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As enthusiastic as I am about services like Napster, it’s worth noting that if you're concerned with audio quality, you should think of Napster as an auditioning tool. A service that allows you to listen to an album at your leisure for a while before you decide whether or not to buy the CD. You see, even if you download music from Napster, the vast majority of it will be encoded at 192kbps, which many will consider too low, especially if you’ve gone to the trouble of ripping your whole CD collection in Flac (yes I’m talking about you Jon). But even that caveat doesn’t change the fact that the addition of Napster support to the Sonos party is a definite bonus.
However, while I’m talking about music services, I should probably mention another potential issue. If you’re one of those strange people who insists on buying DRM encoded tracks from the iTunes store, a Sonos system will not be able to play those tracks, since Apple is far from liberal when it comes to licensing its DRM technology. Personally I don’t see this as a problem, since I have no idea why anyone would buy compressed music from iTunes, when the proper CD can usually be had for roughly the same price, giving you the uncompressed music and the opportunity to make a compressed copy yourself. That said, I’m sure that there are many, many people out there with a library full of DRM music purchased from iTunes, and this could be a major consideration for them.
Oh, and I almost forgot that the Sonos system will let you stream Internet radio stations too, so if you happen to be in an area of poor broadcast reception, you can be sure you never miss your favourite show. Not to mention the fact that if you have a penchant for a particular foreign radio station, you’ll be able to listen to that all over the house - assuming it streams its content of course.
Finally, if you find yourself in the mood for a house party, a Sonos setup will let you pump the same music to multiple rooms, to keep the party going all over the house. Of course playing different tracks in different zones is also possible, but syncing the same track in multiple locations is another impressive feat.
The BU150 bundle may look expensive at £699, but it really isn’t. What you’re getting is a superb, easy to setup, easy to use and brilliantly implemented wireless digital music system. But before you whip your credit card out, let’s not forget that you’re going to need a decent set of speakers to go with the ZP120, and already have a Hi-Fi to connect the ZP90 to. Realistically, you’re probably looking at closer to a grand to get the very best out of a Sonos system - that will let you buy a great pair of speakers, a ZoneBridge and a docking cradle for the controller. And even when the purchase price is pushing four figures, I still can’t help but think it’s worth it.
Two years ago Sonos had the best digital music solution out there, and two years later nothing has changed. Yes, there are other products on the market that can do some of what the Sonos can do, but there’s nothing short of a full professional install that can really compete with this. If you’re looking for the most versatile way to listen to digital music anywhere in your home, you better start saving for a BU150.
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