TapSonos – one year on

I wrote nearly a year ago of our move into whole house audio with the Sonos system. It has been a great success and is in use every day. We use it for the radio news in the mornings, dinner time music in the evenings and background music for parties. We now have over 50GB of music stored which consists of 99% of all the CDs we own, 80% of the cassette tapes and I am making good progress digitising the vinyl records.

Some things have changed with new models—we applaud the company for keeping them 100% compatible with the previous range. They now have the ZP90 which upgrades the ZP80 to 802.11n wireless with its longer range. The ZP100 has been replaced by the ZP120 which is smaller and with (reportedly) a better quality amplifier but reduces it to two wired network ports and loses the analogue line out sockets. The software updates have sligtly increased the index capacity and introduced various streaming music services (which we don’t use). The BR100 bridge solves the problem of the cost of the network attachment, but there have been no earth shattering advances.

So what is the future. Well for us it will be getting another node for the bedroom when we redecorate soon. But for Sonos, where will they go next. As you would expect, the forum members have a lot of ideas ranging from minor tweaks to the user interface, through a modernised controller to full video streaming capabilities.

In my opinion there is one thing that stands out as deficient and will be affecting sales. That is the need to have a raft of non-Sonos equipment behind the scenes to support it. These include a broadband connected network (not necessarily wireless); network attached disk storage for the music, either NAS or a computer; a computer with CD drive to transfer stuff to disk and also to manage the library adding titles, artists, album art etc. To some extent this is true of other devices such as portable MP3 players but these integrate very closely into computer media players; iPod with iTunes and most others with Windows Media Player; the storage is in the device. Loading is just a matter of drag-and-drop.

When I wrote about this last time I suggested a collaboration with an existing NAS supplier and leaving the ripping and management alone. This may still be the best way but could be enhanced by “arranging” for the media players to recognise the Sonos system in the same way that they see portable players. However! I see that some other manufacturers have gone the whole way and provide truly integrated servers.

Naim Audio have leapt into the market in a big way (and very very expensive). They are offering most of the Sonos benefits (claiming some as firsts) plus some extra features; an integrated storage/rip station server; synchronisation of libraries across the internet (so your country cottage has the same library as your city apartment—at this price, these are the customers they want); 24bit audiophile capability; integrated DAB/FM tuners, multiple line-in facilities; and integration of portable MP3 players, though I am not sure all of these are actually available yet. Of course this is way out of the market for mortals, the basic HDX server is £4,500 and you would be looking at £25,000+ and installed by professionals for a full house system. Still, there are ideas there that Sonos could pick up… (what is curious is that the controller looks like a 1970’s computer screen!)

At a more modest cost, Sony GigaJuke and Philips Streamium offer music servers. These are Middle-Fi systems but are simple and cheap so will capture the mass market. Are Sonos happy to let this go? I want to come in from the shop, slide a disk into the slot and play it NOW.

Comments are closed.

^ Top