you say – buffer 1-2 seconds of audio, and send a sync pulse. I had managed to get 3 pc’s synchronized on the older 802.11b

    Now that I have had to get rid of airplay 1 speakers – and am leery of the licensing issues, reviving this and some opensource hardware might be a good thing.

  28. I have a nice pair of speakers with analog ins hooked up to a receiver, hooked up to my DAP or my vinyl player.

    But I don’t know guys, I’m very tempted to dive into the totally-not-about-to-implode IoT bubble so I can join in on the fun! Maybe I can mod my speakers, embed a demolition charge hooked up to an arduino and RTC so I too can enjoy the wonderful sonic bliss of semi-planned or accidental obsolescence!

  29. I don’t see the point in getting sentimental about an old Sonos biting the dust, life moves on, accept it. I have taken the discount option and now look forward to receiving my new Sonos 5 at a too good to miss price. If Sonos don’t want the old one back it will make a great doorstop for the garage.

  30. I USED TO have an old SONOS remote, a CR100. I liked it’s UI. It sat there in its cradle, easy for anyone to pick up and use.

    About two years ago, SONOS sent an “update” which disabled the remote. It seems that they could no longer support this old device (reasonable) so they decided that I would not be allowed to use it at all (UNREASONABLE!).

    Imagine what it would be like if other devices stopped working when they were no longer supported. Still running an old version of an OS on your laptop? What happens when it is no longer supported? Does the manufacturer make it stop working? How about an old car? Should the electronics all stop working when it’s out of support? What happens to the smart locks on your house (if you’re foolish enough to have them)? Does the manufacturer send a final update which forces them all to stay locked or unlocked?

    It seems to me that this is little different from the Sony “malware” case (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_BMG_copy_protection_rootkit_scandal) from 15 years ago. In each case, a manufacturer installed something on a computing device owned by someone else with the intent of disabling some of its functionality.

  31. Question: If a “bricked in t-minus 30 days” Sonos speaker is never re-connected to the internet, will it still be able to brick itself? If this is the case I could see snatching up a ton of these older to-be-scrapped units and running them on their own network that isnt connected to the internet.

    Its a shame that their upgrade incentive involves throwing away perfectly good hardware. The speakers, amps, power supplies, & enclosure are still good and shouldnt be trashed. Its a shame they couldnt design their new version to be identical to the old, but with an updated PCB. They could have sold upgrades in which the customers’ existing units would be upgraded with the new PCB. They could do a mail in service and/or contract with best buy/geek squad/phone repair shops to get the pcb swap done in person.

  32. I didnt bother to look up the cost of the new speakers, but for this argument lets say they’re $200.
    Sonos is offering customers 30% to destroy their legacy speakers. This 30% is $60 with the above value. Does this mean we should be seeing a lot of these legacy speakers used on ebay for say, $70?

    If I owned legacy speakers and wanted to replace with new ones, I would rather sell them to someone that will continue to get use out of them, than scrap all that perfectly good hardware. Selling for a tad more than the 30% offered by Sonos would cover my time and costs of selling online.

  33. I just don’t get the draw of these things. People are spending huge amounts of money just to avoid simply running a wire or two?
    That is so ridiculous that it almost seems unreal to me. Yet another (broken) solution without a problem.

    1. Really? I can totally understand why someone would not want to:
      – Run wires all over their place or pay a third party to do it
      – Modify a house or apartment they don’t own
      – Figure out how to get a bunch of wireless speakers to play nice with their music services

      If the Sonos value proposition is you buy speakers, put them wherever you want, and then music just works, I can see that being worth spending some cash.

      Whether their migration strategy makes sense is another matter.

  34. Sounds like we need a drop-in kit that converts these speakers into some type of open source IoT speaker or other usable product. The physical speaker, and amplifier stages are probably fine.

    Would maybe help prevent a little waste while providing a useful product.

  35. Consumers should actually be happy that they got screwed by SONOS: this could be the wake-up call they needed to spot the ever-increasing flood of scams like software subscriptions, cloud storage and planned obsolescence in the future – so they can stay away from it.

    I used to work for a rather famous brand that makes professional coffee makers. Of course those machines are hooked up to the internet and of course we made shitloads of money from service plans and (unnecessary) “updates” … and of course we let our customers know that we could remotely shut down their machines any time we felt like it – like when they would be using the “wrong” type of coffee beans or tried to service the machine themselves…

    That’s why I have *NO* devices that requires an internet connection to operate. No car, no coffee maker, not audio source ever “needs” to be online. What people could learn from this SONOS disaster is that they need to double-check if they really OWN the product that they just bought or if they fell for a fraud where a physical object is simply the bait to sell them some sort of plan that’s leeching money from their bank accounts every single month – because that’s the secret formula every marketeer everywhere in the world is looking for: a “product” that generates a constant stream of small payments over years and years…

    And this is why we as smart and technically inclined users should prefer the autonomous physical object over the “convenient” online service: it simply the better deal … for us consumers.

  36. So has hacking of the bricks started yet? I just spent a buck on a connect amp on ebay. Will look for UART/JTAG/…
    Any info on the hardware? Processors used? Device generations?

  37. From an email received from Sonos today, it seems they have changed their thinking again. The email suggests you can receive a 30% Discount credit that will apply to new devices purchased. You can choose which of your ‘legacy eligible’ devices you wish to upgrade. When you select the new products, they are automatically discounted in the shopping cart.

    The change I’m referring to – you no longer need to recycle the device, return it or subject you to bricking it. And I quote, “ Choose what to do with your old product. Continue using your old product, give it to someone else for a second life, take it to a certified e-recycling center, or return it to us.“

    You no longer are required to throw away a viable device. You can sell it, bring it to a second home, give it away to a family member. To get the discount, you no longer need to trash the viable product.

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