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Sonos ZP80: The Review.

by Richard

A few months back, Sonos released the ZP80, the natural successor to their ZP100 system for streaming music to every room of your house. They were kind enough to send a whole system out to me to review. I’ve been playing with it for about a month now, and it’s fantastic at doing its job and making your entire music library available throughout your house. This system comes with 2 ZonePlayers and a Controller (which is a big remote with a large color display and a familiar iPod like interface.) The Controller can even be used as easily in rooms that aren’t well lit, as it senses darkness and lights up the buttons surrounding the display.

The first thing I noticed when I pulled the first ZonePlayer out of its box was how small it was. They’re only about 5 inches square, and about 3 inches high. You’ll have no problem putting them pretty much whereever you want. The system couldn’t have been any easier to set up. It took me about 20 minutes total, and I’d say at least 7 minutes of that was just unpacking the system and keeping track of how they were packed so I could get everything back in their boxes. Basically, you take one ZonePlayer and connect it to your router, plug it into a power outlet, and plug some speakers into the ZonePlayer. There’s not much more to do than that. Sonos has taken care of all of the technical stuff so you can begin enjoying your music through their system as soon as you can. You then set up the desktop software on your computer, tell it where your music files are, and after a couple of minutes of indexing (depending on how large your music library is), all of your music is available on the Controller. The registration process for the system was the best I’ve ever seen. All that Sonos asks from you is your email address… Enter that and you’re done.

One of Sonos’s big claims to fame is their proprietary wireless mesh networking system that not only allows the Sonos system to expand to be as large as your house is (each ZonePlayer acts as a repeater and helps to extend the signal), it perfectly synchronizes all of the music in every room so you never get a song playing a few seconds before the same song in another room… that’s a must in this type of system, and Sonos got it right. Your only clue to everything that it’s doing behind the scenes to keep the music in sync throughout your house is a tiny (as in half a second) delay after you hit the play button while it makes sure everything is going to start simultaneously. In my experience, it worked without a hitch every single time I played a song.

Some quirks I noticed with the system:
The screen on the Controller updates a bit slowly (I’m probably spoiled by my iPod), and the menu options are not always intuitive… I’m about as gadget-savvy as it gets, and I got lost in the menus a few times (again, this might have a lot to do with me being used to the iPod interface). The scroll wheel is a bit touchy as well… most of the time it’s just great, but there are times where I was trying to get to one particular song and just flew by it because it was too sensitive. There needs to be an option to adjust this somewhere.

A quirk of the desktop software: Adding multiple music share folders requires going through the entire file tree again…it doesn’t just bring you back to the last folder you were viewing. This really will only affect you once, though because once you have your music library all set up, if you add some more files to it, all you have to do is go to the “Update Library” option in the desktop software and it will reindex the folders and pull in all the new music for you.

On one of the nights I was testing the system, I had to leave to get a movie from the video store, so I decided to see what how the Controller would respond if it didn’t have a Sonos System to communicate with all of a sudden. I put it on the passenger seat of my car, and after I got down the road a bit, it said that it couldn’t find any ZonePlayers within range and offered some troubleshooting help. No meltdown, no Controller freaking out, no “Searching for signal” forever, it just simply said it couldn’t find anything. Very well done. When I got back home, within range of the Sonos System, it immediately picked up right where it left off, paused in the middle of the song I was playing when I left. Sonos has really written some good software here.

If you ever decide to expand your system, all you’ve got to do is plug your new ZonePlayer into a power outlet and some speakers, hold down a couple of buttons on your new ZonePlayer to make it find the existing system, and you’ve got music in a new room of your house. If you’ve got music to stream around your house and hate when it skips a beat, this is a great system to consider.

Sonos ZonePlayer ZP80 Technical Specifications:

* Sound quality — THD+N<0.02%, 20-20kHz
* Line-out connections — Analog (RCA), optical and coaxial digital
audio, fixed and variable settings
* Line-in connections — Analog (RCA), auto-detecting, able to digitally
encode line-in sources
* Ethernet connection — 2-port switch, 10/100Mbps, auto MDI/MDIX
* Wireless connectivity — Sonosnet(TM), a secure AES encrypted,
peer-to-peer wireless mesh network
* Audio formats supported — Support for compressed MP3, WMA, AAC
(MPEG4), Ogg Vorbis, Audible .AA (format 4), Apple Lossless, FLAC
(lossless) music files, as well as uncompressed WAV and AIFF files.
Native support for 44.1kHz sample rates. Additional support for 48kHz,
32kHz, 24KHz, 22kHz, 16KHz, 11KHz, and 8KHz sample rates. Firmware
upgradeable to support future audio formats. Apple “Fairplay” and
Microsoft “Plays-for-sure” DRM-encrypted and WMA Lossless formats not
able to be supported.
* Audio services supported — Rhapsody 3.0+, Audible
* Internet radio — Streaming MP3, WMA. Pre-loaded with more than
190 Internet radio stations.
* Album art supported — JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF
* Operating systems — Windows(R) 2000, Windows(R) XP, Macintosh(R) OSX,
v10.3 and v10.4; NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices supporting CIFS
* Power supply — AC 100-240, 50-60 Hz
* Dimensions — 5.4 x 5.5 x 2.9 in (136.0 x 136.8 x 74.0 mm)
* Weight — 1.5 lbs (0.69 Kg)
* Finish — Light gray, high-quality PC grade with Aluminum details

MORE INFO

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