sonos vs squeezebox for spotify multi room

Update: Logitech has released a new streaming brand, UE, which has the UE Smart Radio device that is much like the Radio described here. Read more in this post.

This review compares Squeezebox with Sonos for a multi-room music solution with 3 zones. With the goal of finding the best priced multi-room solution that is good enough.

I have installed Sonos for friends and I really like it. Everything from the minimalistic design, the easy setup and the smooth operating of different zones. Handling Spotify and radio stations on the Sonos app works like a charm. It has everything I want in a multi-room installation. However, the price tag is high.
I mean, 1100$ for three zones. It really is a premium price for playing music. So this factor has to be considered.

Personally I already have computers in many rooms, an Android phone, HIFI-systems and then various computer speakers (with toy subwoofers). Maybe even the XBOX 360 could do it, if I cared to try. But they all connect lousy with each other and a unified remoting system for all that actually works seems very far away. It’s mostly Spotify that has made me want a unified listening system. Building one for just playing from the home server and the occasional
web radio station previously hasn’t seem worth the effort.

What i really like about Spotify in this setting is that it allows you to
multi stream different songs at the same time, which can’t be done on a PC in combination with another PC/iPhone or Android phone. Both Squeezebox and Sonos has multi streaming enabled.

Before I possibly give in and buy a Sonos solution, I’m going to review in depth the only other option i know of for wireless music, Logitechs Squeezebox touch and radio. This is how I see them compare with Sonos:

  1. Squeezebox touch VS Sonos Connect (ZP90) and Sonos Connect:AMP (ZP120)
  2. Squeezebox radio VS Sonos Play:3 and Play:5 (Previously S5)
  3. Squeezebox remoting apps for Android and iPhone VS Sonos remoting apps for Android and iPhone.
  1. There is not much difference in price between Squeezebox touch and Sonos Connect. About 50$. So regarding pricing they are almost equal. The important thing is to get the music into the receiver and that they both do. The touch screen is a minor pro for Squeezebox.
  2. The difference in price is huge between Squeezebox radio and Sonos Play:5, about 250$. The difference to Play:3 is about 200$. I know the Play:5 sounds good and I will soon hear the radio. So the jury is still out on whether the price difference is justified or not.
  3. I don’t know of any Squeezebox remote solution that can handle Spotify with the same ease as Sonos solutions do. I will examine the remote options for Squeezebox the coming days. For Sonos, they have their own app and there is also Andronos, which is free.

One theoretical way to press the Squeezebox price tag down would to use radio instead of touch connected to receivers. Sure it does not have SPDIF (digital via optical or RCA) or analog RCA with left and right stereo. But it does seem to have a headphone out and that could possibly be used to connect a 3.5mm to stereo cable, which i do have at home. I have not seen this solution anywhere on
the web, so maybe it does not work, but I’m going to give it a try.

I’m going to borrow a Squeezebox radio to examine the options within the coming days. Will it give me a taste for more of Squeezebox or will it be the final tipping point towards getting a Sonos solution?

2 days later.. I have a Radio to test and one thing that immediately strikes me as a bonus against the Play:3 & Play:5 is the ability to control the Radio on the device itself, with the various buttons and the screen. So no need for a remote all the time. The sound quality of the Radios speaker is great for its size. There is a distinct bass which gives the songs weight. The Sonos Play:5 has better sound with its five built in speakers. But the Radio has about the same quality as the Sonos Play:3, which is good enough for me.

So the Radio has good sound through its built in speaker, but how about connecting it to a receiver? Well, the Squeezebox Radio has one audio out and it is intended for headphones, but there is no law against connecting that out into a receiver instead of a headphone is there? 🙂 I connected a 3.5mm out and stereo RCA into the receiver and it worked fine. The sound is actually quite good. The analog output makes the sound slightly less crisp than audio from a
digital source and the sound level is slightly lower, which is easily fixed with the receiver remote. Again, good enough. So I needed to examine remoting and Spotify multi streaming.

