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Sonos Gets Really Real

It's a very good morning for Sonos music system owners

2 min read

My neighbor bought one of the first Sonos systems in 2005 and has been impressing his friends ever since with the almost magical control its single remote gives him over his collection of digital music. I had fun playing with his Sonos—sending one audio track to the kitchen, another to the back yard, then cranking them both up as loud as I could to see which song would win—but, personally, I didn’t have much use for it. First, I’d have had to leave at least one computer turned on at all times, then load it with music by either ripping a CD or buying online. For me, it was too much work, at too high a price—$999 for a two-location system.

But it wasn’t too hard or too expensive for some 50 000 other people. And this morning Thursday, 14 September, all those music lovers woke up to find an extra two-million-plus songs at their fingertips. Sonos has just pushed a new version of its software out to its entire installed base, and the company thinks that the software will get a lot more people to buy the system.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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