Installation of the
Sonos system was far easier than I was expecting. A CD and simple
instructions are included that walk you through the process. A desktop
controller is installed on your PC or network drive, and once the zone player
is connected to the network, you simply press the front panel button to synch
it to the network. Each zone player can be named independently, and each can
access any music it wants independently, allowing for any music in any room
you place a zone player in. Once the zone player is told where your music
is, it no longer requires a PC to run. You could simply run the system from
a network storage drive (NAS Drive), which is what I ended up doing (more on
I did run
into a few issues when I connected the zone player. My network is a bit
different than the ideal setup. I have an office downstairs where my cable
modem and router reside. I installed the ZP 80 upstairs in my theater room
on the opposite end of the house. My house does not have Ethernet run
through it like so many new houses do, so I ran my network through my power
lines. This is a system that has been around for sometime now and has worked
just fine for my application. In my theater room, I have a simple NetGear
switch and each device connects through that. The problem started when I
loaded Windows Vista onto my PC. After that, I started getting lockups when
troubleshoot, I called Sonos customer support. These guys are truly on their
game. The desktop controller allows you to send a file to them and gives you
a reference number. They look at the file and tell you the errors the player
is reporting. They can even go so far as to network into your computer and
set up things properly, similar to a remote desktop function. All of the
people I talked to were extremely knowledgeable, and I never waiting long at
all to get the support I needed.
On top of
that, Sonos releases firmware updates regularly for issues and to add new
features based on feedback. These can be done manually or automatically
depending on how you set it up.
the end, I added a NAS drive to the theater room and connected it directly to
the back of the zone player. Maxtor was nice enough to provide a 1 terabyte
network accessible shared storage drive. This was a snap to integrate into
my network by simply connecting it to the Ethernet switch and installing the
From there I just drag and dropped my music collection
into this hard drive and told the Sonos desktop controller where to find it.
The Maxtor drive also allows for a RAID configuration which let me mirror
my files in case one of the drives fails. This prevents you from losing all
of your files.
As I mentioned before, I
received the Zone Player 80 (ZP 80) and the Sonos Controller. I also ordered
the charging cradle for the controller. The ZP 80 is a small box that is
fully featured. The front panel has a volume control and mute button and a
small LED. The back panel is where most of the action is. Here you'll
find two Ethernet connections, a Toslink digital output, coaxial digital
output, a stereo analog audio output, and a stereo analog audio input.
the connections are pretty self explanatory. The Ethernet connection is
essential for this system to work through. You can have up to 32 ZP 80s in
your home. They connect to each other wirelessly using SonosNet, a wireless
peer-to-peer AES encrypted wireless network. The catch is, you have to have
at least one connected directly to a router, network drive, or PC. From
there on, any other zone player can be run wirelessly. Sonos is going to be
releasing a wireless base station soon that will act as the initial unit to
hook into the network that won't be a zone player, allowing more flexibility
analog audio input allows you to connect a line-in source such as a CD
player, jukebox, or portable media player. Once connected, any other zone
player in the network can access this device's output. So, if you have your iPod connected to a zone player in the kitchen, you can access the songs
playing out of it on your zone player in the bedroom, theater room, or
anywhere else; that's pretty slick.
the biggest selling features for me was the inclusion of digital outputs.
This allows me to bypass any digital to analog conversions that may
compromise the quality of the audio. I want my server to do as little
tampering with the signal as possible. Sonos has expanded on this even
further by providing a fixed volume option so the zone player will simply
pass the audio through with no volume level control or EQ'ing. This means
the only thing the player is doing is decoding the compressed audio stream
or passing the PCM audio through for uncompressed WAV tracks.
Controlling the zone player can be achieved in two different ways. You can
control everything from a PC using the desktop controller, or you can
purchase the Sonos controller. I use both quite frequently depending on what
I'm doing. If I'm in the office and have music playing in the background, I
can simply bring up the desktop controller and change tracks, change sources,
or anything else. If I am in my theater room, or anywhere else in the house,
I can use the Sonos controller.
This is a handheld interface system that is
completely wireless and can control one zone player or literally every zone
player in the house. If you want to add multiple controllers around the
house, you can simply tie in a zone player to each specific controller, but
you can still operate any other zone player from anywhere.
operating interface is displayed on a 3.5" full color LCD screen. There are
controls for volume (if enabled) and muting, and there is a rotary dial for
navigating the interface menus. This is very similar to the rotary interface
you find on the popular iPod products. The touchpad also has soft keys below
the screen for commands, and convenient quick keys for play, pause, back,
music, and skipping.
color display alleviates the need for a monitor to control your music
server. I use these devices primarily in my theater room, and the only
display I have in there is a projector. I don't like the idea of having to
turn it on simply to navigate my music, and I also like to listen to music in
a room that doesn't have a TV on. The controller allows me to interact with
the server directly, without the need for another display. It will let me
pick tracks, add tracks to a queue, or interact with the music services I
may be using. The controller runs on a lithium ion battery that is
rechargeable and can be replaced at the factory. The controller comes with a
charger and there is also an optional charging cradle that acts as a dock
for the controller as well.
begin to tell you how easy it was to use the controller. Using the rotary
interface, you can select what music source you want, artists, tracks, and
more. Anyone who has ever used an iPod would find this very simple to pick
up and use. The controller gives you the ability to pick artists, albums or
songs specifically, or you can select tracks to put in a queue for
continuous play. The system offers a shuffle playback feature allowing you
to literally select your entire music library and play every song at random.
interface makes it extremely easy for me to conduct audio demonstrations in
my reference home theater. I can cue up a track in seconds in full lossless
quality and not have to worry about the player compromising the quality,
since my reference Anthem A/V processor does all of the volume control and
digital to audio conversions. Guests can ask for a track and I can literally
queue it up as the next track or jump to it directly. The display will show
me the album art, artist, album, song title, and time remaining, as well as
the next track in the queue.
was using the Pandora radio service, the controller allowed me to provide
feedback to Pandora, including whether or not I liked or disliked the track I
was playing or changing my preferences. Rhapsody use allowed for adding
artists and songs and navigating their music lists and charts. I never once
felt like I was limited by the controller's interface.
to Part III.