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Audio distribution systems should be part of Audlogon. The Sono's music Server is great. The new Sono machine will transfer FLAG CD copies from your hard drive digitally into your DAC. Not only should the quality be better than via a CD transport; but it will enable you to search through all of your CD's from your couch.
I enjoyed Robm's "Now it's Cnet" comment--funny, but I agree with Hamburg. No reason these types of systems shouldn't be part of audiophile discussion. However, it'd be helpful if there a little more audiophile content to the posts about Sonos. The features of Sonos are undeniably cool, but how a little more specific description of the amp and DAC performance, compared to other hifi components, that you would buy into with Sonos?
As an aside, seems like Apple should get moving with a multi-remote-speaker version of iTunes.
I have used the Sonos system in a house that I build 2 years ago.
The couple were in their late 50 's and they just loved it.
The system was dead easy to set up and the owner's wife can use it with no problems. My wife and I demoed the unit in store and she loved the remote control.
The build quality is first rate.
Sound was enjoyable, the owner used inexpensive in ceiling speakers and I can only comment to this extent.
The convienence and user interface with the Sonos was superb.
Is this HIFI ? I think for some people it might be, but please listen first.
I have to say that I think Sonos is providing an entry point to mid-fi and potentially hi-fi for many people who otherwise wouldn't have had a reason. Of course, this an anecdote, one man's experience, but I think it's telling.
So, I was tired, really tired, no let's say really really really really tired of physical CDs. I'm an adult now (kid, house, cars, etc.), but still had my old Denon 35 watt receiver I got as a high-school graduation gift, a second-hand Sony bare bones CD player, and a pair of Boston Acoustics HD8s. Nothing special. Really pretty awful, but there it is. And every time I wandered into a serious audio store, I'd get excited about the sound (remember where I'm coming from: I'd get excited about a Rotel integrated driving B&W 603's). But then I'd think back to that pile of CD's, and how I could never find anything, and how after a few weeks my (otherwise quite nicely decorated) living room would have stacks of CDs, and CDs not in cases getting scratched up, and my wife yelling at me, etc. You can give a guy grown-up responsibilities, but you can't make him behave.... ;)
So skip forward. I bought a Sonos ZP100 bundle and an Infrant ReadyNAS NV that I set up in a closet. Burned ~400 CDs to FLAC using EAC. Set up one of the ZP100s in my kitchen - instant fun listening to all my old jazz while making dinner. Set up another ZP100. Lo and behold, the digital amp in that sucker sounded better than my old Denon/Sony combo. 15 years worth of DAC progress - even if the volume attenuation happens in the digital domain - trumped my old crappy set-up.
Skip forward a few weeks. Music is actually fun again. We're listening to music all the time. I'm ordering CDs online like no-one's business (are you listening to this, record companies???).
And what do I do? I decide that the sound quality could be better. So I go out and buy myself a Creek 5350SE integrated on A'gon. And, boy, was I right. The sound quality with the ZP100's analog outs driving the Creek is through the roof, even driving my old Boston HD8's. Now I have upgrade-itis. Going to buy myself a decent pair of speakers... Monitor RS6's maybe? NHTs? and a DAC... Scott Nixon? Lavry? Benchmark? Dunno. Hell, I may go out and buy myself a record player and a phone pre-amp and start collecting records!
Anyway, that's a long long post. But here's the point: audio better listen up and start embracing these audio "jukeboxes". For most people, they transform the listening experience markedly. And IMHO Sonos is doing a better job of casting a broad net with it's user experience (though priced today to capture early adopters' hard-earned $$$). And if you can't get that through your skull, Audio industry, you're gonna be in trouble. These new systems are an amazing entry point - they enable those of us who still find music to be a bit of a hassle to do what we're supposed to - to LISTEN. I'm listening right now (no, not in the audiophile sense of in a special-purpose room in a built-to-order recliner with a set of custom-built speakers driven by $50K of fine electronics) to Michel LeGrand Jazz. And it sounds GOOD. Better than I remember. Next up... Dave Brubeck at Carnegie Hall? Husker Du? Mos Def? I dunno. But boy it's good to be back in the saddle...
The last two posts capture my experience as well. Setting up a computer music server got me back INTO my music. No more shuffling through 600 CD's only to keep choosing what's on top or in the nearest open storage case. Now it is all at my finger tips. I am listening more, to more (to parts of my collection I did not even know were there) and buying more music than I have in a long time.
Thanks - glad to hear that others are having the same experience as consumers. What I think is important to this forum (and responding to the "why aren't there more audiophile discussions of systems like Sonos, Squeezebox, etc.) is that some of us are (i) getting onto the audiophile food chain by buying mid-fi equipment we otherwise would not have, and (ii) moving up the food chain and catching upgradeitis that we would never have caught had we not gotten to step i. And this has implications for the industry, and subsequently for us as consumers.
