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Sonos too big for your budget? Here's how to get the same experience with your BlackBerry

Sonos BlackBerry
By Adam Zeis on 3 Jan 2013 12:53 pm EST
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I've been looking at picking up a Sonos system for my house for quite a while now, but just to get started it's at least a $350 investment. Having kids and a mortgage kind of limits the amount of toys I can buy now (I have to be more selective at least) so I've always put it on the back burner until I have a bigger slush fund to go all out. In the meantime, I've found a great setup that works great and gets the job done for way less using my BlackBerry Bold 9900BlackBerry PlayBook and a few BlackBerry Music Gateways. Keep reading to see just how easy it is to setup something similiar on your own.

Getting Started 

Sonos is a great system. I know many people that have one and say they can't live without it. If you haven't heard of it before, Sonos is a streaming music system that lets you play music from your mobile device to speakers all over your house. A base speaker starts at $299 and requires a bridge to stream music - so right off the bat you're looking at $350 just to get going - but you'd of course want more than one speaker, so it's a pretty hefty investment. At the core, Sonos is just a very well integrated streaming setup, but you can achieve almost the same experience with your BlackBerry for way less.  

I have a great soundbar that I use in my living room for my TV as well as some external speakers in my bedroom. Using two BlackBerry Music Gateways I can easily get a psuedo-Sonos setup going with just a bit of extra work and a lot less cash. 

BlackBerry Music Gateway

To start, you need to make sure you have a speaker or stereo that allows for an auxillary input. Most units let you have more than one, so if you have a newer system you should be ok (but always double check first). Next, you obviously need to pick up one (or more) BlackBerry Music Gateway. From there it's smooth sailing. Hook up the BMG to your speaker or stereo, pair your device and stream away.

Unlike Sonos however, you don't get "zones", so you will only be able to stream to one speaker at a time unless you use multiple devices. While Sonos uses wifi to work its magic, this setup works off Bluetooth so you only get a one device to one device connection. That's pretty much the main downside for me but I can totally live with it for now. 

My Setup 

For my living room I have a Vizio soundbar that I already use on my TV. It has great sound and I've never really used it to full capacity. I used a 3.5MM --> RCA cable to connect the BMG and I'm done. Simply change the input on the soundbar and stream from any paired Bluetooth device. Done and done.

For my bedroom things work the same way except that I have an older stereo system. I use a 3.5MM --> 3.5MM cable as my hookup here instead. Instant streaming.

With Sonos you have much more control and power as to what is playing where at any given time. So the main drawback here is that you can only stream from one device to one system at a time. So that means you won't be able to stream to both the living room and bedroom from your phone at the same time. What you can do is use two devices (PlayBook and phone) to stream separately to each "zone" however. Not the greatest solution, but it works.

Bold 9900

Using something like the Bold 9900 is awesome for this setup thanks to NFC. The fun part is that when you change rooms, you can easily bring your music with you thanks to the NFC capability of the BMG. When you go from the living room to the bedroom, tap your NFC device on the BMG and start streaming music right then and there - no hassle swapping over your connected BMG.  

Choosing Your App 

When it comes to choosing your music service you have plenty of options available. On the PlayBook you can use my new favorite app Songza (you'll have to grab the BAR and sideload it) which works great most of the time (but admittingly crashes at times). You can also stream music you have on the device or use Slacker RadioNobex or whatever you'd like. On your phone, PandoraSpotify, Slacker and others all work without a hitch as well.

Songza PlayBook

Stream Away!

So while it's not a perfect replica of a Sonos system, it can get you pretty close. It does have it's drawbacks but for me it works great and I didn't have to shell out multiple car payments for a Sonos system. I've found the BlackBerry Music Gateway to be one of my most used accessories now and I love finding more and more great ways to get the most out of it.  

Any tips for a great Sonos-like setup? Let us know in the comments! 

Buy the BlackBerry Music Gateway at ShopCrackBerry 

Reader comments

Sonos too big for your budget? Here's how to get the same experience with your BlackBerry

31 Comments

Awesome idea! The BlackBerry Music Gateway is an awesome little gadget. I have the old Stereo Gateway and it works amazingly well, although the NFC pairing would be cool!
I would recommend the streaming service called Grooveshark, which has a PC version made with Flash, and a mobile version made with HTML5. It works really well on the BlackBerry phone, and has some issues with the PlayBook, but it isn't just the PlayBook as I have seen the same bugs on other devices. It allows you to search a huge library of shared songs and put them together into a playlist. it has practically every song. Check it out:
http://html5.grooveshark.com/#/
btw adam I've used It on my Xbox 360 too ;)

Many new TV and Blue-Ray Players now have apps that can do streaming so if your TV anywhere in the house and is connected to good speakers...

