Sonos, the Wireless Speaker Champ, Has New Competition

For almost 10 years, John MacFarlane had the market for wireless home audio equipment to himself. With two friends he started Sonos, an audio company that designs speakers that connect with streaming music services such as Spotify and Pandora (P). An accompanying app lets users browse their music libraries on phones or tablets and send playlists to any Sonos modular speaker unit. Music snobs, unhappy with the tinny sound quality of PC speakers, were quickly won over by the high-fidelity system and its ease of use.

The company is facing its first big challenge as rivals target its piece of the $10 billion home audio market. “With Wi-Fi speakers, until recently you really were talking mainly about Sonos,” says Jack Wetherill, an analyst with Futuresource Consulting in Dunstable, U.K. Wireless speakers are the fastest-growing category in the consumer audio-equipment market, accounting for 17 percent of global speaker revenue in 2013, according to Futuresource. Bose is introducing the SoundTouch, wireless speakers that can be programmed to play favorite stations or artists and have built-in displays.

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