SONOS Digital Music System Reviewed

Rue Liu - Nov 29, 2006

The Sonos Digital Music System is the must have home audio system for today's digital music lovers. The system allows for digital music from multiple sources to be wirelessly streamed to multiple zones and controlled from multiple locations to play in synchronization or to each play different music. All this might be expected from a home audio system, but the key here is the super easy wireless setup, the convenient Rhapsody integration, and the clean modest design that fits well in any room. This system makes a mighty contender for your wallet this holiday season, and I got my lucky hands on a set for a test drive.

My experience with it was great and I have to say it in the spirit of the golden arches that I'm lov'n it. I am more the typical mp3 hording, iPod toting individual and not an extreme decked out audiophile, and so I feel unqualified to really judge the sound quality. But to my untrained ears, I found the sound quality to be superb.
The system is incredibly simple and flexible, consisting of three basic components: Sonos Controller (CR100), Sonos ZonePlayer 80 (ZP80), and Sonos ZonePlayer 100 (ZP100).The difference between the ZP80 and ZP100, besides the price, is that the ZP80 must connect to a stereo or some other intermediary amplifying audio device that powers a set of speakers, while the ZP100 can directly power a set of speakers and has a built-in amplifier. These components work like modules that can be added or subtracted to fit your needs.

For reviewing purposes, the folks at Sonos were so kind to provide a ZP80 Bundle that consisted of one controller with charging cradle and two ZP80s. This was enough to setup a basic two-room system. One of the ZP80s must be connected directly to a home network such as a cable or DSL modem via an ethernet connection, while the other ZP80 is free to be placed in some other room. Both ZP80s must then be connected to a stereo or amplifying receiver (not included) via the supplied RCA cable.

The ZonePlayer 80

The ZonePlayer 80s have a sleek and clean design that fits nicely with most décor and coexist well with any home theater or stereo system. They sit quite well atop my old-school-ish black stereo systems, pictures of which you’ll see later. On the front are a mute button, a LED light, and a volume control button, while on the back are two ethernet jacks, optical and coaxial digital outputs, analog input/outputs, and a power supply jack. The overall dimensions measure about 5-inch-wide by 5-inch-deep by 3-inch-high. The package comes with a manual, a system setup software disc, and four cables.

The Controller and Cradle

The controller has a very simple and clean iPod-ish feel. Most notable similarity is the touch-sensitive scroll-wheel and the minimal array of buttons. The charging dock or cradle can be placed on your table top or mounted on a wall. The power adapter plug can be removed from the cradle and plugged directly into the controller if you should wish to do so.

Setup and Installation

Since I don’t have an incredibly large and impressive collection of MP3s I opted for my first test run to do the super quick and easy, PC-free setup. There was no need to turn on my computer or install any software whatsoever. And in exactly 5 minutes, the beautiful melodies of chart topping tracks began flowing through my speakers courtesy of the included 30-day free trial of Rhapsody music service. The setup and music access was so easy that I was tempted to just sit back and enjoy the next 30 days. But, instead I repeated the process to take some pictures to prove to you folks just how easy it was.

Before I went about setting up the ZP80s, I made sure to plug in the controller and cradle for charging up.

Then, I setup one ZP80 in my home office next to my cable modem and wireless router. Any router would do, but I happened to have a wireless one. Having to connect one of the ZPs to the router via an ethernet cable was probably the only annoying limitation for me since I had a wireless router that I usually kept in a storage room. Now I had to pull it out and put it in my office next to my stereo. But nonetheless, I hooked it all up in no time. Power supply in, RCA cable in, and ethernet in. Done.

Next, I setup the second ZP80 in my living room. And this setup is even easier. Power supply in. RCA cable in. Done. No need for the ethernet connection on this one, as this ZP communicates wirelessly with the other ZP already connected to the router.

So, then it was time to tinker a bit with the controller. It was still charging in its cradle but that didn’t matter as it's usable even while charging. Following the prompts on the screen, I setup the two zones as “Office” and “Living Room.” Since my system was already registered, I got a free 30-day Rhapsody Trial at my fingertips. I pressed the Music button, selected the Rhapsody Music Guide and with a few more scrolls and clicks I was on my way to home audio bliss.

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