Product Review (August 2008)
Sonos - Digital Music Server
BU150 Bundle - ZP120, ZP90 & CR100

By Kevin Nakano


Sonos has been highly successful with their digital music system largely because of the ease of use and great sound quality. The company has just announced two new Zone Players to take the place of the original ZP100 and ZP80 designs. The new ZP120 takes the place of the ZP100 and the new ZP90 replaces the ZP80. Similar to the BU130 bundled package, Sonos is offering a new BU150 bundled package that includes a ZP120, ZP90 and a CR100 controller for only $999. Sonos supports compressed MP3, WMA (including purchased Windows Media downloads), AAC (MPEG4), Ogg Vorbis, Audible (format 4), Apple Lossless, Flac (lossless) music files, as well as uncompressed WAV and AIFF files.

Installing the Sonos system into the home is easier than most distributed audio products. The Sonos system uses standard home networks with CAT5 cables or wireless 802.11b WiFi connectivity. Each zone has its own zone player that is completely configurable through the controller or PC software. The Sonos system does not hold the music, but instead streams the content through the network connection using a PC, Mac or Network Attached Storage box. We used our existing file server PC running Windows XP to distribute our music.

While the zone players are attractive, we decided not to have them displayed at all. In fact, each room only has a pair of in-wall speakers with no other components needed for playing music. To control the sound system the user picks up the CR100 controller to select the zone and music.

CR100 Controller
The CR100 controller is an ergonomically designed unit with an impressive looking LCD display. Similar music information found on the computer's main software screen is also provided on the wireless portable controller. A total of nine backlit buttons and three soft buttons located below the screen are provided. Volume and mute buttons are located on the left side with standard controls for selecting and playing tracks on the right. Navigating through the menu system is made easy with the iPod-like navigation wheel built into the unit with the center select button. The Zones button selects the zone while the Music button chooses the audio content by Music Library, Playlists, Internet Radio stations or Line input. A built-in light sensor automatically illuminates the keys when low ambient light is detected. The LCD display and button backlight levels can be adjust through the settings menu. Powered by a rechargeable Li-Ion Polymer, factory-replaceable battery, the CR100 controller has a battery level indicator on the top right corner of the screen. When charging the unit, the top right indicator illuminates orange. Once the unit is fully charged, the indicator illuminates green.

The Controller provided excellent two-way communication in every room inside of our home. Most wireless products run into reception problems at extreme ends of our single-story house, but the Sonos CR100 communicated with the ZonePlayers without a problem. In addition, our second CR100 Controller worked seamlessly with the first, allowing us to have both controllers operating different zones in the house simultaneously. When viewing the same ZonePlayer on the two different controller screens, one controller updates accordingly with the other used to control the music.

Linking Zones
Using the Link Zone feature, users can link some or all of the listening zones to a single group. This is particularly useful when having a party or when one might be moving from one room to another within the house and would like to hear the same music. At the same time it is possible for one or more of the other zones to be running fully independent audio streams. The controller clearly shows which zones are linked and what music is currently playing on each zone. In addition, the mode (Stop, Play or Pause) is also indicated on the screen next to each zone grouping. The Drop Zone button is visible when more than one zone is assigned to a given group. Pressing this button allows the user to release a zone.

Linking Volumes
Controlling the volume level of all linked zones is easy using the Group Volume control. The Group Volume control appears as part of the individual volume levels when multiple zones are linked in a group. The volume for each zone within a group can be individually set and are globally controlled using the Group Volume. If the Group Volume level is set to the maximum, all zones are also set to the maximum levels. When the Group Volume is reduced, all zones are reduced equally even though the initial values may have been different from one another. The implementation of the level controls proved to work very well in our setup.

Charging Cradle (CC100)
One thing became apparent when we used the handheld controller. We did not like having to connect and disconnect the power plug to the unit each time we wanted to charge it. Luckily, Sonos recently introduced the much anticipated Charging Cradle (CC100), designed specifically for the CR100 controller. The CC100 is simply a docking station that uses the controller's existing AC adapter to power two metal contacts at the base of the unit. The power jack attaches to the bottom of the unit as seen here. Once set up, the user can place the CR100 controller in the cradle and the unit charges through these contacts. The cradle is also a convenient way of holding the controller for easy viewing. The $49.99 price tag seems steep for a piece of plastic, but is an essential part of the system. The CC100 package also includes a bracket with anchors and screws for wall mounting the unit. Not only does the new cradle look good, but it makes using the controller simple with easy docking. We chose to use the cradle on our table without mounting it to a wall.

