Sonos ZonePlayer S5 Page 2
There are a zillion Internet Radio stations to stream, and you can save any number of them as your favorites for faster access. Sonos will also stream several popular music services, including Pandora, Rhapsody, Sirius, Napster, iheartradio, last.fm, Wolfgang’s Vault, and more. Many of the subscription services offer a free trial, and if you already have an account from one or more of these services, just log in.
Like all other ZonePlayers, the S5 will stream pretty much any audio format, including uncompressed FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, and AIFF files. The company makes one notation with respect to music formats, disclosing the fact it does not support Apple Fairplay, AAC-Enhanced, or WMA Lossless formats. Apple Fairplay DRM-protected songs must be upgraded.
Sonos periodically provides free software updates with new features and additional music services. Remember to register your system, and Sonos will automatically notify you when software updates are available. With the press of one button, your system updates itself.
So how does it sound? It’s darn impressive for a single unit that delivers a stereo signal, although you can pair two ZonePlayer S5s for a wider, more robust stereo image. Audio quality is crisp, clear, and highly intelligible. The ability to tweak the EQ from the iPad app made it a cinch to get a good balance between bass and treble in my 500-square-foot studio. Moreover, it didn’t take a good deal of volume to fill the room, and that’s partially due to the live acoustics in the garage.
While there is a detectable stereo image, I feel the unit best functions as a background music source. I don’t see myself doing any critical music listening with the ZonePlayer S5, but then I don’t believe that’s what it was designed for. Still, I found the music to be engaging, with a clean, clear treble and midrange response. Bass response was exceptionally good for something so small. It was robust and devoid of obvious distortion at higher volumes. Of course, the bit rate of your files will have an effect on audio quality. For MP3 files, I never rip at less than 192 kilobits per second.
The streaming network that Sonos creates is reliable and constant. Not once did I experience dropouts or a freeze in the network. I have only one criticism: To stream, you must not turn off your computer or let it go to sleep. Since I don’t stream music all day long, I just change the computer settings when I’m using any of the ZonePlayers, including the S5. If you play music all day long, that means additional energy costs to keep your computer running all day.
There really is very little to operating the ZonePlayer S5, and once you have it set up, you don’t really have to do anything with the actual unit again (although there is a volume control on the top of the enclosure). You can perform all control and music queueing on one of three external controllers (Controller 200, iPhone, or iPad).
I like the ZonePlayer S5 and saw its potential immediately. Most rooms in a home don’t have a dedicated sound system, and that’s where the ZonePlayer S5 really comes in handy. To have a wholehouse audio system usually means running Cat-5 cable all over the house, installing ceiling speakers in every room, adding expensive distribution amps, and placing control panels in the wall.
If this is your first foray into wholehouse audio and you don’t have dedicated sound systems throughout the house—or the desire or cash to get into a complex and expensive system—the ZonePlayer S5 is a terrific way to start. It’s user-friendly, simple to integrate into an existing home network (I required no assistance), and operable from a variety of devices (some you may already have). I don’t see how you could go wrong with the ZonePlayer S5, or any Sonos ZonePlayer, for its sheer simplicity, performance quality, stability, and cost effectiveness.