Sonos announced several upgrades today to its whole-house audio system (my review of the original system is here).
The receiver modules have shrunk in size, have been upgraded with an upgraded version of Sonos' proprietary wireless mesh networking technology, and the one with an internal amplifier (the ZonePlayer 120) has gotten more power. The software has been upgraded, and it now supports ridiculously large music collections (65,000 songs), OS X Leopard, and NAS devices (networked hard drives, which means you can listen to your own songs without turning on your PC).
What hasn't changed:
- The Controller 100 ($399) gets no upgrades. It was well designed to begin with, though it is a bit bulky. It also no longer has quite the same wow factor, as it mimics Apple's last generation of music devices (the clickwheel iPods), rather than the current touchscreen models.
- A separate charging cradle ($39.99) for the Controller is an essential add-on that Sonos released a while back, but there are still no in-wall versions of the cradle.
- There is still no boombox option; the ZonePlayer 90 assumes you're hooking it up to a stereo system, iPod dock, or powered speakers, while the ZonePlayer 120 assumes you have a spare pair of speakers lying around. Sonos sells a pair of inexpensive, very high quality speakers for use with the ZonePlayer 120, but I've always thought that Sonos ought to build self-contained units for use in kitchens, home offices, and bathrooms.
- There is still no weatherproof outdoors option.
A complete Sonos system is incredibly cost effective when compared to custom installed wired multi-room alternatives. But it is still pricey overkill for filling just one or two rooms with sound; two iPods and two iPod docks runs less than half the cost of a Sonos. The direct competition is starting to catch up; Logitech's Squeezebox Duet (pictured here on the right) undercuts Sonos on price and has a similar scroll wheel controller (the Duet costs $399 and includes a receiver; the equivalent Sonos Controller + ZP90 combo costs $748). One major difference is in ease of setup - Sonos wins hands down, in part because Sonos doesn't require a PC or a wireless network. I have tested Logitech's predecessor, the Squeezebox, and found its basic remote and user interface nearly unusable; I plan to test the Duet and future products in Logitech's line shortly.