updated 03:00 am EDT, Tue March 20, 2012
Sonos Controller 3.7 hands-on
Sonos lived up to its word early Tuesday and released its revamped edition of the Controller for Macs and Windows PCs. The 3.7 update is its first major rework in some time and brings some parts of the mobile apps over to the desktop. We've had an opportunity to try it in advance with some quick impressions.
Two of the most common complaints from the desktop app -- and to some extent, the mobile apps -- has been a tendency to bury a few of the most common features, such as alarms, sleep timers, and even just basic search. Not so with 3.7: you now have obvious, top-level access to the alarm and sleep modes with pop-over menus. There's likewise now a very handy "pause all" if you get an important phone call or just want to leave the house. They make Sonos systems much more viable if you use them to wake in the morning or doze off.
Search is by far the biggest improvement. Instead of embedding search in each individual category, Sonos now has a general search box that lets you pick from whatever services you've picked to enable on your speaker systems. It responds very quickly, and it makes much more sense for navigation. You pick what you want first and then check to see which services have it if it's not in your local collection.
The queuing system is also much, much more natural. The previous system was focused on individual albums or songs. In its new form, every item has a checkbox to let you quickly select multiple songs or albums and drag them into the queue. If you spend most of your time with your local collection, or on-demand services like Rdio and (subscription) Slacker, you'll appreciate it immediately.
Complaints are fairly minor and have more to do with just the nature of having a unifying interface instead of dedicated apps. As you might imagine, you don't get the deep controls or special features of Spotify or other apps. It would be ideal one day to have custom interfaces for each.
There are a few other convenient if relatively minor features, such as a mini player (much like the compact modes for iTunes or Windows Media Player) as well as a Party Mode that hikes the volume for multiple zones all at once. For us, though, the primary benefits of 3.7 just come from having a truly modern interface. If you were looking into a Sonos Play:3 or Play:5 (formerly ZonePlayer S5) but plan to spend a significant amount of time steering it from a computer, you've now got a more compelling reason to jump in.