For the past month, I have been playing with (and enjoying) the Sonos Digital Music System (Bundle 130). Offering a sleek design and a surprisingly useful remote, the Bundle U130 raises the bar for other systems that take your music and transmit tunes throughout your home.
What's in the box
When you first open the bundle, you are immediately presented with a host of cords and the same products that you would find in the Sonos Bundle 100 or the Bundle 80 - the ZonePlayer 100 (ZP100), the ZonePlayer 80 (ZP80) and the CR100 controller. And while the same devices have been featured in prior Sonos bundles, a number of firmware upgrades have created a practically new set of products with the same look. And unlike earlier iterations, the bundle now has the ability to play DRM-free iTunes songs. Simply put, the Bundle 130 is a must-see.
In a matter of minutes, the Sonos Bundle just works; it's as simple as that. Upon opening the box, I tore the ZP100 out and hooked it up to a pair of speakers. Once that was done, I connected my ZP80 to my stereo system on the other side of the house and got ready to stream music throughout my home. Unfortunately, the ZP100 needs to be connected directly to a cable modem or router and that was on the other side of the house. So, with a quick run down to my local Radio Shack, I picked up a nice long Ethernet wire and hard-wired the ZP100 to my network. Next, I installed the Sonos software onto my Mac and started the process of connecting the ZP80 to my wireless network and the ZP100 with the help of a peer-to-peer network called SonosNet. In a matter of minutes, my multi-room setup was established and my music was playing in both rooms with a touch of a button.
So how well does this work?
The Sonos Bundle 130 streams Audible, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, and AIFF files. And as mentioned earlier, it can now stream your DRM-free iTunes song without a hitch. If you're into online radio, the Bundle 130 also plays Pandora and Rhapsody tunes, and connects to the services without a problem. Even better, after you sign up for either service, you don't even need the host computer to be on to access the songs -- the CR100 features each service on its vivid LCD screen and connects to the internet and the Bundle via your wireless network.
Using the Sonos Bundle 130 was a treat. After the initial set-up and the hard-wired debacle that still ruffles my feathers a bit, I was able to seamlessly play and control my music from anywhere in the home. On any given day, I would wake up and grab the remote next to my bed to start some songs. In a few seconds I was able to scroll through my music on the controller with the scroll wheel (can you say iPod?) and find the right song for the occasion. Flipping through my library was a cinch and because Sonos chose to make the remote so much like an iPod, most people will be able to pick it up and know how to use it in a matter of seconds.
But without a doubt, my favorite feature is the ability to play different songs in the various rooms you have the players connected. With a simple button press on the remote you can toggle between rooms and pick the song you want to play. Romance in the bedroom and dancing in the dining room? No problem, just toss some Barry White on in the bedroom and a little disco in the dining room and you'll be all set. It's also nice if you want the same song playing in both rooms so you don't miss a beat -- the players are synchronized by default.
My biggest reservation before I started using the Bundle 130 was how long it would take to tell the remote to send a command to the base station asking it to play a song. Believe it or not, it takes less than a second. Even from about 100 feet away from my wireless router, the CR100 was able to tell the System that I wanted to hear some Jimmy Buffett and voila! I was enjoying some Cheeseburger in Paradise in no time.
All in all, the Sonos Digital Music System (Bundle 130) is a fine solution that offers significant advantages over all of its competition. While it would have been nice to play protected iTunes songs, the ability to stream my DRM-free library was still a welcome addition. That said, the need for a wired connection on the base station still boggles my mind, and the price for the entire bundle is a bit steep. But for all of its faults, the Bundle 130 is a such a fine achievement in craftsmanship that the $1000 price tag becomes a bit more bearable. Simply put, I'll be sad to send this one back.
For the official CNET review featuring in-depth insight from Reviews Editor John P. Falcone, click here.