Over the years we've slowly been installing and growing our Nuvo whole house audio solution. Much like our renovation, it has been a slow process with a lot of prep work before we reached the payoff.
From miles of cabling, to basic installation in limited rooms, to building a DIY server rack to house the whole thing, each step has made our enjoyment and use of the music that floats from room to room just a little bit nicer. However, with all of it's cool features, and even hooked up to a computer to provide an enriched and more flexible approach to streaming music, our system left something to be desired when it came to the various Internet based music services like Pandora, Mog, or iHeartRadio, just to name a few.
Though I could use Pandora or other services from my computer and have it play over the system, control of the actual music was seriously lacking. Changing or skipping songs had to typically be done directly at the computer screen or over a laggy VNC connection from my phone or laptop. This was a less than desirable scenario, but one I would live with until I could find a better one.
Because of my described setup, and because services like Spotify and Mog are quite mature and convenient, I started to research alternatives to my hacked together computer controlled configuration. One company I had heard a lot about over the years was Sonos. Sonos makes a line of wireless and easily integrated components for whole house (or even single room) audio. I have a few friends who've installed Sonos devices and have liked their quality, easy setup, consistent improvement of their devices. Besides, I've always been intrigued myself, so I just needed a good excuse to buy something from them.
While researching I came across the Sonos Zoneplayer 90. The Sonos line contains a handful of source components that establish or integrate with their wireless systems, but this particular model is meant to hook directly into a non Sonos system. Better yet, the whole purpose of this product is to easily bring Internet streaming audio to your existing stereo, home theater, or whole house audio setup. And best of all, with an iPhone, iPad, or Android based device, the free remote control apps that Sonos offers appear to make operating the system a snap.
With all of that information, we decided to take the plunge and I ordered a Zoneplayer 90 from the Sonos.com website last week. I found a Sonos coupon code for free two day shipping, so I went ahead and placed the order. If you're shopping around, you can get the Zoneplayer 90 from Amazon or other sites, but the price is pretty much fixed at $349, and it typically takes longer for it to arrive. The only place I saw it for cheaper was from eBay, but the price typically ends up close to $349, and I just felt more comfortable buying straight from the source.
When we got home from Ohio yesterday the box was waiting for me at home (thanks to our wonderful neighbors for bringing in our mail while we were away). I tore into the box and was greeted with a nicely packaged and somewhat smaller than I expected box.
The package comes with a multi-language manual as well as a software CD for installation.
Upon removal, the device has a small footprint with a very clean presentation. Only the most basic buttons are available on the front as it is intended to be used with a remote control device.
The connections on the rear of the device include the basic elements you'd need to connect to almost any system. In our case, we're using the RCA connections, but the digital/optical audio would come in very handy on a newer home theater system.
Installing the actual device into our system was quite simple. We had an open spot that was the right size in our server rack, and I was able to just plug in the power cable to the power bar, RCA cables into the sixth source of the Nuvo amp, and network cable into an open spot in our switch. Really, it was as simple as that.
Once I had our Zoneplayer in its proper location, I proceeded to install the iPhone app for setup. It's a free download from the App Store, and installed in a couple of seconds. Starting the app introduced me to the service.
Though the app warned me to first setup the Zoneplayer with the PC software, I decided to live dangerously and just use my iPhone for the whole process. The whole process was quick and easy. The next screen asked me to press a button on the front of the Zoneplayer to sync with the iPhone.
Once the sync completed, the phone confirmed and asked me to name the Zoneplayer from a list of available names. I wish I could have named it something specific (like another character from Southpark because my whole network consists of Southpark characters, Lemiwinks anyone), but I can let that slide.
After naming was complete I jumped to adding the various music services I want to use. Pandora, Mog, iHeartRadio, Last.fm, BBC, my own music catalog, etc.
Again, the whole process was quite easy. Just select the service, provide the necessary account information to enable the service in the Zoneplayer, and then you are good to go. The music service you've added comes up as an option for your listening.
You can see from the iPhone screenshots I entered above that the whole app configuration process took less than 10 minutes. We didn't spend a lot of time listening to music last night, but I did have a chance to play around with Pandora, Mog, and iHeartRadio. The app really works great, is extremely intuitive, and is able to be installed on multiple devices that can act as remotes all around the house. I actually installed the app on three iPhones, my laptop, and my desktop.
So, after my first evening using our new Zoneplayer 90, I absolutely love it. I've been wanting a great way to use Pandora and other services with an easy iPhone based remote control, but most of the services either didn't offer it or would require a somewhat difficult to use interface and hacky setup between the phone and computer. Finally, this is a concise and user friendly way to interact with whole house (or local room) audio.
Hopefully Sonos will add features that will allow other users to control what's being played through an anonymous request based system. And like I said, they're always added new features to their products, so there is a good chance something like this will come along.
What do you think? Does Sonos sound good to you? Do you already have some experience with Sonos? Maybe you're still using an 8-Track or hand crank record player to enjoy your tunes.