CNET First Look
Sonos Digital Music System (Bundle 250)An excellent touch-screen remote and equally usable iPhone remote app breathe new life into Sonos's excellent multiroom digital audio system.
[ Music ] ^M00:00:07 >> David Carnoy: Hi, I'm David Carnoy Executive Editor for CNET.com and I'm here with the latest version of the Sonos digital music system, the Bundle 250. In case you're new to Sonos the companies all about creating a simple to use multi-room audio system at an affordable price. When the product first came out in 2005 it was comprised of 2 base stations at a unique remote with a full color screen that allowed you to wirelessly access your computers digital music collection so it has a wide range of internet, radio and subscription services. Since then Sonos has reconfigured the system a number of times swapping in new bay stations or zone players as Sonos calls them and delivering several firmware upgrades that have added navigation improvements and more features such as compatibility with online music services Rhapsody and Pandora. The big change for this year, long overdue is the addition of a new remote the CR200. If you buy the remote alone it'll cost you 350 bucks which is fairly pricey but you do save $60 when you buy it as part of this bundle which retails for $1000. The new bundle features the same 2 ZP120 and ZP90 zone players that Sonos was selling with last year's bundle. The 120 has a built in 55 watt amplifier so you can connect speakers directly to it while the ZP90 is amp less. In a typical set up you connect the ZP90 to your AV receiver in the living room and have the ZP 120 connected to a pair of speakers in the bedroom, den or kitchen. You can then chose to have the same music playing in multiple rooms or have different music playing in separate rooms. Using additional zone players you can expand the system up to 32 rooms, though we personally don't know anybody who's gone beyond 8. The zone players communicate wirelessly between each other but at least 1 component needs to be hard wired to your home network. If none of your zone players are in the vicinity of your router you have 2 options, invest in a pair of power line Ethernet adaptors or opt for Sonos own BR100 wireless bridge which costs $100. Unlike the old remote the CR200 has a touch screen and its 3.25 inch VGALCD is capacity which means it's quite responsive. The other thing to note is that it's smaller and lighter weighing only 6.7 ounces. It also includes a charging dock but it's important to note that Sonos also offers a free iTunes App that turns any iPhone or iPod touch into a Sonos remote as well. The app is so good it's almost as good as having a dedicated Sonos remote. Getting back to the CR200 remote, all in all we're pretty impressed with this thing. It's got a pretty sharp screen. It feels good in your hand and it's easy to read. The big question is whether you get the Sonos remote or just opt for an 8 GB iPod Touch which can be had for around $200. The short answer is that if you're buying the bundle or a hard core Sonos user you'll probably want to get the new remote and possibly use an iPod Touch as a second remote. If you change what you're playing on 1 remote that change will appear on a second or third remote in just a few seconds. 1000 bucks might sound like a lot of a digital music system but custom installed systems can cost as much as $5000 per room and they aren't as user friendly or offer the level of functionality found in this system. The most remarkable aspect of the Sonos system remains the fact that you have your entire music collection and the ability to distribute it throughout your house at your fingertips. But now that Sonos has rounded out with internet radio, satellite radio and the major online services such as Sirius, Pandora, Napster, Rhapsody and last FM and most of the online music services free and paid this system feels that much more robust and PC dependent. Having a slick new remote as well as an iPhone-iPod Touch option for controlling everything is just icing on the cake. I'm David Carnoy [background music] and that's the Sonos VU250 digital music system.