The fact that SONOS devices build a transparent Wi-Fi mesh once one of them has wired Internet, is one of the main features of the ecosystem. TIL that at least the Playbar happily shares that mesh with your other devices.

This is something I learned in the worst possible moment: while debugging anomalies in my home network, while my router was in the process of bricking itself.

I have the following setup: the main Wi-Fi router in the hallway connects my home office – that has a wired SONOS Play:5 – using an Ethernet cable, and my living room using a Wi-Fi mesh repeater1. The living room is a small LAN consisting of said mesh repeater, my TV, my PS5, and my old SONOS Playbar from 2013.

While my router was dying, the Wi-Fi mesh connection between my router and the repeater died – unbeknownst to me. The confusing symptom was that suddenly all devices in my living room had a ~10 MBit/s connection to the Internet – instead of the 100 MBit/s that the router offered.

First, I thought that it was just an effect of the dying hardware. But later, when I installed a stopgap solution using an old-school DSL modem and a UDM that I had to get from the office, I turned off the repeater and wanted to temporarily switch my living room devices to Wi-Fi.

But they still had Internet! And the UDM showed them as being connected to GBit Ethernet! And guess what bandwidth they had to the Internet? Yep: 10 MBit/s.

That’s when I realized: when the mesh repeater stopped repeating, the SONOS Playbar took over, and all Internet traffic from the small living room LAN was routed through my SONOS Play:5 that lives in my office and is connected to GBit Ethernet. Once I’ve disconnected the Playbar from the LAN, they all went offline.

Now I’m waiting for my replacement router and idly wondering whether half of the world has been relying on this for years. I’m also impressed how seamlessly SONOS has handled a total collapse of my home network.

Addendum: Why a Mesh Bridge and Not Just Wi-Fi?

Since someone is inevitably gonna ask: I’m trying to limit the number of Wi-Fi devices in my household, because I live in a big apartment building with no less than 25 Wi-Fis reaching my flat. I’ve found that limiting the number of own devices leads to better performance on those that need Wi-Fi. And thanks to smart phones, smart watches, smart scales, tablets, … there’s plenty of Wi-Fi devices left.

I used to run a cable from the office to the living room but over ~ten years it grew flakier than Wi-Fi, because LAN cables degrade over time. That was another recent TIL.

  1. I explain why I use a mesh bridge plus living room LAN at the end of the article. ↩︎