Sonos Speakers Free To Sing Again

Over at the EEVBlog, [Dave Jones] takes a second look at the Sonos Play 5 Gen 1 that he rescued from the dumpster recently. Despite being solidly built, [Dave] discovered that even the stereo line-in jack can’t be used without registering an account with Sonos. Not to be defeated, he hacks these speakers to make them work standalone.

Bluetooth Audio Amplifier Module (Fosi Audio)

The hack here involves fitting the speaker cabinet with new “guts” in the form of a wireless stereo 2×50 watt digital amplifier [Dave] found online for under $30. This particular model, the Fosi TB21, is almost a perfect fit for the Sonos cabinet — with only minimal Dremel tool encouragement required. It turned out the power supply section of the Sonos main board was easy to isolate. [Dave] couldn’t use the existing amplifiers, so he removed them from their power supply and re-routed the power supply to the Fosi module. He also removed the Sonos wireless interface board from the cabinet, and used an online design tool to make a simple first order Butterworth crossover network set to 2800 Hz to connect the speakers.

The new amplifier board is mounted in the shallow base of the speaker cabinet. It could have easily been oriented either way, but [Dave] chose to install it knobs-forward. This also gave him a reason to toss out the Sonos badge. The resulting modified unit looks very professional, and works well as a Bluetooth speaker for the lab.

We wrote about the opposite conversion last year, where old speakers from the 1960s were hacked to add Sonos capability. You can read about the controversy surrounding Sonos here, and we discussed the issue on the Hackaday Podcast in episode 058.

64 thoughts on “Sonos Speakers Free To Sing Again

    1. @Ben said: “Wonder how these sound without the Sonos DSP. I imagine there’s a huge amount of heavy lifting done in software.”

      Yup, the moment I read this:

      “The hack here involves fitting the speaker cabinet with new “guts” in the form of a wireless stereo 2×50 watt digital amplifier [Dave] found online for under $30.”

      I shook my head. Obviously [Dave] does not understand the Sonos speaker design by itself is far from optimal. To “fix” that pre-distortion linearization and equalization is applied using digital signal processing (DSP). When the original “guts” were tossed out, so was the DSP. The results may sound OK (if you are lucky) – but it is far from as good as original.

  1. There’s got to be some way that we can have some sort of government intervention to reduce the amount of hardware that ends up being bricked and in the waste stream. What is it? Anybody got any thoughts as opposed to just “making” them do it?

    1. “You’ll own nothing, and you’ll be happy…”

      If I had to guess it would probably fall under the same category of legislation as planned obsolescence.

      There’s a lot of money to be made if you can sell a product for cost and turn a profit on subscription or maintenance contracts. The military industrial complex has been doing it for decades. Tech companies do pretty with well with software as a service, this feels like a natural extension of that model. Pitney Bose certainly does well with their almost ok-ish mail meters and abysmal customer service.

      Over-regulation is a serious impediment to innovation, progress, and quickly becomes a slippery slope as politicians get hungry for yet more power. That being said, bricking a perfectly functional device just because the original user is no longer paying for it, only to have it go in the trash is extremely wasteful. Maybe put a time limit on the subscription? Or mandate a return and refurbishment service for when the subscription is over. At the very least they should build products to be easier to recycle.

      1. Don’t forget Xerox. For as far back as I can remember (the aforementioned decades) the most profitable Xerox division had a handful of people working there and all they did was take orders for paper, toner, ink cartridges, etc.

          1. We have a xerox copier at the office that has been largely unused since COVID. They still charged us for toner AND shipping but didn’t actually send us any because we didn’t need any.

          2. Im going to guess there must be an implied “you will void service contract” etc. if you buy cheaper stuff that is not Xerox? Otherwise there would be nothing wrong IMO about supplying users of your product with consumables. Anyone know for sure?

          3. Each refill is limited to page count no toner usage. The ’empty’ ones can have plenty of ink in them. Imagine printing letter heads instead of full pages of text.

        1. My Xerox printer has been one of the better printers I’ve ever owned – and £40 gets me a set of 4-5 (CMYK+ extra K) recycled toner carts that last about 10x the life of the average inkjet printer.

