First Look: Sonos Digital Music System


Until I had my iPod and Tivo I never knew how much I needed both. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to test out the Sonos Digital Music System, I smack myself in the head and wonder how I ever lived without it. This is one of the coolest gizmos to hit the market in a long time – and it couldn’t be easier to set up and use all over your house – literally. If your home is networked wirelessly, you can set it up in about 10 minutes. No joke.

Controlled by a ZonePlayer connected directly to your network via Ethernet, you can have up to 32 total ZonePlayers throughout your home (depending on the size, you may only need two). The best thing about the ZonePlayer, other than its sleek, lightweight design (it only weighs 10 lbs.), is it acts as a wireless transmitter. The more ZonePlayers you have, the stronger the signal throughout your home.

And they all talk to each other. You can link every zone in your home and have the same music playing simultaneously – or if you’re the kind of schizophrenic music lover that wants to run around her house and hear a variety of songs at the same time, you can set up each ZonePlayer to play its own tune.

In addition to playing anything and everything on your computer, including personal playlists, Sonos also transmits dozens of Internet radio stations. I’m hooked on the Deep House channel but I also discovered a live Phish station, which really grooves. Plus, you can access a handful of public radio stations, so if you’re ever itching to hear what the tastemakers at influential L.A. station KCRW are spinning, just tune it in.

The system is all operated securely and wirelessly through the Sonos Controller – a 12.5-oz., beautifully designed, rechargeable unit that comfortably fits in your hand. It has a full-color LCD screen and an iPod-like scroll wheel. You can set up all your system preferences – even adjust the volume on each player – from the Controller. It also has a built in motion and light sensor, so when you pick it up, it wakes from sleep and if you walk into a dark room, the backlight kicks in. I’m telling you, this thing is so damn amazing!

Sonos is ideal for people who don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars ripping up their walls to install a wired music system. A starter bundle (two ZonePlayers and a Sonos Controller) will run you $1,199; if you want to add high-quality bookshelf speakers, tack on another $300.

Sonos is better than the current crop of wireless music transmitters like SoundBridge and AirTunes in that the ZonePlayer has a built in 50-watt amplifier, eliminating the need for an existing stereo or transmitter.

In my opinion, Sonos is worth every penny. Even the drawbacks — non-wireless speakers, for instance, or the occasional stickiness of the Controller — can almost be ignored.

Overall, I love Sonos – and as soon as you meet it, you will, too.