Earlier this year, when we were all getting accustomed to not going anywhere, Sonos waded into original content for the first time with Sonos Radio. The free, ad-supported service aggregated tens of thousands of terrestrial radio stations and presented it along side Sonos-curated streaming stations, exclusive artist-curated content and a flagship, ad-free Apple Music 1-style channel. Sonos Radio has been around for almost seven months, and today it’s getting a major update with a paid tier for users in the US and UK called Sonos Radio HD.
As the name suggests, Sonos Radio HD will stream its original stations in lossless 16-bit/44.1 kHz lossless quality, a massive upgrade over the current 128kbps streams. Paying $8 per month unlocks more than just HD quality, though. The paid tier will be home to some exclusive artist-led channels, the first of which is Dolly Parton’s Songteller Radio. As with most artist-led stations, it’ll include her signature songs as well as music from her favorite artists and a variety of interviews. Sonos plans to keep some of its artist stations, like the existing ones from Thom Yorke and Brittany Howard, available for free. But going forward, some new options will only show up on the service’s paid tier.
Sonos is also adding a handful of its in-house curated stations to the paid tier, including six stations focused specifically on providing sleep background sounds. Other stations, like the world music-focused Distant Kingdom and Chill Beats are not dissimilar to what you’d hear in the existing station list, but Sonos says some of its new stations — like Full Symphony are well-suited to the increased quality of the HD service.
Finally, Sonos Radio HD subscribers will be able to play all of the service’s curated streaming stations without ads, which is a pretty key inclusion for a paid service. Beyond that, subscribers will also be able to rewind, skip and repeat songs from those stations. Obviously, there’s no way to control terrestrial radio stations, but you’ll have a lot more control over the Sonos-curated options.
It’s worth pointing out that subscribers will still only have access to Sonos Radio when listening on Sonos speakers, so there’s no way to take this paid content with you. And it’s also entirely plausible that lots of Sonos users are already paying for enough music subscriptions that the idea of adding another one could be a stretch. But Sonos says that its free radio service is already the fourth most popular streaming option on its platform, and also that its listeners were asking for features like high-definition and skipping songs. Sonos Radio HD might end up a relatively small niche in the company’s business, but that doesn’t mean it can’t find some fans.