White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane (yes I know that it was originally performed by The Great Society) sounds suitably haunting through the ZP-S5, but it’s the expansive soundstage that it produces that really impresses. Grace Slick’s unmistakable vocals float above the music, as if the two were separate entities. This track is a difficult audition for any all-in-one music system, but the ZP-S5 turned in a glowing performance.
Heading off at a tangent I queued up He Got Game by Public Enemy, which samples Buffalo Springfield’s classic, For What It’s Worth. Once again the ZP-S5 acquitted itself well, reproducing the heavy background beats without detracting from the vocals. In fact it’s fair to say that the ZP-S5 does a great job with hip hop and R&B fare, while handling most flavours of pop with similar aplomb. It doesn’t sound quite so accomplished with rock music, but then few all-in-one systems do, B&W Zeppelin excepted.
Setting the ZonePlayer S5 up is simplicity itself, whether you’re already a Sonos user or not. If you already have a Sonos install you just put the ZP-S5 into discoverable mode, and then search for a new zone using your Sonos controller, or PC client. A few seconds later the ZP-S5 will be added to your list of Zones and you’re ready to go.
Even if you don’t already have a Sonos system in your home, installation is a breeze. You either hook the ZP-S5 directly up to your router, or hook the optional BR100 ZoneBridge to your router and then place the ZP-S5 anywhere in your home. Once you’ve powered on the ZP-S5, you simply load up the Sonos Desktop client on your PC and search for a new Zone. Then you just download the Sonos app for your iPhone or iPod touch, and you’re all setup and ready.
Usability is fantastic, as it always is with Sonos, although while setting up the ZP-S5 I was prompted to download an update for my CR200 controller, which provided subtle changes to the interface, making it even better than before. But whether you’re using an iPhone or the CR200, using the ZP-S5 is a joy – whether you’re streaming your own music from a PC or NAS appliance, or whether you’re listening to Last.fm or Napster.
Now that the monthly fee for Napster has dropped to £5 per month, along with five free downloads each month, you’d be mad not to sign up. Napster gives you access to a music library of over eight million songs, and with Sonos, you don’t need to use a computer to listen to them.