Add Sirius Satellite Radio to the roster of content choices available on the Sonos Digital Music System. The version 2.3 firmware, available today as an automatic upgrade, delivers access to more than 80 Sirius stations to Sonos' line of multi-room digital audio products. Because the stations are streamed via the Sonos' broadband Internet connection, there is no need for any additional hardware, such as a satellite receiver add-on. After a free 30-day trial, access to the Sirius channels costs $3 per month (for existing Sirius subscribers) or $13 a month (for new subscribers who just want the service on their Sonos). However, that fee is getting you a premium 128kbps stream--so not only does it sound better than the standard online streaming available via Sirius' website, the Sonos version is likely to sound better than the increasingly compressed streams heard on most of the Sirius satellite radio receivers as well.
We got a sneak preview of the Sirius functionality earlier this week. In addition to working just as well as everything thing else on the Sonos, the color screen on the Sonos CR100 remote provided quick and easy access to all of the available Sirius content. The remote's iPod-style scrollwheel made it easy to dive into favorite genres, and the channel name/icon and song and artist info were clearly displayed on the remote's color screen. When combined with the higher quality audio, the Sonos delivered a better Sirius experience than we've received with most actual Sirius satellite receivers.
What are the caveats? The Sirius content is only available to Sonos owners in the U.S., and it's limited to the content Sirius actually owns. That means all of the music and most of the talk channels--including Sirius's signature star, Howard Stern--are present, but some of the third-party sports and news providers (such as NFL football games) aren't. Also, only one Sirius stream is available to the entire Sonos system at a time--so you can listen to one channel in up to 32 rooms, but you can't listen to two Sirius channels in two separate rooms simultaneously. That said, it should be very easy for Sonos to add additional channels to the line-up if and when the Sirius/XM merger goes through.
Despite those few quibbles, it's hard to discount the addition of Sirius content. Along with Rhapsody, Pandora, and a panoply of free Internet radio stations, Sirius is yet another instantly available streaming source for the Sonos that doesn't require a PC. And like all of those past upgrades, it works on every Sonos model that's been sold from day one, without the need to buy any new hardware or accessories. That's why the latest Sonos bundle remains an enthusiastic Editors' Choice.