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Now this music-managing baby can connect to your stereo.
Last year, we reviewed the first offering from Sonos, the Digital Music System, which includes the ZonePlayer 100 and Controller. Sonos now also offers the ZonePlayer 80, a less-pricey alternative to the ZonePlayer 100. While the ZonePlayer 100 acts as an amplified audio device to which you connect a set of speakers, the ZonePlayer 80 is ideal if you have a stereo or other amplified audio device with RCA input jacks that you want to use for audio output.
Both Sonos systems have two parts. The first is the ZonePlayer, a well-designed box that allows you to play music from your Mac remotely. The ZonePlayer 80 (5.4 by 5.5 by 2.9 inches) is smaller than the ZonePlayer 100 (10.2 by 8.2 by 4.4 inches), and it sports RCA audio-in and -out ports, two Ethernet ports, and optical audio-input and -output connectors. One ZonePlayer must be connected via Ethernet cable to your home network, while additional ZonePlayers (you can add up to 32) connect to the wired ZonePlayer wirelessly, using a proprietary wireless technology.
The second part is the wireless handheld Controller, which has a gorgeous backlit display with lighted buttons and an intuitive user interface-if you can operate an iPod (and who can't?), you can run a Sonos system. The Controller lets you control the ZonePlayers individually or as a group. Sonos also has software to control the ZonePlayers from your Mac.
Installing the ZonePlayer 80 was a breeze-it took less than 30 minutes, and it's similar to the setup of the ZonePlayer 100. You connect your first ZonePlayer to your network with an Ethernet cable and then connect the ZonePlayer to your audio device using the RCA connectors. You can then run the setup CD on your Mac or use the Controller to configure everything manually. Pressing the Volume and Mute buttons on the ZonePlayer at the same time puts it into Discovery mode so your Controller and Mac can find it. You show the system where your music is stored by navigating on the Controller to your Mac's Music folder. You're done.
Sound quality, of course, will depend on the speakers you're using as well as the quality of your music files, but we experienced excellent sound from our installation. Sonos supports many file types, including MP3, WMA, unprotected AAC, Ogg Vorbis, Audible Format 4, Apple Lossless, FLAC, WAV, and AIFF files. Unfortunately, you can't play songs bought from the iTunes Music Store. Damn FairPlay DRM.
The bottom line. The ZonePlayer 80 is a welcome addition to the Sonos line-a great (if still pricey) way to distribute music throughout your home without messy wires.
CONTACT: 800-680-2345, www.sonos.com
PRICE: $349 (ZP80 only), $999 (bundle that includes two ZP80s and a Sonos Controller)
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3 or later, amplified audio device, broadband connection
Small footprint. Effortless installation.
No support for Apple's DRM. Pricey.