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New leak hints at Sonos’ future: Bluetooth, spatial audio, and lots more home theater

You have to imagine that Sonos CEO Patrick Spence is getting a little tired of leaks originating from within the company’s walls. For the second time in 2022, The Verge’s Chris Welch has published details of an unreleased and unconfirmed Sonos product that Welch claims is code-named Optimo 2. According to this information, which he claims was gleaned from work-in-progress images of the Optimo 2, it’s a speaker that will likely take over from the current Sonos Five, a product that hasn’t been meaningfully updated since it debuted as the Play:5 in 2009.

Rendering of a reportedly unreleased Sonos speaker created by The Verge.
Alex Castro/The Verge

If the report is accurate — and it’s worth noting that Welch’s prior reporting on the Sonos Ray ahead of that product’s debut was very close to what was eventually announced — the Optimo 2 could represent the beginning of a new era for Sonos. It reportedly contains the mics needed for Sonos Voice Control, as well as plenty of RAM for future updates. A wireframe render of the speaker created by The Verge (which is what you do when you need to protect the source material) illustrates an unusual mirror-image shape — it looks vaguely like a VR headset — which appears to be designed to direct sound outward in at least two directions — forward and backward — though Welch says that some of the Optimo 2’s drivers will aim sound upward, too.

Such a configuration will presumably give the speaker the ability to spread sound in a fully 360-degree fashion, not a bad capability given the growing focus among artists, record labels, streaming services, and tech companies on spatial audio — an immersive, 3D audio format that exists under several brand names like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Sony 360 Reality Audio (360RA).

But what struck me as most interesting in the report is the claim that the Optimo 2 will be equipped with Bluetooth. It won’t be the first Sonos speaker with Bluetooth — the Sonos Move and Sonos Roam already have it — but the intent with these portable, battery-powered speakers is that you’ll mostly use their Bluetooth feature when away from your home’s Wi-Fi network.

Adding Bluetooth to a non-portable Sonos speaker would be a first, and it could be a sign that Sonos is willing to accept two realities: people want the easy, ad hoc ability to stream to a speaker from any Bluetooth phone or tablet without joining a Wi-Fi network and without needing an app, and that Bluetooth audio is finally good enough to meet Sonos’ high standards for quality.

Wondering what might have changed Sonos’ tune on Bluetooth? The first element is the finalization of the new LE Audio specification. Among other benefits, LE Audio introduces Auracast, the ability for a single Bluetooth source (like your phone) to stream to an unlimited number of Bluetooth speakers and headphones. That ability meshes very nicely with Sonos’ core mission as a whole-home, multiroom wireless audio ecosystem.

The second element is Qualcomm’s release of aptX Lossless, a new Bluetooth codec that is capable of sending full, 16-bit, CD-quality sound over a Bluetooth connection. For almost Sonos’ entire history, the promise of wireless, CD-quality sound has been central to its messaging. And despite the company’s recent support for better-than-CD-quality, hi-res audio, most people still consider CD-quality the goal when it comes to digital music.

Adopting aptX Lossless would also make sense for Sonos’ wireless headphones — a product that has been rumored for many years. Sonos has filed at least one patent related to wireless headphone technology, so at the very least, we know it’s spending time and energy thinking about it.

Finally, the Optimo 2 report suggests that this new product will be one of three new speakers, including an Optimo 1 and a sans-microphone Optimo 1 SL. When these products are matched with the company’s as-yet-unreleased (but highly anticipated) Sonos Sub Mini, they could form a potent home theater system, with the Optimo 2 taking on the role that a soundbar would normally occupy. Such a system could scale up and down easily depending on your room size and budget.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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