      2. “bricking a perfectly functional device just because the original user is no longer paying for it, only to have it go in the trash”

        I happen to work for a Sonos dealer and we install a lot of their equipment. I can say with authority that while this was a practice that Sonos did by default initially, it is now only done when the customer elects to upgrade from older units to newer units. When the customer elects to do this, they receive a small discount on the new units, then, instead of shipping the old ones back to Sonos, or field destroying, they are bricked. So, technically, the end-user is the one making the choice.

        1. The bricking was horrible and Sonos gave in to user outrage. Each old device now carries a single use 30% discount for any device sold in the Sonos online store, and the old device continues working. Check eBay and you’ll find loads selling second hand.

        2. They were bricked initially, however no longer. I havea play 5 gen1 that was upgraded but was never bricked. I use happily with music assistant with home assistant along with my other play speakers, I cannot however form a group with it, but it does play fine

        3. Thus rendering a still fully serviceable piece of electronics as e-waste rather than just (say) removing the streaming service but allowing it to live on as a perfectly good Bluetooth or AUX speaker for another room.

        4. You would be incredibly wrong. No bricking is done. Proof at the bottom. And many of you miss the point in this article, no one has to pay for anything to use the line in jack, you merely need to set up a FREE account in the app. Sonos as many of you may not know, does not use Bluetooth as an input, it uses wifi for control communication as well as media playing as it links with the other service accounts you already have. In my case that’s YouTube music, Amazon music, Audible, and literally dozens and dozens of others I don’t have or use are also available to play from. This is no extra or added cost. Sonos nor the services charge me any extra and Sonos charges me nothing.

          As far as the proof of my claim that this person who isn’t a Sonos dealer is wrong, and I say isn’t a Sonos dealer, because one would know this, “Nothing happens to your eligible product when you activate or use your credit. Continue enjoying it as part of your system.” from https://www.sonos.com/en-us/upgrade

          Literally no functionality is lost. You’re welcome to keep it, sell it, or give it away, just any subsequent owners will not be able to claim upgrade credit on it in the future.

          Many of you are very wrong about your opinions of this whole situation. The OP simply needed an account to tell the device to select the line input. Someone could probably reverse the control protocol they use on wifi and eliminate the need for an account. Now that would be worthy of hackaday, not this article on how to replace the amp and dsp with an inferior Chinese Bluetooth and amp board. Especially considering he only had to use a throw away email address to set up a free account, select the line in as source, and then plug in his Bluetooth receiver via the 3.5mm jack, and be done. And keep the amp and dsp, which I will guarantee sound superior to this “hack”.. And there’s likely other alternatives to needing the account. As I seem to recall some FOSS that might do it IIRC.

          1. > you merely need to set up a FREE account in the app.

            Besides this being unacceptable by it self (among other reasons: not wanting spam, and even in the case of them “promising” never to send you any, there is always the risk of data breaches and customer data leaks), this completely misses the point.

            Putting in this obstacle to using the line in jack is completely unacceptable for other reasons as well. Just because Sonos promises to process your request today, what about the future? What it the server is not working. How long it it acceptable for you to have to wait for them to fix that? Will they still do that in 5 years? 10 years? 30 years? What if Sonos is bought by some other company or goes bankrupt/closes its business?

            This fundamentally planned obsolesce, even though there is no definitive date set and it might be long into the future. But the planned obsolesce shutoff absolutely will come at some point.

    2. The solution is very simple – stop buying their crap!!! No device can be so important, that you cannot live without it.

      These companies exist and grow because YOU support them. If you get bitten by something like this, knowing that there is a cloud subscription involved, you deserve everything they dump on you.

      If it is not in your hands, or you cannot touch it, you don’t own it.

      1. While I fully agree, wishful thinking. Voting with your wallet doesn’t work. The rest of the planet is perfectly happy with this, are ignorant to it or use this opertumity to get a new model with more features.

        Sadly, this is the world we live in. Acceptance “I thought this is normal how these things work.” Infuriating I know.

      2. I agree with your sentiment of wallet voting. But Sonos doesn’t require a subscription payment, the controversy is specifically about how they handle “recycling” of old devices. Rather than allowing them to actually be recycled they get bricked and turned into landfill.

