Sonos is the latest consumer audio company to open a flagship store in New York. The brand, a pioneer in wireless speaker technology, has landed at 101 Greene Street in Manhattan’s cobblestone paved SoHo neighborhood. Ironically, this same street housed another famous consumer audio brand, the now shuttered Beats Store.
I made the trip to the grand opening of the new Sonos store, and upon entering was welcomed with a collage of Sonos speakers on the wall, a bronzed Technics-1200 turntable and a giant poster of Rick Rubin meditating. Elsewhere, there were 6 “soundpods” upstairs and strangely a single, lonely pod downstairs. In each of these pods, was a very generic replication of a home.
However, before you can actually experience going into one of these pods, you need to see a Sonos “band member” to make an appointment. The band members are somewhat easily identifiable by their all black blazer attire. You instantly get the sensation you are at the Apple SoHo store (which is right around the corner) making a genius bar appointment. After about 20 minutes, I was text messaged that my appointment was now ready.
Once inside, you only have 15 minutes to play with the Sonos speakers. The associate told me about the firm who designed the pod and then I was directed to the tablet that would control my demo experience.
There is a Sony TV mounted to a wall and a credenza below it. Look to the right and you have a wall that says “study”, complete with a bookcase and various books related to music artists and music itself. Look to the left, you have a wall that says “kitchen”, again with books and shelves. These iterations of different rooms were just shelves with artist illustrations behind it on sheetrock to make it look like said rooms. It looked as if Shel Silverstein was in there and drew on the wall images from A Light In The Attic or Where The Sidewalk ends.
In the middle of the pod is a round cushiony seat, although it looked more like an ottoman, and beside it, was a touch screen tablet for consumers to test out the latest Sonos gear.
Each Sonos speaker (Play:1, Play:3, Play:5, Playbar, and Sonos Sub) is strategically placed in the pod so you can experience it’s true potential in what would be different parts of your home. The tablet featured a plethora of music apps for me to try but I went with my tried and true Spotify. Given the fact I had a rare opportunity to experience the true potential of what these speakers can do in such a unique and acoustically designed environment, I was shocked to discover, that when I pushed the volume bar passed 70% , an awkward warning message comes up on the TV screen that says your volume is too loud , and that it is turning you down within 10 seconds followed by a countdown.
So, while I appreciate Sonos’s attempt at preserving my hearing, I was not able to hear the maximum potential of the Sonos speakers to get an idea if they would fill my coverage area.
After 15 minutes, my time in the pod came to an end and my previous impression of Sonos in this new and exciting setting certainly changed. Sonos has long been considered the granddaddy of wireless speaker technology, in fact, one of the first companies that truly revolutionized the concept of smart home technology. With this new store, they are repositioning their brand and appealing to a new generation of consumers. It’s pop-up style vibe and appointment process easily gives customers a feeling of exclusivity about what they are about to experience. The store is designed in such a way that there is enough seating and open areas to roam, preventing you from growing bored as you wait your turn.
There are no heavy-handed sales tactics. In fact, the “band members” are just cool people, who are just as excited to be there as you. If you are a savvy audio consumer, then you may be frustrated with their lack of knowledge. When I asked them some simple questions about shipping costs and custom setups – I got the deer in the headlights expression. However, overtime, I’m sure the staff will overcome that as they become more comfortable with the products they are trying to represent. The Sonos Store is open Monday through Friday 10AM – 8PM and Saturday and Sunday 11AM – 6PM .