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How Sonos Built the Perfect Wireless Speaker

How Sonos built the perfect wireless speaker
How Sonos Built the Perfect Wireless Speaker
Photograph by David Brandon Geeting

The Sonos Studio is easy to miss, tucked between vintage furniture stores and art galleries on a sun-bleached stretch of La Brea Boulevard in Los Angeles. Sonos is a company that makes exactly nine products—five wireless speakers for playing music at home and four accessories—but here at the studio, its only permanent retail space, it’s not possible to purchase any of them. Instead, one might encounter a listening party, a music-inspired art installation, a class on sound production, or a concert. Off to one side is a wall-mounted skateboard “lending library,” and across from that is a living room decorated in late-era hipster, with cow skulls, taxidermied squirrels, and a chandelier shaped like an octopus. The room is laid out to show how a consumer might install a Sonos audio system at home. On repeat visits there’s but a single customer, who seems most interested in the free Wi-Fi. An employee estimates that 10 people come in on the average weekday.

John MacFarlane, Sonos’s co-founder and chief executive, shrugs when asked about the wisdom of a showroom where none of his products are for sale. “Maybe it’s a bad idea,” he says, smiling.