Sonos (NASDAQ:SONO) has launched a speaker rental program in the Netherlands that, at first glance, seems pretty weird. After all, who would rent speakers? But if you look closer, it might not be so odd. Maybe Sonos is actually pretty clever.
When renting is better than buying
The high-end speaker maker is offering audiophiles in the Netherlands a chance to sign up for its new Flex speaker subscription service, a three-tier program with a choice of speaker configurations.
- For 15 euros ($16.67) per month, subscribers get a pair of Sonos One smart speakers.
- For 25 euros ($27.79) per month, they get the Sonos One speakers and the Sonos Beam smart soundbar.
- For 50 euros ($55.57) per month, the speakers are included, as well as the home theater Sonos Playbar soundbar, and the Sonos Subwoofer.
At the basic level, subscribers would receive high-quality stereo sound in the Alexa- and Google Assistant-enabled smart speakers for a low monthly price. A pair of speakers would cost $400 if you bought them outright, so renting them would take over two years to reach that cost.
And the third choice, the home theater package, would cost $1,500 to assemble the components, whereas on the Flex plan, it's just $55 per month, or about 27 months total.
Options for different needs
You could finance your Sonos speaker purchase for up to 36 months through Klarna, one of Europe's largest banks, which Sonos has partnered with. After that, you'd own the speakers.
But Flex subscribers are entitled to free software and hardware upgrades. And whenever new equipment is introduced, the old components are swapped out for the new models at no extra charge. The subscription can be canceled at any time with no fees.
Beyond the flexibility offered by the payments and not being out a large sum of money up front, there are other benefits. Subscribers are assured of always having the latest sound equipment without having to worry about being relegated to using stale technology right after purchasing it, and they can also test out how the equipment sounds in their homes over time without pay full price and without penalty. It also provides an opportunity to get a complete sound system for special events.
Music to your ears
After Sonos' somewhat less than auspicious start following its IPO last year, the tech stock appears to have found its footing in getting more of its sound equipment into the hands of audiophiles. Lowering the price point of its equipment was a good start, particularly as Amazon.com and Google have flooded the market with cheap speakers. While the first iterations may not have provided premium quality sound, for most people wanting to mindlessly listen to a playlist, they were often "good enough."
So Sonos pricing its components affordably was, well, a sound move; partnering with Ikea to disguise its speakers as furniture and pricing them between $99 and $179 was another, better one.
Now it is offering a cheap rental option, but it may be awhile before its available beyond the Netherlands, let alone in the U.S. This is still in the trial stage. Yet it shows Sonos is looking at more ways to make its sound components accessible, and renting them may not be as crazy an idea as it sounds.