Interview: Ted Dworkin, SVP of Product Management and Customer Experience, Sonos, Talks Sonos Radio & S2 OS

Ted Dworkin says integration of high-resolution audio is ‘super important’ to Sonos, citing Dolby Atmos compatibility as a major stepping stone toward the company’s goal.

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Recently, CE Pro virtually sat down with Ted Dworkin, SVP of product management, and customer experience, Sonos, to discuss the company’s new Sonos Radio feature, integration of high-res audio, and much more.

Why did Sonos launch Sonos Radio and what makes the service unique?

Our customers love radio. Around half of all listening on Sonos is radio, and so much of that is about the range — from hyper-local and genre-based stations to global stations, even from places you may never visit. We wanted to expand the choices and felt like we had a point of view on the programming that customers would appreciate.

Sonos Radio is broad and deep, bringing together more than 60,000 stations alongside original programming we provide. Our open platform gives customers choice and content partners an opportunity to reach those customers, and that’s the same premise in Sonos Radio. We work with Internet radio services including TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Napster to power the service and bring great content into one collection.

The original programming is inspired by music loved by our customers and offers exclusive content. This includes artist-curated stations from Thom Yorke, David Byrne and Brittany Howard, as well as our signature station called Sonos Sound System, which offers a mix of music, behind-the-scenes stories, plus guest artist radio hours.

What’s different about the new S2 OS from the original?

S2 brings a new app and operating system to customers and was built to power the next generation of Sonos products and experiences. One of the key updates to S2 is upgraded audio bandwidth, which enables higher-resolution audio formats for music and home theater, like Dolby Atmos on the Sonos Arc soundbar.

With the new app we’ll also continue making it easier for customers to get to the music they love. We have a very committed and engaged customer base, and we take feedback into account to improve Sonos, whether that’s changes that make the app easier to use or new features — like saved groups — that our customers have been asking us to create. With saved room groups, your system will be able to remember frequently grouped players as if they were a zone — like ‘downstairs’ — so you can get music playing quickly in different areas.

How important was the integration of higher-resolution audio?

Super important. Developing a new platform is a very substantial undertaking and we made the decision knowing that our customers would expect and appreciate the immediate benefits. We know this is especially important for professional installers, as they are a direct line to what many customers want from premium audio systems.

We’ve had a strong partnership with Dolby for years and tracked Atmos development closely. More than 25 streaming services support Dolby Atmos, and Sonos Arc and our S2 app and platform bring this cinema-quality sound to customers.

What were some points of emphasis in developing Arc?

We designed Arc to produce our most immersive home theater sound yet. This means rich, realistic 3D sound with support for Dolby Atmos surround, vivid detail, and impressive bass. One of the things that sets Arc apart is its software-driven sound. Not only can you tune with Trueplay, Arc will automatically adjust its sound through software, based on your setup and the content you’re hearing. For example, when you add Sub to your setup, the woofers on Arc will automatically adjust to produce more mids and highs.

Our sound and design teams work together very closely at Sonos, and that’s evident in Arc. Our team designed Arc’s grille to be a seamless 270-degree curved shape, which accommodates multidirectional sound but also blends elegantly into the room.

Will Dolby Atmos and/or similar formats become a part of Sonos’ products going forward?

With the introduction of S2, we’ll continue exploring higher-resolution audio formats. Dolby Atmos was a great place to start, as more streaming services are adopting this format and more customers are seeking immersive home theater sound.