Sonos Bundle 150 wireless multiroom music system

The Short Form
$1,138 (as tested) / SONOS.COM / 877-807-6667
Snapshot

A fun and easy-to-use system that proves you don't need to spend a fortune to get great multiroom audio

Plus
• Incredibly easy setup and operation • Cool and intuitive controller • Smooth integration with on line music services
Minus
• Control of external sources limited to volume • Scroll-wheel-only menu navigation on controller • Must use Desktop software for Web control
Key Features
• Bundle ($999) includes ZP120 and ZP90 ZonePlayers and a CR100 controller • ZP120 includes 55-watt stereo digital power amplifier • CR100 controller with 3 1/2-inch diagonal color LCD screen that displays metadata feedback, including album art • 30-day trial subscriptions to Sirius, Rhapsody, Napster, and Pandora • Optional ZoneBridge BR100 wireless repeater ($99) • Optional CC100 charging cradle ($40) • ZP90: 5 1/2 x 3 x 5 1/2 in; 1 1/2 lb • ZP120: 7 1/4 x 3 1/2 x 8 in; 5 lb

Sometimes the original is so good, you just have to see the follow-up. Like The Empire Strikes Back and The Godfather: Part II, Sonos had a lot to live up to with the new version of its multiroom music system - especially since this is the first major change the system has undergone since winning a Sound & Vision Editors' Choice award in 2005.

For the uninitiated, Sonos makes a wired or wireless music-distribution system that's so easy to install, it's practically tailor-made for do-it-yourselfers. Instead of relying on a CD player or a built-in hard drive, it taps into shared music files on your computer.

The Bundle 150 system features two new ZonePlayers - the unpowered ZP90 and the amped-up ZP120 - along with the same CR100 handheld controller that first captured our hearts back in '05. While the Bundle includes a new version of the Desktop Controller Software, the biggest news is the move to SonosNet 2.0, which is built around the 802.11n standard for greater wireless range. Also, the ZP120 has a more powerful amp than its predecessor, the ZP100. Like a value meal, this Bundle, which creates an instant two-zone audio-distribution system, represents a savings of almost $250 over buying the components separately.

As a custom installer, I most wanted to know two things about the new Sonos system: What could a DIY system offer in the way of control and performance, and how well would its wireless capability hold up?

SETUP

You install a Sonos system in four simple steps that are clearly illustrated in the Quick Setup instructions.

Step 1: Connect either of the ZonePlayers to an open port on your router (an Ethernet cable is supplied). If the router is located where it's impractical or impossible to install a Player, Sonos offers the $99 ZoneBridge BR100, which creates the SonosNet 2.0 network that the Players can wirelessly connect to.

Step 2: Install the ZonePlayers. Because one has an amp and the other doesn't, each of the Bundle's two players needs to be hooked up in a different way. You use the analog or digital outputs on the amp-less ZP90 to connect it either to powered speakers or to an existing audio system like the home theater receiver I used for testing. (The ZP90 has both coaxial and optical digital jacks.) The ZP120, on the other hand, features a digital 55-watt stereo amplifier and connections for a pair of speakers. It also has a subwoofer output with a fixed 80-Hz crossover to easily add deeper bass to a particular zone.

Both ZonePlayers have RCA audio inputs for connecting an analog source such as a cable-TV box or a DVD player. And they both have two Ethernet ports so you can connect networked-attached storage (NAS) drives for adding music to your system or plugging other components like a PS3 or Xbox360 into your home network. Nice! The system is quite expandable, accommodating up to 32 wired players or anywhere from 6 to 15 wireless players.

Step 3: Install the Windows- and Mac-compatible Quick Start CD software on your computer. The software walks you through the process of "naming" the ZonePlayers and then assigning each to a zone. You're also given the options of adding shared music folders and scanning your drives for music. After I did a couple of mouse-clicks, Sonos began indexing my iTunes library of nearly 7,000 songs. File-format compatibility shouldn't be a problem since Sonos plays nearly every format, including MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, Audible, Apple Lossless, FLAC, WAV, and AIFF. While it won't play WMA lossless or DRM-wrapped songs bought from iTunes, it will play tracks encoded with Microsoft's PlaysForSure DRM. Files can be shared from up to 16 drives on the network for a total of 65,000 songs.

Step 4: Add the CR100 controller to the systen. Again, you just push a couple of buttons, and that's it. An unlimited number of controllers can be added at $399 each.

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