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Hands On: Sonos App Allows Music Search Across All Apps and Libraries

New universal search features lets Sonos find music for you anywhere.

Grant Clauser · March 19, 2014

Having the entire universe of music at your fingertips can be a real pain. What if you have one song or one artist creating an earworm in your head, but you don’t know which app, drive or service you have it on?

What you need is Universal Search. Well now, Sonos wireless speaker fans, you got it. Sonos just updated its app for Android devices and implemented a universal search feature. The concept is very simple—tap in whatever you’re looking for (artist, track, album, playlist, podcast…), and the app searches across all your media and music services.

Universal search is a feature that has been implemented on a few smart TVs for video search, but usually limited to a few video streaming apps (and sometimes the web too). On the new Sonos app, search covers all the networked devices, so if you have music on more than one computer or hard drive, and those devices are in your Sonos ecosystem, they’ll all be subject to search along with the streaming services active on your Sonos system. The search does not include any music stored on the phone or tablet you’re using though. For that you can still use the “This Mobile Device” feature.

What if you’re looking for an artist who’s not already in one of your streaming channels? The new search feature will find it there too, so you don’t have to open up each individual service to see if it has what you’re looking for.

I tried the new app in beta and it worked expertly. I did a search for Joan Jett, and found results in my own music library (from my laptop’s hard drive), as well as several places on Pandora, Slacker and Songza. It doesn’t turn up results for TuneIn internet radio unless you tell it search “stations” instead of “artists,”  though it’s much better at finding music in curated music services rather than internet radio stations. I’m not sure why.

Related: When Will Sonos File for IPO?

So far, in the hour or two I’ve been using it, not only have I been able to easily find music across several services, it’s led me to a few new channels and new music. This discovery aspect is one of the things I like best about online music, and universal search makes it much easier.

This is a welcome new feature if you use the Sonos app for accessing your music, but it’s probably another headache for home automation companies and professional integrators. Why? While Sonos can be added to many home automation systems, sometimes with the automation company’s own drivers and sometimes via third-party drives from a provider like Extra Vegetables, rarely do all of Sonos’ features carry over to the integrated system. A new feature like this will probably require new drivers to make it work on systems such as Control4, Crestron or Total Control. The DIY automation system, Revolv, doesn’t even allow channel navigation via Sonos, so the new search feature certainly won’t work with it.

What this says is that the most robust experience with systems such as Sonos is always going to be with the system’s native app. If you bought and set up your Sonos system yourself, then this doesn’t really matter. If you had a home automation installer integrate Sonos into your home’s larger system and you want to use this new feature, you’ll have to use the Sonos app, rather than your central control app.

The app is in beta now for Android. If you want to try it out, follow this link. Final apps for Android and iOS will be out this spring.

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  About the Author

Grant Clauser is a technology editor, covering home electronics for more than 10 years for such publications as Electronic House and Dealerscope. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had audio training from Home Acoustics Alliance and Sencore. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email at gsclauser@verizon.net

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