Credit: Michael Brown
I couldn’t talk about one of the most exciting products I saw at IFA while I was in Berlin. Sonos had a booth at the show, but you needed an invitation to a secret booth—essentially a studio apartment that Sonos hid in a staging area between exhibit halls—where the company demonstrated its new flagship powered speaker and some impressive new software called Trueplay.
I’ll cover Trueplay first, for two reasons: First, it’s a free upgrade that will be available to anyone who owns a Sonos component (although it will only work with the Play:1, Play:3, and Play:5 speakers at launch). Second, the demo in Berlin blew my mind. When you launch Trueplay on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (and it must be an iOS device, for reasons I’ll explain later) the speaker will emit a series of tones as you walk around the room, raising and lowering the device, bringing it close to and further away from the walls. The process requires the room to be relatively quiet, but it takes only about three minutes for each speaker, and you don’t need to repeat it unless you move the speaker or significantly rearrange your furniture.
Using the processor on the device and a DSP in the speaker, Trueplay will determine the location of the speaker within the room, analyze the room’s acoustic properties, and completely transform the speaker’s performance. Sonos’ least-expensive speaker, the Play:1, was used for the demo, and it was placed on a countertop and shoved all the way into a corner—a worst-case scenario for speaker placement. But after Sonos’s Senior Product Marketing Manager Kevin Kaul used Trueplay to re-tune the Play:1, the speaker delivered an exceptional performance.
Sonos is being coy about how Trueplay works, but Kaul did tell me that the software works with a DSP that’s in all Sonos speakers. The system analyzes how the test tones the speaker generates reflects off the walls, furnishings, glass, and other surfaces in the room and adjusts the speaker’s audio signal accordingly. If you don’t like the results, you can make further EQ adjustments manually.
So why is the software limited to iOS devices? As Kaul explained, “it must be an iOS device because the mic needs to be consistent. We can rely on the mic on an iOS device to be of a certain type and at an expected location. You don’t get that with Android devices. There are many different mics used [on Android devices] and they’re in many different places.” Sonos isn’t ruling out Android support in the future, but you’ll need an iOS device to use Trueplay for now. Oh, and for the security conscious: At no point is the data about your room uploaded to the cloud.
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