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Sonos BU250 Wireless Digital Music System review




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Sonos BU250 Wireless Digital Music System


Our Score:


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.


September 2, 2009, 5:53 am

2 apple airport expresses, an ipod touch and the remote app. job done at a fraction of the price with pretty much zero chance you could tell the sound quality difference.

Bobby D

September 2, 2009, 12:01 pm


Many people can tell the sound quality difference between an iPod and a system that can play a decent uncompressed file format.

Bobby D

September 2, 2009, 12:02 pm

Sorry I meant lossless, obviously....


September 2, 2009, 1:00 pm

@BobbyD -I agree 100% - the audio quality of an iPod is seriously lacking. Don't get me wrong, I love mine for the portability etc but the sound quality sucks, even when compared to my "trusty" Creative Zen 20Gb.


September 2, 2009, 1:13 pm

Still think it's a shame that it doesn't support Unicode.

A deal breaker for me.

Hamish Campbell

September 2, 2009, 4:10 pm

Hmmm I think that assessment is wrong. Jay is saying that the muzak is playing through the apple express routers, so the Ipod's dac is irrelevant.

The apple express has a digital (optical) out so you really the quality of music is really down to your file (so apple lossless or high bit rate lossy will be fine) and then the system you are pumping the bits and bytes into.

If you've already got that great hifi system, and an ipod touch or iphone, then this would be a pretty sweet setup.

You're library can of course be held on a NAS or laptop or usb off your router or whatever.

Chris Beach

September 2, 2009, 4:52 pm

The cheaper option would the Logitech Squeezebox's...the upcoming touch version looks to be a great edition to the lineup.


September 2, 2009, 8:55 pm

To the doubters, I think you're kinda missing the point of what the Sonos does, which is more that just play music. Its integration, usability and convenience are streets ahead of the Apple solution, which is really a hack by comparison. I imagine the sound quality on offer would be far better as well, although I've never heard music played from an Airport Express to properly compare.

These are difficult concepts to explain, but if you saw (and heard) one in action you'd know what I mean.

As cjb110 says, the closest competitor comes in the form of the Squeezebox, which can be had for much less although that system requires a PC or powerful NAS device to perform server duties.

Hamish Campbell

September 2, 2009, 11:48 pm

It's obviously a fantastic system, however 700 squids is a big whack of cash. Now I bet a fair few folk have a good hifi and an iphone, plus a computer with a large itunes library. Then 70 quid for an apple express router and the free iphone remote is a pretty good option, you're getting most of the functionality that you're looking for at a 10th of the price. It all depends on your situation, but I would guess quite a few iphone owners fall in this category.


September 4, 2009, 4:02 pm

'The best multi-room digital music system'

Given their position in the market you could argue that the Meridian Sooloos would take that crown. Audio quality is far superior to the Sonos.


September 4, 2009, 6:31 pm

@OldTimer: Seeing as the Meridian can cost up to $5000, I think we can forgive them.. :)

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