Ease of set up
Access to your music library on your computer and many major music services
Remote Control is very intuitive
Small Profile of ZonePlayers
Ability to connect and disconnect different zones as needed
Supported controller Apps on both iOS and Android
Audio line in is difficult to set up
A little over a year ago I was looking for a way to play music outside on our patio and in the living room at the same time without the need to use a multichannel receiver or connect additional speakers in the living room. As I started to search there were 2 systems that seemed to fit the bill, the Sonos Multi-Room Music System and Logitech’s Squeezebox system. Both of these systems work by using your existing network and are able to stream the music on your computer as well as using many online music services. As I was looking at all the reviews I decided to go with the Sonos Multi-Room Music System even though it was a bit more expensive (I got the Sonos BU250 bundle for $865). This review is not a comparison of the 2 systems because I have not used Logitech’s Squeezebox system, but I will review my experience with the Sonos system.
When I first received the Sonos BU250 bundle it included a ZonePlayer 120 (this is the amplified ZonePlayer), the ZonePlayer 90, and the CR200 Remote Control. As I pulled it out of the box the small form factor of the components amazed me. I easily placed the ZP90 in my television entertainment center and it was barely noticeable. I decided that the set up would be the ZP120 in the basement connected directly to 2 TIC GS5 Omni-directional all-weather in-ground speakers and the ZP90 in my living room connected to my Denon S-101 home theatre system. First, I downloaded and installed the Sonos Desktop Controller on my home computer. Next, I installed ZonePlayers by connecting the ZP120 to the speakers and the ZP90 to my home entertainment system, and connecting to the network via the Ethernet port (I hardwired all but you can use them wirelessly). It is important to note that, in order to identify the system, you must have at least one of your ZonePlayers hardwired directly to your router. The desktop controller then asks you to identify each of the ZonePlayers by simply pushing the mute and volume (+) button simultaneously on the ZonePlayers(you need to do the ZonePlayer connected to the router first). During this process it will have you identify the zone names as well. Finally, I set up the remote which was just as easy and it immediately identified both zones. The total set up time was about 30 minutes including time to connect all the wires.
Using the system is just as easy. I have primarily used the CR200 remote to control the system. The remote interface is very user-friendly and intuitive. It would be nice if there was the ability for some shortcut keys to music services, playlists, artists, and albums that you listen to the most though. When it comes to linking 2 zones together it is as simple as going to the home screen, selecting zone group next to the primary zone you will be listening to, and then select the radio button next to the zones you want to link. The remote even gives you the ability to control the sound of all zones together or individually. The only difficulty I have found operating the system is getting the line out on the ZP90 to work with my television so I can send the sound from the TV to my patio when I am watching something like a race or football game on the TV and want to hear it outside as well.
The ZP120 is nice because it is an amplified receiver that you can connect a set of speakers directly to. It only puts out 110W total via 2 55W channels with standard binding clips for speaker wire. This ZonePlayer is perfect for the size of our patio though, and I have had no issues with sound, although we do not listen to incredibly loud music. If you need more power you may want to go with the ZonePlayer 90 which easily connects to a receiver using standard analog, optical, or digital outputs. One feature that I really liked on both ZonePlayers is the Ethernet ports that are available. Each ZonePlayer has 2 Ethernet ports, one is the inbound connection that is needed if you are going to hardwire the system and the other is an outbound port to connect another device like a gaming system, your cable or satellite box, or any other device you may need to connect. The ZonePlayers are also able to work wirelessly using the Sonos wireless system. This system is active and secure as long as you have a ZonePlayer or ZoneBridge connected to your router.
As you can already tell I really like the Sonos Multi-Room Music System, and I plan to get more ZonePlayers, when we can afford them, for other rooms of the house. The system was very easy to install and I have not had any problems playing music from either zone even after my main desktop computer unexpectedly died and I had to replace it. The system continued to fully function even without the computer on or connected to the network. Once I bought a new computer I installed the Sonos Desktop Controller and it immediately identified the Sonos ZonePlayers. The only complaints I have are the price and the difficulty in setting up the line in on my ZonePlayer 90. I would highly recommend this system if you are looking for a network music player that will give you the flexibility to play what you want where you want in your house at the touch of a button form the central controller.