I first heard about Sonos pretty soon after it launched. In fact, I found myself at CES 2005 “face to face” with them over and over again, competing for various new product awards (I think we split evenly, but I’m not positive on that one). Saw them again at an Engadget meetup, and then sooner or later ended up getting a ZonePlayer 100 Bundle. I added a ZP80 to the mix when it debuted, and was pretty happy with my home music configuration.
I always had a few little gripes about the Sonos features, and, as one might expect, never hesitated to voice them to the company. My two biggest ‘wants’? Alarms and better Rhapsody integration. Well guess what, looks like I wasn’t the only one with the idea, as the newly launched Sonos 2.0 features now includes both (and more)!
First, my setup. I have 2 ZP100‘s (the original ZonePlayer unit with a built-in amplifier), 1 ZP80 (the newer unit, with no amp), and a controller (the remote control). One ZP100 is in the back bedroom (I use it to listen to music in my backyard), another in the kitchen, and the ZP80 is in the living room (didn’t need the amp there). All my music (about 80GB of ripped CDs in WMA format) is stored on a Maxtor 500GB Shared Storage Plus.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Sonos interface, it’s braindead simple to use. The screen shows a list of options, you have a little wheel (similar to iPod), and a few buttons with fixed and programmable controls give you access to all the features in the system. Actually, rereading that it still doesn’t sound as simple to use as it really is. It’s EASY. When friends come over, I generally hand them the controller and say “play something” – nobody’s gotten in wrong so far!
When I picked up my controller, I was informed there was an update available. The Sonos system automatically downloads and installs the update on its own, and worked flawlessly for me. In fact, I didn’t even have to touch my PC to do anything! Next time I went to the main menu, a “Clock and Alarms” item was listed there.
Setting the clock was simple, and it’s capable of synching with Internet time – again, virtually no technical configuration needed to get this working. I would like to see the Sonos interface include the clock throughout the graphical user interface (GUI), as its presently only visible when you push a button to show you the clock. I think they can easily add it to the ‘status bar’ at the top of the screen.
Along with the clock comes two other important features. One is sleep, which lets me have the music automatically shut off after a certain period of time. This is good, but what meant even more to me was the new alarms feature.
With alarms, I can have music wake me up. This is nice. But what is outstanding is the amazing flexibility of the alarms. I can…
- set multiple alarms, all with completely different parameters
- assign radio stations, chimes, or playlists to each alarm
- set virtually any type of recurrence to an alarm
- have each alarm go off at different volume levels
- link zones (or not) to each alarm
I’d like to make two very minor suggestions in the alarm feature. First, I think an icon should appear (also in the status area) reflecting that an alarm is set. Second, as an advanced option, having a fade-in for each alarm would be a lovely touch. As a troubled sleeper, one thing I’ve learned is the ‘best’ wakeup for people is a slowly brightening room and slow increase in volume of background noise. It’s supposed to be a bit more therapeutic than a sudden entry of sound. Which is why, I think, we all need coffee in the mornings.
While Sonos and Rhapsody have always worked together, in the past it was solely through Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) technology, which was a bit of a rudimentary integration. You were able to access your own Rhapsody music library, but only when your PC was online with the Rhapsody software client running. Now, Rhapsody can stream direct from the source to your Sonos zones. I’m a huge Rhapsody fan (although Pandora is definitely a new impressive contender), so this is an extra win in my book.
With Sonos 2.0, I have complete access to all the Rhapsody services and features. Not only my playlists and music library, but all the ‘live’ aspects too, such as:
- Top Charts (albums, artists, and tracks)
- Genre and Artist samplers and Key Albums
- Staff Picks
- Rhapsody Radio
This is one of those cases where the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts. Sonos 2.0 plus Rhapsody is an amazing combination for music lovers.
If you haven’t heard of Sonos before, there are already some great reviews out there, and I agree that it’s about the best system out there for streaming music around the home. That said, it’s going to set you back at least $1000 to get started ($1200 for the amplified bundle), so this isn’t the solution for the price-sensitive. If you have the money, there’s nothing out there that’s even close. And now with version 2.0, the best around just got even
more bestest better.