A bit of news from the Sonos camp: the company has delivered a minor update to its iPhone controller app, and offered a short-term bundling deal for new customers.
The company launched its iPhone controller app--which lets any iPhone or iPod Touch control the company's multiroom digital music system--in October of 2008. Many Sonos owners liked the app more than the system's own CR100 remote (which is included in the two-room, $1,000 system, or available separately for $400). Today's minor upgrade adds multilingual support (Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish, in addition to English), alarm and sleep functions, and PC-free setup (instruct your Sonos to access network music folders without the need to install software on a computer).
The upgrade also enables the playback of DRM-encoded WMA files from the likes of the Zune Marketplace. Sonos is also trumpeting the fact that Apple's decision to drop DRM from its iTunes Store means that newly purchased iTunes music will stream perfectly on the Sonos system (though DRM iTunes music you've purchased in the past will need a de-DRM'd version--which requires an upgrade fee through Apple.)
Separately, Sonos is also running a short-term bundling deal for its hardware. Those who don't want to go for the $1,000 two-room bundle (one ZP90 base station, one ZP120 amplified base station, and one CR100 controller) can instead get $150 to $200 off when purchasing either the ZP90 or the ZP120 plus the CR100. The deal runs through May 31, 2009.
We've long prodded Sonos to lower its prices, but $600 to $700 for a one-room system is still too rich for our blood. If you've already got an iPhone or iPod Touch, a better choice would be to pick up a single ZP90 for $350, and just grab the free Sonos controller app--you'll just need a stereo or a pair of powered speakers to hear your music. (That's assuming you don't already have an Apple TV or an AirPort Express--in which case you can cobble together your own Apple-ized multiroom audio system as well, albeit without access to the wider range of non-iTunes music services available on the Sonos.)
Check out Sonos' demo video of the iPhone controller app below (we've tested it, and can vouch that the video is a good representation of the software and hardware.)
Also of note: we haven't finished our evaluation of Cisco's Sonos competitor, the Linksys Wireless Home Audio System. That's because we've been having some network issues with the unit. We're hoping a recent firmware upgrade (and the fact that we're using different test PCs and routers) will help address the issues so we can compare and contrast the Linksys with the Sonos soon. In the meantime, consult our list of top network audio systems for the best recommendations.
A new report claims Amazon and Google are bringing voice calls to the Echo and Home. We had fun pretending to make a phone call with the connected speakers.
by Lexy Savvides
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