Setting up a Sonos system is as simple as ever. You just place your ZonePlayers where you want them, hook one ZonePlayer or an optional ZoneBridge to your router and you’re pretty much done. From then all the configuration can be done via your PC using the Sonos Desktop application, which makes configuring the zones and your own music library as easy as pie. Once you point the Sonos system at your music – in my case it resides on my NAS appliance – it will build your Sonos Music Library and separate it into the usual listings of Artist, Albums, Playlists etc.
You can also access music that you don’t own via a few different methods. You can tune into any number of Internet radio stations if you wish, but having to sit through loads of mind numbing drivel from DJs and strings of adverts every few minutes isn’t what I want from my multi-room digital music system. Luckily you can also access digital music services like Last.fm and Napster.
I’m not the biggest fan of Last.fm, since it doesn’t actually allow you to choose what music you want to listen to. Instead you decide what type of music you’d like to hear, and Last.fm will stream you a selection that it thinks suits your genre. Even if you select a certain artist, what you’ll get is a stream of tracks that Last.fm deems are “similar” to that artist. To be fair, Last.fm is a good way to discover new music from artists that you may never have heard of before, and if you’re after a bit of background music that you’ve not heard a hundred times already it’s great. It’s also free, which in itself is pretty compelling.
Last.fm also highlights a new feature on CR200 – the Info button. This will give you information about the band or artist that you’ve selected in the form of background information and lists of upcoming events, such as concert dates.
For me though, Napster wins every time. Ok, so Napster will cost you £9.99 per month, but coupled with a Sonos install, it’s worth every penny. Basically, that monthly subscription gives you access to Napster’s huge library of music, and you can stream as many tracks as you like, as often as you like, using any method that you like. The other great thing about Napster is that you can create playlists that are accessible from anywhere that you can access the service. So if I create a playlist on my PC at work, I can listen to it on my Sonos system when I get home, or on my notebook when I’m working in a hotel room in San Francisco. Also, as with Last.fm, Napster gives you the opportunity to experience new music and if you really like something, you can then buy the CD and add it to your own music library – something that I do regularly.
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