Sonos audio systems have really taken off in recent years thanks to a simple but crucial addition: free iOS apps that turn any iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad into a Sonos touch-screen remote. (The iPhone and iPad apps will soon be joined by one for Android phones.) But thanks to Apple's heavy-handed App Store restrictions, the Sonos app can only control the Sonos components accessing Internet- or PC-based music; you can't stream any music from your iPod, iPhone, or iPad to the Sonos devices.
Thankfully, Sonos has created a workaround: the Sonos WD100 Wireless Dock for iPod and iPhone. The accessory turns your iPod or iPhone into a pseudonetworked drive, allowing you to play all the iTunes music housed on your Apple device in any room where you have a Sonos ZonePlayer system set up.
To be clear, Sonos ZonePlayers (the ZP90, ZP120, or S5) can already stream music files from iTunes libraries on networked PCs and Macs throughout the house. And they also work with some music libraries on some NAS (network-attached storage) drives. But using the iPod dock allows you to accomplish the same thing without leaving a power-hungry PC turned on, and without navigating the often convoluted world of NAS drive setup and management. It's a lot easier for the average person (read: non-techie) to just drop an iPod or iPhone into the dock. That's exactly what makes the WD100 Wireless Dock appealing.
The first thing you have to do is plug the dock in and add it to your Sonos system just as you would a ZonePlayer--that's accomplished via the Sonos desktop software (Mac or Windows) or the iPhone or iPad app. You then dock your iPod or iPhone (yes, your device's battery will recharge while it's in the dock) and select Browse to access your collection of music on the device. (The only minor tricky part in the setup was figuring out that you had to hit the browse button to call up your music library.) Once you discover your music, you're good to start selecting tracks to play just as you would from the music library on your computer.
If you like to keep your iPhone or iPod in a protective case, you will be happy to note that if you pull the little insert out of the dock that will give you more room to slip your iPhone or iPod into the dock without having to take off the case (the dock should accommodate most but not all iPhone cases). It's also worth mentioning that you can opt to have your music automatically start playing in a certain zone (room) as soon as you dock the device. You can also opt to have the last song you were listening to automatically start playing.
In the end we came away feeling the dock was simple to set up and thought the accessory was a good complement to a Sonos system. While most people will use it for their own music, the product's other bonus feature is it allows you to drop a friend's iPod or iPhone into the dock and instantly stream his or her music. In other words, the Wireless Dock is an equal-opportunity dock: it doesn't discriminate between your device and someone else's. It also offers an all-digital connection, which is what you're getting when you stream directly from your computer or a networked drive.
The biggest drawback of the Sonos WD100 is that you lose the convenience of using the iPhone or iPod Touch as a wireless remote for the system while it's docked. Of course, a lot of households have an older iPod or two sitting unused in a drawer somewhere--and the Sonos WD100 is a great way to put them to work. The WD100 works with all iPhone and iPod Touch models to date, the iPod Classic, and the iPod Nano from the third generation onward. You can just load it up with music, dock it, and forget it.
The other major downside of the Sonos WD100 is the price. At $119, the Wireless Dock is a little expensive. At this price, we would've liked a line-out jack that would have allowed the WD100 to double as a full-on ZonePlayer, allowing connections to a stereo or powered speakers. But for dedicated Sonos fans who don't feel like buying a more expensive and convoluted networked drive--or those who want the flexibility of streaming music from multiple iPods or iPhones--the WD100 is worth strongly considering.