Getting your music in the zone …

These past few months, I had the chance to test out the latest wireless speaker system by Sonos: the Zoneplayer S5. I’ve know the brand for a while, but never got to checking it out properly before. What Sonos basicly does is allow you to play your entire music collection and almost every online music service in multiple zones spread through your home, wirelessly and with almost no set up required.

So let’s start by taking a look at the device itself: the design looks similar to that of the Bose Sound Dock. It’s sleek, minimalistic and feels sturdy. To keep everything simple the amount of buttons has been reduced to the bare minimum: there’s a volume up and down button and a mute button, thats it. On the back you’ll find an audio in port, headphone port, a simple power chord (no clunky brick!) and an ethernet hub to plug it into your wired internet, where available.

But, like I said, the Zoneplayer is made to be used wirelessly. To do that, however, you’ll need a zone Zonebridge unit. Just plug this little device in between your ISP modem and your wireless router and you’re good to go. Sonos systems use MESH networking which, in my experience, was a bit more stable than my usual Airport Extreme + 2 Airport Expresses setup. The system rarely buffered and felt very responsive. One Zonebridge unit should be enough to cover a standard home. Have some great speakers already? No worries, just hook them up to a Zoneplayer 90 or 120 unit and enjoy the Sonos sytem while keeping your trusty speakers.

So, once that’s set up, just install the Sonos controller software on your computer and start adding music. You can add your iTunes library, add all sorts of online services like Last.fm and Spotify or configure your favourite radio streams. The best feature is probably that you can add music from a network device so that your computer doesn’t even have to be turned on to access your music collection. Once all that’s set up you can control it from anywhere in the house using a Sonos Remote or just download the free app for your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.

The verdict

Sonos is a great solution for people who want a fully featured, great sounding, wireless music system with the whole hassle of setting up. Airtunes, for example, is a great system with a “fairly easy” setup but I’ve already seen a lot people struggling to get that set up. Sonos is pretty much dummy proof. At € 399 a pop (for the Zoneplayer S5), not counting the Zonebridge (€ 99), it’s a bit steep for me. If, however, the Zonebridge were included in the price of the Zoneplayer, it would be a good deal. Since the product is advertised as a “Wireless Music Player”, I really think Sonos should consider that sort of pricing scheme.

Update: looks like Sonos thought the same thing. Currently, there’s promotion where if you buy a Zoneplayer S5 + a Zonebridge, you get the Zoneplayer @ half price. Check sonos.com for more info.

What I liked:

  • Easy set up
  • Design and build quality
  • Online services, network drives, remote control apps

What I didn’t like

  • Zonebridge not being included
  • Computer software (feels a bit outdated)
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