The new Sonos Amp

Sonos is replacing the Connect:Amp with their Sonos Amp. Unlike their standalone speakers such as the Sonos One, the Sonos Amp can be connected to stereo speakers or other speakers. For example, we often use it with in-ceiling speakers in homes. Its currently available to integrator people like us, and will be available to Canadian shoppers in February. The new Sonos Amp has most of the same connection options as the Connect:Amp (speaker connectors, left/right inputs, sub output, two Ethenet ports). It also adds an HDMI connector for TV connections. Overall it looks like a nice update – let’s take a closer look at its main features. 

Power output

The feature that most people will notice is that they’ve bumped up the power to 125W on each side from the Connect:Amp’s 55W. While most people don’t need the volume from the extra power, it should help improve the sound even at lower levels when parts of music need more oomph. This will be particularly handy if you’re using it with four speakers, such as four in-ceiling speakers.

TV friendly 

We think the Amp is most likely to find its spot hidden away in a technology closet in a home, but it can happily be placed in a living room. If you want to use it with your TV, it has a HDMI connector for TVs with an HDMI ARC output. You can start with just your stereo speakers (it emulates a centre channel). You can then add other Sonos speakers for surround sound. It also has an IR sensor so you can use your remote control for the volume.

Future features

We suspect some of the Amp’s best feature’s are yet to come. Since it’s a new platform, there are features that can be added in the future. For example, it’s compatible with Apple’s AirPlay 2 unlike the Connect:Amp. We look forward to the possibility of native support for other smart devices such as smart doorbells. 

While many see the Sonos Amp as an ‘integrator’ focused device, it should slot in with the same kind of people who are using a Connect:Amp with their stereo speakers. We’re currently testing ours with our turntable setup, and so far, so great! We look forward to using it in our clients homes to harness the increased output power and future technology options.

How to hide speakers in plain sight

Master in-wall speakersQuality sound is paramount for any music system or media room. When building or renovating, there are options for great sound without sacrificing your home’s style and aesthetics. In-wall & in-ceiling speakers, invisible speakers and hiding traditional speakers are great ways to minimize speaker visibility in a room. They’re great solutions to make everyone from designers to audiophiles happy.

A simple and affordable option is to use in-wall or in-ceiling architectural speakers. Speaker companies like Focal offer options from excellent, low-cost to high-end, audiophile grade architectural speakers. As a guideline, ceiling speakers are great for ambient music and in-wall are for more dedicated music listening or demanding home theatre applications. That said, either installation type can be tweaked to sound great to work around aesthetic or building issues like concrete ceilings in a condo. There are also built in subwoofers available from companies like Triad, so you can even get rid of those big boxes too.

Invisible speakers are similar to in-wall and in-ceiling speakers, but they are actually designed to be part of the wall. After installation, they are plastered and sanded to be part of the wall surface. They can be painted or wallpapered over to completely Triad DesignerSeriesdisappear. Invisible speakers come at a premium price and are not for all situations. They are better for smaller rooms, and care must be taken to not place where a nail could be hammered in (for say a hanging a picture – they are invisible after all!). They provide good sound quality, but have wider dispersion than other speaker types. If you have the right room and want ambient music, then these could work for you.

Another option is to hide away traditional ‘box’ speakers behind sound transparent material. A common version of this is placing home theatre speakers behind a sound transparent projection screen. This can be more involved, as you will need a false wall to house the speakers. It turns out to be pretty slick though as the movie sound comes from the screen like in a commercial movie theatre.

With a bit of creativity and planning, you can have your excellent sound system and clean aesthetics in your living space. There are affordable options that can provide minimal visual impact for most rooms and situations. If you have audiophile tastes or demanding aesthetics to meet, there are also higher end products. Yes, you can have great sound and a great looking home too.

Five More Fav Home Tech Trends for Vancouver

As shown in our Five Fav Home Tech Trends for Vancouver posting, there are so many great tech trends for Vancouver home owners.  We though we’d run through five more of the exciting trends:

WeMo Switch1) WeMo – WeMo from Belkin is a good first baby step to home automation. WeMo
currently has four options: Switch, Switch+Motion, Motion and Baby. We’d started with the WeMo Switch as it can be used to replace those cumbersome mechanical timers, plus you can use your smartphone to turn stuff on and off at a whim. They are easy to setup and use. If you have or are about to have a baby, the WeMo Baby monitor is definitely worth checking out as well.

AirPlay2) Wireless music systems – For Vancouverites with iPhones, iPads or Macs, we’re huge fans of Apple’s AirPlay products to distribute music and media wirelessly around the home. Other manufacturers are also supporting the AirPlay standard including Bowers & Wilkins, Altec Lansing and Denon – some real quality choices available. Sonos also has excellent music systems. Simpleer can help make sense of this for you and your home to get you rocking out (or chilling when required) at the touch of a button.

Network Cam3) Network Cameras – The quality of network cameras is going up and the price is coming down. For cameras to keep an eye on your baby at nap time, your vacation home or even your pets antics while your out, companies like D-Link and Linksys have some great options. If you’re looking for a convenient method to check and talk with who’s at the front door regardless of whether you’re home or not, the DoorBot Doorbell with build in network camera may fit your bill.

Ceiling Speakers4) Built in Speakers – We’re huge fans of using in-ceiling and in-wall speakers to integrate music stylishly into Vancouver homes. They’re also great to use with Apple’s AirPlay products and for stealth home theatre systems. There are tons of choices at all price points including Polk Audio and B&W. If you’re looking for something distinctive, then Bang & Olufsen’s new build in speakers might be for you. Either way, Simpleer can help find the right speaker for your ears, aesthetics and budget

Phone Finder Apps5) Phone Finder Apps – It seems like every Vancouverite has a smartphone and tablet. But what happens when they go missing? Have no worries, as Apple has Find iPhone and there is Find My Phone for Android. Apple’s app is compatible with iPhone, iPads, iPods and even MacBooks. You can make it play a loud ring to find your device or to erase it if you think its stolen. Find My Phone covers your Android devices. These apps are very handy to keep a tab on your loved ones too if they are open to that. These apps are very powerful for elder care to help guard their independence, while still offering support when needed. Just remember to install the app and set it up now before you need it later!

OK let’s make it six, as we couldn’t resist including Car2Go:

Car2Go6) Car2Go – The need for owning multiple cars or any car at all is shrinking in Vancouver. With most homes here, parking is also getting tight. There are times when you just need a car for a quick trip though. This is where car shares and micro rentals are handy and affordable. One or our favourites is Car2Go. They have cool Smart cars and smartphone apps to help you find the cars parked around the city. You need to sign up for a membership, but after that its scan your card, go, and park it – you only pay for the time when you’re actually using the car.