Image representing Sonos as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

So this is one of the posts in which I am going to argue that when I was a teenager things were better, and you are going to think that I am one of those guys who thinks that things were always better in the past.  A disgruntled modernist of sorts. But no, that is not the case.  I can’t think of anything that was better 30 yrs ago than now, except one thing, music quality.

When I was a teen, I was a fan of HiFi music.  I used to build my own speakers, try to get the best turntable I could find, and the best amplifier.  Already playing cassette tapes was consider a “no no” as the quality would deteriorate considerably compared to vinyl records. I did like CDs though, as they seem to reach the whole sound range.

Now fast forward to 2010. My children play music off their laptops, their Macs. The speakers are terrible. Sound awful. And even myself I buy a Sonos, and the quality is acceptable, but not great. So what do I do? I still buy myself amazing speakers and amplifiers and whatever I have that produces music, I send through those. And I don’t even like the sound of Home Theaters except if you are watching movies. So we have one, but in the movie at home part of the house. Home Theaters invariably have bad speakers. So our solution for the living room and dining room is to have great old fashion Denon, Pioneer and Marantz, amplifiers connected to Yamaha speakers. It is not that the equipment is old. It’s the technology that is old. Even the Sonos I don’t use to amplify the sound, nor do I use the Sonos speakers that come with the unit. I just a use a Sonos box to convert Spotify, and even my own music library, from an input that comes over ethernet, into an audio output that goes into the Denon amplifier and the Yamaha speakers.  Something that soon amplifiers will do by themselves using AirPlay.

So in the end I walk around my home with an iPhone or HTC Nexus One (with Andronos installed) and I can play music, great quality music. And now I have both, the quality of the 80’s with the variety, accessibility and ease of use that we have 30 years later. My favorite band at the moment is The XX. My favorite song is Crystalised.

PS:  I am studying the app that was made for streaming music with a Fonera,

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Simon Conesa on November 14, 2010  · 

I just wanted to comment that a review on a specialized HiFi Magazine (Stereophile) pointed that the best sound quality from Sonos is obtained by taking their digital out signal through a high quality external Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC), and from there to your choice of amplifier and loudspeakers. For a very good balance between quality and convenience, I would point your readers in the direction of studio monitors, which may include their own amplification and can produce high quality sounds when properly chosen and installed. Enjoy!

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Voorstad on November 14, 2010  · 

Hi Martin, why did you buy a Sonos for that? You do have a fonera 2.0n I asume?

I have connected my digital music library on my HD to my Fonera, and with a USB soundcard, I have connected the sound output to my home amplifier (Pioneer).

With MPD (Music Player Demaon) installed on my fonera, and MPDroid on my Android, I can play & control all my music and radiostreams.


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Martin Varsavsky on November 15, 2010  · 

Voorstad I am really embarrassed by your comment. Of course my home is full of foneras 2.0n and I use them for a lot of things, uploading, streaming onto a firefox, but I have never seen them work streaming music off the internet and being managed by an Android. Tomorrow Monday at Fon that is the first thing I will do, ask some of my colleagues to show me the music apps. I am friends with Daniel Ek of Spotify and I do believe that the combo Airport Express iTunes needs some healthy competition in the form of a Fonera/Spotify. And I am saying Spotify because even though there are some other great services such as Rdio,, Grooveshark, etc Spotify is just so easy to use. What I would love to have is the ability to have the Fonera run Spotify and my Android phone manage, act as the interface.

Cristian on November 14, 2010  · 

I do the same. I use current technology to just organize, transport, manage and administer music sources around my home; but I use conventional 70/80s based technology to amplify it.

Still, I’m always surprised at how when I have friends at home, those under 30 years-old, can’t perceive any difference in sound quality when I play an mp3 from when I play a .wav file. They always insist they sound exactly the same.

Could generational gap be also starting to affect genetic aural skills, too?
May be ears and sound receptors in the brains of new generations are mutating somehow X-men style, developing only up to a level where is enough just to hear what they need to, coming out of mobile speakers and sound compressed formats made for video games, you tube videos and other online streamed signals.

