After one of the most simple setups in the history of otherwise complicated technology, we had multi-room music set up within about 60 seconds. The Sonos PC software can locate any music file on your computer and make it available to any ZonePlayer via the Controller. It integrates with iTunes, too, making all your iTunes playlists accessible. The same goes for Windows Media Player libraries, M3U playlists and some DRMed Windows Media Audio, although we couldn't get the latter to work during our testing.
Each ZonePlayer can be assigned names like 'Living Room', 'Kitchen' or 'Main Bedroom', and a dedicated 'Zones' button on the Controller lets you switch between players and individually assign music played back by each at any given time. You've also got access to loads of Internet radio stations, including all the major BBC stations, Classic FM, Magic and Virgin.
It really is beautifully simple to use. And it sounds absolutely fantastic. Audio decoding is handled by each ZonePlayer, including lossless formats such as FLAC and ALAC, so no PC processor time is required to transcode certain file types on the fly as with the Logitech Squeezeboxes.
That said, the Squeezeboxes do have a couple of notable advantages. Firstly, the Squeezeboxes give access to podcasts and RSS-based subscription Internet audio, which the Sonos system does not. And secondly, they offer support for services like Last.fm -- including scrobbling -- and Pandora in the US.
Still, we're blown away with how easy the Sonos system is to use, how comprehensive its file format support is, and how truly simplistic it is to set up streaming audio in dozens of rooms. And being able to use Napster's 6 million song catalogue as something of a radio service is nothing short of a dream for anyone who loves discovering music.
All we would like is an extension on the 65,000 song limit in the Sonos library, and perhaps a headphone socket on the ZonePlayers or even on the Controller.
With superb sound quality, ridiculously simple setup and a wealth of features to make almost every other streamer bow its head, Sonos has evolved its music system enough to blow us away even more than before.
The Sonos BU150 is definitely expensive and really only comes into its own in two rooms or more, so before you run out and spend several hundred quid, do consider other options if you only want single room streaming. For instance, try buying just the ZP120 and controller instead of the whole bundle.
Sonus bundles and ZonePlayers are available now from Advanced MP3 Players.
Edited by Marian Smith