Review: Apple Music and Sonos make an almost perfect pair
Apple Music has its share of problems. The Music app is packed to the gills with features, which makes finding basic items that much harder. Liking songs isn't the best way to bookmark them. And little bugs in the system can make it hard to groove out to the songs you enjoy. But despite all that, Apple's music service is still my service of choice. And when I heard it was coming to Sonos's connected speaker system, I was thrilled.
I got my first Sonos speaker (a Playbar) a few years ago, and picked up a new Play:5 for my office after reviewing one last fall; I'm now just a few speakers away from having our entire house hooked up wireless for sound up, and the temptation to add devices increases every day. Not only does Sonos have incredible sound quality, it wirelessly hooks into a bunch of different music services and lets you mix and match music between them. Whether you have Spotify, Mixcloud, Amazon Music, Bandcamp, Google Play, Pandora, SoundCloud, Tidal, or Apple Music, you can jam out to a song or album from any of the services.
I've been using Apple Music on Sonos since its initial beta release; here's what's great (and not-so-much).
Sonos's app does an excellent job at integrating Apple Music's various complicated tabs into an easy-to-use interface: When you select the service, you get four large grey boxes with representative pink glyphs: For You, New, Radio, and My Music.
For You, New, and Radio all offer the same content you'd find in the Music app itself, albeit in a much more simplified manner. In the For You section, Sonos's app reduces the big, beautiful cover art from the Music app to list selections with smaller cover art next to each one. Playlists feature four small album covers arranged in a grid, while individual selected albums display solo next to their titles.
New is even more simply arranged, offering a menu list with Top Songs, Top Albums, Apple Editors Playlists, Activity Playlists, and Curator Playlists. I love this version of the New screen: I primarily use the tab on Apple Music to get to the service's Activity playlists, and with Sonos, I can access them with just two taps and no scrolling.
Radio brings both Beats 1 access and support for Apple Music's algorithmic stations; for me, Beats 1 is the real draw, but I've also enjoyed streaming the John Williams Star Wars station as of late. (Still crossing my fingers that the service never takes it down.)
My favorite aspect of Apple Music on Sonos, however, is its integration with my iCloud Music Library. You can upload and manage your iTunes Music Library on Sonos's desktop app, but the process has always felt clunky; with a direct pipeline in Apple Music to all of your cloud-stored content, the Sonos controller will automatically update the content in your tab any time you make a change in the Music app. This includes any custom-built playlists you've created, along with your saved artists, albums, and songs.
Sonos's universal search and queue system is also a huge boon: Not only can you search and add tracks from multiple services, but you can automatically limit your searches to a certain area of Apple Music. This is a great way to find targeted playlists; just select the playlist section of Search and type in a keyword like "working out" or "mountain goats" to find all the playlists related to your query.
Best of all, you can create areas for frequently-listened music by favoriting tracks or albums, or saving custom playlists based off your music queue.
Sonos's app offers a lot of great stuff for the Apple Music fan, but — like any new offering — I have my nitpicks. There's no great way to Like songs, so your Sonos-picked "For You" choices aren't acknowledged in any way (that I know of) with Apple Music. If you enjoy a track, you'll have to meander on over to the Music app and let Apple Music know.
There's also no way to access Connect, Apple Music's social service. Most of you may write Connect off, but if you enjoy Beats 1, the service is a great way to find yet-to-be-released songs played on-air; I recently wanted to play a song from the upcoming Star Wars Headspace album on my Sonos system and was unable to, because it's not yet available anywhere but Connect.
My last nitpick is more on Apple than Sonos: One of Apple Music's greatest advantages to other services is its Siri integration, but there's no current way to do that with the Sonos controller. Apple needs to provide third-party hooks for such a service to work properly; until it does, you're stuck picking music from the Sonos app rather than asking Siri to add it to your queue automatically.
If you're a Sonos customer and an Apple Music subscriber, you're going to love Apple Music on your speaker system: It adds a huge catalog of tracks and an excellent array of playlists, along with full access to your iCloud Music Library.
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Serenity was formerly the Managing Editor at iMore, and now works for Apple. She's been talking, writing about, and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, sings, and in her secret superhero life, plays roller derby. Follow her on Twitter @settern.