I have been in the fortunate position to have spent the last few weeks playing with a pair Sonos S5 ZonePlayers and the accompanying Android application. I’d love to give you a long-winded breakdown of how it works, what it does, and wrap things up neatly in the end. However, I’m not the kind of guy to waste your time – so here’s your spoiler alert. The Sonos S5 system is every bit as good as advertised. Seriously, it’s at the top of the list of things I’ve ever reviewed. Whereas I once balked at the price point, today I see total justification.
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Prior to Sonos, my typical work day consisted of playing Pandora and Slacker Radio on the PC while I worked. I’d also play my favorite podcasts and downloads as they became available. On average, there was some form of background noise better than half the time I worked. In this post-Sonos era, I am playing something 100% of the work day, and more. And now, it’s not playing directly in my face any longer. My speaker sits across the office and plays louder and clearer than ever before.
Like many of you, I get my day started with a cup of coffee in the kitchen. As I walk from the bedroom through the house, I turn the app on and begin with NPR Morning Edition. If I am behind a bit, I’ll pull up a recently played archive or tune in to another station from somewhere else in the country. Once I hit the office, I’ll check various shows and get caught up with other NPR goodies such as Fresh Air, All Things Considered, and Snap Judgement. After that, I am all over the place. Depending on my mood, I will jump from one Pandora station to another, getting into a good working rhythm.
The Sonos Controller app lets me manage everything from my phone sitting right in front of me. The app is intuitive, easy to use, and fun to mess around with. I find myself skipping around, stumbling upon new music and shows. My only gripe so far is that the app is not available for tablets running Honeycomb.
Sonos lets me log in and play music from a variety of sources, including Napster, Last.fm, SiriusXM, Rhapsody, Rdio, and iheartradio. Since I am a podcast junkie, I like to download a bunch of shows locally to my phone or tablet. The back side of an S5 features an auxiliary input so that I can enjoy those as well. The best part here is that I can plug in directly to one S5 unit and pipe it throughout the house, on other units. Then there’s that whole ability to control the music from your desktop. Playing music through one of these speakers is heads and tails above anything your computer speakers can do. I don’t care how much you spent on them, they simply aren’t as good.
The first “A-Ha” moment for me came on the second night I had it set up. We were getting pounded with hours of rain and then the thunder started to roll in. My 7-year old son was sleeping in the room next to the office, but he wakes easily from such noise. So, turned some classical music on for him to make sure he wasn’t roused from his sleep. I did this from my couch. I was able to browse various stations – locally, nationally, and internet-based. I could also control just how loud it played and turn it off later. It’s worth pointing out that my other Sonos ZonePlayer was playing something entirely different just down the hall.
I really enjoy merging the the two ZonePlayers together and blasting music crazy loud. The sound that comes out of these is truly impressive, considerably louder and sharper than I would have anticipated. These players are light enough that I can take them from room to room, finding new and fun ways to use them. I love putting a pair of these on opposite sides of a room and cranking the volume. It gets a “wow” from visitors every single time.
Sonos is incredibly simple to set up and get going; You’ll be playing music in minutes. While I was able to skip past the user manual and drivers, not everyone can jump right in. There are terrific online tools at your disposal should you need some extra TLC, but I suspect you’ll be fine.
If you are like me, you might have a tough time looking past the $399 price tag. In an age of watching discretionary spending, this is definitely not for everyone. However, I can practically guarantee that you’ll soon be considering a second (or third) device should you opt for a Sonos ZonePlayer. On a side note, I’d be very interested in learning how many repeat buyers Sonos has on file. UPDATE: Sonos tells me approximately 20% of new Sonos customers come back and purchase an additional room of music within 30 days! Given the nearly unlimited access to music sources, simple management, and overall sound quality, the Sonos S5 is worth every penny. Of all the accessories that I’ve had the chance to review, this will be the hardest to part with.