It was back in 2006 when I first played with a Sonos system, and I was pretty damned impressed. The problem with most music streaming devices at the time was that they came from networking manufacturers who knew a lot about the technical side, but weren’t so clued up when it came to the user experience. As such, you ended up with devices that “kind of” worked, if you knew what you were doing, and if you had a decent enough home network in the first place. Sonos, on the other hand, came at the problem from the other side, deciding to build a supremely usable device that was then stuffed full of digital streaming goodness, over both wired and wireless networks.
Despite the fact that Sonos managed to hit the usability nail right on the head, there were a couple of negative points with the system, the most notable being the high purchase cost. Added to the initial cost of the system, there was also the added expense of “wasting” a ZonePlayer, just to get you connected to your home network. You see, the first ZonePlayer in the system had to be hard wired to your router, and then the others could all communicate wirelessly. Unfortunately this meant that if your router wasn’t in a convenient place (mine’s sitting next to my sofa, because that’s where the phone line is), the ZonePlayer that you had to use to get connected, couldn’t then be used for music, thus making it a very expensive wireless bridge. Thankfully, Sonos has addressed both of those issues, and with the new BU150 bundle, kitting your house out with a Sonos system has never been more affordable.
Although the components that make up the new Sonos BU150 bundle look familiar, with the exception of the superb remote handset, everything has changed. When Jon tested the Sonos ZP80 bundle back in 2006, there were two types of ZonePlayers, the aforementioned ZP80 and the ZP100 which featured an integrated amplifier. This latest bundle however, features the new ZP90 and ZP120 ZonePlayers, and we’re talking more than just semantics here. It’s also worth mentioning that back in 2006 the basic bundle consisted of two ZP80 ZonePlayers and the remote handset for £779, while the new BU150 bundle gives you one ZP90 and one ZP120, plus the remote handset for only £699!
One of the things that always made Sonos systems so easy to setup, is that they incorporated their own wireless mesh system, rather than trying to piggyback off your home Wi-Fi network. This meant that there were no wireless channels to worry about, no MAC address filtering to contend with and no encryption keys to enter - it really was a plug and play system. These latest ZonePlayers move the game on by using the new SonosNet 2.0 standard, which brings with it both AES encryption, and more importantly, MiMo technology. Now we’ve seen MiMo (Multiple in Multiple out) technology used in wireless devices for a while now, and it’s also an intrinsic part of the new 802.11n standard. By including MiMo in its ZonePlayers, Sonos is essentially extending the range of the devices, by allowing multiple signals to be sent and received.