If you’re a music lover, it’s hard not to love the convenience and great sound you get from the Sonos family of speakers. And if you’re up-to-date with topics in the functional health space, you may also have started to wonder, what’s the EMF output from my Sonos speakers? Can I disable WiFi on my Sonos speakers and still enjoy the convenience and great sound?
I recently got an EMF meter and set out to explore just that.
(If you’re new to EMFs and are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, start here.)
When I first saw that the RF readings from my Play:1 Sonos speakers were as high, if not higher than the RF radiation coming from my wireless router, I panicked and unplugged them all. I then turned to the internet and found that, in 2019, Sonos made it super easy to turn off WiFi for any speaker connected to your network by an ethernet connection.
However, as I learned from my experience with the combo modem/router we rented from our cable company (Xfinity’s xFi Advanced Gateway), disabling WiFi does not necessarily mean that the internal WiFi antennas will stop broadcasting an RF signal; the device may still be pumping out the same level of RF radiation, even if you disable WiFi via the Xfinity app. AND, with our EMF meter, we discovered that the xFi Advanced Gateway resets anytime Xfinity pushes an update to it, so even if you get Xfinity to turn the antennas off through their backend interface, you never know when they’ll turn back on (but that’s a story for another day!).
We ended up taking control of our EMF exposure and saving on the monthly rental fee by purchasing our own modem (the ARRIS Surfboard SB8200 affiliate link) and a wired router (the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X affiliate link). We then had reliable, high-speed internet connections for all of our ethernet connected devices, and could use our old WiFi router as a simple wireless access point; turning it on and off as needed for WiFi.
So, needless to say, that experience left me curious and a little skeptical; will this “Disable Wi-Fi” feature for Sonos speakers really work like it should? Fortunately, in the case of Sonos, it did! And the speakers remain friendly components of our lower-EMF home.
CAUTION: Disabling WiFi DOES NOT make all Sonos Speakers Low EMF!
Sonos recently introduced some newer generation speakers, including the Beam, which have built-in Bluetooth to aid in setup. However, unlike their well-designed “disable WiFi” feature, Bluetooth cannot be turned off (and seems to always be active). If you connect your Beam to your home network via ethernet and disable WiFi, the speaker still emits EXTREMELY high levels of RF radiation.
If you want to enjoy Sonos sound without the harmful effects of RF radiation, stick to the older generation speakers that don’t have this Bluetooth “feature” – the Play:1 and the Playbar. Unlike the Beam, connecting the older generation speakers via ethernet, and disabling WiFi yields the expected results on RF exposure.
The Sonos – EMF Experiment
Getting an EMF meter has been a powerful motivator for change. I decided to share the results of this experiment so others could see the numbers and better understand the impact that a simple change (like disabling WiFi or placing the speakers in a different location) can have on their environment.
To test out the impact of enabling/disabling WiFi for our Sonos speakers, I used:
- A Sonos Play:1 Speaker (Note: the Play:1 is an older model. Newer Sonos speakers with Bluetooth technology may not yield the same results)
- A 6-foot shielded ethernet cable like this (affiliate link)
- A Cornet ED88T Plus Tri-Mode RF Meter (affiliate link)
- An iPhone 7 with the Sonos app to toggle the WiFi settings on the speaker and take photos (in airplane mode, of course)
For consistency, our home WiFi network was turned on for the duration of the experiment. To interpret the readings, we’ll be comparing our measurements to the Building Biology Precautionary Guidelines for Sleeping Areas, and the BioInitiative Report’s Precautionary Target Level of 3-6 µW/m².
1. Measure EMFs from a Sonos Speaker with WiFi Enabled
To measure the RF radiation from the speaker when WiFi was enabled, all I had to do was plug the speaker into a power outlet. Then, through the Settings in the Sonos app, I verified that “Enable Wi-Fi” was selected. Next, I put my phone back into airplane mode to take RF measurements (and pictures) at three locations around the speaker, and one reading from about 5 feet away.
