Mixing AirPlay with Sonos and HomePod

by Volker Weber

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Why would I run a HomePod next to a Playbase? Just to find out what works and what doesn't. So you don't have to. :-)

With Sonos 9 the 2nd gen Play:5, Playbase, One and Beam have now been Airplay-enabled. You have a number of ways to use that:

  1. Select one Sonos player from the AirPlay menu on your iPhone. Group the rest of the players through your Sonos controller.
  2. Select one or more Sonos players in the AirPlay menu on your iPhone.
  3. Select one or more Sonos players as well as other players like the HomePod on your iPhone.

The first option works best. You will still get dropouts when your iPhone is in a spot with weak Wifi signal, but at least everything stays perfectly in sync. With option three I get some noticeable reverb. Option 2 is on/off. Sometimes it works well, other times not so much.

I noticed some strange behavior while testing. If you put your iPhone in Airplane mode, it will not sever the Wifi connection while Airplay is going on. You have to hit that button as well. The music will eventually stop when the players run dry. And the Sonos players stop way before the HomePods do. Most likely HomePod maintains a much larger buffer.

If you use AirPlay multiroom with HomePods only, you will get better results than you get if you mix HomePods and Sonos players. My current theory is that they are better equipped to handle the AirPlay protocol through their larger buffers. It's also possible that Sonos may be able to improve AirPlay performance once they get more telemetry from actual users. When HomePod plays directly from the cloud, as it does with Apple Music, you once again get better results. The stream does not have to bounce over your network between router, iPhone and HomePod.

My current recommendation is to wait before you mix Sonos and HomePod. It is just not smooth enough yet. You will be better off if you stay completely on Sonos or you commit yourself completely to Apple. If you don't have an AirPlay-compatible Sonos player, don't sweat it. If you have one, start playing with it. You just need a single one in your household to play on any other player by simply grouping it.

Comments

> You just need a single one in your household to play on any other player by simply grouping it.

That's what I wanted to read. Thanks.

Markus Schäfer, 2018-07-12

Thanks, Volker. That saves me a few bucks - for now ;-)

Jonas Rathert, 2018-07-12

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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