Installation
The ZP120 ZonePlayer is more compact the its predecessor measuring 8.15" wide, 7.3" deep (including speaker terminals) and 3.5" tall. ZonePlayers can go anywhere AC power is available and connect wirelessly when a wired Ethernet connection is not available. Our setup used a wired connection for each of our ZonePlayers. Each ZonePlayer is identified by pressing the Mute and Volume Up buttons on the front of the unit simultaneously. This lets the Desktop Controller software identify the location of each of the ZonePlayers during the initial setup process. Coinciding with the launch of the new zone players was a release of new firmware for all of the units. Both our Controllers and ZonePlayers required a firmware update that was automatically detected by the software. The updates were easy and automatic as data was transferred from the Sonos website.

The front panel has a white indicator when the unit is online. This light can be disabled if it causes a distraction in environments such as home theaters. The green Mute light will illuminate on the front panel when the user activates mute on the ZonePlayer. Using the SonosNet™ 2.0, each of the ZonePlayers form a self-configuring secure peer-to-peer wireless mesh. This allows different audio streams to flow to and from each zone. Each ZonePlayer also serves as an access point for the handheld controller.

ZP120 Connections
The rear panel of the ZP120 ZonePlayer has a smaller detachable power cord with an input voltage selector switch (115VAC/230VAC). A pair of speaker outputs designed to provide 55W minimum RMS per channel into 8 ohms, a boost of 5W per channel from the older model. A pair of line level inputs are also provided, but the old line level outputs have been removed. A line-level subwoofer output is also provided for powered subwoofers and can be especially important when using main speakers that lack low frequency response. This autosensing output automatically applies an 80 Hertz crossover to the subwoofer output.

The rear panel also includes a 2-port ethernet switch which allows another wired ethernet product to use the same network drop. An autosensing pair of analog inputs is detected by the ZonePlayer and can be used as an audio source for any of the other ZonePlayers. The new ZP120 does not include analog line-level outputs that was featured on the ZP100. However, the ZP90 does includes this feature.

For our tests we tested the ZP120 with our in-wall speakers including Phase Technology CI-20VII and CI-70VIII speakers. Sound quality was similar to the original ZP100 zone player we have in our system. We also ran the ZP120 with a pair of M&K S150THX speakers that we use in our home theater system. These speakers are rated at 4 ohms and can play very loud without a problem. The ZP120 was easily able to handle the load and the audio sounded great. Much to my surprise the digital amplifiers in the ZP120 produce great sound regardless of the load we placed on them.

ZP90 Connections
The ZP90 ZonePlayer is designed to interface to a system that already has a power amplifier, so only line level and digital audio outputs are provided. Both coaxial and optical (toslink) digital outputs are provided. Like the ZP120, line level inputs are also available to provide audio to the other zone players in the system. The same small detachable power cord jack and input voltage selector switch (115VAC/230VAC) is on this zone player. The unit works best in systems that have an A/V receiver with an existing speaker system. This allows customers with an existing A/V system to make good use of the Sonos.

Conclusion
We have had the Sonos digital music system in our home for the past three years and according to my wife, it is by far the best system we have had simply because it is so easy to use and it sounds great. Our current Sonos system consists of three ZP100s, one ZP80, and two CR100 controllers. We have four zones in the house and both my 7 and 8 year old daughters already know how to use the controller play music on the system. They are fortunate enough to have one of the zones in their bedroom. As part of this review, we added a fifth ZP120 zone player to the system and it worked flawlessly with the rest of our system. Adding the new ZP120 was just like adding another ZP100 as everything went smooth. Sonos has a very stable and reliable platform that has always worked for us. We have never had any problems since the initial installation three years ago. Music is on-demand in seconds and there is no waiting once the music is on saved the server. The only downside is each zone will initially cost several hundred dollars. However, you start small with a simple system such as the bundled package (BU150) and add to it as needed.

The software behind the Sonos system is one of its strong points and with updates to the system you can be assured that they are working to make it the best experience as possible. Even with the price set at $999 for the bundled package, the system brings high value to the home in which it is installed. We see a lot of fancy equipment every year, but the Sonos is still one of the top products to come our way.

