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Sonos gets update, so you don't need a wired network connection

Speakers can now connect via Wi-Fi, without at least one wired connection or a Sonos Bridge

Published: September 02, 2014 09:00 AM

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Sonos speakers have consistently been at or near the top of our wireless speaker Ratings, but for some would-be users there's been one drawback: At least one Sonos speaker in a multiroom system has needed either a wired Ethernet connection to your network, or to be connected to an optional ($50) Sonos Bridge that's wired to your router. Today, that changes.

Thanks to a software update, you no longer need any wired connection to your router. Instead, you can set up and run Sonos speakers on your regular Wi-Fi network, as long as they're within range of the router.

Later this year, Sonos will be introducing a new product, called Sonos Boost, a $99 add-on accessory that will help those with challenging Wi-Fi environments.

Sonos has been testing its new software for several months, and is now rolling it out to all Sonos owners. If you currently have a wired connection or already use a Sonos Bridge, you should leave your system as is, since it's still the most reliable way to connect. Wired connections are also required for 3.1- and 5.1-channel home theater setups, though if you're using a stand-alone Playbar speaker (without the optional subwoofer) you can use the Wi-Fi setup.

To find the right wireless speakers, check out our Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Speaker Ratings.

Setting up a Sonos speaker using the new Wi-Fi capability is pretty simple. Just unbox the speaker—the Sonos Play:1 is the least expensive model at $200—then using a smart phone or tablet, you download the Sonos app, and choose your setup (Standard or Sonos Bridge). After you select Standard for a Wi-Fi connection, you connect the Sonos speaker to your home network, and add any supported music services, such as Pandora or Spotify. If you buy additional Sonos speakers for other rooms (or use in stereo pairs), they simply get added to the network.

Although the Wi-Fi option opens up Sonos to a world of users who don't have access to a wired connection, Sonos still recommends, if possible, using a wired setup with the dedicated Sonos mesh network for the best possible streaming experience. And as mentioned, a wired connection to the router by at least one Sonos speaker or a Bridge is required for 3.1- and 5.1-channel home theater setups due to issues with latency.

Sonos hasn't released much information on the new Sonos Boost product, which will sell for $99 when it's introduced later this year. Based on the little info we received, it appears to work as a Wi-Fi extender to allow people with challenging Wi-Fi environments—either longer distances from a router, or home or buildings where there are obstructions to Wi-Fi signals—to connect using the Wi-Fi option.

We'll be trying out the Wi-Fi connection in our labs to see how well this type of connection works, and we'll provide more details on the Sonos Boost when it becomes available. Keep checking back for updates.

—James K. Willcox

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