About this time last year I reviewed the Sonos BU150 bundle, which brought Sonos' superb wireless music streaming hardware down to a far more affordable price. Not only was the BU150 bundle more affordable, it also brought improved wireless range to the table with the implementation of MiMo technology, thus making the Sonos wireless mesh network even more robust.
The only slight letdown with the BU150 was that Sonos hadn't updated its CR100 remote controller. Although the CR100 was still a great unit that allowed you to control music in any room in your house from the palm of your hand, the scroll wheel navigation method was starting to look dated in a world full of touch-screen goodness. I mentioned this to Sonos at the time, and I was told that my observation wasn't lost on the engineers and designers, and sure enough the BU250 bundle that I'm looking at today ships with the new CR200 touch-screen controller.
In reality the only difference between last year's BU150 and this year's BU250 bundle is the CR200, with the two bundled zone players remaining identical. To recap, you get one ZP90 and one ZP120. The ZP90 is a relatively small affair with no internal amplification, so you're going to need to connect it to a dedicated amp/receiver or a set of active speakers. The ZP120 is larger since it incorporates an amplifier and can simply be hooked up to a set of bookshelf speakers, which it will drive quite effectively.
The beauty of the ZP90 is that it comes equipped with both optical and coaxial digital audio outputs. This means that you can bypass the ZP90's own DAC and use one of your own choosing, whether that be integrated into your amplifier or a stand alone device. For the true audiophile, this is an attractive option. The ZP120 on the other hand, makes for a very simple hi-fi solution, by just adding a pair of speakers. With both ZonePlayers in the box, you can use the ZP90 in your main living room, hooking it up to your hi-fi or AV amplifier, while the ZP120 can go in a secondary room with a dedicated pair of speakers.
The CR200 brings another addition to the bundle that was missing from the BU150 set. The old CR100 shipped without a docking cradle, leaving you to buy one separately. The new CR200 comes with a docking cradle, thus saving you the cost of buying one, although the overall cost of the bundle itself has risen by £100, which is more than the cost of a cradle. So the question is whether the inclusion of the new CR200 controller justifies the price increase, and I'm inclined to say that it does.