Ahhh yes, my never-ending saga of shitty user experiences with Sonos…… a company I used to perceive as a world-class brand but now stands as a painful reminder of corporate America’s lack of respect for basic consumer dignity.
Sonos started as a pioneer of seamless, multi-room sound. One of their primary draws was the ease by which one could set up a new Sonos system, and the reliability of it “just working” afterward. The ease of use and seamlessness of sound delivery is what Sonos built itself on and, for a long time, it was true. Sadly, I find myself in a position where I could never again recommend them to anyone.
My loathing for Sonos started with the sad state of affairs their “Smart” speakers, the first of which was the Sonos One released, on October 24, 2017. The ambitious and impressive Sonos One promises a lot of capability into such a small, sleek device. Not only is this still considered one of the best-sounding speakers ever produced, the Sonos One was also the first to integrate your choice of virtual assistants: Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. I was stoked, and bought two. I also bought their more mobile version, the Sonos Move. For a long time, these speakers worked great. Eventually, though, the good times stopped rolling.
First, there were just annoyances. Alexa either couldn’t hear me calling her or wouldn’t understand the command. It progressed to her understanding the command, repeating it back to me, but doing nothing. It then progressed to her understanding the command and repeating it back to me, but then doing something completely different. I remember dating someone with this kind of passive-aggressive behavior 😆. At some point, Alexa started executing commands on her own, like changing which source my audio streams from. Even this, I tolerated.
Some of Alexa’s behavior was somewhat comical, if not also a huge cock-blocker. Honestly, this is going to sound made-up but I swear it’s 100% true. Alexa somehow knows when I have women over because that’s when she realllllly rolls out the red carpet of tom-fuckery. It’s funny — she’ll actually respond to the women most of the time, but she won’t respond to me at all; or if she does, she executes some completely opposite command. Now, fortunately I have a very strong charm offensive and can usually bottle my anger in the moment, rise above, and get laid. That’s not always the case, though! I remember one time, after a shower, I hung up a towel and one drop of water must have fallen onto the top of my Sonos One speaker… riiiiiight where the play and volume buttons are. The Sonos One thought the drops of water were my fingers, and accordingly began wildly changing the volume up and down… then, a constant string of “beep… beep… beep, beep, beep… beep… beep” coming from the bathroom as it continually pauses and plays the music. I did not get laid that day.
The first sign things were really starting to crumble was when Audible started acting strange. I take real notice when something cuts into my audiobook time! Sonos would only play audio for the first 4 minutes and 18 seconds, then stop. What’s worse, it would forget where it left off, meaning to resume playback I’d first have to manually fast forward it those same 4 minutes again. You can imagine how infuriating this would get having to do it over and over and over again. It’s not just annoying, it makes listening to audiobooks implausible.
Considering Amazon runs both Audible and my virtual assistant, Alexa, it’s hard to imagine the technical problem lies in the connection between them. I can’t test it by changing assistants to Google, though, because Google and Amazon are mortal enemies and don’t allow each others’ customers to access their services — it’s we, the customers, who suffer the poor user experiences when consumer giants battle and slight themselves like that.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse. Sonos seemed to develop a mind of its own, refusing to execute even the most core commands like “Pause” and “Stop.” This was more than annoying, but it gets worse. Even the physical buttons on the outside of the devices themselves stopped working. Yes, that’s right. I’d walk right up to one of the units and press the “Pause” and “Sleep” buttons with absolutely no effect.. I mean, you know your consumer electronic is fucked when the physical buttons stop working.
When I called for support, Sonos continued to offer excuses and kick the can down the road. Eventually, after demanding they stop ignoring my problem, Sonos assigned a “top-level” technical person to the case but that person went radio-silent now after just two interactions. Great service. We were able to get the buttons to start working again but the other issues persist.
As I stand here today, Audible still will not play through a book successfully. Alexa, although she’s come around from her previous fits of protest behavior, she still gets wrong what I want 20% of the time; that’s about the best possible operational reliability I can expect these days. It’s sad.