Sonos ZonePlayer S5

Unplggd Test Labs

Product: Sonos ZonePlayer S5
Price: Starts at $399.95
Rating: Strong Recommend*

Wireless music streaming options are a dime a dozen these days, and for the most part, they've all got their own approach at doing the same thing in different ways (Logitech's Squeezebox and Apple's AirTunes comes to mind). But what about a music system that was crafted with the digital home in mind? We got a chance to check out Sonos' ZonePlayer. Here's how we thought it stacked up against the competition.

SETUP:

Getting everything up and running was probably the most straight-forward workflow we've ever experienced. Simply plug it in, hit the sync buttons, and the systems will automatically find each other on your network. It was so dead simple we had to double check to see if things were really all up and running when hooking it up into our music server PC housing all of our tunes.

As we always say to tech companies, "If you're going to make something complicated for the home, make it absolutely dead simple to set up." Sonos gets some huge points here in that department.

Sonos ZonePlayer S5 ($399):

The Sonos ZonePlayer S5 is a hefty beast. Well, maybe not Bowers & Welkins Zeppelin beastly, but it's fairly large. And rightfully so; the system cost is above there with the big boys and $400 isn't just throwaway change.

However, the size makes it pretty much perfect for a large home that requires music in multiple rooms without looking too much like an eyesore. Simply plug in the ZonePlayer, sync it up, and you immediately have a speaker access point added to your network, controlled by either the dedicated controller or a downloadable iPhone App that works via WiFi (very much like Boxee and Apple's AirTunes).

Now here's the downside: If you want your speaker system to be truly wireless, you'll need to throw down a few extra bucks for the Sonos Bridge ($99) that allows for complete freedom of speaker placement within the home. Otherwise, you'll need the ZonePlayer directly connected to the wireless router via Ethernet in order to have it accessible on the network.

Aside from the minor quirk, ZonePlayer is everything we could ever ask for in a Digital Receiver/Speaker system. It's high quality, quick/easy to install, reliable, and provides great sound seamlessly played throughout the house. The lows are punchy enough to satisfy those who like to blast their tunes, the mids are excellent, and the highs are decent. For a single speaker design, it certainly screams quality and build despite not having true stereo sound.

CONTROLLERS:

You've got plenty of options when it comes to controlling the Sonos system; You can grab the Sonos Controller 200 ($349) or download the Sonos iPhone App (Free). Both tout a very intuitive and simple interface, with snappy animation graphics, and a very logical information architecture theme that makes finding, controlling, and organizing your music playing style a breeze.

If you're curious to why the controller costs so much (since you'd probably already be shelling out $400 for the speaker already), it might be due to the build, memory, and screen it uses. Seriously, this thing is probably the sexiest multimedia controller we've ever held. While it borrows elements from a few other technology companies that do design very well (Belkin and Apple, to name a few), the execution is absolutely breathtaking to say the least.

VALUE:

Now, if money isn't an issue for you and you've been dying to get your hands on one of the best wireless music streaming systems out there, don't hesitate and grab one now. Sonos has done a great job here creating an entire package that "just works" and we assure you will not be disappointed.

That said, $400 is just the entry point here. With Apple AirTunes and a Apple Airport Express ($99), you can probably get much more out of your current sound system with a few sacrifices to wires running everywhere, but also the need to have a receiver/DAC present in every room. The value you get with investing in a Sonos system is cleanliness, simplicity, and some of the best customer service in the industry (we can attest to this).

All in all, if you're in the market for an easily expandable, reliable, customizable digital sound system to get music off your computer and into the rest of your house, you can't go wrong with Sonos.

Pros: Simple, quick set-up, attractive design, excellent controllers, and great overall sound.
Cons: The system requires 1 unit (or the Bridge) to be connected by ethernet cable. So it's actually about 99% wireless, but shouldn't be a problem if your ZonePlayer is going to be in the same room as your router anyway.

Our Ratings:
Strong Recommend*
Recommend
Weak Recommend
Don't Recommend

Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. However, the manufacturer did give us the product for testing and review purposes.