Sonos ZonePlayer ZP80 and digital music system
Multi-room wireless digital audio. Yum, yum.
So there's just one question to answer now: Sonos or Squeezebox? Slim Devices' Squeezebox is certainly a much less expensive option, and it will take better ears than mine to distinguish any sound quality difference between the two systems when linked to the same source music files and connected to the same amplification and output equipment.
Like the Sonos system, the Squeezebox lets you browse your music collection away from your computer, but only where you have line of sight for the remote control to operate. Both rigs do Internet radio, and - crucially - are fully cross-platform products. Squeezebox has the edge on what you can do away from your computer - Sonos wins out on ease of use, particularly when it comes to setting the system up in the first place. It will also do clever things like bridge other networkable devices.
Sonos also allows you to store your music on a NAS box, whereas Squeezebox's SlimServer code has to be run on a computer. Sure, you can use an old, low-power PC as a music server, but that's not as consumer-friendly as Sonos' ability to work with storage appliances. Sonos' system was built from the ground up as a multi-room rig, and while you can use multiple Squeezeboxes this way, you don't have the single point of control the Sonos CR-100 controller offers.
Squeezebox is best suited to circumstances where you're music is in one room and you want to listen to it in another. Squeezebox will do multi-room, but it's not as scalable as Sonos' technology, and it lacks the roaming-friendly single-point-of-access wireless controller.
Which will set you back £319, by the way - more than a Squeezebox 3, which you can pick up for around £229. For a Sonos set-up you'll need at least one ZP80 - that's another £269. If, like me, you need another one simply because of how your broadband connection was installed, you're better off buying the £770 bundle of two ZP80s and a CR-100.
Sonos' digital music network system is excellent, and the ZP80 is an important addition to the company's line up of components. At last, it's possible to build a great multi-room music system using your existing audio devices, not just Sonos' own amplifier-equipped ZP100, a move that makes the system not only more flexible but also cheaper.
Yes, it's still a pricey option, particularly when there are very good, lower-cost alternatives on the market, but you're buying superior build quality, major multi-room scalabiliy, genuine ease of use and a range of features you just don't get on cheaper systems. ®