The second half of Sonos’s recent announcements concerned what’s on the other side of the smartphone fence – iOS devices. However this time the upgrade is primarily to the Sonos players themselves rather than just the accessories used with them.
Sonos devices, from the first box back in 2005 to the latest ZonePlayer S5, are all now fully compatible with Apple Airplay, but you’ll need an Airport Express to plug into it to get it to work. As an Airport Express can be used to send Airplay tunes to any old hi-fi using its audio output, this might not sound impressive, but it’s the weaved-in centralised control and multi-room synchronisation that’s the real selling point.
Both the Ethernet port and audio out are connected between the Airport Express and Sonos system, and there’s some minor setting-up to be done at both ends – in our demo, this had naturally already been done. What we did get to see though was the final setup in action.
Airplay content can now be treated like any other Sonos source. You can map it to all connected Sonos units, using the “Party” mode or patch it through to a single ZonePlayer speaker – or send it through to multiple speakers all at different volumes. It may sound mind-boggling, but using the new Android Sonos Controller app, it was actually all very simple thanks to the intuitive layout of the Sonos interface.
We experienced the effect of bouncing Airplay and other content between two Zoneplayer S5s and noticed no notable delays or sync issues. A Sonos product expert even showed off apps running while their sound was sent over to the Zoneplayer – as the apps themselves supported Airplay.
Alongside this firmware update, the iPhone and iPad Sonos Controller apps are being updated (the update should be available now) with fast app switching – the iOS version of multi-tasking. This will allow you to skip between Sonos Controller and other apps quickly, which will come in very handy when lounging on the sofa with an iPad.
The updates to both the apps and the Sonos players are free, and the System Software 3.4 update should show up on the box automatically. You just have to confirm the download. The Sonos Zoneplayer S5 is available now for around £350.