Sonos ZonePlayer ZP80 and digital music system

Multi-room wireless digital audio. Yum, yum.

Review Sonos wasn't the first company to tempt consumers with a wireless audio system designed to stream a computer-stored music archive to living room hi-fi equipment, but it was the first to figure out an easy way to get songs into all the other spaces in your home too...

The company shipped its in-room unit, the ZonePlayer ZP100 - in Sonos-speak, a 'zone' is any space that needs its own music supply - and a wireless control unit to go with it last year, arriving in the UK in June 2005. The ZP100 is a very fine audio product. It's not merely a network device, it's a high-quality audio system in its own right, with a built in amplifier and speakers.

That's great if the rooms you're equipping with wireless - or wired - music receivers don't have audio kit already, or you want to hook up to the network hi-fi kit whose sound reproduction you prefer. Sonos pitches it products primarily at the well-heeled audiophile, a person who tends to have very specific views on which vendors audio equipment sounds best.

sonos zoneplayer zp80

Enter, then, the new ZonePlayer ZP80, a scaled down version of the ZP100 that loses the amp, speakers and some of the extra network connectivity tools. Here, at last, is a way to build a top-notch multi-room music network with audio equipment of your choice. To get you started, it's offering a bundle package comprising its CR-100 wireless handheld controller and two ZP80s.

Setting up a Sonos network is shockingly easy, and it's a testament to the company's network engineering skills that it has managed to make the process so totally untechnical. Inside the box is a single-sheet set-up guide, which lays the process out before you clearly: connect one ZonePlayer to your router, connect an amplifier to the ZonePlayer, connect a computer to the ZonePlayer, install the bundled software on the computer, run the code and work your way through the set-up wizard.

The software keeps all the networking details hidden from view - the only thing you need to know is how to allow the appropriate folder-sharing services through your firewall. All the technical stuff - IP addresses, folder sharing details and so on - are sorted out for you. You really don't need to know about networks to set this one up. The system uses Windows folder sharing, which is supported by Mac OS X so the Sonos system can run on both platforms.

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