Starting Smart Entertainment

Whilst I'll be continuing with my smart lighting efforts, I thought it was a good time to get going with a new section for NewHomeTricks - Smart Entertainment.  Specifically, I'll be starting with Music.  In this post & video, I wanted to explore what a smart music system really is, and how it might differ from more basic solutions.

Smart, connected music systems have been around for quite a long time now.  Thinking about Wi-Fi speakers for example, systems like Sonos (there are lots of others) have been around for quite a while.  However they still deserve to be thought of as smart home technology.

The idea of a 'wireless' speaker isn't something that's particularly revolutionary, and many of us will have had experience of Bluetooth speakers.  Bluetooth speakers though, are fairly 'dumb' compared to Wi-Fi speakers.  They just remove the cord involved in a speaker you might plug into the headphone jack.

Bluetooth speakers just play any sound your smartphone wants to play.  That could be your music, but it could also be notification sounds from text messages, IMs, news alerts - anything.  These things can interrupt your enjoyment of the music you want to listen to.

Wi-Fi speakers are much smarter.  That's because they're actually running some software of their own, and can connect directly to the music sources you want to play from.  That might be streaming services like Spotify, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and loads more.  It could be online radio services, music stored on your phone, music stored on media servers on your network - there's usually no end of ways to access the music and media you want!

These speakers have another trick not matched by Bluetooth; they can link together.  Usually with Bluetooth you can only connect to one speaker at a time.  Wi-Fi speakers can link up to do things like form stereo pairs.  You can even have multiple speakers throughout your entire home, playing different music in every room, or even the same music throughout your entire house, with just one system to control all of this.

Many systems even let you hook up to your TV to create a home cinema system, with far fewer cables than a wired solution!

As with smart lighting, I have to start somewhere, so we've decided to go with Sonos. It's a popular, well known system that seems to integrate well with a wide range of music services.  They also have a comprehensive range of speakers to choose from.

It's not the cheapest out there, but everyone we've spoken to that has Sonos already, seem to recommend it highly, talking of excellent sound quality, and great build quality with the products.

I'm keen to see how well Sonos works, but I'm also keen to see how well it can be controlled in a Smart Home where I might use other things like Amazon Echo or Google Home (when we get one).  I'm also keen to see how well it integrates with our other smart home components.

For now though, our task is to acquire a Sonos Play 1 speaker.  This is the most entry level speaker in the Sonos range, but can be linked up with other Sonos speakers in future as we expand.

Once we get this, I'll report back with our initial setup video, and how well the experience went.  Stay tuned for that!