Review: Sonos Home System – S5 and ZP90


Some say the Internet changes everything.  I completely agree…I use the Internet for all my data connections, to route my phone calls, to pay my bills, to look up phone numbers…just about everything.

Also, with the Roku device, the Internet has now come to my TV. So, just about the only thing NOT connected to the Internet is my radio.

Sonos S5Sonos is a company that makes a suite of devices that bring the wealth of audio content found online to your ‘conventional’ sound system.  That is, if you listen to Pandora, Last.FM or Spotify on your computer, why not listen to them also on your home stereo?

Unpacking the Sonos System

After seeing the Sonos S5 at CES in Vegas, I was intrigued.  When I asked for a review device, I arranged to get an S5 (pictured above), which is a Bose wave radio type device that is a standalone speaker with Wi-Fi and all the smarts built in.

Sonos also included a ZP90, which resembles a Mac Mini in appearance and is essentially a bridge to hook up to your existing receiver/hi-fi system.  Lastly, I needed a Sonos ZoneBridge to complete the system.

To accompany the Sonos software on their PC/Mac or a Sonos remote control to control the music streaming to the Sonos, I have the iPhone/iPod Touch app that gives full access while on the go, around the house.

Setting Everything Up

After plugging in and wiring the ZP90 to my receiver, placing and plugging in the S5, and installing the Sonos ZoneBridge to my router…I was ready to go.  All these components are very well labelled and Sonos includes all the necessary cables to get everything up and running.

If you are even vaguely familiar with hookup up home theatre components, set up will be easy for you.  If not, it doesn’t take long to get either.

My Mom could set this system up.

Getting Started

After all the components are physically attached to your systems…you are ready to load up the Sonos software.  I chose to install on my wife’s MacBook, as all the iTunes music is held on her computer.  Upon installation, the Sonos Controller scans your computer to inventory and index all your existing music.

That’s right – in addition to being able to stream music off the Internet, you can utilize your existing music catalog on your home computer(s), including iTunes playlists.  This is a slick feature!

I then loaded the client up on my MacBook Pro and again the process was quite easy.

iPhone/iPod Touch Client

After getting Sonos controllers installed on my two computers, I fired up the app on my iPod Touch (also works on the iPhone).  Upon launch, the app searches for a Sonos network and instantly finds it.  You have full access to your entire music library and also to online radio stations.

Through geolocation, the Sonos app also displays all your local radio stations also!  This is nice if you have a station you like that has a low signal strength – you can stream it off the ‘Net with full fidelity!

Via the iPhone remote control app, it is also possible to load up Pandora, Last.Fm, and countless international stations including BBC and others.

Audio Quality

Since the ZP90 simply plugs-into my existing Hi-Fi system, it’s hard to judge audio quality, but in terms of the stream and overall experience, the ZP90 hasn’t missed a beat.  The player, even though it’s in an area with crummy Wi-Fi signal strength has never cut out.

On the other hand, the S5 is a standalone speaker system.  How would I rate the S5?  It’s outstanding!  I have it upstairs in the master bedroom and the sound carries throughout my entire upper floor when I have the S5 cranked.

The tweeters and bass units create a balanced, heavy hitting sound.  I realize the S5 is a bit expensive at $399, but you can tell Sonos has engineered the S5 to be a platform for high-quality audio playback.

Other Capabilities

Using Sonos’  music controller, you can make zones for your music.  For me, I have a Sonos in my living room and upstairs master bedroom.  If I want, I can unify the zones and play the same tunes upstairs and down.  Alternatively, I can play one set of music upstairs and a different song downstairs.

Closing Thoughts

I review a lot of technology products and have seen some impressive pieces of kit.  However, nothing has impressed me quite like the Sonos.  I find the audio quality, ability to control my music and overall experience to be next to nothing.

I find it very hard to send the Sonos review units back.  Even my wife, who normally doesn’t get sucked in by tech has said she wants to buy a Sonos system…so we’ll be whipping out our credit card soon, I imagine.

Having the Sonos means I can listen to a seemingly endless stream of music, whether it’s my own tunes from my music collection, from Pandora, or from a some Internet service.

The Sonos Music System is officially a must-have for any Internet audio user.  Visit and assess it for yourself…you can easily build a system that will augment and enhance your current audio set up in your home.