Sonos ZonePlayer S5
Review US firm Sonos first debuted its first products back in 2006, and it offered just about the best example of a self-contained, multi-zone wireless music system that had yet been seen. It featured an iPod-like hand-held controller and used the company's proprietary wireless technology – rather than Wi-Fi – to connect your PC to a series of amplifiers around your home, which could be connected to the speakers of your choice.
Sound environment: Sonos' ZonePlayer S5 and CR200 controller
Since then the system has continued to improve over the years, with upgrades to the handheld remote control, the addition of various online music services and now, at last, a self-contained amp/speaker unit in the shape of the Sonos S5.
Price has always been a bit of an issue for Sonos – not that it's outrageously expensive, but there are other wireless options available for considerably less. With the S5, there's no need for additional speakers, and if you’ve an iPhone you can instal a free app so that it can be used as the controller. The alternative is to buy the £275 Sonos CR200 controller, which looks virtually identical onscreen.
If you’re using the S5 in the same room as your computer, you can hook it up directly to a LAN port. If you want to use the S5 elsewhere, you'll need a £79 Zonebridge 100 and plug this into your computer or router instead, so that it can link wirelessly to the S5. This unit combined with a single S5 will set you back £429 – around half of what you might have expected to pay for the Sonos BU250 package.
The S5 is a decent-looking unit available in Sonos's trademark white and grey. It's not a style statement like B&W's Zeppelin or Fatman's valve-powered iPod docks, but its clean, unfussy appearance means it should easily disappear into the background. The 217 x 365 x 123mm, 4.15kg cabinet contains five separate drivers: two tweeters, two 3.5in midrange drivers and a single 3.5in subwoofer, each powered by a separate Class D amplifier. Sonos' own DSP (Digital Signal Processing) system takes care of the crossovers.
Besides Ethernet, there's interfacing for headphones and external sources
The S5 is not entirely wireless, of course, you'll need to plug it into the mains since there's no battery power option and around the back is a pair of Ethernet plugs, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack and a 3.5mm line in, so you can play an MP3 player through it direct – useful if you have iPod-toting friends round. There's also a handgrip for lifting and on top are volume and mute buttons.
So why only 85%? You don't mention anything wrong with it.
Thing is ...
If you're wiring it in to your network it's a cheap option. The S5 is less than a ZP120 and that's also before adding speakers. If you do not have a iPhone or iPod Touch, then you can still control it through your PC/Mac.
I got a BU150 set in the Richer Sounds sale (when the new controller and BU250 bundle came out) and added a S5 as a third zone which was both cheaper and more practical. I can move it around the house and the only limitation is the need for a power cable, no having to move speakers (or even stereo system/amp) around.
Half the price of a BU250 bundle...
.. but also under half the functionality. The BU250 includes a CR200 controller and two ZonePlayers (one with amplifier, one without), but an S5 and ZoneBridge for £429 is only one zone and no controller. Makes the price comparison a bit daft.
I should add that I'm a very happy Sonos user, but I'm unlikely to add one of these as an extra zone.
So you don't use the fast search function ? I can't believe they would have dropped it on the new hand controller, but on the old one I can select it then scroll through first letters.
The trouble with Sonos
...Is that you have to scroll through everthing by name alphabetically and you normally give up by the letter C. I have over 1200 albums on the Sonos and browsing through the collection is such a drag. It's easier to look at the CD boxes themselves. Much as it pains me to say so, an ipod-type-coverflow-type-thing would make browsing a lot easier. Even Windows Media Player 11 is easier to browse through with a search bar and browsing by album cover.