Professor Plum in the Billiards Room with a Candlestick
The Sonos Digital Music System seems so meticulously thought out, with such great emphasis placed upon the needs and desires of both the casual and the maniacally obsessed music lover convenience, simplicity, functionality, fine integration into everyday life, and pure fun I'd have to tell you lies to come up with a strong criticism. And I'm not a liar, honey. Of course, you kinda need a house to really appreciate what Sonos has to offer, and I don't. But, if I did... Oh, if I did.
As Sonos co-founder Tom Cullen explained to us, "You pick a zone, you pick a song, and you play. It's kind of like an iPod for your whole house."
Indeed, the Sonos Controller ($399), slightly larger than, say, a GameBoy Advance, happily borrows from the iPod's design. It's clean and white, of course, with the same familiar scrolling circle and has soft, yummy, easy to read buttons.
"If you know how to use an iPod," Cullen said, "you know how to use our Controller."
This, it seems to me, is pretty smart; I've never even owned an iPod, but I know how to use one. I don't have a house, but I know how to use Sonos.
"The iPod saved us," Cullen went on. "It gave us a way to explain exactly what we have to offer."
The Controller's 3.5in color LCD screen is bright and easy to read, and displays full-screen and thumbnail views of album art with all the track information you'd ever want. When you're not fondling it, the Controller rests in the Sonos CC100 Charging Cradle ($49.99), which matches nicely with everything else, of course, and can sit softly on your desktop or be mounted to the wall. Fun stuff, indeed. When JA asked Tom Cullen how long the Controller's charge lasts, he enthused: "You know, initially, we estimated a charge would last seven to ten days, but, actually, it's only been lasting about three. We found that people are using the Controller a lot more than we anticipated. People just can't put them down."
And the Sonos ZP100 ZonePlayer ($499), a cutesy white box that uses a 50Wpc amp to bless your home, backyard, front porch, attic, garage, tool shed, whatever, with sweet sounds, looks a whole lot like a Mac Mini, but is slightly larger and has four wee feetsies on which it proudly stands and wherein hide antennae for communicating with Sonos' secure SonosNet wireless network, which Cullen says is pretty good, too: If your son or daughter turns on the microwave while you're listening to music, the music won't drop out.
What else? The Sonos system supports Apple Lossless, WMA, AAC, MP3, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, internet radio, and the Rhapsody online music service, as well as the Audible.com spoken audio service. Because you can play the same or different audio selection in up to 32 separate zones, you can turn your home into the Bryant Park Hotel, or even Club Marquee, or I don't know what (I've never been up to speed with the velvet rope scene), playing punk rock in the toilet, classical in the foyer, easy listening in the lounge, Americana in the den, James Lipton in the library, Professor Plum in the billiards room with a candlestick, and on and on. Tom Cullen demonstrated this for us.
It was cool.
That's about all I have to say, I think. Sonos is targeting the 35-to-50-year old the grup, the yupster, the yindie, the alterna-yuppie who's got one foot in the world of stereo and one foot in the world of digital and is looking to bring those worlds together, happily. And Sonos wants to know what Stereophile's readers think.
I don't have a house, but, if I did, I'm pretty sure I'd consider Sonos' system. Why not, really? It makes so much sense. Fortunately, JA has a house. The review sample is in the mail.