|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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Convergence is a terminology and process that seems to have permeated every facet of our daily experiences. Convergence technologies will eventually be ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives. So what is “convergence technology”? It all depends on the type of application. It includes, but is not limited to, the popular act of taking pictures with a cell phone or surfing the Web on a television. More sophisticated uses include wireless and wired voice and data transmissions, various forms of security, voice over IP and data networking technologies, all converging to create a seamless integration and solution for our personal and professional needs.
Nowhere is this more evident than the merging of consumer electronics and personal computers. There are a plethora of companies that are providing unimaginable functionality that was science fiction a mere decade ago.
One exciting new entry into the arena of personal computer and home music convergence is the Sonos Digital Music System, a surprisingly elegant yet well-executed solution for creating a seamless wireless or wired whole house music network. The Sonos team spent three years engineering and testing their product for ease of use and simplicity of deployment before unleashing it on the consumer. They developed an innovative interface to access music files that many enthusiasts now archive on their personal computers, creating an ingenious way of playing those files via a wired or wireless mesh network over multiple, independently controlled zones.
The system provided for this review consisted of a single handheld wireless remote control, aptly named “Controller” ($399.00 each), and two “ZonePlayers” ($499.00 each). This configuration is currently being offered as an introductory bundled package, priced at $1,199.00, a savings of $200.00 compared to purchasing the components individually.
Sonos also offers an easy migration path for expanding the network system. Simply incorporate additional ZonePlayers at locations where you want to have a new music zone, connect the speakers of your choice and go through the Sonos Setup Wizard process. After initiating this straightforward procedure from your computer, the units will interface with each other without any time delay and function as fully independent zones. For those who may feel technically challenged, I can assure you that this process will be painless and works as promised.
Polished in execution, yet trouble-free in use, the Sonos Digital Music System distributes and plays music stored on any PC, Mac or Network Attached Storage device throughout your home. The system uses a ZonePlayer located in each room where music is desired, and the entire network is accessed via the wireless Controller. Sonos requires that the first ZonePlayer be physically connected to your home network, while the others may be connected through existing network wiring, or via Sonosnet™, a secure, proprietary peer-to-peer wireless network that maintains synchronization of music within milliseconds across all of the ZonePlayers. Sonos’ handheld Controller communicates wirelessly with the network to control the system. The mesh feature means that you need only be in wireless range of any ZonePlayer on the network, which greatly increases the music distribution system’s potential coverage area and simplifies expansion.
By design, the Sonos ZonePlayer is a relatively understated yet attractive component with a die-cast matte aluminum enclosure and a light gray base. Measuring 10.2 inches wide by 4.4 inches high by 8.2 inches deep and weighing 10 pounds, the ZonePlayer’s size allows its placement in almost any environment without drawing undue or unwanted attention. It contains a 50W minimum RMS per channel (eight Ohms, 20-20kHz, THD+N < 0.02 percent), high-performance power amplifier based on Tripath Technology’s innovative Class-T digital amplifier topology. These amplifiers are very efficient, run extremely cool and are powerful enough for most applications that the Sonos system might encounter. And if your power situation requires something more significant, preamplifier level outputs are provided to allow the user to implement external amplifiers when desired.
The front landscape contains a lighted white status indicator and three buttons for volume up, volume down and mute. All audio, loudspeaker and network connectors are located on the rear panel. A four-port Ethernet switch provides direct wired network connections. One bonus is that this can allow Internet access in each room that contains a ZonePlayer, without the necessity of a wireless or wired PC network for connecting personal computers in remote locations. Loudspeaker cables are connected with high-quality, spring-loaded binding posts that are large enough for at least 12-gauge speaker wires. A pair of auto-sensing RCA line inputs are provided, which alert the Sonos Controller that a new line source is active when music is playing. Three additional RCA jacks offer preamp level stereo outputs and a single subwoofer output auto-senses when a subwoofer is connected and engages a built in 80 Hertz crossover. An IEC power outlet with 115/230 Volt power selection completes the rear panel connections.
Elegant yet ergonomic, the Sonos Controller is a relatively small handheld remote measuring 6.5 inches wide by 3.8 inches high by 0.95 inches thick, and weighs a mere 0.75 pounds. It offers a pleasing balance and tactile feel, while providing a sense of substance and sophistication. The focal point of the splash-proof metal on light gray enclosure is a 3.5-inch diagonal color LCD screen with LED backlighting. A large touch-sensitive scroll wheel is located to the right of the screen. Control is provided through nine backlit buttons and three soft-selector buttons below the screen. The Sonos Controller also has a built-in sensor that will automatically backlight the control panel when it is being used in low light environments and disengage the light when it is not in use. This feature helps extend the life of the battery in between recharges. The battery life is claimed to be two to five days, depending on usage. Other optional items not included with the review sample introductory bundle include a charging cradle for the remote ($49.99) and SP100 bookshelf loudspeakers ($179 per pair, including two 10-foot lengths of 14-gauge speaker cable).