        That being said, I do believe that some things are intended to be subscription based in order to be sustainable. For example, if I wanted lifetime access to the entirety of Netflix or Spotify, it would cost me an astronomical amount to be feasible for the company to offer. A lower monthly cost makes sense as I can discontinue the service if I find something that works better for me.
        Hardware being a subscription based service is something we are now starting to figure question.

        If I bought one of those 3-core processors back in the day, and enabled the 4th core myself, I got a bargain. Now if I purchase a base BMW and force the heated seats to work without paying an ongoing subscription, I’m breaking the TOS. But technically I got the car cheaper than it would have been to include the “feature” from the start. But is it really? At BMW prices? Photoshop is worse. I have to sign a year contract for the suite and it costs $400 I believe to end it early. Now Microsoft’s Office + OneDrive offer for a low monthly price, access on all my devices, not to mention my family has a terabyte each and all our files are backed up automatically. That to me is actually a good subscription.

      3. My chromecast audio still works despite Google discontinuing them. I happily converted myself and a few customers away from Sonos taking advantage of their current speaker setups as most had distributed audio and were using Connects with a few scattered Sonos speakers. None of them have gone back to date, me included.

      4. Indeed, I imagine anyone who bought a Philips Streamium when they were nearly 1000 Euros would feel like this too when Philips turned off all the web features a few years after their launch. The upside is that you can now buy them for pennies, and they are still very capable, decent-sounding multi-room listening systems, which can be updated by replacing the HD with a big SSD and using 3rd party program for music management instead of the hopeless Philips software.

    3. I totally agree. Perhaps something along the line of “Your DMCA and Copyright protection for the product ends when you stop supporting that product”, this would give some incentive to both FOSS and 2nd tier companies to step in and support older products for a profit (either through service contracts or outright software sales).

      I have a fully working HP DesignJet 755 that I cannot use because HP no longer supports the drivers for that product, and the existing drivers no longer work with Windows.

      I understand that software is kinda incremental too…so whatever cool features were in those drivers may still be used in the newer products, but that’s even more incentive for the manufacturers to keep supporting them.

      1. I would probably go a little bit further… DMCA and copyright don’t really apply here. I’d go with something like 1) all devices whose firmware can be updated outside the factory must allow unsigned updates in some fashion (but it’s ok if they flip some ‘warranty void’ register so long as functionality is in no way impaired) 2) complete source code for all such firmware shall be held in trust until the device is no longer supported, after which it will be released, but copyright still applies.

        This way, the john deers of the world no longer have a stranglehold, and unsupported hardware can be repurposed or its usefulness extended. Alternate firmwares can be compiled, but the IP isn’t completely wide open.

      2. HP actually has pretty decent Linux (and probably the also Mac) support, the printer likely works fine with the (HP developed afaik) hpijs driver.

        I’m actually using a fairly ancient but decent HP laserjet that was gifted to me because it wasn’t supported by windows 7 or 8, however it worked fine on Linux.

    4. 5 minutes into the video I emailed the link to my Congressional Senator with that exact subject in mind. Email your representatives and send them the link to Dave’s video. 3 miles from my home in rural Louisiana is a 60 foot+ tall humungus sprawling pyramid of waste. Something should be done, not before it gets out of hand, its already gotten out of hand.

  2. They’ll sound awful without the proprietary DSP. SONOS are little more than run-of-the-mill bluetooth/portable speakers without the DSP, which is evident by their construction and choice of drivers. I understand and appreciate liberating devices like this, but not while losing the only motivator for buying one in the first place.

    That aside, you can do a lot more with a lot less.

    1. Yeah it’s going to sound pretty “meh” without the DSP correction. But for YouTube-watching it will probably be fine. Gladly Dave didn’t hear the sound profile before gutting the speaker, so he doesn’t know what he is missing out on.

  3. On the other hand: what happened to EEVblog? He used to make interesting, deep and detailed materials. Now it’s all cheap clickbait. When I tried to watch him recently I just skipped through most materials because it was like watching adults streaming and engaging in youtube drama about Minecraft.

    1. EEVBlog and EEVBlog2 are two of the few youtube tech channels I unsubscribed recently because all the content in the last good few months was garbage. Thanks for the 10+ years of good videos they supplied me with before their decline.

  4. All of Hewlett-Packard’s consumer grade printers now require an internet connection and HP account in order to install them, even if you want to connect them via USB. It is no longer possible to put the drivers on a USB drive and install them offline, at all. Fortunately Best Buy warns you about this in the product specs when you’re shopping online.