Squeezebox Radio can’t run Squeezebox server on it, which the Touch can. Remoting apps depend on a Squeezebox Server, local or remote. So I installed Squeezebox Server on my Windows Home Server. Other options are Squeezebox Touch, a PC or using mysqueezebox.com which is a free service from Logitech (only missing the ability to play local network music).  This is a good example of how Squeezebox is slightly more demanding for the user. Sonos hides this complexity for the user. You could say that Sonos has the equivalent to Squeezebox server in all their units.

For remoting I found the Android app Squeeze Commander. It automatically found the server and the Radio client which is great. Worth a few dollars. Squeezebox also has its own
Android remote app, Logitech Squeezebox Controller. It works with Spotify and has other basic features. It can’t play the same song synced in all zones, which the Commander can.

Spotify installed easy on the Radio. Squeeze Commander handles Spotify playlists, search and so on. Because the setup seemed to work fine, i bought a second Radio to try dual remoting and Spotify streaming. It also worked fine. Playing one Spotify song on Radio one and another Spotify song on Radio two. Both remoted with the Commander.

So case closed! I have a good enough multi room solution based on Squeezebox Radios, connected to receivers and stand alone. They play Spotify great and can be remoted by a good Android app. It gives me similar functionality as a Sonos system to a fraction of the cost. My system will initially consist of three Radios. Two connected to receivers and one mobile.

Update after 8 months: So do i recommend this setup for everybody after i have been using it for a while? Well, it depends on if you are willing to trade a substantially lower price for a little higher complexity and slightly less sound quality. The setup runs fine, most of the time, with the occasional system fit (hiccups, firmware upgrades, out of sync remotes, random need to reboot).
But if you just want everything to work flawlessly with an easy install and can pay a premium price, buy a Sonos setup and save yourself a little trouble.

Update april 2012. The stability has been improved for the Squeezeboxes and they feel even more mature now.

Notes

* Spotify premium is required

* Spotify installs easy on Squeezebox Radio through the application
gallery.

* The Squeezebox server needs to be upgraded to a nightly build of
version 7.5.3 or later to get Spotify compatibility.

/KLS

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5 thoughts on “sonos vs squeezebox for spotify multi room”

  1. I’m building a new home with speakers wired into different rooms. Do you have any suggestions for streaming spotify in a multi-room hard-wired setup? Thanks in advance!

  2. I agree that Sonos is likely to be both more expensive and slightly easier to use/configure. Spotify occasionally hiccups on it, but mostly my ZonePlayer 90 and Play:3 have been trouble free. I’ve run SlimServer, and various other media servers, currently I run Plex on my Mac Mini (for video). MythBuntu was probably the most difficult to configure using an HD HomeRun TV tuner, it made Win7 MCE look like cake.

    Sonos works well with Pandora, Spotify and local SMB music file shares. There are a few caveats with Sonos, however, as Sonos currently does not support Pandora “One” ad-free premium radio nor does Sonos support Spotify Radio.

    I have my Mac Mini in the audio chain so I can bypass the Sonos and go straight into the DAC with Spotify under OSX, but if you’re trying to find an “ultimate” stand alone solution that is not computer based, I feel like the market for paid streaming music is changing too rapidly, you’ll have to accept that at some point there may be a streaming service that won’t be supported on the device unless you have digital or analog inputs on it. But the future is the cloud streaming. You can bet on that.

    Also, I’d never discount the audio gains made by a good DAC. People like the PS Audio DACs, among others, Computer Audiophile has a lot of forum posts devoted to sub $1k DACs. Even inexpensive old USB sound cards, I have an Edirol UA-5 and an EMU 0404 USB, make a big difference.

  3. I have had a Duet for several years and just got a Squeezebox Radio (before they are gone). The Squeezebox Radio isn’t quite up the Sonos Play:3 in volume but it’s good enough for a bedroom radio, and it did cost $200 less. I did check out the Sonos locally but the Internet Radio UI is not as complete as the Squeezebox, giving less info about the station. The Radio’s controls and menu are identical to the Duet remote, and in fact, the Duet remote can be used to control the Radio as well. Of course they also work from the Android apps. To me Squeezebox is the clear choice here. It’s not much more complicated than Sonos, and the support is far better – more hours and shorter hold times.

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