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Hands on: Updated Sonos Controller app

updated 03:43 pm EDT, Tue May 13, 2014

Sonos ditches blue design for black and white

While Sonos has introduced a number of new hardware components over the last few years, the company has of late been seen to be falling behind with the software they offered to control them. Fortunately, that all changes today with the official launch of v5.0 of the Sonos Controller app for iOS and Android. Along with a completely overhauled UI, the update brings a number of new features that make using a Sonos system around the house even better.

The first thing you will notice after updating the app is the new design scheme Sonos has implemented. Gone are the days of the blue shades of the previous app, ushering in a more black and white experience highlighted by bright and colorful icons. If this all sounds a little familiar, then you have probably already concluded that it leans heavily on the stylings of iOS 7. Thankfully, Sonos has done an excellent job of executing these design elements, giving the app a much more professional look and feel.

If you are new to Sonos, the app will guide you through a simple setup process for adding to tell Sonos where it will be able to find all of your music. One of the great things about the way Sonos has always worked, is that it lets you easily bring together music from any number of services. The software can access a local music library, a remote library, or content from 38 (and counting) music streaming services from around the world. This includes services such as Rdio, The Hype Machine, Slacker Radio, Songza, and more recently, Google Play and MLB.

Collaborating all of these music sources into one location could be a messy affair, but luckily the new Sonos app handles everything in a very simple manner. From the homepage users can quickly find any of their music sources individually, with complete access to all forms of organization previously setup for each (i.e. Rdio playlists, collections, and stations). Alternatively, the new app introduces a universal search tool that will search across all connected music services for the requested content. After starting a search, users will also be presented with a number of filters to help narrow down results. These include things like Artists, Albums, and Stations, and will change based on which services are connected to the app.

Another addition to the home page is a Now Playing bar, which can provide quick access to all media playback controls when tapped. Although less obvious, users can also swipe in from the right side of the screen at any time to access the same Now Playing screen. Replacing the volume slider across the bottom of the screen, the bar always tells you what zone is selected, what music is selected for that zone, and whether the media is playing or paused.

Beyond visual changes, the v5.0 update also provides access to a number of new settings. If you are running surround speakers connected to a Playbar, you can now select from a few different music playback options. These settings include Ambient (default, subtle, ambient sound) and Full (new setting that enables louder, full range sound), which have no affect on TV audio but provide different ways to listen to music with a surround system. Furthermore, the Manage Music Library menu has gained new options to schedule music index updates, sort folders, and organize compilation albums.

Overall, the Sonos Controller app update is a welcome change. While some of the gestures and buttons aren't immediately obvious, the new app provides a simple way to access music and stream it to any connected hardware. The update does come with a small learning curve for any users coming from previous software; however, anyone that finds themselves overly confused can resort to Sonos' online guide for detailed instructions.

By Electronista Staff
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