Sonos has launched Sonos Radio HD, a premium tier of its Sonos Radio service that eliminates all advertisements and boosts audio quality significantly, for $8 per month. The service is available in the U.S. and U.K., with other countries being added in the future.
Sonos claims that its free tier of Sonos Radio is already the fourth-most-popular music source for users of its whole-home wireless speakers. After listening to user feedback, the company decided to add the premium HD tier, which addresses several desired changes:
- No more ads.
- Lossless, CD-quality audio using the FLAC format, which is the equivalent of Tidal, Qobuz, and Amazon Music HD‘s hi-fi tiers.
- The ability to skip or repeat songs.
Sonos Radio HD will also be the exclusive home for new artist-curated stations. The first of these is Dolly Parton’s Songteller Radio, which Sonos claims will continually evolve and feature Dolly’s hits, favorite artists, and special commentary on songs and moments throughout her career.
The company plans to keep adding more of these artist-curated stations over time, with five more promised in early 2021.
In addition to serving up all of the same stations currently on tap with the free Radio tier, Sonos is developing a new set of stations exclusively for HD subscribers. Stations like Nashville Now, Americana Ramble, Unforgettable, and Distant Kingdom each offer a deeper exploration into genres and music scenes with the help of expert curators.
Specialized stations such as The Inner Now, Chill Beats, and Mellow Morning are designed to be companions for at-home activities like cooking, working, relaxing, and sleeping. Six sleep stations have also been created with soundscapes that have been tuned specifically for Sonos speakers: White noise, pink noise, brown noise, rain, rainforest, and piano.
As intriguing as Sonos Radio HD sounds, the question is whether or not Sonos users will pay $8 per month for the service. Like the Sonos app itself, Sonos Radio HD (as well as the free tier) cannot be accessed from any other device — it only works when at home listening to Sonos wireless speakers over a Wi-Fi network. This means that there’s no way Sonos Radio HD can fully replace a traditional streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music, even if it offered the same on-demand library of songs, which currently it does not.
Nonetheless, a pandemic might just be the perfect moment to launch an at-home-only premium radio service. Playlists are popular because they take the guesswork out of trying to find something to listen to. Netflix believes that the same thing could be true for streaming video — it recently launched a linear, nonskippable stream in France called Direct.
It’s also worth noting that SiriusXM, which offers a streaming-only version of its subscription, charges $13 per month and you can’t skip songs or get a lossless, CD-quality stream.
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