I'd humbly suggest that so-called 'serious' audio companies have never ever ever considered convenience as an important attribute. They have assumed that people would pay mega-bucks (or even kilo-bucks) based only on audio quality. Given the volume of discussion about tweaks, the preference for fewer controls on high-quality components, and the amount of system swapping A'goners do, I'd say we as a breed have historically been *against* convenience (the same way people who buy a Rolex typically get fewer features than those who buy a $20 Timex).
So here's my point - there is an emerging segment of those who are willing to buy more, better, and hence more expensive audio equipment - so long as it is as convenient as a Sonos. And my hypothesis is that that segment will grow. I'll even draw a parallel to the "gourmet stove" phenomenon - Viking ranges in home kitchens would have been unthinkable 25 years ago when they were smokier, dirtier, and harder to clean.
Everyone better pay attention - Sonos, 'serious audio' companies, retailers... At the same time as audio companies get serious about easing integration with products like Sonos (in order to draw in more consumers), companies like Sonos better take into consideration the audiophiles (as Slim Devices has by launching the Transporter which can handle 24-bit recordings etc) by creating products that can handle all the new emerging formats like SACD, DVD-audio, etc. There, I've made my point. I'll be quiet now (for a little while).
Don't fool yourself about Sonos not being HiFi. I tested the ZP80 against a variety of high-end transports (Wadia, Meridian, Levinson, etc.) and its coax digital output equaled or beat them all.
In my system (Meridian-based), I now listen to lossless audio streamed through a Sonos ZP80 for critical listening.
BTW - the fact that I now have the rest of my house connected to my music library and running on Sonos ZP80s and ZP100s is an added bonus!
I too believe the Zp80 is extremely good. But when I use the built in DAC of the Zp100 ,it was not true perfection. When the Zp80 was connected digitally to a good DAC, in my case Levinson 390S, there was no reduction in sound Quality. And perhaps better. What was improved was the ability to change CD's from a slick wireless remote, never Leaving my couch. I still prefer LP's to CD's and will relinquish the comfort of the remote control only when playing vinyl. Ps. most reviews compare the slim box to the sonos. What really should be done is comparing the Sono with best available DAC to the best CD transport/DAC combination. If it is equal or close then Sonos wins for ease and Cool factor. They should do the Same for Slimbox as well.
Good point... interestingly, most of the time spent in audio publications on the Sonos and Slim Devices competitors is related to the cool factor. I really would like to see a serious evaluation of the audio quality along the lines you suggest:
1) Very high caliber CD transport
2) Sonos ZP80
3) Squeezebox 3
all fed into a few very high class DACs. Then we could lay much of this "is the ZP80 a good transport" issue to rest, and focus on the cool factor without someone thinking that we're sacrificing quality for ease! This is the next generation of high end audio. Someone needs to write a manifesto...
And the next step is for the Sonos and Squeezebox to start accepting 24/96 flac streams (even if passed to DAC rather than decoded on board) so that we can actually go hi-rez without investing in more hardware to play new formats! But that's another story (and yes, I know Transporter can do it, but I do not want to add a Slim Devices device to my already very nice Sonos system).
PS Don't suppose anyone will ever build a truly high end LP machine that has the ease of the Sonos interface, will they? ;-)
The quality of these stock Wi-Fi converters just isn't quite up to a good transport or a good USB converter, yet. Even modded, they fall behind some USB solutions. However, the Pace Car I2S reclocker could change all that. Hopefully, Slim-Devices will do a SB4 this year with 24/96 capability. If they do, you will see a product based on this from me.
If you do your searches on Audiocircle you will find that no one mods the Sonos and that the squeezeboxes sound better out the digital output. I run my Squeezebox into a 10k DAC and I am quite amazed at the quality. It did require a Bolder Modified powersupply to make it all worthwhile.
I would have loved to have the Sonos Remote control and simplicity but the sound quality was not at the same level versus using Flac files on the SB3. So for now I'll stick with my TablePC choicing album covers from the slimserver software.
I know the USB Dac's are suppose to be the good, but the thought of connecting my noisy (physical and ground issues) computer (and I've built quiet computers before) to my audio system is just contradictory.
John_ops: I stand corrected on audiocircle, and now you have me obsessing over where those threads were... I bought the SB2 over 1.5 years ago because of what people said. I found one of my original links to a review stating the Sonos didn't have a digital output... so looks like a lot has changed with the sonos...
The nice thing about the squeezebox was they were only $200 back then compared to the $1100-$1800 back then for the sonos. Granted now after modification the prices are closer.
No worries - I have trouble finding threads after a while too! If you do come across some, please post them. I really am serious about wanting to see serious "john atkinson"-type reviews of the audio quality of these as transports.
