|Sonos ZonePlayer ZP100/ Controller CR100/ Loudspeaker SP100|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Thomas Garcia|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2005|
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The Sonos system's downsides need to be put into the context of its intended uses. Sonos does not claim to be the ideal solution for all installations, yet they have picked a very growing consumer segment to service. With that in mind, there are still wish list items and variations of the product that would be desirable.
First off, the Sonos configuration is a standalone system. Though there are ways of integrating it into existing conventional audio and video systems, the method could be more elegant by having a zone player sans amplifier that can be plugged into the input of a receiver or processor and save the cost and size of the unused amplifier section. Additionally, without having any RS-232 or IR access, the product continues to find itself positioned as a standalone system and, with today's integration of all audio and video components, this is a definite limitation.
Though you are able to add additional components via the inputs on any one of the ZonePlayers, you will not be able to control the functionality of those pieces unless you go to the room where they are located and utilize their independent remote controls to navigate their functions. While digital music is definitely the focus for this product, this issue must be addressed if the company desires to make a true single-source solution for whole house audio.
For the audio purist, it would be advantageous to have a digital output to maintain a direct digital stream to their processor. After visiting Sonos’ facility and speaking with several of their engineers and representatives, I was informed that they are actively pursuing new products that will address many of the issues discussed in this section.
After spending a few months with the Sonos Digital Music System, I acquired a tremendous appreciation for its functionality, versatility and ease of use. Despite some initial reservations on the connectivity of the overall system, when I focused on its primary applications, I came to see it as a brilliant solution for many situations. I found myself daydreaming about locations and installations that would be well served by the Sonos system at my own residence, as well as those of friends and family. The product worked seamlessly right out of the box and, with minimal instructions, it was up and operating in less than 20 minutes. Admittedly, there is much more functionality available with this product than I had identified in this review. Therefore, I highly recommend that you go through the entire manual to take advantage of its complete operational features. My quick installation allowed me to access files off my personal computer and play music into different rooms, all via the wireless interface. The Controller was very intuitive and easy to navigate, with the feel and access somewhat similar to that of an iPod. There are several shortcuts available, including a method for quickly scrolling to your favorite music to avoid going through the tens of thousands of songs that can be accessed via the Controller.
It is easy to envision countless situations where this product would be the perfect solution for a whole house audio system. There are many homes in which it would be very difficult if not impossible to install a conventional hard-wired control system, and the cabling infrastructure cost alone could be very substantial. Another great application would be for those who are living in a residence that they do not own (renters, college students, vacationers, etc.) and would like to have multi-room audio without disturbing the existing structure. Ultimately, one would envision the main contingency of enthusiasts for the product as those whose primary source of music is a mass library of digital files stored on their PCs. By adding the Sonos system, not only do they extend and access their music throughout their whole living environment, they also have the capability of listening to a plethora of Internet radio stations and still have the ability to plug in other conventional sources, albeit with some limitation to access.
Ultimately, I had a tremendous amount of fun with the Sonos system. After many years of trying to create my own media center, it really allowed me to appreciate the thoughtful engineering and user interface that has been incorporated into the Sonos Digital Music System. Some potential purchasers may contemplate the price of the individual units, but I can say with great confidence that the cost savings over installing a hard-wired system, ease of installation and the fact that your whole capital investment can go with you whenever you move makes the product an extremely attractive solution that will serve a broad variety of individual needs.
Though not completely perfect, I find the Sonos system to be a substantial step in the right direction for converging and simplifying the ability to have whole house audio at what I consider a relative bargain. After experiencing the convenience of having my complete music collection in the palm of my hands, it is hard to fathom ever going back to the old school way of hunting for CDs and loading them one by one. So for those of you who look to the bottom line, the Sonos Digital Music System provided one of the most hassle-free, musically enjoyable and easy to use experiences I have had with a consumer electronic device. I have no reservations in recommending the Sonos Digital Music System for the multitude of applications where it will prove to be an ultimate solution.