How to control Apple’s iTunes Radio with Sonos

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 ā€” in the way Sonos users can, for instance, access music from Concert Vault or Spotify ā€” 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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