As a side note, it's actually funny, I had an almost visceral reaction to your saying that the SB had better sound through digital out than the Sonos (e.g., how dare you accuse my component of being inferior!). But that's exactly the opposite of my point - I own *both* - a single SB3 (in my main system) and several Sonos ZonePlayers. And to be frank, even if the sound quality of the SB is marginally better, I won't listen to it that much. The convenience of the Sonos has become a standard for me - the imperative now (IMHO) is for other companies to play catch up on the convenience front. I *want* the absolute best sound quality, but I *need* the convenience of the Sonos interface. And if someone comes along with a better interface (and similar sound quality) I'll switch.
Not trying to put down the SB - I think it's great, but it's interesting - it's a first generation UI, and Sonos is a second generation UI. It's going to take decades before we have real home automation UI design settled, but to me these feel like the first steps toward moving beyond "remote control lamp modules"... and I want to make sure that 'real' audio companies have a hand in standards setting so that we're not stuck with "Sound by Sony" in 20 years when we finally all have a central home server controlling everything (heat, blinds, audio, alarm, lights, etc).
Others out there agree?
John_ops: I completely agree about the convience thing.. even if my universal Player is better I prefer the convience of my Squeezebox immediate access to music. I should also describe how I use my modified squeezebox which I find advantagous. Since I have computers in every room, they can use softsqueeze to play music and interface with my whole collection.. so I'm never away from my music. I use Internet Steaming Audio a lot to find new music... The Atlanta Jazz station is awesome, along with some Euro Techo stations.. I can leave my main rig on and move from room to room and control it from any computer that is up (keep in my bedroom has a 37" monitor, my office has a 37" monitor (plus two 20.1" screens))
I have a tablepc (1.5gig of ram, 12" touchscreen) that I use the web interface to view my albums, build playlist, and control the content.
Plus the Squeezebox have all these cool plugin's that you can use.
1) When not in use they stream RSS news feeds like a Stock ticker! Totally cool when having breakfast or cooking dinner to glance at. Or I can set this up as a screensaver while listening to music.
2) There is another streamer that downloads song lyrics and plays them..
3) I'm about to try out a room accoustic correction program
3) integration into whole house automation, security via Plutohome... I'm sure there are others as this solution looks a little pricy (hardware) but it is well thought out and open source
4) The advantage of using a tabletpc while listening to my system is I can surf while sitting back on the couch.
The funny thing was my tabletpc and the Squeezebox were a little more than the Sonos... another thing to think about if your need to purchase a laptop for home! Plus I use the laptop to rip on battery to FLAC for an even purer rip.
Granted you do have to wakeup the laptop out of standby, and it can get warm on the lap, and playtimes can't exceed 4.5hrs without charging the laptop, So the Sonos is definitely advantagous with the remote... too bad it won't control the rest of my system... now I'm looking for a universal remote that has at least an 8" screen, wifi, Web browser, and supports RF control so I can slimserver and control my whole system while glued to the couch!
UI design is pretty critical.. if I didn't have the tabletpc I would have a much harder time with my 900cd collection that I'm still ripping..uggh
Even more upside...
I have been buying more and more music. Have been discovering new stuff - roots blues, delta blues, 1940's jazz, old-time appalachian music. Not having to deal with physical piles of CDs has just made listening to music that much more enjoyable. And, my spend on music has skyrocketed. Amazing.
On what do you base the comment "The quality of these stock Wi-Fi converters just isn't quite up to a good transport or a good USB converter, yet." As TCP/IP is a packet-based protocol and therefore immune to jitter, if the bits arrive, the transmission across the LAN is perfect, leaving only the conversion to and transmission of SPDIF as a potential issue.
You'll pardon my skepticism, but your comments have to be taken with a grain of salt as you have revealed a financial stake in upgrading these devices.
Just bought a Buff Tech Terastation Pro II and a bunch of Sonos zoneplayers. I agree with Jamesw20 above-- this is so user friendly and easy to set up, that I am going totally hard drive with my music library. I rip Apple Lossless to the hard drive and run the coaxial out of the Sonos to my Sim Audio CD player's digital in -- for my nice two channel system. For the rest of the house (six zones so far) I use the Sonos ZP100s to run the in wall speakers (or a ZP80 to feed the home theater processor and amps). It's so slick that my wife is using it-- a major accomplishment. The sound quality in my two channel rig is IDENTICAL to playing a CD in the Sim Audio SuperNova Evolution CD player. Sweet.
well, I just set up a simaudio/sonos system, and i beg to point out some pos/negs.
Negs: It took me 4 hours of pro help to get my computer set up so that the ext. hard drive/router/sonos/various (pc)software worked well together.
I have the sonos 80 running into a proceed dac, which sounds much better than the analog outputs of the sonos. I have a supernova - sorry, not the same.
