on October 21, 2010
I have a huge collection of MP3s that I've been collecting over the years. I also like to stream Pandora and Rhapsody. My problem has always been: How do I get my collection of music from my computer in my bedroom to my high-quality home stereo in my family room? And how do I do it easily--with an easy-to-use interface? And how do I do this while preserving the best sound fidelity?
I've researched this topic for over a year and finally sprung the $350 for the Sonos ZonePlayer ZP90 because (although a bit more expensive) it gets the highest consumer reviews.
Here's what's amazing about this product:
1) Easy Set Up
I always assume the setup is going to be a lot harder than "they" say. Not with the ZonePlayer. Clear instructions, all the required cables, and easy software setup. I was able to point the Sonos software directly to my collection of music--which was a breeze. Then the Sonos software quickly communicated with the ZonePlayer through my home network without a hitch. Full setup took me approximately 15 minutes.
2) Nearly Endless Music Choices
Since the ZonePlayer can access the MP3s on my hard drive, my music accounts on the internet (Rhapsody and Pandora), and a slew of internet radio stations, the music possibilities seem endless. Mind you, Rhapsody is a subscription service that I pay about $15 per month for.
During setup, the software asked my what my postal code is. Why? Because besides all the free national radio stations it can stream, it has a section of my local radio stations. Open up the local radio station section and the full spectrum of local radio stations is there for me to choose from. Pretty cool.
Besides Rhapsody and Pandora, the ZonePlayer can access several other radio "services" including IHeartRadio, Napster, Last.fm, etc.
3) Folder-Tree Hierarchy
While the software shows my MP3 music collection in typical id3 tag categories (genre, album, artist, etc.) like an ipod does, it also shows me my collection in the same folder-tree hierarchy that I have on my computer. In other words, I've arranged and made my own categories for music on my hard drive, i.e., Pop/Rock, Easy Listening, Celtic, Country, Soundtracks, etc. and I don't want the Sonos software to "mix that up." For those with large, well-organized collections, this is a godsend.
4) Turns your iPhone into a full-functioning, easy-to-use remote
My iPhone automatically connects to my home wireless network whenever I'm in proximity to my home. With the free Sonos iPhone app, my iPhone becomes a fully-functioning remote! Funny thing is--you can buy a Sonos remote for $350 that is the same size as an iPhone...OR you can simply download the free app and use your iPhone as a FREE remote. With my iPhone I can access my MP3s, choose songs on Rhapsody, make and play new radio stations on Pandora, and do nearly everything I could do with the Sonos software on my PC.
The genius of all this is that my PC, the ZonePlayer, and my iPhone are all network devices on my LAN that can "talk" to each other seamlessly and instantly. I can kick back on my couch in front of my stereo system, iPhone in hand, and control all my music including volume.
5) Amazing High Fidelity
(Audiophiles will always argue at this point that MP3s are incapable of true high fidelity, but let's just talk about "normal" people, haha.) I used to work in the video production industry and I have a keen ear for sound. Let me just say that with a great pair of speakers and a good receiver/amplifier the Sonos will give you amazing sound. My music has literally never sounded better. I immediately was able to detect nuances in my music that I could never hear before (meaning that it sounded incredibly good).
6) Seamless Integration with LAN Sources and Internet Sources
Using your iPhone or the PC software you can build a queue of songs. Those songs can be a mix of song files from your computer's hard drive and internet streaming sources such as Rhapsody. With that type of scenario, the ZonePlayer won't skip a beat. It can even cross-fade the songs between the two sources. To you, it will all just sound like great music without any detectable difference between the two.
7) Set it up as a Wired or Wireless Solution.
I have not set up my network in a wireless fashion because I prefer a hard-wired solution over wireless so I can't write from personal experience on this topic. But Sonos is designed to work on its own wireless network if you prefer. This means that you can have music anywhere in your home or business where there is an electrical plug to power the device. The only part of my system that is wireless is between my iPhone and my wireless router--yet communication is immediate with no perceptible lag.
8) Multiple Music Zones are Possible with Additional ZonePlayers
I plan on expanding my system to include 2 more ZonePlayers in different rooms of my house. When I do, I'll be able to play different music in each room (and control them all with my iPhone) or sync all the music if I want to.
Sonos nailed it with this product. It's so elegant in the sense that it works so flawlessly--with no lag--with ease--and with high fidelity.
FYI, this is my system hardware:
Gateway PC (with MP3 collection)
3 mbps internet speed
Whole-house CAT5 network
JBL S38 Speakers