Sonos finally has a new controller

by Volker Weber

A couple of weeks ago I received an anonymous email claiming that Sonos would be replacing the old Soviet iPod controller. That was a very credible rumor since the CR100 was getting very long in the tooth. I posted an Alex warning on my site, and was confronted with a very agitated PR manager who was asking, if not threatening me, to take down that post. After some consideration, I did that. Not because I had to, but there was not much to win for me, and a lot to lose for Sonos. I also told him how to prevent me from disclosing any secrets. Very simple: fill me in. I don't give away any secrets I heard from the original source.

I was quickly added to the very small beta program and had the chance to play with new Sonos 3.0 software, and then finally with the new controller. So there is a software and a hardware part. Software first:

The hardware part is well described on the Sonos website. Just a few items:

I don't expect too many people to ditch their CR100 and get a CR200. At 350 it is kind of expensive with strong competition from an iPod touch. With the BU250 bundle however, it is a no brainer.

The PC/Mac software is now the oldest part of the system and in need of some radical improvement. And I am a little bit disappointed that Sonos did not at least touch up the UI of the CR100 to keep it inline with the 3.0 user experience. No radical changes, just a bit of paint here and there. Sonos has so far done a great job at keeping existing customers happy by upgrading their equipment to all the latest functions. That is still true for everything besides the CR100.

Comments

The new remote looks less cluncky.
What I really like about Microsoft's mediacenter UI is the fact that you can browse your "CDs" through the album pics. This is not something that works on the current CR100.
Is this something they've added in the new remote UI experience ?

Peter de Haas, 2009-07-28

Did Microsoft learn from Apple's Cover Flow? :-) No, you can't.

And I am not sure it would work for me. If you have fewer than a hundred CDs or so, you can easily flip through them. I have about 25k tracks in my library, which would make flipping through them very tedious. Sonos shows you the album covers where it makes sense, but they don't have a Cover Flow clone.

Volker Weber, 2009-07-28

Mission accomplished ;-)

Joerg Michael, 2009-07-28

Sorry again for being "agitated" - we are no big fans of anonymous emails, as you can imagine. :-)

Anyways, we hope you like our new Controller!

Fiede Schillmoeller, 2009-07-28

Yes, in fact I do. But I also like the old controller, if only for the skip forward and back buttons. I can use that to control the system without even opening my eyes, which is kinda handy sometimes.

Volker Weber, 2009-07-28

You should talk to a friend of mine who constantly asks for voice commands.... Might come in handy as well if you don't want to open your eyes!

Fiede Schillmoeller, 2009-07-28

Maybe I'm missing something, but could someone please explain why I would buy this thing for 350 when I can get the same in an iPod touch for half the price? To me that sounds like more than "strong competition"

Thomas Gamradt, 2009-07-28

Yes, you missed something. With the BU250 the controller is only 150. That is how you buy it.

You also missed that the CR200 is a lot faster, so if your phone rings, your music is off with one button press instead of first unlocking your iPod, waiting for it to connect and then opening the Sonos app to find the mute button. It may appear to be the same thing, but it isn't.

Sonos is a small company. They cannot build anything at the same price point as Apple. Ordering parts by the millions makes a huge difference.

Volker Weber, 2009-07-28

A builtin "headphone" zone would make it to a killer device.

Henrik Müller, 2009-07-28

That is on many a wish list. Here is my top 3:


PC/Mac controller on par with iTunes, especially search. Maybe as AIR cross platform app?
More software controllers for Smartphones (Android, WinMo, webOS). S60 would be difficult, BlackBerry hard to deploy. Remember, you need Wifi.
ZonePlayer with built-in speakers. Think Boombox.

Volker Weber, 2009-07-28

The CR200 is a very sleek and felicitous hardware update, just I had expected it from Sonos.

There is a little glitch in the software update though, UI-wise: The desktop controller got new zone icons, which already were to be found in the Sonos iPhone Controller App. The new CR200 also uses these icons, but after the software update, the ones on the CR100 are still the same as before. This UI inconsistency between the different controller implementations doesn't make sense to me. It seems as this was overlooked.
For most of the zones, these new icons also don't reflect the corresponding zones as obvious as the old ones did, as they are a lot more stylized.

Apart from that, I need more rooms so that I have a reason to buy a BU250. ;-)
I wouldn't buy one itself, and I totally agree that the possibility to use my iPhone as an additional controller is great, but it's just not the same as the real thing.

Thore Bosk, 2009-07-28

Thore, Sonos could not possibly have "overlooked" this issue. My feedback was pretty clear. :-)

Volker Weber, 2009-07-28

Good to know that. So what would be the reason for these different icons then? Not to irritate those how knew them for a long time?

Thore Bosk, 2009-07-28

Sonos obviously did not want to touch the CR100 software, besides making sure it does not refuse to work with 3.0. The old icons have been there before and they still are.

Sonos has had two different sets of icons for a while. The old one on the CR100 and the desktop, the new one on the iPhone/iTouch. Now the old icon set is only on the old CR100, and the new one on the desktop as well as handheld controllers.

On a slightly different note, the old icons worked better for me, since their shape was easier to distinguish, probably because they don't have a circle around them.

Volker Weber, 2009-07-28

I bought a BU-150 six weeks ago and love it.
Anyway, I'm not happy with this minor upgrade to the CR100. Hopefully they'll bring it more on par in an upcoming release. What I read about Sonos before (especially here) made me think there is no "wrong time" to invest into Sonos gear. Now it feels like they want to prove that wrong. Looks like we need a SonosRumors Buyer's Guide, similar to MacRumors'.

Benjamin Bock, 2009-07-28

You asked me about two weeks before the anonymous tip about the controller. At that time I knew nothing, just that there will indeed be a new controller. But at what point in time?

I don't think the CR100 can be upgraded with the Last.fm integration. But it could at least be kept current with an updated look. Having said that, the CR100 actually has some advantages over the CR200, for instance that it has more hardware buttons, as I already mentioned. It's also sturdier and can take more abuse. It's not obvious, but the CR100 is splash proof, and I have already forgotten it out in the rain one night.

Indeed there has never been a bad time for buying a Sonos. Napster, Last.fm, etc. - all of these functions were added later to the platform. And all existing customers have received these features for free.

Volker Weber, 2009-07-28

My comment was not meant offensive - I understand and like your (non-)disclosure policy. And in this case you had no choice, I was a few weeks to early or several months/years late.

And: Yes, the more hardware buttons are a big plus. Probably it's just this "a new gadget and I want it"-feeling which will fade away soon. If it lasts long enough I'll buy another bundle for the other two rooms which are not yet equipped with Sonos ;-)

Benjamin Bock, 2009-07-28

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