I am deeply afraid of the fragility of trusting a computer. They're great-WHEN they work!
It would be really cool if the sonos would link into itunes, and could access all of it's functions, in the itunes interface. I'm thinking about itunes radio, which has many great stations. Better than sonos. I called sonos tech support, and was told " yeah, they make it hard to get the urls. And they're making it harder." Drats!!!
Pos: When everything works (when the moon is aligned with Venus..) it is very cool!
Although my ears think the supernova kicks it's butt, the sonos with (an older, bought here on the 'gon) dac sounds awesome!
For my particular situation, this was a great solution.
I still don't put much stock in computers though.....
I replaced my five year old router with a new one ($70 Netgear) and hooked up the Buffalo Technologies Terastation to it and was up and running in about 15 mintues. The Sonos setup took less than that. So far I've had no computer reliability issues. I agree though, that if the router and/or cable modem can be troublesome to intially set up (depending on your network complexity), but once that's done, it should be good to go.
I agree that running the digital output of the ZP80 to and external DAC sounds better than the analog outputs. I have used the Sim Audio SuperNova as the DAC and it runs into a BAT 51SE preamp, which when I compare a CD in the SuperNova, sounds the same. Amazing!
I bought the Sonos ZP80 bundle, purchased it directly, and hooked it up without a hitch.
A few months later I bought the exact same setup used from a member here. Adding those stations and the 2nd controller was also a breeze.
A few weeks later the controller died. I called Sonos, and was patched through to a real person almost immediatly. I made no secret that I had purchased it used. They decided to honor the original warranty based on the registration date of the serial #.
I was emailed a Fed Ex prepaid shipping label, and had a brand new unit in my hands a week later.
Their customer service is excellent if you ever need to call them.
I have had the sonos system for a little over 2 years now. I currently have 3 zones and am looking to add two more. Needless to say, I love my Sonos. For critical listening, I have a ZP-80 outputting to an external DAC.
For true flexibility, users should consider using a wireless bridge connected to the first ZP. This allows the first ZP to be anywhere in the home instead of "Wasted" by having to be near the router. I also use a NAS which allows me to use Sonos without the need for a PC to be on.
By far, Sonos is the best system for distributed music. I have no complaints!
I have a Sonos ZP80 connected to my AVP2 processor connected via Coax. I have all my files stored in FLAC format. In this setup, I am using the AVP2 to do the DAC. It sound nice, but not as nice as playing a CD from my Denon 3930ci player (via coax).
I see other folks use an external DAC, and route that through the Analog Bypass of their Prepro.
What sort of external DAC would beat the sound quality of my ZP80-->AVP2 setup?
I have to disagree with others here about the fidelity of the S/PDIF output from the Sonos. I purchased the Sonos primarily for the convenience--with a toddler running around pulling CDs off the rack it was an elegant solution--but was quite disappointed with the stock unit's sound quality. I spent a good deal of time comparing the S/PDIF output from the Sonos (streaming Apple Lossless) with my that from my transport (a Musical Fidelity A308CR), both feeding a variety of DACs (MF X-DAC v3 and TriVista, PS Audio Link DAC III). The output from the Sonos was clearly inferior; to my ear there was a significant loss of fine detail, timbral accuracy, etc. --overall, there was more 'surface' and less depth to the music. I actually found it difficult to use for long periods of critical listening without fatigue. This was a surprise to me given the potential advantages of a hard drive as a transport. I therefore shopped around for someone willing to upgrade the S/PDIF output path.
I spoke to a number of folks, but only Steve Nugent at Empirical Audio was willing to give it a try. On inspection, a number of design issues were apparent (per Steve):
-a poor-quality switching power supply sitting directly on top of the digital output board
-a low-quality oscillator
-excess filtering and poor impedance matching in the output pathway.
Upgrades to the power supply and digital output path, including a new high-quality oscillator, were relatively inexpensive.
After receiving the unit back, and despite it being absent from my system for several weeks, I immediately noticed improvements--and they weren't subtle. I could go into detail about all the aspects in which the sound improved, but suffice it to say that jitter reduction (which was the end result of these mods) pretty much improves about every parameter of the listening experience. In particular, the harmonic depth and fidelity of recordings is much greater, with a more natural and effortless sound that is conducive to long and happy listening sessions.
In the end, I feel pretty strongly that the stock unit was created primarily to impress with its great interface and not its audiophile qualities. Some relatively inexpensive mods, however, can rectify this situation.
Audio Physic Tempo IV
SimAudio Moon i5
PS Audio Link DAC III with L2 mods from The Parts Connection
Sonos with Empirical Audio Mods
Empirical Audio Bitmeister digital cable
Cardas Golden Reference IC and power cords
Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables