Sonos wireless music kit ready to roll in UK

On sale next month

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Sonos will ship its multi-room wireless hi-fi system in the UK on 10 June, the company told The Register yesterday.

Sonos Digital Music SystemThe Sonos Digital Music System (DMS) is pitched as the iPod era's successor to the racked hi-fi stack of old. The system comprises one or more ZonePlayer 50W RMS per channel amplifiers which communicate with the remote, Linux-based Controller and your digital music archive using a secure proprietary protocol running over an 802.11g WLAN configured as a mesh. The ZonePlayer contains a four-port switch for wired links, but the Controller is a pure-play wireless device.

Up to 32 ZonePlayers can be linked together to equip anything from a one-bedroom flat to a mansion house with multi-room audio, all operated from any number of Controllers. That said, the company admitted that that number of simultaneously streamed songs the system can play is rather lower than that, ranging from around five to 15, depending on the level of compression used in the digital audio. That's wirelessly - across wired links there limit is 32.

The ZonePlayer supports MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, Ogg Vorbis and WAV formats, but not DRM-protected files. In Apple's case, that's because it won't license its FairPlay DRM, and while Microsoft will license Windows Media DRM, it's not capable of being applied to a multi-room set-up, Sonos marketing chief Tom Cullen told The Register. "[WMA DRM] treats each ZonePlayer as a separate computer, requiring individual licensing, not as a single system," he said.

The DMS talks to both Mac- and PC-hosted digital music collections, using a simple shared-folder configuration to grab tracks from the archive. That way it's not dependent on software running on the computer, said Cullen, though if the machine goes down, the DMS still can't play songs, we'd note. For that reason, many DMS users are turning to network-attached storage units to hold their music collections, said Cullen.

The ZonePlayer will retail for around &pound369/€539 when it ships over here next month. The Controller costs £299/€429. Sonos said it will also be offering a bundle comprising two ZonePlayers and a Controller for £899/€1299. Pay an extra £200/€300 and it will add a pair of speakers to the bundle too.

Sonos is initially targeting the UK and Dutch markets, but European MD Ingvar Meijers said the company hopes to have a presence in all major European nations by the end of the year. ®

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