Sonos re-invented the whole idea of wireless multi-room audio around eight years ago and really hasn't been seriously challenged in this high-end, fancy whole-home audio space (sorry, Squeezebox) — until now.
Later this week, Bose will start selling the first components in its new SoundTouch multi-room audio system. While overtly similar to Sonos' solutions, Bose adds two fascinating improvements: Wi-Fi built into all SoundTouch devices rather than Sonos' separate Bridge Wi-Fi hub, and six car radio-like presets present on all SoundTouch devices and RF remote controls, including a puck-like wall-mountable remote.
SoundTouch includes the expected Sonos-like multi-room audio feature basics — compatibility with and access to your iTunes and Windows Media music library, separate streams to each room or one stream to all rooms, iOS and Android smartphone/tablet control app plus Mac/Windows PC access, Internet radio stations and music services such as Pandora.
But the three SoundTouch single stereo speakers — the SoundTouch 30 ($699), the smaller SoundTouch 20 ($399) and the AC/rechargeable battery SoundTouch Portable ($399) all have six numbered keys on top, as do their small RF remote controls.
Pricey? Yup — after all, it's Bose.
Within the Bose SoundTouch app, or even from one of the SoundTouch speakers, you can easily set presets for your specific Pandora stations, any of the 8,000 or so Internet radio stations, or song playlists from your music library — it's all drag and drop or just a matter of holding down a preset button to store the stream that's playing. And that preset is propagated to all the SoundTouch devices on your home network nearly instantly.
Once a preset is set, you simply press the corresponding preset number on any SoundTouch speaker or remote, and that preset stream starts playing almost instantly — no need to access an app.
SoundTouch speakers also are Apple AirPlay compatible.
More SoundTouch To Come
Bose will expand the SoundTouch ecosystem into more of its audio components. Coming soon are: SoundTouch Wave, a new version of the company's tabletop radio ($599, December), a tiny SoundTouch Jewel Cube system with an Acoustimass subwoofer and the wall-mountable SoundTouch Controller puck ($1,199, early 2014), and SoundTouch SA-4 stereo amplifier ($499, early 2014).
Bose also hopes to add more music service options such as iHeart Radio and, although they wouldn't say so specifically, Spotify.