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The iPod of Home Audio

There are a lot of options in the home audio market, but for me I picked the Sonos system years ago and I just have no interest in looking any anything else.  It’s been called the “iPod of Home Audio”, and that is a fitting name – when it was first introduced in 2005, the controller handled like the classic 4G iPod.  Personally, I compare all other home systems to the Sonos – to me, this is the standard to achieve.

Like the iPod, the Sonos is fully engineered and designed for the non-geek – it passes the non-geek user and owner tests.  The system is actually fun to use – you can hand the controller to any almost guest in your home and have them pick out music and play it without much more than saying “just click here”.  Setting it up does require a PC or Mac, but the instructions are easy to follow and the occasional system software updates run flawlessly.

When I brought home the Sonos, it came in a bundle of two Zone players and one controller – this lets you play different music in two different rooms.  I hooked the first one up in our family room and put the small box on top of the 20-year-old Onyko stereo cabinet, moving the speaker wires from the Onyko to the Sonos.  There is a line-in option, so I plugged the old system into the Sonos – that way I could still play CDs and vinyl LPs whenever I wanted. I found that the Zone Player’s built-in 100 watt amplifier drove my Athena Technologies bookshelf speakers with the sound as good as any “big” stereo system.

For anyone with enough mp3 music files (or almost any other format) to fill an iPod, streaming on a system like the Sonos is clearly the way to go.   This system is designed for anyone who is keeping a digital music library (and keeping the artist, album, and track tags in order).  All you need to do is to share your library using Windows or Mac file sharing and the Sonos will index it and play it.

Even if you don’t have such a collection, you would be perfectly happy with the music subscription service and preprogrammed Internet radio stations available through the Sonos.  You can enter your local zip-code and get the list of local stations streamed digitally to your home – forget about fiddling with antennas and annoying static.  And if your favorite station is in Chicago, you can get that fine anywhere in the world!

So, Sonos now has updated models and a new controller, making my 5-year-old system look, well, like an old iPod.  So, if I want to update the “look and feel”, I can just get the iPod app for my iPhone or iPod Touch – making my iPhone a full-fledged Sonos controller.  All the old and new components can work together, including the iPhone controller app, so I’m not worried, really.