Note: As to be expected with pulsed radio-frequency radiation, the measurements jump around. The photos show representative values after a period of observation. The Cornet meter measures RF in milliwatts per meter squared (mW/m²), which we convert to microwatts per meter squared (µW/m²) to compare to the Building Biology Guidelines. An easy to use conversion tool is the EMF Calculator from Wavecontrol.
Note the red light on the EMF meter. Remember those building biology guidelines for sleeping areas? Anything above 10 µW/m² is considered a severe anomaly, and anything above 1,000 is an extreme anomaly. These measurements are in milliwatts per meter squared, so converted to microwatts per meter squared, we’re looking at 6,480 µw/m², 25,230 µW/m² and 816,000 µW/m² next to the speaker, and levels still as high as 503.4 µW/m² standing 5 feet away! None of those values are even close to the BioInitiative Working Group’s precautionary targets of 3-5 µw/m²! Maybe it’s time to re-think having a WiFi-enabled Sonos speaker next to the bed?
2. Measure EMFs from a Sonos Speaker with WiFi Disabled
To measure the RF radiation from the speaker when WiFi was disabled, I made sure the ethernet cable was connected, and through the Sonos app, went into Settings and selected “Disable Wi-Fi”. After a brief delay, the new setting took effect. I then returned my phone to airplane mode, and took measurements and photos at the same locations around the speaker.
A big difference!
By turning WiFi off, the reading in the location with the highest value (top) dropped from 816,000 µW/m² down to 1.3 µW/m²! Based on the guidelines for sleeping areas referenced above, that takes the level from being of “Extreme Anomaly” all the way down to “Slight Anomaly”. Three of the readings were equal to or just over the “No Anomaly” upper bound of 1.0 µW/m². And all of the values were within, or under, the BioInitiative Working Group’s precautionary target of 3 – 6 µw/m².
3. Compare to the Baseline EMFs
For completion, we need to capture a baseline measurement of EMFs in the location of the experiment. To do so, I unplugged the Sonos speaker from the outlet and the ethernet port in the wall, and took measurements and photos from the same places around the speaker.
The lowest value dropped slightly from when the speaker was turned on with WiFi disabled, yielding measurements of 0.8, 1.8, 3.4, and 4.2 µW/m². These values fall into the “No Anomaly” and “Slight Anomaly” categories for sleeping guidelines, and are all under the BioInitiative Working Group’s precautionary upper bound of 6 µw/m².
So, with these measurements, we can see that when the Sonos speaker is turned on with WiFi disabled, RF radiation on par with the background levels in the environment. Thus, as long as WiFi is disabled, the EMF impact of the Sonos speaker remains low.
In conclusion, it is possible to disable WiFi on some (the older generation) Sonos speakers and still enjoy their convenience and great sound!
If you’re not able to connect your speakers via ethernet cables today, I hope that seeing the numbers is still helpful. Remember, the strength of the signal decreases with distance. So, at the very least, place the speakers in a location further from where you work, relax, eat, or sleep. Doing so will still reduce the EMF exposure for you and your family. And, as with any device, you can place your speakers on timers or switched outlets (like these) so they can easily be turned off at night, or when not in use.
Because we were able to wire our Sonos speakers via ethernet connections and have the Sonos Controller App for Mac, we can now turn our home Wi-Fi network off and still enjoy the magic of room-filling Sonos sound.
Thanks Sonos! (Now please, fix the Bluetooth situation!)
How to Measure EMFs in Your Home or Office
Interested in getting an EMF meter for yourself? Check out How to Measure EMFs – Making the Invisible Visible.
Don’t have an EMF meter or the budget to get one? Check your local library! You might be able to borrow one for free.
Here in Massachusetts, the Ashland and Newton Free Libraries (both part of the Minuteman Library Network) have meters that patrons can borrow to help assess and reduce EMF exposure in their environments.
Still Curious About EMFs?
Whether you’re interested in reducing your family’s exposure to EMFs, or have another health goal on your mind, don’t hesitate to reach out!