I just setup my new Sonos multi-room IP music system. WOW, this is a must-have for people that want total control over the music experience in their house. While it’s not cheap, it’s also not expensive when you see all the cool things it can do. You can tell that the Sonos system is simply not a product designed by employees of a company; this is a labor-of-love for a 50 person startup.
Basically it’s a 1-to-N room system that is controllable through the coolest handheld wireless controller ever. You put a ZonePlayer (an embedded linux box ) in each room and connect speakers (it also has preamp level outputs). Everything auto-magically talks together over your wired network or over its own embedded WIFI. Point the master ZonePlayer (the first one you install) at a drive share or network attached storage and it just works..
Sonos can also tune in Internet radio stations which is very cool. It comes with 17 stations in the list by default but other can easily be added. AirAmerica was not in the list by default, so if you know me, that’s getting jacked in tonight. I need Al Franken to counteract the Bush reality distortion field.
Each ZonePlayer also has an analog input on it for something such as a CD player. One cool unexpected thing it can do is play a CD from the CD player in one zone in another room of the house through that rooms ZonePlayer. It does this by digitizing the source on the fly and streaming from one ZonePlayer to another.
The controller is actually not required as the ZonePlayers come with a soft-controller for one or more computers on the same network. But if you’re going to get the rest of it, get the controller also. It has a great, IPOD like, interface and as a bonus it shows you album artwork for each song you play. You can wheel through all the rooms in your house and play different music in each room, or gang rooms together and play the same thing synchronized. I was suspicious how well the synchronization would work, but it was flawless. I installed a zone for my family room and zone for my deck. When I stand in the door between them there is no perceivable time delay between the two.
The build quality is grade A, somewhat surprising for a new product from a startup. The ZonePlayers are solid with great speaker connectors on the back (thank you). They are also silent as they are convection cooled. The controller has a very bright, high quality screen. The back of the controller is rubberized so you can set it anywhere without it clunking down or slipping.
Sonos was really smart to build a two zone introductory bundle that demonstrates the power of the system. I already want three more zones…. tomorrow.
I only have two requests.. The first is a better equalizer. With MP3 libraries I find its kind of hit and miss how well things encode. I really like the ITunes model of being able to set an EQ for different songs. Sonos currently only contains Loudness, Bass and Treble controls (per room). It would be over the top if I could set an EQ per song, per room, and have it remember.
The second thing is a display/charge base for the controller. Right now you have to plug in a jack. I suspect a base is coming as it has contact pads on it that look like they were designed for recharging.
I paid $1200 for the introductory bundle . A single room system would be about $900. I think the way to look at this is it’s a pricy single-room system an inexpensive multi-room system.
I'm adding to the ranks of my must-have electronics.