Whole Home Audio with the Sonos Music System

If you are a music lover then over the years, you’ve probably longed for the ability to listen to music throughout your entire home or perhaps the ability to play different music in different rooms of your home.

In the marketplace today, there are a numerous home audio systems which use a combination of hardware and software to accomplish this goal.

Over the last decade I have personally tested and reviewed many wired and wireless audio streaming solutions from such vendors as Apple, D-Link, Logitech and Roku in an effort to find the perfect solution. Unfortunately, after considerable testing, I was not completely satisfied with any of them.

Last summer, while researching new iPhone and iPod touch apps, I discovered a new controller application from Sonos which promised users the ability to turn their iPhone or iPod touch device into a Sonos music controller.

At the time I discovered the new app, I was streaming audio to my home theatre and living room via an Apple TV and an Airport Express from my computer using iTunes. The Apple software and hardware solution for streaming music was the best solution I had found toda date but I was still searching because it did have some major weaknesses such as the inability to send multiple audio streams to multiple devices.

In addition, I found that Apple iTunes software crashed on a regular basis which resulted in lost metadata and required me to uninstall and re-install the application after every crash.

The release of the free Sonos iPhone app was significant milestone because it meant iPhone or IPod touch owners could save a considerable sum of money on a Sonos music system by using their iOS device in place of the $400 Sonos music controller.

I was well aware of the Sonos line of products for several years but had decided against it because of its high cost. A three zone setup with controller could cost over $2,000 prior to the iPhone app being introduced. In addition to the high cost, I had avoided Sonos because there were no Sonos retailers in Canada. In case of warranty issues or technical problems, I wanted to know that I could deal with a trusted local retailer rather than someone over the internet!

Thankfully by mid-2010, one such trusted retailer was selling Sonos in Toronto.

After finishing my research, I concluded that Sonos would be a superior solution to iTunes for my whole home audio needs. Please note that research led me to believe Sonos was superior for my whole home audio needs. For budget minded consumers and for consumers who have less robust needs, the much lower cost of using Apple Itunes and Apple hardware may outweigh the benefits of using Sonos. Readers should do their homework before making any final decision.

The following are some of the primary reasons why you might select one system over the other.

  • Sonos – Advantages of the Sonos system include the ability to direct multiple audio streams to multiple devices; a superior remote; ability to adjust volume by location; Sonos Mesh network reduces bandwidth usage over homes existing Wi-fi net; the availability of amplified devices such as the Z5 mean you don’t have to have a separate amplifier for each zone.
  • itunes / Apple devices – The primary advantages of using iTunes and Apple devices is cost. An Airport Express sells for $119 in Canada vs. $400 for a Sonos Zone Player 90. Other advantages: the iTunes software has some nice usability features such as Genius playlists and Apple TV has the ability to stream video.

Sonos Software and Hardware

In order to steam music to your Sonos hardware, you will need a repository for your music. In most homes, this will be your Windows PC or Mac computer. Tech savvy users can also use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) as their music repository.

Whether you use a PC or NAS for your music repository, you will need to install the Sonos Desktop Controller software on your computer. This Controller software is used to catalogue all of your music and to program your Sonos Hardware so it knows where to find the music repository. The software is free when you buy the Sonos Hardware.

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2 Responses to “Whole Home Audio with the Sonos Music System”
  1. JohnnyCanuck says:

    I would add there is also an Android app as well. Andronos is free from the Android market and will operate Sonos quite nicely.

  2. Mike says:

    I have been using Logitech Squeezebox system (Classic and Radio) for a couple of years now with no major complaints. The system requires a more tech savvy person to install and configure, but once set up is fantastic. The Logitech solution supports higher sound quality than Sonos (24/96 high-res formats, like FLAC), has app support, including an iPhone app: iPeng, can be controlled via WIFI on your network, various models available, etc.. and is less expensive than Sonos
    Bottom line is: do your homework, check them both out