My Direct TV DVR (and each client box) has a Pandora App for streaming, and it can also stream mp3s (and movies) from my Seagate NSA or from my desktop that is running a streaming server.

Maybe BB10 devices will also be able to connect to my NSA...

Sorry, but, Pandora DOES have a hitch. With my 9930, it'll play ONE song on my stereo then revert back to my 9930 for the next song. There is "supposed" to be a setting on Pandora, but I cannot find it and I've searched for answers with no luck. Haven't tried Slacker or Spotify yet..

I had the same issue using Pandora and bluetooth..played around with the settings on my phone and now it works and will continue to play more than one song.

Is that a Panasonic Plasma? It's funny I have a Panasonic 42" plasma and a Vizio Soundbar 4.1 system (or 5.1 I don't know the technical dealio) Your picture could have been taken at my place. Haha I have been interested in getting one of those BBMG just haven't gotten around to it. Thanks for the post.

shame you couldn't just place the hard disk inside it. Most xboxes allow you to do that. Doesn't even void the warranty either.

I use a BMG with a harman kardon goPlay system...works great. I find pairing BMG with ios devices a pain, not BMG's fault... Ios bluetooth pairing isn't as straightforward as BB... And NFC makes it even easier.

I may buy another BMG for my new AVR in the basement... A pioneer vsx60...since I like slacker radio, and it doesn't have it builtin.

-----
Bold 9900
Playbook

I did this last summer hooking up my BMG to my stereo system with a 25 ft cable in order to centralize it in the house so i can also be outside where my wireless speakers are. I used a dual splitter to hook up the wireless speakers antenna and set up the speakers where i want them (they are now set up in the garage for the winter). I either use my Bold 9900 or PlayBook to play my music and all the speakers i want to hear i just turn on. Also put the BMG in both cars. Great gadget!!

I have a receiver in my living room that is connected to a second receiver that is for outside in the summer and the basement in the winter. It is connected via digital audio (using standard cable with RCA jacks) to outside and connected using TOSLink/SPDIF. So I can hook up one of my BB10 Audio gateways to the receiver and get the music everywhere. Plus I have a second BBAG that I can have mobile and connect to a set of PC speakers in the kitchen or bedroom. It suits me just fine. No need to complicate with a totally separate third party system.

It's funny because I have the same setup with the Vizio sound bar and the bbmg. I can say it is pretty cool. I bought the bar for about 100$ at costco plus 2 music gateway 50$ each and I had the stereo in my bedroom. So for more or less than 200$ I have the same as the Sonos.

Great post by the way

Adam, you can stream to multiple devices, with just a couple of accessories.

http://www.amazon.com/Bluetooth-3-5mm-Stereo-Dongle-Transmitter/dp/B0081...

take two of those, plug it into

http://www.amazon.com/Belkin-Adapter-Stereo-Headphone-Splitter/dp/B0047T...

and then plug into your BlackBerry/PlayBook. Now you can stream to multiple BMG simultaneously.

If you need more than 2 sources, you just keep using splitters. Yeah its a bit on the shoddy side, but does give you what you want/need lol.

I use a similar setup. Two BB Gateways -one connected to my upstairs A/V system and one downstairs. For the PlayBook check out Apollo. It connects to your Pandora account and works great!!

I have a similar set up currently, but am buiding a new home and my AV guy keeps trying to get me to go Sonos. My main concern with BMG at my new place is the limitations of Bluetooth for tranmitting larger distances. Does anybody know if this will improve with Bluetooth 4.0?

Also, what are the date transfer rates of BT 4.0 and wifi (Sonos)? Do i get better quality sound using Sonos?

You're building a new home and the guy wants to go with a wireless setup? Are you too late to run wires or is your AV guy just lazy? Lol

I got lucky because I have a bungalow so during renos running wires through the attic and then unfinished basement was easy, still didn't need extra holes in any walls to complete everything. I opted for the quick and cheap setup, and still turned out amazing and sounds ridiculously great. I just used my 5.1 Denon receiver (a tad pricey but worth it) as the 'brain' of the system, so all sources are hooked up and chosen through that unit from the living room. TV, radio, dvd, mp3, playbook, pvr, etc. Then I took the 'zone 2' out and went into a separate yamaha receiver (an older 2-3 hundred dollar model, nothing fancy) set to 2 channel stereo, ran 2 speaker level lines down to the low voltage panel in the basement into an impedance matching board (maybe 30 or 40 bucks) for up to 10 pairs of speakers, then each set of speaker lines run up into each bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and backyard pairs of speakers (100 dollar per pair commercial grade Audiotrak ceiling flush mount 8" 2-way), but each through separate volume controls first on the walls in each room (60 bucks per control, Proficient Audio). Complete home audio on a budget. And well well worth it. And there's nothing like taking a piss and still listening to the game. Lol

I use my BBMG in my Lexus...I pulled the aux charger in the center console, installed a usb plug in its place and as soon as I turn the car over the BBMG has power and I connect via bluetooth to my playbook and I'm good to go.
Also bought a second BBMG for the house and it's connected to the Denon AV system which has three zone capability so there's music in the home theater room or the garage or the kitchen. I'm so geeked out for stereo systems!

