Sonos demonstrated the Android app for us yesterday, but we haven’t had an opportunity to try it for ourselves. It adds a new feature—voice search—that’s not available on the company’s first- and second-generation dedicated controllers, nor is it available on the apps the company developed for the iPhone and iPad. When you want to hear music from a specific band in your collection, just speak the band’s name into your phone to call up an album or track list.
Unfortunately, that’s the extent of voice support for now. You can’t use voice commands to change modes, control individual Zone Players, call up your favorite Pandora station, or even change the volume. The Android app does, however, allow you to control the volume of any Zone Player using the volume buttons on your phone. That’s something else you can’t do on the iPhone because Apple does not expose that function in its API.
Sonos also announced today the availability of version 3.4 of its Sonos software, which adds support for Apple’s AirPlay. Sonos’s engineers achieved a clever workaround here: Most audio devices—including the Zeppelin Air , the Marantz NA7004 network audio player, and Pioneer’s new VSX-1021-K A/V receiver—require a part manufactured by BridgeCo to support AirPlay. This makes it virtually impossible to add AirPlay support to legacy hardware (the Marantz NA7004 didn’t ship with AirPlay support, but the hardware was there. Turning on AirPlay support entails installing new firmware—for which Marantz will absurdly charge you $50).
To stream audio from your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to the Sonos system, simply plug an Apple Airport Express ($99) into the line-in of any one Zone Player. Once you’ve done that, the music can be streamed from your iOS device over the proprietary Sonos network to any or all the Zone Players in your home. What’s more, Sonos says you can stream different songs from your iTunes library to different Zone Players, a feat that isn’t possible on other AirPlay-compatible devices we’ve tested.
Now if Sonos could just get around to supporting 24-bit FLAC files and offering Slacker Radio, they really would have the best, most affordable multi-room audio system on the market.