We've fallen in love with Sonos hardware already. It's not the cheapest way to get music and radio around your home, so it's certainly not for everyone, but if you want a premium product, it is most definitely the way to go.
The company has just added a wireless iPod dock to its range -- the Sonos Wireless Dock -- so we got our hands on one to see how this £100 device performs with our Sonos network.
If you already have plenty of Sonos equipment, adding the wireless dock will present no problems at all, because it works in the same was as all of Sonos' other hardware. Plug it into the mains first, press the only button found anywhere on the surface of the dock and it will announce itself to your Sonos network.
It's all brilliantly simple, requires no manual, and can go from inside the box to full operation in less time than it would take you to find a cable suitable for plugging your iPod into a Hi-Fi system.
This is also the first Sonos device we've seen that doesn't have a wired option at all. All Sonos ZonePlayers have two -- or in one case, four -- Ethernet sockets at the rear. One is used to put the device on the network, and one is a pass-through. The iPod wireless dock doesn't have that, though. We can see why, too, as this piece of kit needs at least one ZonePlayer to work anyway, so you might as well use Sonos' excellent mesh network.
One of the attractions of the wireless dock is that it could give you access to streaming music services that you don't have on your Sonos system. To be honest, that is less of a problem since Spotify launched, but prior to that we'd have given our eye teeth to access the service on our Spotify network. But the world doesn't begin and end with Spotify. There are still services like We7 that aren't on Sonos yet, and these are accessible via the wireless dock.
As you might have hoped, the dock will transfer any sound from the iPod to the Sonos network. So as long as an app makes noise, you'll be able to hear it in any room that a Sonos zone exists.
There is one minor problem, though. Although you get full control of the iPod and its music library, with an iPod touch or iPhone, there's no way to navigate through your various apps from the dedicated Sonos remote. We can't blame Sonos for this, because it would be very tricky to get such functionality to work across a wide range of apps. If you want to use a third-party music app, you'll need to control it from the iDevice manually. A minor gripe indeed, but we wanted to let you know.
A controller problem
One of our favourite things about Sonos hardware is that you can either choose a dedicated controller, or use an iPod touch, iPhone or iPad to control your music system. The company has put massive effort into making the iDevice application as good as possible, and we have to say, it's every bit as capable as the dedicated -- and much more costly -- Sonos hardware.
But this produces a problem. If you're using your iPhone or iPod touch to control your Sonos system, you're going to have a problem docking it, because you're no longer going to have a portable way to control your Sonos. It's not a major problem, but it certainly might cause you some inconvenience if that's how your network is set up.
There's one other feature we like that's worth mentioning, too. If you come in from your commute home and you're in the middle of a podcast or playlist, you have the option to dock the iPod and carry on listening through your Sonos.
The system allows you to choose which zone you want to play music in when you dock, and obviously this will work best on devices like the ZonePlayer 120 and S5, where you have an amplified output and dedicated speakers.
It's very cool, though, and we think it's something that many people will enjoy using.
Sounds super to us
Like all Sonos hardware, the sound is exceptional from the wireless dock. We have to insert one caveat here: the quality of your music files will be crucial to the quality you get over your Sonos network.
Once the music leaves your iPod via the high-quality Apple connector, it is sent as uncompressed audio. Sonos sends uncompressed audio by default, so you get the best possible sound delivered to your audio system. It is possible to use compression on slow networks, or if you have problems with interference.
Our S5 test system handled the audio wonderfully, producing a surprising range with loads of bass -- some might feel a little to much, but we like the balance -- and general clarity. Sonos does offer some equalisation settings, so you can tweak the audio until it produces a sound you're happy with.
We had no drop-outs either. Everything worked perfectly and our iTunes-purchased music sounded brilliant, as did our self-ripped high-bit-rate MP3s.
Of course, Sonos has a number of different audio out options on its individual ZonePlayers. Which of these you use will have an impact on the sound quality, as will your speaker selection -- but we don't really need to tell you that, do we?
The Sonos Wireless Dock is a fantastic idea, and in common with the rest of the Sonos hardware, it's flawlessly executed. The sound quality is great --assuming you feed it high-quality music to start with -- and the flexibility it offers you to move music around your house wirlelesly excites us, as geeks, greatly.
At £100, it's one of the cheapest additions you'll ever make to your Sonos multi-room system. If you own an iPod, we can't recommend it enough. Now, if Sonos would just develop something similar for Android phones, we'd be thrilled!
Edited by Emma Bayly