Sonos & AirPlay: What you should know before purchasing

I had been eying up a Sonos speaker for some time, ever since I saw the special edition blue version of the Sonos Play, which had a nice aesthetic and a reasonable price tag too. So come Christmas day 2015 it was a nice surprise to open a Play on the morning.

I was eager to get set up, plugged it in and downloaded the Sonos app. As a user of Apple TV and seeing a wide range of dock speakers and AirPlay compatible speakers over the years, I had the expectation that playing music on a Sonos would be of a similar experience to playing music via Apple TV; Tap the AirPlay icon in the Music app, then select the Sonos Play speaker, right? Sadly not.

Play via the Sonos app only

To use a Sonos speaker you need the Sonos companion app. You use the app to connect the speaker to your wi-fi network, enabling you to play music through the speaker.

The app itself is similar to the Apple Music app displaying your downloaded music files and playlists. If you have an Apple Music subscription (which after the free trial I decided wasn’t for me) you can also stream Apple Music via the Sonos app too.

Sonos & iTunes DRM

As it happens, I’m actually unable to do what one would expect from a speaker — play my music. Around 80% of my music is not compatible with Sonos because it can only be played via the Sonos app and the music was purchased back in the days of iTunes DRM. When I attempt to play, I receive the following error: “Unplayable song. Sonos is unable to play content from Apple Music/iTunes that contains copy protection.”

Sonos AirPlay DRM error

Possible solutions?

Being unable to play my music I tweeted about my dissatisfaction. Sonos replied with a link that suggested I purchase iTunes Match to overcome the issue with DRM. Purchasing iTunes Match to play music you’ve already purchased via iTunes seems like overkill and just doesn’t make financial sense.

 

If you’re quite technical, you might want to consider setting up an AirSonos server. SixColors have written a post documenting how you do this on a Mac: Getting Sonos to work with AirPlay (and Overcast). This will enable the use of AirPlay with Sonos, but bear in mind the computer will always need to be on when you want to play music, so again this isn’t an ideal solution.

The most make-sense solution by far would be for Sonos to enable AirPlay on their speakers. This for me seems to be the instinctive solution and was my expectation from the outset. Until this happens, I would warn any potential buyer against purchasing, because like me, you may not be able to play your music.