Audio over the internet isn’t new, but it really is barely tolerable if it’s not coming out of good speakers with power behind them. These days there are lots of ways to accomplish this, but one reigns supreme. Sonos!
Sonos has already been reviewed in Cool Tools, but it deserves a revisit, especially considering the evolution of new features & configurations possible.
A Sonos “zone” is a single Sonos Box that features both an internal amplifier for direct connection to proper stereo speakers, as well as line-level outputs to your otherwise superb existing stereo system. You can also use a single Sonos speaker as a mono output, or pair two speakers that, when synchronized, produce a stereo output. Oh, and there’s also a Sonos subwoofer available. A Sonos system can operate up to 32 wirelessly interconnected zones. Each zone can operate independently, or each can be tied to operate synchronously with other zones.
It can use sources as diverse as a line in (stereo, radio, computer, DVD/BluRay, TV, whatever), to local digitally stored content from a laptop, NAS, server, whatever, available to a single Sonos zone box (or bridge) which needs to be Ethernet cabled to the LAN (after which it’ll serve the whole Sonos system). Or you can stream things from Pandora, Spotify, XM, etc.
As far as control, you can use the optional handheld wireless controller (color display, etc), a computer based interface, or apps for most/all smartphones and tablets.
While Sonos may seem pricey at first, once it’s up and running it seems like the best bargain ever. When I’m at home I listen to WXPN (Philadelphia) or WFUV (NYC) almost exclusively – the best, I think, of the remaining old-style college radio stations. There’s a great station from Uganda that is terrific, too, in a wholly different way. And there are almost too many different sources to play with, so happy hunting.
My Sonos system may not actually be the best thing I’ve ever owned, but it always pops into my head as just that: The Best Thing Ever.
We first reviewed Sonos five years ago, and it remains one of the best networked home audio system available today. --OH