Advice New Technologies

How to use Pandora Radio for the office Music System

‘House Music’ is a part of many Dental specialty practices.  It helps the day go by, and makes the office feel more homey.

There are a wide variety of solutions I have seen implemented over the years

  • A simple FM radio receiver tuned to a local station.  These can be problematic with getting a clean signal, and then there are the commercials to deal with.
  • A CD changer was a popular option for many years.  But, the staff get tired of the limited selection this often poses.  You have to keep buying CDs to stay current, and spend time loading them.
  • XM/Sirius Satellite Radio receivers have become quite popular, and offer a good variety of commercial free digital radio.  It has a few challenges:
    • You need to have an antenna mounted that can receive the satellites signal.  If your audio system was deep in the middle of an office building, it might not be able to get a reliable signal
    • There is a monthly fee for this service, $10 per month or more depending on your plan
    • Not all stations were commercial free, kinda irritating for a service that you pay for.

Pandora Radio
Many of you have probably already discovered a great online radio service called Pandora.  Pandora ‘learns’ what you like to hear, and makes up stations that are tailored to your personal preferences.  If you like the Beatles, you can get started with your first station by just telling Pandora you like them, or even just provide the name of your favorite Beatles song, perhaps ‘Revolution’.  Pandora will start to play other songs that share similar qualities, and other artists the same way.  I was blown away that it started playing music immediately that seemed like they knew my personal CD collection, and then played many new artists I found I liked.


Pandora comes in two versions

Pandora is Free to everyone (which is Great!).   You just go to the Pandora website, enter a song or artist, and you are on your way.  Pandora Free has a few limitations:

  • They insert a very short commercial periodically (to help subsidize the service)
  • You are limited to about 40 hours per week of listening time
  • On your computer you can only listen via a Web Browser window
  • They require that you poke it at least sometime every 2 hours.  If they don’t sense you are there and listening, they will pause the music feed and pop up a “Are you still listening” message.  They pay royalties for the music played (just like a radio station) and they don’t want to waste resources if you aren’t there.

Pandora Pro is a paid for account.  It’s really inexpensive, just $4.99 per month.  With Pro, they remove some of the limitations and add a few features

  • No commercials at all
  • You can install the Pandora App on your PC, and have a cleaner, easier interface.  It’s a free download.
  • You can listen an unlimited amount of time
  • You don’t need to poke it as often, it’s more like 5 hours now.
  • They increase the audio quality a bit, so the sound is even better

Sonos Connect Media Player
So, I’ve told you how great Pandora is, but how do you get it working in the office?

I’ve seen some people lash it up by connecting the audio from their PC to the Stereo system amplifier.  The PC needs to be close, and you still end up with all the other ‘Bings’ and ‘Boings’ your PC makes going out over the office speaker system

A better way might be to add a Sonos Connect media player to the stereo.  The Sonos Connect is one of several products Sonos offers (which are all very cool), but the Connect is a standalone player that you can blend with your existing office stereo.  The Connect has several key features we like:

  • First and foremost it is a streaming music player, and can play Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody and many more streaming music services.  It will even be able to play digital versions of your local radio stations!
  • It has all the audio connections you could want, including RCA and Optical connections
  • It’s a small package, about the same size of the XM receiver you might replace
  • It is controlled by ‘controller’ apps that you run on your PC, Mac or Apple iOS or Android device.  You can change channels, adjust volume, etc from anywhere in the Practice.
  • You can walk into a BestBuy and pick one up.  If it ends up that you end up not liking the solution, you can always walk it back to the store for a refund.

It needs to be able to connect to the Internet, so you have to connect it somehow to your Office network (assuming you have Internet access at the office).  It has built-in wired and wireless networking, so if you don’t have a wired network connection near the stereo, you could connect it wirelessly by adding a Sonos Bridge for $49..

Sonos Connect

Better Together than apart
This combination or Pandora Pro and Sonos Connect works Great.  For the cost of the player ($349) and the Pro account ($4.99/mo), you end up with an endless variety of music that will tailor itself to your moods and even the seasons.

Check out Pandora on your own, and if you find that you like it, use this solution to bring it into the office.

MME TechnicianIf you need a little help with your Practice, this is what MME Consulting does. Just give us a call at 866-419-1102 or check us out online at

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Addition to Initial Post
Feedback from a few readers have pointed out that the Pandora is primarily licensed for personal use only.  Use at the Practice might be considered commercial use, and this is Pandora’s position on use in a such a scenario.  I’ll leave it to you to decide and do what’s best for you.

Update April 2014
I am sad to report that Logitech has retired the entire squeezebox line of music players.   You may be able to snag one cheap off eBay if you have your heart set on one.    You might also consider a music player from Sonos (a bit more expensive, but has even more capabilities).

Another option might be to give up on being able to manage the device remotely from a web page or app, and go the low cost route.   If you or one of your staff has a left over iPhone or other Android SmartPhone device you can re-use it as a music player even if the cell phone service is turned off.   Connect it via WiFi to your office LAN, install the Pandora App to the phone, and plug the headphone jack into your office amplifier system using a cable.   Plug the phone in with its charger and you’ve got a music player to run for a long time!

Update July 2014
After some additional experience with the Sonos players, I’ve opted to update the main body of the blog to reflect this and some new pricing for Pandora in 2014.

By Steve McEvoy

Car Guy, Nerd, Canadian hiding in California