One correction. You DON"T need a "bridge" in order to use Sonos. Each Sonos component/speaker will serve as a "bridge". However, if you don't use a "bridge", then one of the components/speakers needs to be connected to your wireless router. The "bridge" allows you to avoid having to have on of your speakers connected by a ethernet wire to the router. Instead, you connect the "bridge" which is very small to the router and keep the router and bridge hidden.

In the summer, on the back patio, i have a BT receiver attached high up on the house wall. It is connected to a 100 watt amplifier that is in a plastic box attached to the wall. From there, I power two speakers. I can connect to the system with any bluetooth device either my 8910, or playbook. It sounds great, and with the reciever mounted high on the wall, the range allows me to be anywhere on the patio, or around the pool. (hint, radio waves do not pass through water, and as people are mostly water, placing it above them helps in recieption).

As a bonus, i can connect to the home network and stream from my 1TB NAS to the blackberry and then to the out door stereo. This gives me access to over 7,000 songs, in addition to internet radio, slacker and other services. Music all summer long, and no need to put holes in walls of the house for wires.

I am a geniuine bb fan, but I have to say that the bmg was a bit of a disappointment for the use you describe above and for my original intended use (car audio). In the house, a wall or a distance of 15-20 feet between your device and bmg leads to considerable stuttering. Also, and quite unexpectedly, if you try to use your playbook's browser while streaming music from it, it does a major stutter...which makes no sense to me given the whole multitasking architecture. In the car the multitasking is not an issue (at least if you are driving and doing so safely), but the fact that phone calls can't be routed through is a major let down. For me, although I love the music capability I now have for my car, the bmg doesn't deliver what should be taken for granted with bb devices....we ought to be able to stream wirelessyly through wifi to devices like sonos or, even better, airplay to an airport express...etc. I just don't get why these capabilities have lagged so long..the workarounds are there but they are sort of ridiculous. For example to stream music to my stereo through wifi, I ran pandora on my laptop and control the laptop with splashtop...it works, but is ridiculous...especially as I watch my son and wife stream pandora with their iPhone, ipads and airbook....hoping bb10 brings some parity in this arena.

wow I dont have any issues at all like you describe, my bmg wrks through walls and even on the third floor with it plugged in on the first. I use the browser with it and no stuttering. you must have a defective unit.

Seriously? Are there some settings I am missing? Are you streaming from pandora or using your music player, or doesn't it make a difference?

I use a Creative D100 and my 9850 for music. The Creative speaker bar has unbelievable sound from such a small unit! It can be plugged into a receptacle or runs on four AA batteries, FOR UP TO 25 HOURS (I can attest to this)! I have never plugged it in, strictly batteries. It has the option of playing music via plug in 3.5mm or BT. Did I mention the sound is incredible??? Price is right too Adam! 79 bucks through Creative's website (currently sold out, surprise surprise) or they sell them online refurbished for 49 bucks. On my 9850 I stream Pandora and on my Playbook its Apollo. Love them both! My D100 resides mostly poolside during the summer.

If you have $300 US burning a hole in your pocket try the Onkyo TX-NR 515. DLNA certified so when BB10 comes it will work as flawlessly as it does with Android, including making your phone a remote for the unit - and streaming audio and video from any PC and NAS. 2 zones too though I only use 1 at the moment. Works with MHL, and has plenty of HDMI connections so one can be the PlayBook for streaming. Hellacool

Can the BBMG stream from a local computer rather than a bbdevice but be controlled by either the Playbook or Blackberry phone?

Currently this is my only use for apple at home with the apple tv, itunes on my pc and my wife's ipad to control.

With 60+GB of music its nice to have access to all of it and save battery on the portable devices but I'd much rather use my blackberry devices.

Long time blackberry user:
7290-> Original Curve -> Original Bold -> Bold 9700 -> Bold 9900

And finally jumping on the Playbook bandwagon with the new low price.

I have two BMG's, one for the car and one in the house. I the one in the house was connected to an only Sony stereo and worked for years as the music source in the living room. I've since switched to Sonos and I'm not looking back. The Blackberry even allows me to play directly on any Sonos device without going through a Sonos app. The flexibility of the Sonos is much greater than the BMG setup described in the article. What is describe in the article is basically what I used until I got my Sonos.