I’d like to share some research I’ve done on how to play music outside of your home.
As people who know me are generally aware, I have a lot of accumulated music on MP3’s on my computer, much of which was accumulated way back in the old days of Napster & LimeWire. A significant portion of it is music from the late 60’s and early 70’s which is when I really began to have a lot of interest in music. I can mainly thank Robert Koehler for that introduction to music, as well as for more than a few hours spent listening to the weekly “1 + 40 Super Hit Survey” radio show on an Eau Claire Wisconsin radio station – WEAQ-AM, I believe.
TV themes, mostly from the 60’s and 70s’s, were also then, and still are, a particular area of interest for me and most of those original TV themes could only be found on Napster or LimeWire. You couldn’t purchase them even if you wanted. I now have over 150 of them – everything from Ruff & Ready (my favorite 50’s & 60’s Saturday morning cartoon) to The Twilight Zone, The Mod Squad, The Invaders and The Outer Limits (I still am a big sci-fi fan), to later shows like St Elsewhere and ER, Cheers, Hawaii Five O and The Incredible Hulk. Joe Harnell’s beautiful piano theme from The Incredible Hulk is one of my all-time favorites and can be found elsewhere on this blog or simply by using the link below.
I’ve created many mixed CD’s and then jump drives over the years which we play in our cars while driving. Around the house, I have played my music typically by connecting a speaker either directly to my computer or by using wireless Bluetooth speakers. That usually requires moving my computer, especially if I wanted to play the music outside of the house. I either had to move the computer outside or move it as close as I could to where the Bluetooth speaker is located in order to be able to get a reliable enough Bluetooth signal. It has worked, but it is definitely not the most convenient, and the signal range is very limited.
Our home wi-fi signal is strong enough to reach out well beyond the walls of our home so I researched methods to play music from our wi-fi network instead of via Bluetooth. If successful, which I believed it would be, that would solve both the problem of always having to move the computer and also the limited signal reach outside of our home. It would also not require any special wiring – just the ability to plug a speaker into an outside outlet. What I learned is that there are definitely more advantages as well.
What I determined is that there appear to be two, main competitors (at least two that are widely available) in the non-Bluetooth speaker market. They are Bose and Sonos. Sonos in particular is really big into both wireless and wi-fi speaker technology. They are also, for the most part, quite high end and pricey.
Bose & Sonos
I looked at the low end speakers for both companies. I found that both are carried by Best Buy, but that Bose is also carried by Walmart. Obviously, either one is also widely accessible via Amazon but I wanted to actually purchase one and test it out before I made my final decision. It is still easier to return something to a brick & mortar store than it is to do so for an internet purchase.
Both Bose and Sonos have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers. I first did a feature comparison of each company’s entry wi-fi unit – the Bose Soundtouch 10 and the Sonos Play1. As I mentioned earlier, Sonos is generally high priced but their entry wi-fi speaker was on sale as was the Bose speaker – both selling for $149.
The features of the two are quite similar, although not exactly the same. After comparing features, I decided to try out the Bose Soundtouch 10. Here is an internet article which compares the features of each. If your home wi-fi signal is not as strong outside of your home, Sonos, among others, offers a wi-fi signal booster to increase the strength and range of your wi-fi signal.
Both Bose & Sonos have free Apple, android and PC apps that can be downloaded to your computer or smart phone. I am using the Bose app and, since I am pleased with it, I never did try and use the Sonos app.
The way the Bose app works, and I would assume that the Sonos app is likely similar, is that you have to have the MP3 files you want to access loaded onto your PC – either that or you will need to have your USB device, which contains the MP3’s, connected to your PC whenever you want to play music.
You can use the Bose app itself to create playlists from your MP3 collection. If you do that, you will need to use the Bose app to do all of the setup, organization and manipulation of the MP3’s. However, you can also setup and organize your MP3’s using the free iTunes music app. I found the Bose app to be not nearly as user friendly or flexible as iTunes so I have used iTunes to organize my MP3’s and to create playlists.
Once you have done that, you can then open the Bose app and control all your music from either your computer or from your iPhone. iPhone control while outside is a particularly convenient feature, especially for adjusting the volume when necessary.
I now have a Bose Soundtouch 10 speaker mounted on a shelf underneath the roof which covers our outside patio. While not completely weatherproof, the Bose speaker is advertised as weather “resistant” so it should do well as long as it is not exposed to direct precipitation. While there is no separate treble or bass control on the base speaker, the music quality is very good and sufficiently rich.
We can now leave the computers where they are. As long as the computer is powered on, the Bose app can access all of the iTunes music.
One additional feature which I had considered, but ultimately decided that we did not need, was the ability to have a second speaker defined in the Bose app. You could then position that speaker in an entirely separate location, and play either the same or different music on that speaker as compared to what is being played on the other speaker. I believe that the Sonos app has that capability as well.
So far, so good. We are very pleased with the quality and the ease of use of our new speaker and the related app.