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 9900, BlackBerry PlayBook and a few BlackBerry Music Gateways. Keep reading to see just how easy it is to setup something similiar on your own.
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.
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.
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.
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 Radio, Nobex or whatever you'd like. On your phone, Pandora, Spotify, Slacker and others all work without a hitch as well.
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!
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