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Sonos in action

The Sonos home music system is perfect for multigenerational parties.

One of my former neighbors, the Captain, recently informed his sons that he intends to spend their inheritance. His eldest son, who's about my age, helped him with this task by installing a state of the art multiroom digital music system in the Captain's house.

This weekend, I went to the Captain's annual block party, and while I've seen the Sonos system demonstrated at the last couple Consumer Electronics Shows, this was the first time I've seen it in action. My friend kept the set-up fairly simple, with only two zones: Upstairs encompasses the living room, kitchen, and a set of weatherproof wireless speakers in the back yard, while Downstairs is attached to their vintage 1960s stereo system in the basement rec room. Upstairs, the system was playing a selection of Patsy Cline hits, ripped from the Captain's CD collection, for the post-60 generation. Downstairs, we 30-somethings were blasting "Echoes," Pink Floyd's 23-minute opus, featuring several minutes of whale sounds in the middle. The Captain's not a Floyd fan, but his son had preprogrammed Pink Floyd Radio from Pandora, an online service that lets users create and operate personalized online radio stations.

After playing with it in a real world environment, I'm a big Sonos fan. The LCD remote was easy enough that I figured it out in about thirty seconds, and I love the way it plugs into existing sound systems: the vintage stereo still cranks out enough volume to draw the Mrs downstairs with her hands on her hips to give us the "turn it down" glare that we remember from when we were kids. If you're into music, have a house, and like to entertain, it seems like aworthwhile way to spend a grand or so.

As for the real kids? It was Dance Dance Revolution on the PlayStation 2, all day long. It was a little alarming to see the younger kids dancing to the old J Geils hit "Centerfold," but they weren't listening to the lyrics anyway.