Sonos crowns its wireless audio system with its best model yet. (August 9th, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: Sonos
Price: $1,149 ($999 without speakers)
- Great integration of music services and sources.
- Excellent audio quality, design and build; customizable to varying needs.
- Intuitive Controller and computer software; iPhone/iPod app.
- Cheap versus custom installations.
- Might be pricey for some.
- Remote could be lighter and slimmer.
software and the controller
As mentioned earlier, there's multiple ways to control the bundle. We tested the remote and the Windows software; the iPhone app wasn't an option for this test, but it offers much of the Controller's features in addition to a touchscreen interface. The software was very intuitive and it indexed our music library very quickly -- an important feature for an audio system designed to aggregate all music rather than draw only from a single source.
The Controller itself is very well built and comes with a recharging cradle. The rubberized bottom is an equally nice touch that prevents the controller from slipping out of your hand. The screen on the controller is bright and easy to see, and the touch screen is well calibrated; there aren't any unintended actions that often come from a poor resistive (pressure-based) touchscreen. A gentle ‘click’ noise confirms your actions and is appreciated for the extra feedback it gives. Using the Sonos controller was very reminiscent of using an iPhone, including scrolling through lists or changing the view to enter text for a search through our music library or an Internet radio stream.
build and audio quality
All of the Sonos products we tested were extremely well built. The designs were modern and almost Apple-like; an appropriate distinction given the amount of support for iTunes and Apple's handhelds. The controller is slightly heavy but not annoyingly so. The ZonePlayers and ZoneBridge feel sturdy, and the buttons and connectors on them feel very solid, not unlike the home theater equipment they're meant to sit beside.
Oddly enough, even the build quality of the included cabling is noticeable. Everything from the high gauge speaker wire to the power cords to the flat Ethernet cables are and feel very durable. The bookshelf speakers we attached to our ZonePlayer 120 are also heavy. We enjoyed option of removing the mesh grills as well, as it's common on some dedicated home theater speakers but fairly rare in the digital world.
Most importantly, the bundled Sonos speakers sound great for their class. In spite of their small size, their volume volume to 100% because they were plenty loud. The audio is suitably crisp and the bass is deep enough for our liking even without a dedicated subwoofer.
Veterans already know Sonos delivers a good whole-home audio experience, but the Sonos Bundle 250 refines it in tangible ways. The faster wireless link works well. The newer Sonos Controller and software are both well polished and intuitive. Installation was simple and the sound was great. And of course, the sheer variety of sources is a huge selling point that ensures that almost no one will be excluded.
Other than the obvious concern of balking at the $1,149 price for a complete system -- not a trivial expense -- and the slightly fattened remote, we truly don't have any real complaints. Every detail of the system manifests quality, from the high quality cabling down to the subtle audio fade when pausing or playing tracks. If you’re looking for a multi-room audio solution, a Sonos bundle should be at the top of the list, even compared to significantly more expensive systems normally reserved for custom installers.