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Sonos is releasing a new OS and controller app for its speakers this June

Nathan Ingraham
Deputy Managing Editor
Sonos

Back in January, Sonos made the unpopular announcement that it wouldn't be providing new features for its oldest hardware products after May of this year. Since then, the company has sought to clarify that those devices will still work as they do now; the company also promised details on how its legacy devices would work with newer Sonos speakers.

Today, Sonos is making things a bit clearer by announcing that a new app and operating system, currently dubbed Sonos S2, will arrive in June of this year. Sonos says that all new products it releases after June will run on S2, as well as everything it currently sells and many of its older speakers as well. The exceptions are those previously-detailed legacy products that the company already announced wouldn't receive new features.

For the large majority Sonos owners, those running hardware compatible with this update, it'll arrive like any other one. You'll get a notification in the Sonos app that your hardware has an over-the-air update available, and you'll also install a new app for your mobile phone to control your devices. Sonos says that this new platform will allow it to build out new features and user experiences that it wouldn't have been able to do on its existing software -- and though the company is being rather vague about it now, we did get a few examples of some planned new features.

But first, let's tackle how this affects those legacy products. If you're running some older hardware, it won't get updated but will keep working just as it does today, using the existing Sonos app. And if you're running a setup with a mix of legacy and current hardware, you'll have a few options. You can choose not to update your newer speakers to the S2 platform, and you'll be able to control and group them with legacy devices using the existing apps. But, as Sonos has already said, neither old or new speakers will receive feature updates (though bug and security fixes will continue).

Or, you can split your Sonos setup into two groups: one of legacy products that'll work together, and one with newer devices that work on the S2 platform. That won't be the cleanest thing, as you'll need two different apps to manage that setup, and you won't be able to group speakers on the older software with ones running S2. But, if you have a lone speaker, like a first-generation Play:5, that you don't care about grouping with other Sonos devices, this approach might make sense.

The good news is that the vast majority of Sonos users will be able to upgrade all their hardware to the S2 platform, which Sonos says will enable some new experiences going forward. While the update isn't coming out until June, the company did share a few features that it'll enable. One is a new grouping feature: if you have multiple Sonos speakers in your house, you'll be able to set up custom room groups, like all your speakers on the first floor. Currently, you need to re-group all your speakers on an individual basis, but this should make common grouping configurations much easier.

Another upcoming feature is support for higher resolution audio formats and increased audio bandwidth. Sonos didn't have more to say specifically about how that'll work, but it sounds like the kind of feature that'll enable the company to make future speakers that support things like Sony's 360 Reality audio.

A new back-end platform powering all of the products Sonos is currently selling as well as the next wave that'll arrive in the years to come certainly helps explain why the company won't release new features for its oldest products. That said, Sonos reiterated again that, regardless of this new platform, it was clearly the end of the line for these devices due to aging processors and lack of memory. Either way, people who own legacy Sonos hardware now know what their options are for keeping it going alongside any newer devices they own. And if you just want all your Sonos devices to run the newest software, the company's 30-percent discount for owners of legacy hardware is now a lot easier to recommend.