At $599 apiece, the idea of buying multiple Amps might be laughable to most — and you’ll still need speakers to plug into them before they do anything. But Sonos has years of seeing what customers have done with the Connect Amp and its predecessors, and it knows that the product can serve as the brain of complicated and expansive home audio setups. Think multiple speakers in the walls, or ceilings of every room in the house — in situations where homeowners might be spending thousands of dollars, three or four Amps is a necessary purchase, not a luxury. There are other ways to wire a house, for sure, but all the work Sonos has done around multi-room audio makes it a logical solution if you want to stream to every corner of your home and keep all the speakers in sync.
To that end, Sonos is targeting the new Amp at the “installed solutions” market. That’s basically a network of component detailers who build custom solutions for the home. Instead of picking out every single component and speakers, the installed solutions professionals will come in, determine your ultimate goal and then build a system that’ll make it happen.
To make things easier for home installers, Sonos decided to make the Amp fit in a standard component rack, which is often hidden out of the way in a side room or closet. Standardizing the shape and size of the Amp made a lot of sense, but it also introduced new cooling challenges, as Sonos had to pack everything into a relatively small box (about 8.5 inches in width and depth, and only 2.5 inches tall).
“Our mechanical engineers loved [this challenge], but it was painful,” Rappaport says. “They’re tasked with cramming all this technology inside of the envelope that the industrial designers had defined.” The breakthrough moment in the design came when the team realized they didn’t need to put a heat sink on every single component. “Instead, we combined the heat sink and the [circular] chassis and mounted all of the electronics onto a single heat sink with the enclosure coming down around it.”
Sonos’ focus on the professional installer marketplace is showing up in its release strategy for the Amp, as well. When it goes on sale December 1st, anyone will be able to buy it on the Sonos website — but the company will skip traditional third-party retailers for a few months and only offer the device to “professional installers,” who can then bring it to their customers. It’ll eventually be on sale globally through traditional retailers in February 2019. That means it’ll be months before we see what kinds of setups imaginative Sonos users and home audio professionals can come up with using the Amp.
While it sounded excellent in demos that Sonos provided the press with last week, it’s hard to find flaws when being presented with a best-case, fully optimized setup. But in all likelihood, anyone who might have used the older Sonos Connect Amp for a home audio setup will be even happier with what the new Amp provides, even if it is $100 more than the model it replaces. Besides, if you have $10,000 speakers to connect, what’s an extra few hundred bucks here and there?