  5. Every time Sonos gets written up here, someone has to chime in about how the original Squeezeboxes are still operational, and the server software is still being maintained and updated by a dedicated community of amateur programmers (you might know them as “coders”), so here I am, chiming in about it.

    I have 4 squeezebox devices, the youngest one being about 15 years old, all working like new. Logitech Media Server has a chromecast plug-in that works well and allows me to stream audio to the sound bar I use with my TV. You can easily sync multiple players together if you feel a need to have whole-house audio.

    As far as I can tell, when they first launched or even today, the only thing Sonos brought to the party was easier set-up for non geeks, which doesn’t apply to anyone who reads Hack-a-day.

    1. Yes. Squeezebox ftw! I have loads. At least 10 around my place. LMS is running as a virtual machine on an HP Microserver. Absolutely flawless. The BBC Sounds plug in is excellent. I was gutted when Logitech killed them off. Mad props, and many thanks, to the programmers who kept them alive. Sorry, I mean coders.

  6. The secret is the gen1 devices still work fine, and you can get them on eBay for next to nothing, so you can have a really nice big S1 system for a reasonable price.

    That’s the way I went, exactly the opposite of what Sonos wanted, but since I had bought the first 3 at full retail I didn’t feel bad getting the second 3 for eBay prices.

    The big annoyance, though, was that in the Windows based UI they completely removed the capability to add a new component to the system. You have to do it with the app on your phone.

    After all is said and done I’m still a fanboy.

    1. Similar experience here but i had an office i was working for getting rid of all their S1 stuff. I equipped my whole house with it and I love them. I have to say that dave really did an injustice IMHO to this speaker by doing this. Not because of the hack itself but sonos really did a heck of a job not only with the dsp but the software and hardware embedded in the products. To just rip it out and replace it with a chinese cheap bluetooth amp like he did doesn’t really make the product better.

      1. Agreed. I’m not completely sure (admittedly I didn’t WTFV) why he wasn’t willing to just create an account. I understand in principle but in practice who cares who tracks what music you’re listening to. The account is free, you are free then to play files off your local media server and stream the various music services.

  7. Such a shame to see Hackaday still doesn’t care that this guy’s a vile transphobe and keeps posting his stuff. A community is only as inclusive as the worst person it tolerates.

  8. I once bought an Squeezebox and it was not possible to use it without creating an account.
    The next day I brought it back to the store for a refund.
    After that I never bought another of those vendor lock in products designed to enslave you.

  9. You had to go and raise Sonos back into my conscious thoughts again. Just as I was starting to forget my incensed irritation for the $$ I’ve wasted on this throwaway IoT gadget producer masquerading as a durable consumer goods company. Important lessons learned:

    1) Never “invest” in products that depend on connected services / SaaS to function. You’ve left the decision to others on when said products become expensive doorstops

    2) Never buy into an ecosystem of devices based on proprietary interfaces. Until Matter or some similar standards org addresses synchronized multi-zone audio, I’ll be sticking with the array of BT wireless speaker pairs that are available for reasonable price so long as I can live w/o multi-zone. Money is better spent amplifying said speakers to be heard throughout the whole damn house as a single zone.

    1. For #2 (synchronised multi-zone audio), check out out Snapcast by Badaix on Github.

      Free and open source, I’ve been running it through out my house for 5+ years and it has been brilliant. The only reliable, truly in-sync FOSS audio solution I could find.

      I’ve now combined it with motion sensors in each room and have a Follow Me Audio mode in my Smart Home :p

    1. Don’t worry, it will be a good supply of vehicles for those who want to V8 swap. Check out Rich Rebuilds on YT for a Camaro v8 powered, manual transmission Model S that’s fully functional! Bonus is I don’t think the EPA rules apply! 😉

  10. Anyone know how to get a Gen1 Sonos device out of recycle mode? From what I understand, Sonos isn’t putting devices in recycle mode any more but devices that are already in recycle mode are screwed. There has to be a hack to restore it from recycle mode. (The backtory is that Sonos was intentionally bricking functional but older devices in exchage for giving the owners a 30% off coupon code to upgrade. They got a lot of flack for this and stopped the practice)

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