Quick Look: Sonos Gets Green(er)

I've written before about the idea of green music. The idea is to cut your footprint by investing in high quality equipment (not gadgets) with a long shelf life, low energy or Energy star compliant, ROHS compliant, obsolescence resistance, streaming capabilities or digital downloads vs CD's.

Over three years ago I got a wireless Sonos music system for my house. I've used it every day since then, stopped buying CDs, and stopped buying every new iPod to come down the pike. What started as a two room system (living room & kitchen) eventually grew to add the bedroom and patio. I recently added another one for my office, the new Sonos 120.In case you aren't familiar with the Sonos system, it is a high end wireless music system that allows you to stream music to any location in your home or office. There are both amplified and non-amplified units and they can not only play music from virtually any source in your home, they are also capable of streaming music from internet radio stations, Rhapsody, Pandora, and many more. The big selling point for me was the fact that you could seamlessly sync multiple units to the same song with no gap, or listen to different audio in different locations. Best of all, since it works on its own wireless network, it doesn't compromise the speed of your computer network.

Greener than previous models, the 120 is a power efficient way of building amplifiers by bringing a Class D digital amplifier together with a resonant switching power supply. This means most of the power goes directly to creating sound.

Amplifiers generally use a power supply with a large copper coil which can waste a huge amount of the power as heat. This is why you often see stereos in large metal boxes. The Sonos 120 on the other hand is in a very compact case because it converts most of its power to sound and the aluminum case absorbs the remaining heat without using a fan.

More sound, less heat, less waste. In addition the form factor is much smaller, meaning less materials and as before, still ROHS compliant (fewer hazardous materials).


Comparison between the original Sonos 100 and the new 120

The Sonos will never be Energy Star compliant, (since it is a wireless system, its "radio" is always on listening for other Sonos units and controllers), however it does switch into a low power mode when not in use. I have several units on automated timers so their power is cut at night when I'm asleep.

I think my favorite feature of the new device as well as the past units is what Slate recently called, "The Death of Planned Obsolescence." Basically the idea is that today's technology becomes increasingly less valuable every day after you purchase it...often doing less and less and requiring you to upgrade or update to new gear year after year. By building a robust technology, Sonos has avoided this trap by ensuring that their firmware was upgradable, bringing new updates and features to their customers several times a year...for free.

I hope we're seeing a trend here and more companies start thinking long term and not just about dropping old models for new models every six months. I think we're long overdue for a new business model based on value first and less on what's "cool."

I'd love to discuss green music, my own system, or the idea of planned obsolescence in more detail. Why not join me in the forums?

Tags: Music