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Slimmed-down Sonos: ZonePlayer ZP80

Slimmed-down Sonos: ZonePlayer ZP80

The Sonos Digital Music System was far and away the best networked digital audio system CNET reviewed in 2005, but we did have a few pet peeves. It appears that Sonos was listening, however, because the new ZonePlayer ZP80 base station addresses nearly all of them. Its smaller dimensions (the unit is just a 5.5-inch square that's 2.9 inches high) are possible because it omits the amplifier found in the larger Sonos ZonePlayer ZP100. That trade-off is actually a boon for most users who want to connect to an existing stereo or home-theater system. The ZP80 still manages to cram in all the key connections on its back panel: dual Ethernet ports (at least one Sonos base on the network needs a wired conection), analog stereo in and outs, and--correcting an omission on the earlier ZP100--optical and coaxial digital outputs. Of course, the ZP80 retains the same wireless mesh network capabilities as its predecessor, and it can blend seamlessly into existing Sonos setups, which support up to 32 separate base stations. The Sonos ZP80 is scheduled to ship in the spring of 2006 for $350. If prices stay at their current levels, a single-room Sonos setup will still cost you $750 ($350 for the new ZP80, plus $400 for the system's key component, the CR100 wireless controller). We'd like to see that bundle available for at least one-third less, but at least until a Wi-Fi-enabled iPod hits, the ZonePlayer ZP80 will offer additional flexibility for Sonos setups.