How Sonos Built the Perfect Wireless Speaker

The sleek, minimalist products all talk to one another, and most users control the system with a smartphone app. With the app, users can play music from virtually any source—Spotify, Internet radio stations, a local computer—and make it come out of all the speakers at the same time, or play different songs on different speakers. Those who cling to the ancient ways of the audiophile can make a stereo pair out of two units by changing a setting, but most customers get their music out of just one Sonos speaker per room. And the biggest devotees have them all over the house.

Until recently, home audio systems capable of such varied setups were bespoke indulgences for early adopters and the carefree rich. But Sonos’s products are becoming almost commonplace. The company turned profitable in 2012 and says it will surpass $1 billion in annual sales in early 2015. Before the invention of the iPod and iPhone—even before most people had Wi-Fi at home—Sonos predicted the era of ubiquitous, streaming music. It spent the next 12 years meticulously refining its speakers’ design, such that they’re now more like smart furniture than consumer electronics. It took that long for the idea of playing music from the cloud to take off. Once it did, so did Sonos.

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