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Dani Santi on November 14, 2010  · 

The problem with the music, nowadays, it is the source of the music itself. When you listen a CD it has a compression rate much better than normal mp3 audio, for example the quality of Spotify free account is 160kbps, with this rate the sound is normal but not great, instead a CD has around 1400kbps, that’s the main reason, and I guess the movies have a similar compression rate.
Supposedly, a non-educated (in music) person do not feel the difference upper 128kpbs, but everyone can feel the difference between a mp3 with 128kpbs and a normal CD.

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Jens on November 15, 2010  · 

So true, mp3 killed the HiFi star! 😉 There is nothing compared to a great Stereo set up. Althought there are some really good audiophile home cinema speakers made by a small company in Berlin called Teufel. You should visit them next time you’re there. These days music quality suffers already during stage one, the production. The music production is adopted to the cheapish mp3 players and speakers/headphones and sacrifies HiFi sound quality for a bad sounding volume boosted (Loudness War) mp3 sound. Yep, the xx is awesome! My fav song, Islands.

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Javier on November 15, 2010  · 


You could not expect quality when your source is not quality. What do you expect from mp3 music ripped who knows how and compressed to lossy formats like mp3? No hardware can enhance this crap.

Quality in mp3 is a good rip with EAC and a good compression with Lame in VBR and a rate grater that 200k. Few people do that on the net.

If you want quality you must start to get you own music in loseless formats like flac. Then you will enjor your Marantz by sure.

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steven on November 15, 2010  · 

Do watch this video made in 2008 by the CTO of Jamendo Radio using a Fonera … … The technology was there but no deal was forged between the two 🙁

I’m currently testing out OpenVPN on the Fonera…It works
currently waiting for e2fsck to finish as the fonera still can’t unmount properly when rebooting…and has an hour of “fixing” to do of all file-inodes…

next ..Mediatomb plugin on the fonera 2.0n
…and then… does the netgear EVA9700 support wol from the fonera 2.0n 🙂

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Miguel on November 17, 2010  · 

Javier is totally right. What can you expect from a crapy MP3? C’mon, if it would be at least some kind of FLAC…

Anyway, the quality you want is analogic Martin. Go to UK and try to buy a Phase Linear pre-amplifier and a TVP amplifier -be careful I’m talking about old valves staff- and finally complete your station with some THIEL loudspeakers. Then you’ll realize what is trully HI-FI. Because the problem in High quality music stared when electronic-computer firms started to produce music products.


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Jose on November 20, 2010  · 

As some people has told you, mp3s are mostly crap.

An MP3 could be done so you can’t see the difference between it and standard wave format. I really enjoy betting audiophile friends to know which is the mp3 and witch is the wave, and they lost, because you can’t tell the difference, if the mp3 is good quality.

Your cochlea is your cochlea, witch has physical limits, frequency range is a problem solved for a long time, dynamic range is not(90db fom CD are not the same that real 90db mainly because you could easily saturate the wave channel as it is shared by all frecs, witch doesn’t happen in the cochlea).

I understand that people don’t care about quality any more, for hearing a symphony you need it, maybe for U2 or the Coors, for hearing “the XX” you don’t. Honestly if you like this band it could be for a lot of reasons but the quality of their voice or sound is not going to be it. On Crystalised I see four people eating their microphones and sleeping because they don’t know how to (or they can’t) sing.

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Javier on November 24, 2010  · 

Hi Martin

I saw your tweet saying that FLAC is amazing and that non flac is “caca”. As I have been one of those that recommend you flac, I would like to make some remarks.

Flac will not ensure sound quality.

Flac is just a loseless compressor specialized in audio. Like zip or rar, but just for audio files. AS you know, when you compress a text with zip, it will not become a James Joyce master piece. lol Well, the same happen with flac: if get a scratched CD, rip it whithout any care, transform the result to a monoaural mp3 and the compress it to flac…well, ti will be crap by sure…

Well ripped music is something hard to fine on the net, no matter if you are looking for mp3 or flac. You will see a lot of flac music around, but you need to be sure that it was ripped with EAC (the only software that can create a 1:1 copy of a CD with an amazin error control). People that do that normally remark the file with a text like “EAC+LOG+CUE” or something else. It means: “my rip was done with EAC properly configured and provide EAC log as evidence and the CUE file to allow you create a 1:1 cd audio copy from my rip”.

There are some well know bittorrent communities dedicated to share flac compressed music (,, etc) but to get an invitation for this sites is not easy.

I hope this helps and sorry for my english…


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