Last week, Sonos announced it was updating its Controller app for Mac and PC, a relief for many fans of the wireless music system, and it should roll out today. It's a much-needed update, as playlist management on the old app was clunky at best and it looked like it was designed around 2005. How's the fully redesigned Controller 3.7 app hold up? Read on!
If you've used the Sonos iPad or Honeycomb app, you'll feel right at home here. The left column shows your rooms and Sonos devices, the center displays your queue and cover art, and the right gives you search and library options. Ideally, you use your pre-built playlists and music sources (including Rdio, Audible, Stitcher, Spotify, and more) to add tracks to your primary queue, but it feels a bit limiting. Unlike Rdio, iTunes, Spotify, and most other music players, there's no quick access to your playlists or collection — it's all jammed into the right side.
Unfortunately, it's almost too faithful to the iPad app. The new Sonos Controller 3.7 doesn't really take advantage of larger screen sizes, the columns can't be resized or rearranged, and aside from drag-and-drop features, it looks and feels like it was meant to be controlled by touch. The larger screen real estate should open the design up so you can see more of your queue, but on a 13-inch MacBook Air screen, only 10 tracks were visible. Granted, it's a minor complaint, but iTunes on the same screen shows over 40 tracks with far more metadata. The new Mini controller hovers over other windows to give you quick access to cover art and controls, but it's an enormous widget and fixed at a static size.
Updating the queue is much improved with the ability to move more than one track at a time, but the process was noticeably sluggish on our system. Dragging four or five tracks from an Rdio playlist took over three seconds; adding a playlist of 50 froze the app for 20 seconds. Similarly frustrating, if you're listening to a track and want to check out the full album (usually a click or two away in ), there's no way to bring it up quickly aside from diving back into your libraries and sources.
Search has been greatly improved over the previous version, with a permanent search box at the top of the right column that lets you select your source before searching. In other words, if you want to search Spotify for a specific track, you no longer need to jump through multiple menus to get there. The new app also supports your Mac's media keys, so tapping the back / pause / next buttons now controls playback, and it looks like Growl notifications and fullscreen mode in Lion have been added.
Even if it's a bit sluggish, the 3.7 update is still a big improvement over the previous version. Still, it'd be great to see each of the Sonos apps really tailored to their platform. The iOS and Android apps work well within their small screen limitations, and the desktop app should reflect the different types of control afforded by a bigger screen, keyboard, mouse, and more computing resources.