Sonos takes on Apple Music with subscription radio service for audiophiles

sonos radio hd
(Image credit: Sonos)

Wireless speaker giant Sonos has announced a new Hi-Res subscription tier for its popular radio streaming service, giving discerning music lovers the chance to experience exclusive artist-led shows and specially curated playlists through their Sonos speakers. 

Sonos Radio HD is a new ad-free service, and it's launching in the US and UK for $7.99/ £7.99 per month after a free 30-day trial – you'll be able to access it via the S2 app that you use to control your Sonos sound system.

There's no word on a global rollout just yet, but that works out at around AU$11 per month – though the original Sonos Radio service on the S2 app is being expanded to "five new countries", which suggests more regions will get the Hi-Res streaming tier soon.

Audio authority

According to Sonos, the new Radio tier will offer the highest quality streaming of any radio service currently on the market, with "CD-quality audio" and the ability to skip and repeat tracks.

There's no option to downgrade the audio quality if your Wi-Fi is spotty, but Sonos assures us that this is rarely a problem for its users.

As well as higher quality audio, Sonos Radio HD comes with artist-curated stations, including Dolly Parton's Songteller Radio, which will "continually evolve with Dolly's hits, favorite artists, and special commentary on songs and moments throughout her career". 

If you want to take a deep dive into different musical genres, stations like Nashville Now and Americana Ramble will give you your country fix, while Unforgettable and Distant Kingdom are here to provide jazz, global retro R&B, and soul.

All the playlists are hand-curated by actual humans – which may not sound like much, but when you consider just how much streaming services like Spotify rely on algorithms to tell them what music people enjoy listening to, it gives Sonos a kind of authority that audiophiles will love. 

Speaking to TechRadar, a Sonos spokesperson told us that, while there are some algorithms working behind the scenes to ensure playlists run smoothly and sound good, each one is "overseen by a real person", with the company bringing in experts for more niche genres and styles.

sonos one

Sonos Radio is available to listen to on speakers like the Sonos One (pictured). (Image credit: Sonos)

As well as genre-led playlists, Sonos Radio HD will feature stations "to promote mindfulness, productivity, and relaxation", and six sleep stations that include "white noise, pink noise, brown noise, rain, rainforest, and piano" sounds, all of which have been mastered by the company's sound experience team to create "the most natural, calming sounds for a better night's sleep". 

The combination of high-quality music streams, exclusive content, and hand-curated playlists means that Sonos Radio HD could prove to be a big rival for other radio streaming services like Apple Music 1

However, Apple Music 1 comes as part of a wider Apple Music subscription that allows you stream singles and albums on demand, something Sonos Radio can't do.

Sonos isn't trying to compete with the big music streaming services, though. As Sonos told us, the new tier is "designed to complement the existing streaming services" its users may subscribe to, and provide a way for Sonos speaker owners to hear great music as soon as they lift their new device out of the box. 

It's certainly worth checking out with the 30-day free trial if you already have a Sonos speaker at home – or if you're hoping to find a cheap Sonos speaker in the Black Friday sales, too. 

Olivia Tambini

Olivia was previously TechRadar's Senior Editor - Home Entertainment, covering everything from headphones to TVs. Based in London, she's a popular music graduate who worked in the music industry before finding her calling in journalism. She's previously been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 Live on the subject of multi-room audio, chaired panel discussions on diversity in music festival lineups, and her bylines include T3, Stereoboard, What to Watch, Top Ten Reviews, Creative Bloq, and Croco Magazine. Olivia now has a career in PR.