Dr. AIX's POSTS — 12 September 2014


Sonos is probably the leading music server company in the world. This very successful Santa Barbara based company has designed and currently builds comprehensive, multi-room music playback ecosystem using the latest wireless technology. They do a great job at delivering standard iTunes quality or streaming music to your whole house. But they don’t do high-resolution audio even though their website says they do.

At last years California Audio Show, the salesperson from Sonos had his system set up not far from my own table…and he insisted on playing his demo tracks at a level that flooded the entire entrance hall. Not cool. It was especially bothersome because he played the same three tracks all weekend. He played “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal, “The House is Rockin” by Stevie Ray Vaughn, and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt. They’re all great tracks but I got pretty tired of them by the end of the first day. I’m not sure why Sonos was there in the first place…they’re kind of like Bose. They make very nice functional systems but they are producing “the highest sound quality” (although, I must say Bose automotive does a great job in automobiles).

The Sonos web site says, “In 2002, we set out with a goal – to reinvent home audio for the digital age. Our vision was simple – fill every home with music and make listening a valued experience again. We’re making it easy for everybody to listen to the music they love in every room of their home. To hear the songs they love, to discover new music they never knew existed, and to appreciate it all with the highest sound quality.” It’s the last part of that sentence that is difficult to accept. Maybe if they had said, “high quality” I could get on board. But it’s certainly not the “highest sound quality”.

And then there’s Deezer. I hadn’t heard about this new French initiative to bring better quality audio to the streaming world. The press release says that Deezer is a 7-year old company that competes with Spotify and other streaming music services around the world and that they are now coming to the United States…in conjunction with Sonos. Deezer Elite launches next week on September 15th as part of a special collaboration with Sonos. The service will charge $20 per month. For twice the money that Spotify charges you get access to a catalog of 35 million songs in 16-bit FLAC format as opposed to the maximum available on Spotify of 320 kbps.

It seems a little coincidental that the number of tracks is 35 million since that’s also the exact same number that Omnifone will be providing to Ponomusic when it gets up and running in October. Could it be that both Pono and Deezer are sourcing their content from the same company? Probably.

The Sonos blog (you can read it for yourself by clicking here) shovels the same untruths about “high-resolution audio” as the rest of the wanna be HRA companies and organizations. Here’s the banner image that they’re using to promote the Sonos/Deezer deal.


Figure 1 – The Sono | Deezer Elite image that includes the line “High definition audio now streaming on Sonos”.

And the wording on the page is equally inaccurate and misleading. Here’s a nice quote:

“Stream your favorites in high definition audio with Deezer Elite on Sonos. US customers can try it in beta on September 15.Deezer Elite | Sonos

Today, we take another step forward in bringing you closer to the music you love with the introduction of Deezer Elite, which offers high definition audio streaming, only available on Sonos.

With a shared passion for high quality sound and a mission to make listening to the music you love easy, we’ve found a great partner in Deezer Elite to bring you:

• Access to millions of tracks in high definition audio (16-bit, 44.1kHz, FLAC lossless) to hear every nuance of your music, anywhere in your home, only on the Sonos Wireless HiFi System.
• Instantly stream your favorite music, create custom radio stations based on your favorite artists, and discover more music with personalized features.”

The world is moving back to the fidelity that was introduced in 1982 when the CD was born. Calling it HD-Audio only clouds up the issue all the more.

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About Author


Mark Waldrep, aka Dr. AIX, has been producing and engineering music for over 40 years. He learned electronics as a teenager from his HAM radio father while learning to play the guitar. Mark received the first doctorate in music composition from UCLA in 1986 for a "binaural" electronic music composition. Other advanced degrees include an MS in computer science, an MFA/MA in music, BM in music and a BA in art. As an engineer and producer, Mark has worked on projects for the Rolling Stones, 311, Tool, KISS, Blink 182, Blues Traveler, Britney Spears, the San Francisco Symphony, The Dover Quartet, Willie Nelson, Paul Williams, The Allman Brothers, Bad Company and many more. Dr. Waldrep has been an innovator when it comes to multimedia and music. He created the first enhanced CDs in the 90s, the first DVD-Videos released in the U.S., the first web-connected DVD, the first DVD-Audio title, the first music Blu-ray disc and the first 3D Music Album. Additionally, he launched the first High Definition Music Download site in 2007 called iTrax.com. A frequency speaker at audio events, author of numerous articles, Dr. Waldrep is currently writing a book on the production and reproduction of high-end music called, "High-End Audio: A Practical Guide to Production and Playback". The book should be completed in the fall of 2013.

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