I can remember, on at least two occasions, my father greeting me with a foot-long drill bit and a wild look in his eye. This would have been in the mid-1980s or so, and we were running speaker cable through walls, around beams, inside attics, from the laundry room across the house to the living room, and a couple points in between. Or maybe we were going through wallboard, insullation and the brick facade to put a couple speakers outside on the desk. Either way, it was dirty work, and very much not fun.
That was before the age of wireless. And that brings us to Sonos.
There are a million ways to run a music system in a house, and I've tried a good number of them. And Sonos has just about been the easiest, most enjoyable of them all. Android makes it even better, having recently released a controller application, turning any Android smartphone into a whole-house music remote control. Let's do the full review thing after the break, shall we?
What is Sonos?
Let's just get this out of the way: Sonos ain't cheap. You're going to spend, at minimum, several hundred dollars to get the most basic Sonos system up and running. That's the hard part. The question we've kept asking ourselves is "What, exactly, are we paying for?"
The review system Sonos sent us comprised a pair of $399 Sonos S5s and the $99 ZoneBridge. The S5 is a self-contained five-speaker unit. It touts itself as "a high-performance, all-in-one wireless music system that delivers crystal-clear, room-filling sound. Simply plug it in wherever you want music and enjoy." And that's pretty much spot on. It comes with just two cables -- an AC adapter for power, and an ethernet cable. The former goes into the wall, natch, and the latter into your router to connect to your home network. That's all you need to get going. And it's an ethernet passthrough, too, with two ports, so you can run CAT5 through the S5 and continue on to a laptop or any other device. Nice.
Sound quality is pretty darn good. It gets nice and loud without distorting, bass is pretty full (though not as good as if you have a real subwoofer), and it really can fill a relatively normal-sized room.
The ZoneBridge really opens things up, though. Plug it into your router, and it becomes a Wifi hotspot so you can put the S5 -- or up to 32 Sonos devices, actually -- anywhere else within range. The S5 is light enough that you can easily move it from room to room, or head outdoors -- anywhere you have a Wifi connection to your network.
For our testing, we had one S5 in the bedroom, and one about 45 feet away in the living room, both connected wirelessly.
There is a desktop component to all this. You'll need to register with Sonos and download the Sonos Desktop Controller. It does a good job running you through making sure you're properly connected, and setting up your music library. And it can pull your local music either from an actual computer, or network-attached storage, which is how we roll. Best part -- you don't need any real networking skills. It's plug-and-play.
And, finally, the crux of this whole little endeavor -- the controllers. You can run the system with the Desktop Controller, or purchase a $349 hardware remote from Sonos, and that's fine. But the Android (and iPhone and iPad) controller, for our money, is the way to go -- because it's free. Check it out.
Once you're all set up, you have direct control over your music library, and a healthy dose of Internet radio, including local radio stations, Pandora, iheartradio, Last.fm, Napster, Rdio, Rhapsody, SiriusXM, and others. You will not run out of things to listen to.
So there you have it. We really have no complaints about the Sonos system. Setup was easy enough, you just plug in the CAT5, and the Desktop Controller walked us through things nicely. The Android app is simple to use, though you'll need a little time to explore all of the settings and options. For now, the Android app is for phones only -- let's hope a tablet version is in the works. But if you're looking for an easy way to spread music through your home or office, and don't mind spending several hundred dollars, you're going to get some serious quality and ease of use out of Sonos.
More at Sonos.com
Drilling through brick and mortar isn't fun??? I bet you take your car in for oil changes too.
I have been thinking about getting Sonos for a month or so. Most likely by summer I will break down and get the Bridge and one S5 to start and go from there. I listened to an S5 in a Best Buy and it sounded amazing there and that is with a whole lot of background noise.
It is amazing. I still only have one speaker, but it is so easy to just move the speaker where ever you want to listen.
Is there any way to use existing speaker systems with sonos?
yes, they have different zoneplayers, one has a built in amp so you just plug in your speakers, and the other does nto have an amp and you connect it to your receiver. I have SONOS and use it all the time, best $$ spent.
Nice. I look forward to when you guys are planning on giving it away. See I listen to your Google IO podcast and Phil said he will be sad when he gives it away.
Sonos is awesome. But to make it the best thing ever you need a subscription to Rhapsody, Napster or Rdio. Screw Pandora, listen to what you want to listen to, anywhere in the house, whenever you want. I'm a Sonos + Rhapsody guy. It's amazing. I have three ZP120s (two connected to in-ceiling speakers in the dining room and master bedroom, the third connected to speakers in the living room), and an S5. It's expensive, but completely worth it.
What would you compare the quality of sound to, I have a pair of bose 901 speakers, not the newest system but it is good quality. Does the quality of sound compare to a system like that or would you say better?
People who think an IPOD with headphones is quality sound have NO idea what a REAL audio system sounds like. If you really think you can get quality sound for less than say....$10k, then you just have no idea what you are missing.
Does it work with Android 3.0?
I've been using the Logitech/Slim Device's SQUEEZEBOX Duet as my main music source for almost three years. The small server box sits next to and runs thru my stereo system; the controller (remote) supplements a browser-based control panel. It's a great setup, and cheaper than Sonos; but the controller is a bit flakey. Enter Squeeze Commander for Android. Works great and looks alot like this app.
With so many internet radio stations available, I rarely even listen to my music files or even music services, for that matter! It's WiFi heaven!
looks great to me
Pretty rockin system... I especially like the look of the user interface on the software...
$350 for a remote is insane, but using the android phone is way better anyhow.
I wonder how this stacks up against Apple's AirPlay system that's starting to roll out? Anyway, very cool that you guys are giving this away. I think I'd cry tears of joy if I won a system this sweet.
Can you stream audio from your android device?
I am not an audio smart guy. In fact, just the opposite. I like a device that has a walk through like the Desk Top controller. Otherwise I'm sure I'm missing many benefits of any new system I purchase (like my new home theatre system.
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