- Kevin Nakano






OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player




Review System

In-Wall Speakers #1: M&S Systems- WG150W
In-Wall Speakers #2: Phase Technology - CI 70VIII
In-Wall Speakers #3: Phase Technology - CI 20VII


Review - At a Glance


Sonos - Digital Music Server


Sonos ZonePlayer (ZP120)

Features
Superior sound with a powerful digital amplifierThe ZP120’s state-of the-art digital amplifier delivers audiophile-quality sound to any room. The energy-efficient Class D amplifier provides 55W per channel of power with a THD+N <.02% for excellent audio quality playback. And because the amplifier is built in, you won’t need to connect to a stereo to play your music.
Best-in-class wireless technology for multi-room musicSonosNet™2.0, our latest wireless mesh network technology, provides double the wireless range* for whole-house coverage, ensures synchronous music playback, and avoids sources of wireless interference. All without a massive wiring project.
Instant access to endless musicWherever there’s a ZP120 (or any other ZonePlayer), you can listen to your personal collection of music stored on your computer, thousands of free Internet radio stations and millions of songs from the most popular online music services. You can also connect the ZP120 to an iPod or CD player and listen to those tunes throughout the house.
Simple setupNo technical or wiring expertise required. No need to break through walls or re-wire the house. A high-speed Internet connection and router are all you need. One ZonePlayer or ZoneBridge™ must be connected to the router and all the rest work wirelessly. Then, add more ZonePlayers in more rooms without adding wires.
New features and music services with automatic updatesWith free automatic software updates you’ll always have the newest features and music services to enjoy. Which means your system will keep getting better even after you buy.

Technical Specifications
AmplifierClass D
Rated Output 55W RMS continuous average power into 8 ohms (Both channels driven, 22Hz-20KHZ-AES17 measurement bandwidth), TDN+N < 0.02%
Analog audio connectionsRCA-type line-in (auto-detecting); RCA-type Subwoofer Out
(auto-detecting), 80Hz crossover
Audio formats supportedCompressed MP3, WMA (including purchased Windows Media downloads), AAC (MPEG4), Ogg Vorbis, Audible (format 4), Apple Lossless, Flac (lossless) music files, as well as uncompressed WAV and AIFF files. Native support for 44.1kHz sample rates. See website for additional sample rates supported. Apple “Fairplay” and WMA Lossless formats not currently supported.
Music Services SupportedBest Buy™ Digital Music Store, Napster®, Pandora®, Rhapsody® 3.0+, SIRIUS® Internet Radio, and downloads from any service
offering DRM-free tracks
Operating systems (for stored files)Windows® XP SP2 or higher, Windows Vista™, Mac OS X v10.4 and v10.5, Network Attached Storage devices supporting CIFS
Internet radio supportedStreaming MP3, WMA. Comes pre-loaded with 600+ stations
Wireless connectivitySonosNet™2.0, a secure AES encrypted, peer-to-peer wireless
mesh network (Internet connection required for access to Internet radio stations, online music services and software updates (DSL, cable modem or LAN-based high-speed Internet connection required.) Internet functionality may require payment of separate fee to a service provider.)
Network BridgingThe 2-port switch (10/100Mbps, auto MDI/MDIX) allows Ethernet devices to connect through SonosNet
Power SupplyAC 100-240, 50-60 Hz, user-switchable
Dimensions/Weight3.5 x 7.3 x 8.15 in (89 x 185 x 207 mm)/5.1 lb (2.3 kg)
Operating/Storage Temp32°F to 104°F (0°C to 40°C)/ -4°F to 158°F (-20°C to 70°C)


Sonos Controller (CR100)

Features
Wireless, handheld controlControl everything from volume to music selection in any room from anywhere. No more running back and forth to your PC.
Full-color LCD screenProvides bright, clear display of choices and information, including album art, if available.
Scroll wheel selectorMakes it easy to scroll through large music collections and make selections.

Technical Specifications
Screen3.5" (diagonal) color LCD with LED backlight, 240 x 320 (QVGA)
Scroll wheelTouch-sensitive scroll wheel with center-mounted selector button
Function buttons9 backlit buttons, 3 soft-selector buttons below screen
BatteryRechargeable Li-ION Polymer, factory-replaceable
Wireless connectivitySonosnet™, a secure, peer-to-peer wireless mesh network
DC chargerInput 100-240VAC, 50-60Hz Output 6VDC, 3.8A
Dimensions6.5 x 3.8 x 0.95 in.(165 x 97 x 24.5 mm), 12.5 oz. (360 g)

 

Sonos Multi-Room Music System Datasheet (678 K)
Sonos ZonePlayer ZP90 Datasheet (501 K)
Sonos ZonePlayer ZP120 Datasheet (888K)
Sonos Controller CR100 Datasheet (593 K)
Sonos ZoneBridge BR100 Datasheet (270 k)
Sonos Consumer Fact Sheet (15 K)
Sonos Product Price Guide (41 K)
Sonos Product Descriptions(21 K)


Company Information
Sonos, Inc.(Headquarters)
223 E. De La Guerra
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: 805-965-3001
Fax: 805-965-3010

Source: Manufacture Supplied
MSRP: $999 (Special package includes ZP120 & ZP90 ZonePlayers and one Controller)

URL: www.sonos.com

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