Backstage: Sonos Digital Music System, reviewed (updated) | iLounge Backstage


Backstage: Sonos Digital Music System, reviewed (updated)

picHas Sonos developed the home stereo of the future? If we were betting, we’d say “yes” - at least, something very much like the company’s new Digital Music System will soon come to replace the oversized stereo components that have dominated home audio for decades. Given the success of the iPod, it seems only natural that hard disk-based music players will become more common, and they’ll be accessed using iPod-like menuing systems, existing speakers and headphones, and soon enough, wireless technologies.

While Apple is focusing on the portable music market, Sonos has used these technologies to develop a decidedly iTunes/iPod-influenced high-end in-home audio system made for a very specific audience. If you’re a member of this audience – music lovers with their own homes and some extra cash – definitely read on. If not, you may still want to learn about the future of digital music in your home, because Sonos definitely has the right general idea, and we’re sure to see the same concept implemented elsewhere in the near future. Click on Read More for our full review of the Sonos Digital Music System, including its iPodesque remote control and Mac miniesque ZonePlayer receiver/transmitter units.

[Updated Editor’s Note: We’re happy to report that Sonos has just posted to the Internet an updated Mac version of the Sonos Setup Assistant that resolves the Mac compatibility issue we noted in our earlier review. The revised Assistant is discussed inside in an update to the review.]

The Concept

California seems to attract a disproportionate number of future-focused individuals and companies, and Santa Barbara-based Sonos, Inc. fits right in. Like a number of other music-focused technology startups, Sonos has made three assumptions that are likely to become even more accurate over the next few years: first, increasing numbers of music lovers will pack away their CDs, tapes, and vinyl in favor of digital music files; second, those digital files will live on a hard disk someplace; and third, people will want to listen to the music in different rooms of their homes with minimal hassles.


Back in 2001, Apple made similar assumptions with the iPod, but focused entirely on a portable platform; consequently, the iPod replaced the Walkman. But the Walkman was never a home stereo component, and the iPod has similarly fit uneasily into home stereo systems, which traditionally employ large speakers and oversized metal boxes stacked vertically in shelves, racks, or home A/V cabinets. While serious music lovers have been frothing for an iPod-like home stereo package, Apple has only hinted at its plans for home stereo integration. Wireless connectivity seems to be in the cards, but it’s still unclear whether the Mac mini or an iPod will be at the center of a home stereo.

That’s where Sonos has stepped in. Borrowing a number of Apple physical and user interface design cues, the company is now offering standalone audio components called ZonePlayers ($499) that easily connect to stereo speakers, hard disk-based music collections, the Internet, and even each other. Essentially, each ZonePlayer replaces your old stereo amplifier, receives, distributes, and plays music, and even synchronizes wirelessly with other ZonePlayers to create music “zones

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Any recommendations for NAS drives?  Would it really be easy to upload 200GB of data via ethernet to NAS (I haven’t seen any models that offer firewire)?  I’ve heard conflicting reports on several models in terms of Mac compatibility.

Posted by Merkin in New York on February 15, 2005 at 9:32 AM (CST)


I use a Buffalo Linkstation with 250 Gb drive along with Sonos. Works great. I have about 170Gb worth of music (35K tracks). It definitely took awhile to copy the data over the ethernet (most of a day). But once that’s done, access it suitably quick.

My PC sees the drive fine; my Mac seems to have a little trouble, but I haven’t bothered to troubleshoot, as I use sonos to manage my music library….peter

Posted by peterj on February 15, 2005 at 11:00 AM (CST)


hey non-us sonos fans, looks like someone is shipping zone players outside of the us on ebay

Posted by ssf805 in santa barbara on February 16, 2005 at 10:30 AM (CST)


I have it working perfectly with my mac mini!

See photos:

Posted by bsugar in San Francisco on February 19, 2005 at 7:19 PM (CST)


Merkin: We liked the Buffalo drive we used. And do you seriously have 200GB of data to send to it?

Bsugar: Yes, it’s working entirely now. Sonos updated the software that was having a problem, and now everything’s copacetic.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on February 20, 2005 at 12:04 AM (CST)


Here’s a thought - the new Buffalo Linkstation (300GB) has a wireless feature.  Can the sonos connect to the router via the wireless Buffalo link and thus be able to stream internet radio?  If anyone has tried this out let me know.

Posted by dhanson in NYC on February 22, 2005 at 12:31 PM (CST)


I checked out the details of the Linkstation 300GB but can’t find any info on the wireless feature.  If the device connects to your network where your music is stored, then you should be able to connect a ZonePlayer to it and it would work.  Please provide a link to more info on the new product.

Posted by rhoster on February 22, 2005 at 9:56 PM (CST)


Here’s what I was talking about:

Posted by dhanson in NYC on February 24, 2005 at 11:53 PM (CST)


Its the Buffalo HD-H300LAN

Just Froogle it.

Posted by dhanson in NYC on February 24, 2005 at 11:54 PM (CST)


Actually its really unclear - I see on other sites that it isn’t.  Well someone should make one of these things with a USB 2.0/ firewire for uploading the data and standalone wireless adapter as well.  No more wires!

Posted by dhanson in NYC on February 24, 2005 at 11:59 PM (CST)


Then again why cant we attach the NAS device to the router and attach of of these to the sonos:

I have my replaytv setup this way and it works pretty good.  That way you don’t have to waste one sonos by wiring it to the router on your home network.

Posted by dhanson in NYC on February 25, 2005 at 12:07 AM (CST)


I think I found the only stand alone NAS wireless device made by TEAC:

It may be better to have the NAS wired directly to the sonos, and the NAS wirelessly connect to your home network.  that way the wireless connection can crap out and you still have your music to play.

Posted by dhanson in NYC on February 25, 2005 at 12:11 AM (CST)

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