Sonos nailed the winning formula for whole-home audio when its first system debuted in 2005. Start with wireless connectivity—meaning no need to drill holes, pull cables or hire an installer. Add portable, centralized control over the whole system, so you decide what’s playing for each Sonos unit in your home with a single handheld remote. Throw in universal content, and all the music saved on any of your computers or networked storage devices, plus a host of Internet radio stations and music services, can be piped to any room. And finally, there’s simplicity: from initial system setup to creating a killer party playlist, Sonos makes powerful high-tech entertainment exceptionally easy.
Now Sonos makes a good idea even better with the ZonePlayer S5. The original Sonos system (still available) requires connecting receiver modules to a stereo system or separate speakers. The ZonePlayer is a self-contained unit, about a foot across and eight inches deep, incorporating a wireless receiver and five individually powered speakers. Plug it in, use the included PC or Mac software to add the new unit to your network (a two-minute undertaking) and you’re good to go. Sound quality is very impressive, with warm, clear vocals, lifelike instrumentals and healthy (but not overbearing) bass.
The S5 also makes getting started with Sonos a lot more affordable, with a $399 price tag (versus $1,000+ for the original system), though that’s probably not your entire investment. Unless you want to post an S5 in the same room as your broadband router, you’ll need a $99 ZoneBridge to serve as the Sonos network connection. And while you can control the system using supplied computer software, a handheld remote is half the fun. The Sonos Controller 200 ($349) is a handsome piece of gear, with a high-res color touch-screen and intuitive navigation system. Or maybe you’d prefer free? If you own an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download a free Sonos app that recreates the store-bought controller’s functions, with a similar layout.