Sonos has today announced that it will launch its next-generation operating system and app in June. Referred to as 'S2', this new Sonos platform will play host to new features, usability enhancements and - most tantalisingly - "upgraded audio bandwidth".
While Sonos is currently offering very little in the way of specifics around the Sonos S2 platform, it has said that the upgraded audio bandwidth will "enable higher resolution technologies for music and home theatre". We'd be amazed if that didn't mean support for high-resolution audio content from the likes of Qobuz and Tidal (MQA seems likely), as well as Dolby Atmos surround sound capabilities.
We're told that these updates won't arrive immediately, though. In fact the only new feature detailed so far is 'Room Groups'. This allows you to create lasting groups of particular zones that you often use in unison - the lounge and kitchen, perhaps - so that you don't have to do so every time you start playing. You'll be able to do this as soon as the Sonos S2 platform launches.
Room Groups alone may not seem like a reason to get too excited about S2, but we expect that more new features will be detailed in the run-up to launch. The new S2 Sonos software also paves the way for new hardware (any and all new devices launched after May will be S2-only), so we'd be surprised if new Sonos devices weren't announced shortly before or after the arrival of S2. A new, Dolby Atmos soundbar seems a very likely candidate to us.
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As you've probably gathered if you've been keeping up with Sonos news of late, not every existing Sonos product will be compatible with S2. Those legacy devices previously detailed (the full list is reproduced below for reference) will have to remain on the existing platform, which will in future be known as 'S1'.
Sonos is reiterating that S1 products will continue to operate as they do currently, and that the company will continue to offer bug fixes and security updates, and "keep your music and voice services working for as long as we can".
However, S1 and S2 products will not be interoperable, and those with Sonos devices not eligible for the upgrade will find themselves locked out of receiving new features and adding S2 products in the future.
If you have a Sonos system that doesn't include any of the legacy products listed at the bottom of this page, you've got nothing to worry about: in June you'll be notified of the S2 software update and it can be applied to your whole system.
If, though, you've got a Sonos system that includes a mix of S1-only and S2-eligible devices, you have four choices:
1) Keep your entire system, even if it includes some S2-compatible devices, on the S1 platform, knowing that you will be locked out of future features and products.
2) Split the system in two, separating the S1 and S2 products. You'll be able to use the new app to operate the S2 system, and the current app to operate the S1 devices. That doesn't sound great, but you might find that your Sonos speakers are actually often used more or less independently of one another, perhaps even by different members of the family, in which case this could work.
3) Trade-up the S1 devices in your system. Sonos is still offering a 30 per cent discount on new devices bought when a legacy device is traded in, and it's no longer insisting that these trade-in devices be put into 'Recycle Mode' to be eligible.
4) Get rid of the S1 devices. Perhaps you've got a friend or family member who'd be delighted to receive a still perfectly capable Sonos product.
While it's fair to say that Sonos' announcement regarding the end of support for legacy products was met with a fair amount of disappointment, we think it was more or less inevitable that at some point older devices would be left behind. And if doing so opens the door to features such as hi-res audio on Sonos, perhaps it's for the best.
Here's the list of devices that will not support the S2 software when it launches:
All Zone Players (ZP80, ZP90, ZP100, ZP120)
Connect:Amp (sold between 2006 and 2015)
Play:5 (Gen 1)