Sonos has established a reputation as the preeminent wireless whole-home music system, and for good reason. Its combination of high-quality speakers, easy and intuitive app control, and support for nearly every streaming service on the planet makes for a very compelling product.
But one criticism of Sonos continues to dog the company, especially from audiophile circles: It has limited native support for audio formats, and cannot play any high-resolution files. For Sonos customers who have chosen to load up their music libraries with high sample rate, 24-bit lossless formats like FLAC or WAV, this has presented an unfortunate reality — transcode your high-quality music to a lower sample rate, 16-bit format, or don’t listen to them on Sonos at all.
Fortunately there’s now a workaround, thanks to Plex, the popular free media server known for its impressive digital video organization and streaming capabilities. Plex also possesses serious audio chops, with the ability to play many popular lossy, lossless, and high-res formats. What it can’t play directly, it can transcode on the fly, which means there are very few music files it can’t handle. In 2016, Plex launched beta support for Sonos as a client device, and after months of working out the bugs, it’s now available as a fully supported release.
The result is an impressive expansion of what’s possible on a Sonos system. The biggest benefit is being able to play all of your tracks, regardless of the format you chose when you added them to your library. Plex can’t magically make Sonos compatible with your high-res audio files (we wish!), but it can let you listen to them, by transcoding them down to a 320kbps AAC format, in real time.
Another advantage: Your music library no longer has to be on the same network as your Sonos system, because the Plex Media Server can stream your tunes to any location that has an internet connection. For those of you lucky enough to own multiple homes with multiple Sonos systems, your library can stay put, while you access it from wherever you happen to be. A side benefit to this arrangement is that you can access a friend’s Plex music library just as easily (with their permission) as you can access your own.
If you’re new to Plex, it’s available as a free download and can run on a computer or a network attached storage device . The free version of the app will automatically organize your music collection via metadata, but Plex Pass subscribers get an extra bonus: audio fingerprinting — the same technology behind iTunes Match — will be used for even better automatic organization.
To get in on the Plex for Sonos action, make sure that Remote Access is enabled on your Plex server, then add the Plex service using either the Sonos Controller mobile app or the Sonos Desktop Controller app on your computer.
Once the service is set up, you’ll be able to browse your collection by artist or album, shuffle your entire library, or browse through your playlists. A Discover view also lets you see your most recent additions, most played songs of the month, and more.
For more information and to get started, visit the Plex website.
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