Shootout: Three Wireless Multiroom Music Systems Page 5

The Short Form
$1,297 as tested / CR100 Controller: 6.5 x 3.9 x 1 IN / 12.5 OZ; ZP100 Zoneplayer: 10.3 x 4.5 x 8.3 IN / 10 LBS; ZP80 Zoneplayer: 5.5 x 5.5 x 3 IN / 1.5 LBS / / 800-680-2345
•Excellent integration with PC and Mac •Tasteful minimalist design •Superb wireless LCD remote
•No internal storage •Needs Ethernet link to at least one client
Key Features
CR100 Controller: •3.5-in color LCD screen •Touch-sensitive scroll wheel •Wireless system control from all zones •LCD shows disc/track data and art •Controls up to 32 clients (6 to 15 wireless) ZP100 ZonePlayer: •Wireless or Ethernet receiver/player for music stored on computer or external drive •Analog audio input for auxiliary source •Onboard speaker amplifier: 2 x 50 watts •Supports MP3, WMA, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, AIFF files; Rhapsody and Audible subscription services •Sonos Desktop Controller software (Windows and Mac) ZP80 ZonePlayer: •As ZP100, with digital audio out, no amp •Price: ZP100 system, $1,199; ZP80 system, $999; ZP100, $499; ZP80, $349; CR100, $399; CC100 charging cradle, $50; SP100 speakers, $179/pair
Each player has a line-level audio output on the rear panel, as well as an input to connect a local analog source (such as an iPod or CD player), which is then available for listening in other rooms with ZonePlayers (though without local control of the source). The ZP80 adds a digital audio output as well. Each player also has Ethernet ports - at least one ZonePlayer must be hard-wired to your computer or network, but the rest can access music via the system's Sonosnet Wi-Fi network.

For this test, I used the PC in my home office as one source and the hard drive Sonos loaned me as another. Sonos Desktop Controller software (Windows or Mac) facilitates setup and also lets you control all the players from your computer. Installation went smoothly: I made a local Ethernet connection from my PC to a ZP100 and hooked up a pair of speakers to it (if you already have powered speakers on your PC, you can get by here with a ZP80). Then I placed a ZP80 in my listening room and fed its digital audio output to my A/V receiver. The software guided me through a short setup procedure, and soon the computer saw the players. Then the controller found both players and displayed the music contents of my PC, along with any artwork that was available. I could also access Internet radio via my computer, and Sonos is compatible with the Rhapsody subscription music service (PC only). Even with my PC turned off, I could still listen to the auxiliary hard drive on my home network and a source component plugged into one of the ZonePlayers.

PERFORMANCE The ZonePlayer accepts MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, Ogg Vorbis, and Apple Lossless files from your computer or external drive, with no explicit limit on bit rates. (Analog signals fed to its line input are encoded in real time into either WMA or WAV for output.) I could stream the same music to all players or different music to different players. Selecting music and directing it to a zone was as easy as scrolling with the controller's wheel as I strolled through the house. The color screen provided full title and source information. The controller also made it easy to set up playlists and consolidate zones into groups. My entire digital music collection was literally at my fingertips.

I got reliable transmission through walls over a 40-foot range, and the power amp in the ZP100 had plenty of guts to drive bookshelf speakers to loud, clean levels. I liked how the ZP80 let me wirelessly feed my PC's music library into my home theater. I've always run audio from my listening room to my office, but was surprised to learn how great it was to go the other way.

BOTTOM LINE The Sonos hits a sweet spot between simplicity and complexity. If you're not afraid of an Ethernet cable and have an established library of music on your computer, the Sonos will get you up and running into the future.