September 2013

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Apple recently introduced its version of a music streaming service. Given the market penetration Apple has via its devices, user adoption of iTunes Radio will be high.

Apple is notoriously “closed” when it comes to its technology; they control their eco-system tightly. You can’t for instance watch movies you download from iTunes on an Amazon Kindle.

The chances, therefore, of Apple allowing Sonos users to access iTunes Radio directly from the Sonos music services — in the way Sonos users can, for instance, access music from Concert Vault or Spotify — is slim.

As I’ve written in this space before, Sonos is as good as it gets when it comes to providing an integrated, multi-zone music-listening experience. Therefore, on the surface, this lack of compatibility with iTunes Radio is frustrating, as we all want one music controller to rule them all, rather than having to switch back and forth between music sources.

With a little effort, however, there is a work-around that gets you pretty close.

If you attach an Airport Express to a Sonos line-in on either the Sonos Play (3 or 5) or the Sonos Connect (but not a Sonos Bridge), you can then use Apple’s Air Play to send iTunes Radio to Sonos via your Apple device (computer or iOS device).

Here’s where it gets interesting, however. While you would think that you would be limited to sending the music to the Sonos device that the Airport Express is connected to, and only that device, you would be wrong.

I lay awake for a couple hours last night trying to figure out how the geniuses at Sonos did it (I figured it out, but won’t bore you with it, and, yes, it did help with my insomnia), but you can indeed play your iTunes Radio through any of your Sonos speakers irrespective of which one is connected to the Airport Express.

For instance, I have my Airport Express connected to a Sonos Connect in my downstairs office, but can play iTunes Radio through my Sonos Play 3 in the bedroom.

To accomplish this, you go to your Sonos controller (desktop or App) and go to Settings. Then go to Room Settings and select the room where your Airport Express is connected to your Sonos device. In this room will be a “Line In” setting. Go to this, and select “Autoplay Room.” From there, you can select whichever Sonos device you want to play the music you send to your Airport Express.

So, again, if I want to play my iTunes Radio through my Sonos device in my bedroom, I go to the Line In settings for the Sonos device in my office (where the Airport Express is connected), and just change the “Autoplay Room” selection to Bedroom.

I then go to iTunes Radio, and select AirPlay, and send the signal to my Airport Express, but rather than it playing out of the Sonos device connected to the Airport Express (my office), it plays via my Sonos device in my bedroom. Magic.

You can even group the Sonos devices, so I could have iTunes Radio playing out of my Sonos devices in the living room or kitchen, etc., in addition to the bedroom. As an aside, this presents an easy way to change zones. Rather than going through the steps above and changing the zone you want to play via “Autoplay Room,” just group the original room with the new room you want to play the music to, and then ungroup the original room. iTunes Radio will now play only through this “new” room.

What you can’t do, of course, is create multi zone play (unless you have multiple Airport Expresses connected to your Sonos components via line in). That is, you can’t have one iTunes Radio station playing via Sonos in your living room and a different station in your kitchen.

This is a drag, and defeats one of the core competencies of Sonos, but, again, given Apple’s reluctance to open their system, this is unlikely to change.

While the above seems complicated, and, admittedly, is not perfect (no multi-zone play), it does allow you to play and control iTunes Radio via Sonos.

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I’ve been on the edge of severing ties with my cable subscription for a number of years. I hadn’t done it because while the AppleTV/iTunes/Netflix/Hulu combo provided me with more than I could ever want/watch in terms of programming, there was the occasional concern that there’d be some live TV programming that I wouldn’t want to miss.

This concern was alleviated by Aereo, which grabs free over-the-air HD signals from the networks (and a few other stations), and allows you to watch live or record on your computer or mobile device.

It works swmimmingly, and for $8/month, it’s a good bargain.

So…cable cut. No regrets. Plow the “saved” money into higher speed internet (they’re going to get you one way or the other).

However, while AppleTV is great for zapping a signal to your TV via AirPlay from your iPad or iPhone, if you are watching something on your laptop, getting this signal to your TV used to require a complicated set of chords and adapters. Newer versions of Macs have built-in AirPlay functionality, but if you’re running an older Mac, you’ll need an app called AirParrot. This will mirror the audio and video from your Mac on your AppleTV.

So, there you have it, the recipe for cutting your cable, while still having access to all the programming you could want. :

AppleTV: $100
AirParrot: $10 (only necessary if you have a late-ish Mac)
Netflix: $8/month
HuluPlus: $8/month
Aereo: $8/month

1. Many could probably get away with either HuluPlus or Aereo alone, and not need both.

2. If you’re a big sports fan, you might still want/need cable; as Aereo doesn’t have ESPN, etc.

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