The “Best of the Best” Sonos Installations for 2021

Recognizing its top integrators in four unique categories, Sonos has announced the winners of its annual installation awards. 

Each year the popular audio manufacturer singles out professional integrators that have excelled in a particular market segment to address a specific client need. The segments the company recognizes are “Commercial,” “Creative Best,” “AV Rack” and “Outdoor.”

Leveraging Sonos’ product line in a range of applications, these installations showcase the versatility, reliability and performance of the products – enabling integrators to meet any whole-house AV, home theater or commercial audio need that arises.

Here are the 2021 Sonos Top Installation winners:

Commercial Install: iWire, Fort Worth, TexasCreative Best: McFarland Electronics, Commerce Mich.AV Rack: Davidson AV Tech, Palos Heights, Ill.Outdoors: Sonic Interiors, Tracy, Calif.

Sonos Best Commercial Installation Winner: iWire

Addressing the needs of a hotel that wanted to update its audio capabilities for its guests throughout its facility, Kirt Hill of iWire says the company employed Sonos amps and speakers for the hotel’s bar, reception area, conference room and patio area.

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“In the bar we did a Pro-Ject turntable with custom bookshelf speakers. [The] client was thrilled to have the turntable play everywhere,” he says. 

“[Some of the] challenges [with the installation] were making sure all the [Sonos] Roams were associated with each room. Also, because of the distance from the amps, the subs had to be hardwired.”

Hill adds that the biggest challenge without question was the scope of the project due to the many rooms within the hotel, in addition to implementing the Sonos platform throughout the entire building. 

Sonos Creative Best Award Winner: McFarland Electronics

Recalling specifics about this award-winning installation, Patrick McFarland of McFarland Electronics, says this particular job was something his team revisited after initially recommending Sonos for the home. At the time, the client rejected the recommendation, requesting the use of another brand instead. 

“Fast forward one year—he hated it and [we] went back to update the project with our original scope of work to include Sonos instead. The revamped project featured a house of nine Arcs, two Amps, one Beam and a couple of Fives sprinkled in,” he points out. 

“Now, he absolutely loves it.”

One of the challenges of the system he continues, was installing a video wall with two Arcs and a couple of converters. Solving the problems with the video wall, McFarland Electronics created some customized Savant programming and now everything works great. 

McFarland notes that one of the system’s amenities he is most proud of is the way his company integrated a grand piano into the home’s whole-house AV system. 

“Another cool feature we were able to add was a [Sonos] Port to his grand piano to be able to play concerts throughout the house with matching video from the Yamaha pianos. He [the client] wants to add more to the indoor pool area and future outdoor kitchen and patio, so we are not done yet,” he comments. 

“The scope of work as a whole was one of the bigger jobs we have done … and everything just plain works.”

Sonos AV Rack Best Installation: Davidson AV Tech  

Stepping up to fulfill its client’s request for Sonos products and technologies in a Chicago condo, Dan Miller of Davidson AV Tech, says the customer knew exactly what they wanted because of their experience with owning Sonos systems in their other homes. 

Miller says the Chicago condo included 12 zones of audio, seven video zones and two 5.1 surround sound zones. 

“We chose a Pulse Eight 8×10 HDMI video matrix which feeds their Xfinity Cable and Apple TV content to each of their TVs. Instead of going with a traditional audio matrix and limiting their Sonos experience, we opted to take the audio output of each video zone and input them directly into each Sonos Amp using their line level inputs,” explains Miller. 

“Each room then gets a Control 4 Neeo remote to operate the video, music, lights and motorized shades. The end result gives the homeowner the most flexibility to use either the Control 4 system or the Sonos app to operate.”

Some of the other components Davidson AV Tech used in addition to Sonos products, include speakers from Paradigm and Samsung TVs. 

Miller says the installation of the home’s electronics systems was difficult due to the vast wiring infrastructure the electronics required. 

“We had to retrofit and add all the wiring for TVs, speakers, motion sensors, Wi-Fi and shades,” he admits.  

“We landed every cable into an 16U termination box which was located directly above the 42U AV rack. Doing this allowed us to build most of the rack offsite and simply plug in upon delivery. We are very happy with and proud of the end results.”

According to Miller, the implementation of Sonos for this job stands out because of the way the system allows the homeowner to easily navigate between the Sonos and Control4 platforms. 

“We chose to use Sonos in a unique way as the audio amplification and matrix in this design. We inputted Control4 audio into the Sonos ecosystem which allows the client to use either Sonos favorites or any of Control4 native services through their controllers,” stresses Miller.

“The client can then use the Sonos app or AirPlay directly to the Sonos system which the Control4 system will follow.”

Sonos Best Outdoors: Sonic Interiors

James Hallen of Sonic Interiors states that his company had to answer a number of questions before completing its Sonos Best Outdoor Audio installation. The Tracy, Calif.-based company had to overcome several obstacles including keeping sound contained within specific areas of the outdoor space and minimizing “hot spotting” for consistent sound coverage within the listening areas.

Other concerns Hallen’s company had to deal with include the mixing of 70-volt and 8-ohm products within the system—and ultimately designing and installing a system the client would be happy with on a daily basis. 

Hallen points out the installation was large and complex, and it required quite a bit of engineering to get the system to work to Sonic Interiors’ standards. 

“I applied my commercial knowledge to give it a ‘more is less’ stamp. More speakers equals better coverage, thus less volume is needed when using the system daily. But during a party scenario, this house also delivers the goods like no other in their entire community … they have the bragging rights in the neighborhood,” comments Hallen. 

“This is a multi zone outdoor system with three exterior zones and 19 speakers for total immersion, as well as two Sonos Amps, two ports and two 2,000 watt, 70-volts amps. The audio is fully paired Savant Pro automation for voice-control scenes with multi-layer integration, lighting, outdoor TV and more.”

Acknowledging the scope of this large outdoor installation, Hallen recognized the importance of this installation for his company in the local community.

“This is our flagship waterfront and I engineered the audio to have its dispersion down firing to avoid outward audio spilling over onto the water and drowning the neighbors across the cove,” he admits.

“When a customer spends $5 million to build a house and the sound becomes the one thing that gives the client goose bumps at the end, that’s the reward for us.”

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